Geneva - As UN member states arrived this morning for China's Universal Periodic Review, Tibet activists from three countries abseiled down the side of the United Nation's Palais de Nations and unfurled a 9x15 meter banner reading "China Fails Human Rights, UN: Stand Up for Tibet."
The two climbers Laerke Arvedsen (Denmark) and Chris Brocklehurst (UK) along with Luna Pedersen (Denmark) and Phil Kirk (UK) were arrested and are currently in police custody. A fifth activist, Cheme Nelung, a Swiss-Tibetan member of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe was not arrested. The daring action drew attention to the extreme human rights violations taking place in Tibet right now and urged UN member states to block China's re-election to the Human Rights Council in early November.
"Just this month, Chinese forces reportedly shot four Tibetan protesters in Driru dead (1), and injured dozens more, in what is only the latest example of the Chinese government's brutal rule in Tibet," said Pema Yoko, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. "The human rights crisis in Tibet demands action by the international community and must be front and centre during today's review."
This is China's second Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism by which once every four years, the UN's Human Rights Council reviews the performance of member states against their human rights obligations and commitments. According to UN guidelines, the Chinese government is required to respond to the concerns and recommendations raised.
"The Chinese officials here today will do everything they possibly can to cover up their regime's atrocities in Tibet and pretend nothing is wrong. We're here to expose their lies and the reality on the ground, where entire towns and villages in Tibet are under military lockdown," said Padma Dolma, Europe and Campaigns Director of Students for a Free Tibet. "Too often the Chinese government avoids any scrutiny of its flagrant human rights abuses in Tibet but today, in Geneva, China is finally in the hot seat."
China's review comes amidst several reports of a violent crackdown in Driru county, central Tibet (Chinese: Biru, Naqu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region). According to media reports, four Tibetans were fatally shot by security forces following another incident where 60 Tibetans were injured when Chinese forces opened fire on a crowd peacefully appealing for the release of a fellow villager who had objected to a government order for all Tibetan homes and monasteries to raise the Chinese flag (2).
On October 21, a rare smuggled video footage emerged showing Chinese forces using machine gun fire to break up a peaceful blockade by Tibetans against mining operations at a sacred mountain in Dzatoe county in eastern Tibet (Chinese: Zaduo, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province) (3). Since 2009, at least 122 Tibetans, including monks, nuns, women and even teenagers, have lit their bodies on fire in protest of China's increasingly oppressive rule in Tibet, demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama.
"China's brutal policies in Tibet have driven 122 Tibetans to give up their lives in protest and it's time for UN members to recognize China's appalling human rights record for what it is," said Migmar Dhakyel, Board Member of Tibetan Youth Association in Europe. "We call on UN member states to block China's re-election to the Human Rights Council in three weeks time to send a strong message to Xi Jinping and the Chinese government that until it upholds international human rights standards in Tibet, it will not be business as usual for China at the UN."
The protest action was organized by Students for a Free Tibet with support from the International Tibet Network and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe. At 13.30hrs Geneva time, 19.30hrs Beijing time, 07.30 EST, Tibet movement leaders, human rights advocates and Chinese democracy campaigners will give reaction to the UPR hearing.