China persecutes those who speak out about the environment in Tibet

ICT’s Executive Director for Germany Kai Mueller speaks to the Human Rights Committee of the Bundestag. Photo: ICT Germany

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Berlin — International Campaign for Tibet has released a new report on Tibetan environmental defenders entitled "Environmental Defenders of Tibet: China's Persecution of Tibetan Environmental Defenders", ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, 2022.

“The persecution of Tibetan environmental defenders and the global stakes of Tibet’s environmental degradation demand heightened awareness. In Tibet, it is standard practice for those who speak out on the environment to face persecution simply for telling the truth,” a statement of ICT stated.

“This report places a spotlight on the fate of those who bravely took action to protect their environment and reminds global leaders that environmental destruction and climate change in Tibet does not stay in Tibet: It negatively impacts the entire region and globe,” it explained.

Kai Müller, executive director of ICT Germany, said, “The Chinese government’s repression of Tibet’s environmental defenders is extremely dangerous and demands immediate intervention by the international community. The science is irrefutable. Failure to recognize Tibet’s role in the regional ecosystem and inaction on climate change in Tibet will have destabilizing effects for almost 2 billion people dependent on river water from Tibet and 40% of the world’s population who rely on ecosystem services provided by the Tibetan Plateau.”

“The international community must recognize that Tibetan environmental defenders are best equipped to build resilience in the land. They should be empowered to mitigate and adapt to climate change for the benefit of 40% of the world’s population. The Chinese government’s denial of Tibetan rights is both foolhardy and hazardous to all of us,” Kai Müller said.

“Already, temperatures in Tibet are rising at least twice as fast as the rest of the world. The impacts of this are seen on Tibet’s glaciers, grasslands, lakes, and Tibet’s unique biodiversity,” it explained.

“The report reveals the Chinese government’s level of oppression and true aims in environmental management, despite its global positioning as supposedly committed to sustainability and international cooperation. The facts on the ground belie these claims and provide proof that not only are Tibetan environmental defenders silenced, but the consequences of suppressing their calls for action are grave,” the statement explained.

“The report collates and analyzes information on 50 cases of known Tibetan environmental defenders who have been reportedly persecuted since 2008. It highlights the significance of the Tibetan Plateau to the Asian region and global climate system, the major threats facing Tibet’s environment, the persecution of environmental defenders, and the critical role of Tibetan environmental defenders in Tibet,” it added.

The report closes with several key recommendations for governments and UN agencies:

  • Press China to uphold its human rights obligations and guarantee and protect the rights of the Tibetan environmental defenders, and release them unconditionally if detained
  • Specifically raise the cases of the 16 Tibetan environmental defenders identified on the priority list in Appendix A, requesting their release and information about their cases and their wellbeing
  • Press China to protect the rights of Tibetan environmental defenders to seek information, freely express their opinion, associate, assemble, participate in decision-making, protect their livelihood and home, and seek redress and remedy
  • Ensure free and prior informed consent; the inclusion of the Tibetan community in the decision-making and implementation process of development projects; and the use of thorough and transparent environmental impact assessment projects on the Tibetan Plateau
  • Press China to protect and promote Tibetan language learning and practice, as it is the medium in which traditional knowledge and experience is carried and communicated
  • Promote the opening up of the Tibetan Plateau for scientific research and international collaboration by cooperating with countries in the region to establish a regional environmental council to facilitate scientific research and transparency and pressing China to facilitate a country visit to China by the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment and/or the Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive, stable Southeast Asia riparian environmental and security program designed to provide essential water resources to downstream populations, address increasing water pollution and adequately prepare for climate change
  • Challenge China’s ecological civilization policy and self-representation as a leader in global climate policy and action. China’s activities in Tibet reveal its exclusionary, geo-engineering, and dangerously unsustainable approach to climate change and environmental management