London — A report highlighting widespread torture across China and Tibet has been submitted to the United Nations' Committee Against Torture by campaign group Free Tibet and its research partner Tibet Watch. The report was accompanied by oral evidence presented to the committee on 16 November.
The report titled Torture in Tibet contains graphic testimonies from torture survivors, records deaths in custody and gives details of continued degradation, abuse and methods of physical and psychological torture.
It has been submitted as part of the Committee Against Torture's (CAT) review of China's compliance with the International Convention Against Torture treaty that China ratified in 1988. The CAT reviews states' compliance approximately every five years.
Alistair Currie, the campaigns and media manager for Free Tibet told Tibet Post International (TPI): "While China claims there is no problem with torture in Tibet, the committee is interested in evidence, not propaganda. By supplying evidence about the continued use of torture we hope and believe when the committee issues its final report next year, the reality will be there for all to see."
The country was last reviewed by CAT in 2008, when it found torture across China and Tibet to be "widespread" and "routine" and expressed "great concern" about reported torture and state violence in Tibet.
"China is getting increasingly skillful in ensuring that its image is the world is one of a country making economic progress and assuming growing responsibilities in international affairs," Currie continued.
"In the process, it wants to suppress the counter-narrative of human rights abuse, internal resistance, ethnic discrimination and occupation. International public opinion needs to be reminded of China's dark side, both to renew support for Tibet and China's own human rights defenders and to put China's emerging 'friendly face' in the proper context."
He hopes the evidence will help to encourage pressure from the UN and the international community: "China is sensitive to pressure on torture. It has changed its own laws since the last torture review to bring them more into line with international standards and continued pressure can make a real difference here."
Among the shocking testimonies is that of Gonpo Thinley who was 18 years old when he was jailed following the 2008 uprising in Tibet. "They tortured us using electric batons, metallic water pipes and handcuffs," he recalled. "They would also tie our hands back, one going above the shoulder and one from below. Sometimes they put beer bottles in between, causing a lot of pain.
"Slapping and kicking are not even counted as beatings. When they beat us, I remembered the promise I made as we entered the prison that I would not have any regrets, even if I was killed. I encouraged myself when I was being beaten up and was never going to submit. The same is the case with other Tibetans."
Tinley's testimony goes on to recount how the interrogators, who were both Tibetan and Chinese, would pour boiling water on the prisoners when answers did not satisfy them.
Another torture survivor and monk who wished to remain anonymous describes in the report how he was forced onto pieces of broken glass and beaten with batons after he refused to confess.
"The beating and torture carried out in the detention centre is inhumane," he said. "They consider us nothing more than animals. A normal human won't beat and torture animals in such a heartless manner. They beat us like anything until we were unconscious. Once we had lost consciousness, they doused us with water on our bodies and faces. After regaining consciousness, they started to beat us again."
The brutal methods are used by the authorities, "because they think it works," according to Currie. "Tibetan opposition to China's rule is not going away and deterring resistance by Tibetans is absolutely essential to them," he said.
"Particularly at local level, the priority is on stopping trouble spreading and on putting troublesome Tibetans behind bars. Torture can help with both, by making Tibetans fearful of taking action and by securing confessions on which they can be convicted. In theory, evidence obtained from torture is no longer admissible in Chinese courts but the security services and prosecutors recognise that that's a fiction in Tibet."
Also documented are cases of political prisoners dying as a result of torture, including an account of the death of Tibetan political prisoner Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died on 12 July 2015.
Authorities claimed that the Tibetan Lama had died of a heart attack but they refused to return his body to the family. This led to over a hundred Tibetans staging a sit-in protest in Chengdu and thousands of Tibetans in Nyakchukha County demanding the release of the body so that family could perform the final Buddhist rites.
The authorities ignored the pleas and broke up demonstrations using beatings, tear gas and guns. More than seventeen people, including nuns and elderly people, were injured and taken to hospital.
Authorities later cremated the body without the family's consent and Tenzin's sisters, Dolkar Lhamo and Nyima Lhamo, were intimidated and threatened with life imprisonment if they spoke about him. Tenzin's ashes were also seized from them at gunpoint and they both remain under strict surveillance with their movements restricted and closely monitored.
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, Free Tibet and Tibet Watch director, said that following the submission of evidence she hopes the CAT review will make China "squirm under international scrutiny", and will force the country to account for the Tibetans who have been convicted on the basis of confessions extracted by illegal torture and those who have left Chinese prisons either dead or permanently injured by years of torture and abuse.