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UN human rights experts call for restraint and transparency as mass arrests are reported in the Tibet Autonomous Region and surrounding areas in China

10 April 2008

GENEVA -- United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders have today issued a joint statement of concern regarding the ongoing protests and reports of high numbers of arrests in the Tibet Autonomous Region and surrounding areas in China. They urge restraint and non-violence by all parties, greater and unfettered access to the regions concerned for journalists and independent observers, guarantees for the free flow of information, and full implementation of international standards in regard to the treatment of protestors and those detained, both in the People’s Republic of China and in other countries in which protests are taking place.

The mandate holders urge the Government of China to fully conform to its commitment to freedom of expression and assembly, and to distinguish between peaceful protestors and those committing acts of violence. The mandate holders call for complete compliance with due process and fair trial rights according to international standards for those detained or charged with a crime, including provision of each person's name, the charges against them, and the name of the facility where they are detained or imprisoned, as well as ensuring access to legal defence. The Government is called upon to lift restrictions imposed on the media, including Internet websites, that limit access throughout China to information concerning the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Information received by the mandate holders describes the arrest on 28 and 29 March of over 570 Tibetan monks, including some children, following raids by security forces on monasteries in Ngaba County and in Dzoge County in the Tibet Autonomous Region. According to reports, arrests were made of those suspected of participating in protests and those suspected of communicating with the exiled Tibetan communities. The UN experts are deeply concerned by reports of security forces firing on protestors and alleged killings. Amid concerns that independent observers and foreign media have been restricted from accessing regions in which protests have taken place, the United Nations experts call for full access for independent observers and journalists to such regions and complete transparency on the part of the authorities.

The Government of China has invited several fact-finding delegations, including one consisting of journalists and another of foreign diplomats, to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region. Such visits are no substitute for granting access to those United Nations experts who have requested a visit to China. While welcoming the Government of China's previous invitations to United Nations mandate holders, it is nevertheless urged to respond equally positively to outstanding visit requests to enable mandate holders including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Human Rights Council.

The mandate holders urge that protests are conducted in a peaceful, non-violent manner, and that authorities in all countries in which protests take place exercise restraint in their responses. They fully support calls for dialogue and other measures with a view to achieving long-term solutions that protect and promote the rights of all individuals and groups in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

A draft of this statement was shared with the relevant Government. The mandate holders welcome the indication received from the Government about its willingness to engage in further dialogue about these and other concerns and specific questions raised recently by the mandates. They look forward to receiving further information and clarifications from the Government and to engage constructively in efforts to facilitate full respect for human rights standards, by all parties concerned, in the handling of such protests.

This statement is issued by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr Philip Alston; the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr Ambeyi Ligabo; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ms Asma Jahangir; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Ms Hina Jilani; the Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms Gay McDougall; and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, Mr Manfred Nowak.

Chinese version (PDF - 92KB)