At U.N. China Criticizes U.S., Urges Dalai Lama Boycott

At a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, China received criticism from a U.S.-led group of 12 countries for a range of human rights issues, including Beijing’s crackdown on rights lawyers and activists, and the detention of several Hong Kong publishers. At The New York Times, Nick Cumming-Bruce reports:

Keith M. Harper, the American ambassador to the Human Rights Council, delivered a joint statement criticizing the sweeping arrests of activists and lawyers who in many cases, their families and supporters have said, did not have access to legal counsel nor were allowed family visits in breach of China’s laws.

The statement, representing the views of the United States, Japan, Australia, Britain and eight other European countries, also expressed alarm at the treatment of several Hong Kong residents who vanished and were evidently coerced into going to mainland China.

[…] The group’s criticisms echoed concerns voiced last month by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. It repeated his call for China to release lawyers and activists detained for exercising their right to freedom of speech or for fulfilling their professional duties.

In a phone interview, Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, praised the group’s statement for drawing attention to “what human rights defenders across China are trying to achieve and the utterly unacceptable price they are forced to pay for their work.” [Source]

China’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council Fu Cong rejected the group’s criticism, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy concerning human rights. From Reuters’ Tom Miles and Stephane Nebehay:

“The US is notorious for prison abuse at Guantánamo prison, its gun violence is rampant, racism is its deep-rooted malaise,” Chinese diplomat Fu Cong told the Council, using unusually blunt language.

“The United States conducts large-scale extra-territorial eavesdropping, uses drones to attack other countries’ innocent civilians, its troops on foreign soil commit rape and murder of local people. It conducts kidnapping overseas and uses black prisons.”

[…] He also criticized Japan’s support for the joint statement, saying Japan had refused to take responsibility for conscripting 100,000 “comfort women” in Asian countries during the second world war. [Source]

The U.S.-China human rights call-and-response in Geneva, evocative of the annual trading of documents detailing abuses between the two superpowers, comes amid the Council’s (UNHRC) 4-week-long 31st regular session. The session overlaps the 57th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising (Thursday, March 10). The , who fled following the aborted uprising, will be delivering a talk in Geneva on the sidelines of the UNHRC session. Beijing has urged diplomats and U.N. officials to boycott the Dalai Lama’s appearance. Reuters’ Stephanie Nebehay reports:

In a letter seen by Reuters on Thursday, China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva raised objections about the presence of Tibet’s spiritual leader on the panel of Nobel laureates, being held at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

“Inviting the 14th Dalai Lama to the aforementioned event violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, in contravention of the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter. China resolutely opposes the 14th Dalai Lama’s separatist activities in whatever capacity and in whatever name in any country, organisation or event,” it said.

[…] Philippe Burrin, director of the Geneva institute, said that “pressures are being applied from various sides” but the event would not be cancelled.

“This is a question of freedom of expression and academic freedom to organise an event,” he told Reuters.

“It is not an event on Tibet, it is not on a politically sensitive subject, i.e. territorial issues, but on the role of civil society in promoting human rights,” he said. [Source]

Political tension between Beijing and the Dalai Lama has been on display in recent years. After hints that tensions may be thawing in 2014—the Dalai Lama praised Xi Jinping as being “more open-minded” than his predecessors, and said the two sides were discussing the possibility of his pilgrimage to a sacred peak in China—Beijing reaffirmed its anti-Dalai lama stance, which views the exiled spiritual leader as a “separatist.” Last October Reuters reported on China’s use of intimidation against critics at the UNHRC; and in December they detailed evidence that the CCP has been supporting a Tibetan Buddhist sectarian rift in effort to discredit the Dalai Lama globally [Updated at 11:30 PST on March 11, 2016: Reuters today reported the International Shugden Community, the Buddhist group leading anti-Dalai Lama protests around the world, has disbanded. Also today, the AP reported that despite China’s urging diplomats to stay away from the Dalai Lama’s event in Geneva, the venue was filled to capacity.]

The Dalai Lama ceded political responsibilities historically associated with his role to an elected Sikyong in 2011, and in 2014 repeatedly warned he could be the last incarnation of the high lama in attempt to prevent Beijing from naming his successor. This sparked ire from Party officials and state media, and insistence of Beijing’s “right” to name the 15th Dalai Lama. At the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kaiman reports that the issue of Party regulated reincarnation was brought up at the ongoing annual political meetings in Beijing this week:

“The highest level of living Buddhas must be approved by the central government,” Phurbu Tsering, the abbot of Sera Monastery near Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, said at a meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature on Monday. “Other Living Buddhas must be approved by local governments.”

