Six United Nations experts on human rights issues have faulted China for what they call “severe human rights restrictions” on Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Sichuan Province, where monks and nuns have been protesting, some setting themselves on fire.
The monasteries are outside Tibet proper, where Buddhist opposition has simmered for decades after a Chinese military takeover in 1951. In Sichuan, religious communities are being intimidated by heavily armed security forces, and worship services are under surveillance, UN monitors say. The Kirti monastery, with 2,500 monks, has been a particular target.
UN News quoted Heiner Bielefeldt, the special rapporteur on freedom of religion, saying that heavy-handed Chinese tactics are only intensifying tensions in a region where there is a substantial ethnic Tibetan population. He called the intimidation “counterproductive.”
Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, also voiced “deep concern about allegations of restrictions to Internet access and mobile messaging services within Aba County, as well as journalists’ lack of access to the region,” UN News reported. La Rue said that the government should listen to the religious communities and address their grievances.
A third UN rights monitor, Jeremy Sarkin, who reports on involuntary disappearances, added that tightened security in and around monasteries has led to many arrests and numerous people being taken away in enforced disappearances. Sarkin warned that a recently proposed Chinese law would make makes matters worse by legalizing enforced disappearances.
Three other rights monitors – on arbitrary detention, minority rights and the right to freedom of assembly and association – joined in the criticism of Chinese actions against Tibetan Buddhists.
UN human rights experts are independent, unpaid monitors who report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.
Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”
Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.