Dharamshala: - The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said he is in talks with Chinese authorities about visiting Tibet, where a variety of issues facing Tibetans, including human rights abuses, religious repression, lack of press freedom and forced resettlement.
Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein who is the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Thursday, 17 October that he was discussing with Chinese authorities a visit to the troubled region of Tibet.
"China in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) agreed to the recommendation that there be a visit by the High Commissioner to Tibet. So we are discussing this issue with the Chinese authorities," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein told his first news briefing.
Zeid said he had spoken with Chinese officials about a "multi-day visit," adding that he assumed he would be able to "move around" during the proposed trip.
Mr Zeid, a veteran Jordanian diplomat at the UN, assumed his functions as UN High Commissioner on 1 September. He succeeded Ms Navi Pillay, who had urged the Chinese government to promptly address the longstanding grievances that have led to an alarming escalation in desperate forms of protest, including self-immolations, in Tibetan areas.
China denies violating the human rights of Tibetans, saying its half-century of rule in Tibet has helped develop the area economically.
"I've had a few very preliminary discussions about this. We agreed we would sit at some stage and elaborate a concept of how this is going to take place," Mr Zeid told reporters.
The last Universal Periodic Review of China in October last year took place against the backdrop of tragic self-immolations by Tibetans in protest against its repressive policies in Tibet. Since 2009, 132 Tibetans have set themselves on fire calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans.
The Central Tibetan Administration has said Tibetans are driven to self-immolation due to political repression, religious persecution, cultural assimilation and economic marginalization and environmental destruction. It has consistently appealed to Tibetans to not to resort to drastic actions including self-immolation. (Tibetan White Paper: Why Tibet is burning...)
Asked if he would only visit Tibet proper, or also assess the rights situation in other parts of China, UN High Commissioner Zeid said the details were still being worked out.
"Perhaps it's premature to discuss where exactly I would visit, but in the initial dialogue we spoke of a multi-day visit, so I suspect that I will be able to move around if indeed we are able to get the visit in place soon," he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
There was no immediate comment from the Chinese government but it is expected to make extensive arrangements to ensure that Tibetans do not manage to meet UN officials, and counter the official view of the situation.
Mary Robinson was the last U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit China in the late 1990s, despite repeated requests by her successors. Navi Pillay, whose term ended on Aug. 31, urged China to allow independent human rights monitors to visit Tibet and address deep-rooted frustrations.
Chinese authorities have barred foreign journalists and Human Rights monitors from entering most parts of Tibet to cover all incidents, including protests in Tibet, only few selected group of foreign journalists allowed.. "Bad roads", "weather" and "safety of journalists" are being used by the China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as excuses for travel restrictions and denying correspondents entry to the areas.
Across Tibet, monks, nuns, students, and others are protesting China's continuing control of the Himalayan region – many in a gruesome and tragic way. 132 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze since 2009 –and at-least 113 of them were reportedly passed-away due to their severe injuries.. All have called for Tibetan freedom, the relaxation of religious and cultural policies, and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.