China is laying down the law on , as Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama — Tibet’s enormously influential spiritual leader — enters his twilight years with no successor in sight. Although the ruling Communist Party is an officially atheist organization – officials are barred from practicing religion – it is perennially uncomfortable with forces outside of its control, and has for years demanded the power to regulate the supernatural affairs of Tibetan Buddhist figures, determining who can and cannot be reincarnated.

[…] Authorities have framed their bureaucratization of the afterlife as a bulwark against fraudulent, profiteering monks. Yet experts say it’s also part of a wide-ranging effort to tighten control over the turbulent region. […] [Source]

Tibetan delegates at the political meetings in Beijing were seen wearing badges with the likeness of Xi Jinping and his predecessors, “out of their own free will.” Early this month a Tibetan monk died after self-immolating in protest of Beijing’s policies in Tibetan regions, becoming the 144th Tibetan to do so in China since 2009. The same day, an exiled Tibetan teen died after self-immolating in India. Party officials and state media have consistently accused the Dalai Lama of encouraging the self-immolations, and the exiled Tibetan has commented on the trend sparsely: “This is a very sensitive political issue,” he said in a 2014 interview with TIME, “Whatever I say the Chinese hardliners always manipulate.”

Surveillance and the detention of Tibetan writers and activists have been commonplace as Beijing attempts to assert control in the troubled region. After releasing a report on China’s targeting malware against civil society organizations, including several Tibetan groups, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab has released a new report on how the espionage campaign against Tibetans is evolving. From the report’s summary:

This report describes the latest iteration in a long-running espionage campaign against the Tibetan community.  We detail how the attackers continuously adapt their campaigns to their targets, shifting tactics from document-based malware to conventional phishing that draws on “inside” knowledge of community activities. This adaptation appears to track changes in security behaviors within the Tibetan community, which has been promoting a move from sharing attachments via e-mail to using cloud-based file sharing alternatives such as Google Drive.

We connect the attack group’s infrastructure and techniques to a group previously identified by Palo Alto Networks, which they named Scarlet Mimic. We provide further context on Scarlet Mimic’s targeting and tactics, and the intended victims of their attack campaigns.  In addition, while Scarlet Mimic may be conducting malware attacks using other infrastructure, we analyze how the attackers re-purposed a cluster of their malware Command and Control (C2) infrastructure to mount the recent phishing campaign.

This move is only the latest development in the ongoing cat and mouse game between attack groups like Scarlet Mimic and the Tibetan community. The speed and ease with which attackers continue to adapt highlights the challenges faced by Tibetans who are trying to remain safe online. […] [Source]

Also see a blog post from Citizen Lab’s Ron Deibert on the new study, or a report from Motherboard on how exiled Tibetans are resisting hacking attempts.

At The New York Times, Edward Wong reports that a Tibetan entrepreneur has been illegally detained by authorities for over a month for his efforts to preserve the Tibetan language:

The man, , 30, who lives with his parents in the western town of Yushu, has written about language policy on his microblog. He has highlighted the dearth of meaningful Tibetan language education and expressed concern that many Tibetan children are unable to become fluent in their native language, a widespread worry in the ethnic group.

Mr. Tashi was detained on Jan. 27 and has been held for 44 days. According to Chinese law, the police can generally detain a person for 30 days before officers must ask prosecutors to bring charges or release the person. Prosecutors then have seven days to announce a charge.

[…] Until his detention, Mr. Tashi was posting about Tibet to his Sina Weibo account. Many messages expressed anxieties about the gradual extinction of Tibetan culture. On Jan. 20, for example, Mr. Tashi reshared an item in which an online commentator had asked Khampa Television, the local official Tibetan Khampa-dialect channel, to stop broadcasting, saying “the Tibetan culture you talk about is for commercial and exhibition use.”

Mr. Tashi’s last item, on Jan. 24, was a repost of a comment that urged the legislature and legislative advisory committee of Qinghai Province, where Yushu is, to enhance bilingual education and hire more bilingual civil servants. […] [Source]

Read more about Tashi Wangchuk’s campaigning for the preservation of the Tibetan language, via CDT. Also see all prior CDT coverage of the Dalai Lama, Tibet, and China’s interaction with the U.N. Human Rights Council.