President Dr Lobsang Sangay delivering his opening address at the 2019 Geneva Forum on China’s High-tech Repression and Freedom of Religion, in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 14, 2019. Photo/Tenzin Nyishon

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Geneva — 'The high tech surveillance tools used by China in carrying out repressive policies against the vulnerable people in occupied territories such as Tibetans, Eastern Turkistans and Southern Mongolians,' President Dr Lobsang Sangay said when delivering his opening remarks at 2019 Geneva Forum on China’s High-Tech Repression and Freedom of Religion.

The two-day 2019 Geneva Forum was inaugurated by Chief Guest Hon’ble Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, President, Central Tibetan Administration and Special Guest Hon’ble Member of the National Parliament, Switzerland Mr Carlo Sommaruga, on November 14, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Welcoming the august gathering, Chhimey Rigzen, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Office of Tibet, Geneva read out the message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to 2019 Geneva Forum, according to the Tibet Bureau, Geneva.

His Holiness in the message called upon the international community to point out the unjustifiable actions on the part of the Chinese Government and said “if China wishes to assume its rightful place in the community of nations, it will also have shoulder the responsibilities that come with that position and uphold both basic freedoms and fundamental human rights.”

In his inaugural address, President Dr Sangay, the President of the Central Tibetan Administration formerly known as the Government of Tibet noted the high tech surveillance tools used by China in carrying out repressive policies against the vulnerable people under the control of China, especially the Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Southern Mongolians.

Highlighting the high-tech repression of Tibet, especially in denying freedom of religion of Tibetans, President Dr Sangay said that “Jokhang temple in Lhasa which is the holiest shrine for Tibetan Buddhists has more guns in than butter lamps and has more cameras than windows.”

He further added that the ongoing destructions of Larung Gar and Yachen Gar Buddhist Academies are part of the campaign against freedom of religion of Tibetans started by China in 1956 when the first monastery in Lithang was destroyed.

Noting China’s repeated interference in the religious traditions of Tibetans, he said “China should stop meddling in the religious affairs of Tibetans by using arbitrary law- Order No. 5 to control the reincarnation of Lamas. The Chinese government has no legitimacy whatsoever over the reincarnation of lamas."

"The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will be decided by the Dalai Lama himself and the reincarnations of the lamas will be decided by the lamas. This is also the case of separation between church and state,” he further added.

The Special Guest Hon’ble Carlo Sommaruga, Member of the National Parliament, Switzerland recalled the occupation of Tibet by China which led to the forcible escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the then religious and temporal leader of Tibet. Though surveillance by State has come to be a practice in some of the democratic countries as well, he highlighted that “the degree of implementation of individual surveillance is striking. It is all the more rapid because in China there are no legal instruments to protect against the arbitrariness of state.”

Assuring his support, he said, “As Swiss parliamentarian, I can promise you that with my colleagues and members of Swiss Parliament we will do all that we can to participate in the resistance against the surveillance of citizens in China especially against Tibetans and Uyghurs. We will try to push the Swiss Government to take a critical stand against the violations of human rights, especially freedom of religion.”

The cross-cutting theme for 2019 is “China’s High-tech Repression and Freedom of Religion”. Artificial Intelligence facial recognition, biometric registration, the grid system of social management, GPS tagging, social credit system, and drones disguised as birds. This is the reality of high-tech state surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, which has made Tibet the second least free country in the world and over 1 million Uyghurs detained in concentration camps.

The 2019 Geneva Forum brings together human rights experts, practitioners, academics, activists, governments, diplomats, think tanks, civil society groups and affected groups to monitor and evaluate the human rights situation in regions under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

The two-day forum from 14 to 15 November has four panels:

  • Panel 1: Technology and the Future of Human Rights
  • Panel 2: High-Tech Repression of People of Faith in China
  • Panel 3: Beijing Export of Surveillance Technology
  • Panel 4: Combating Fears of a China- Led Orwellian World

According to the organisers, the Forum also features witness account of Phuntsog Nyidron, a longest-serving female former political prisoner.