Kalden Tsomo, Tibetan activist and UN Advocacy Officer at the Tibet Bureau Geneva, addresses the 4th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.
Kalden Tsomo: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Before I proceed, allow me to make a slight correction in the video that the self-immolation incident happened in this year 2012 is not 2004. Sorry for the mistake. Thank you Mr. Chairman and the organizer Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for the floor. Í’m not [a] former political prisoner or an inspiring human rights activist who has an extensive personal account to share with you all. Í’m Tibetan. I work for human rights in Tibet. My day starts by meeting Tibetan former political prisoners, monks, nuns, activists, at all age groups, who have been able to escape to India and interviewing them, meeting them, and closely following the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet through their resources. So it is my great honor to represent the voice of voiceless Tibetans in Tibet.
Most of you would be knowing the situation in Tibet. Tibetans have suffered, and continue to suffer, repression and discrimination in Tibet. The video we have just seen is a video and photos sent by various persons from Tibet and obviously, at very great risk. There is no doubt to say that it shows what is happening inside Tibet. Tibetan’s right of freedom, of association, speech, assembly have been systematically violated. Tibetans are undergoing untold suffering. Tibetan activists or Tibetan intellectuals, writers, singers, and environmentalists who exercise their freedom of expression and opinion and their views are arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and they’re unjustly sentenced to an imprisonment under the charge[s] [of], I quote, “threatening state security” and “disturbing the state stability.” Tibetan nomads are forced to resettle and they are forcefully removed from their ancestral land and they’re forced to reduce and sell their herds. And, if we see the schools in Tibet, there is no room for Tibetan students to study Tibetan language. Tibetan language is either dropped completely or retained only as a language subject.
So now, the situation in Tibet has become so tense and worrisome that people are setting themselves on fire. They’re calling international intervention now. Sadly, 27 Tibetans have set themselves on fire and out of reach so they call for freedom and the return of his holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet. And sadly, rather than responding to the underlying grievances of Tibetans, Chinese authorities responded [to] each emulation incident more violently by imposing heavy military measure, like police states in the monasteries and in the home, road blocks, and they intensify “patriotic” education classes in association in the monasteries and the nunneries. So during this session, monks and nuns  are forced to denounce their beloved, his holiness the Dalai Lama, and they’re forced to express their loyalty or express their allegiance towards the state and the communist leader. So acts of religious devotion are seen suspiciously as an expression of political separatism. Those who speak Tibetan language have become an object of suspicion. And monasteries, which used to be our special place to pray,  have become  military camps now. In all the monasteries there is a committee called [the] “Democratic Management Committee,” created and established by the Chinese authorities, [which] is responsible to carry the patriotic reeducation series in the monasteries; they regularly intervene or interfere with the daily practices of monks and nuns. So out of 27 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire, 21 were monks, nuns, and former monks.
If the Chinese government claims “Tibetans [are] enjoying their rights under PRC, enjoying the economic development” is true, Í’m wondering why Tibet is closed now to the independent observer.  Chinese authorities should allow the independent observers and foreign media to assess to see the situation if their claim is correct, if their claim is right. We do not want to see people dying on fire. And at the same time, those who have set themselves on fire do not want to end their life in pain. Unfortunately, due to [a] grim human rights situation and political repression and cultural assimilation for the past 60 years now, Tibetans  have no room to express and to demonstrate freely; they are setting themselves on fire. So the Tibetans have reached a stage to take this [tragedy] and to take this desperate  act to call a global invention to save Tibetan rights and Tibetan lives, who have been following non-violence so far. So taking this opportunity, I would like to urge international communities to intervene, to contribute their own way to elevate the dismal human rights situation in Tibet. And I thank you once again.