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Three UN experts ask China to account for detained Tibetan environment activists

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug11’23) – Three UN human rights experts have issued a joint statement on Aug 10, asking the Chinese government to provide information about nine Tibetans imprisoned for their peaceful efforts to protect Tibet’s fragile environment.

The experts—the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (Ms Mary Lawlor); the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association (Mr Clément Nyaletsossi Voul); and the Special Rapporteur on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (Mr David Boyd)—have asked Beijing to provide details about the reason for the detention and the health conditions of the nine Tibetans, who were all taken in between 2010 and 2019.

“We urge the Chinese government to provide details on why and where they are being held and their health conditions, provide them with adequate medical care and permit their families access to visit them,” the Special Rapporteurs have said.

The experts have further made it clear that the lack of information shared by Chinese authorities could be interpreted as a “deliberate attempt” to hide the environmental defenders from global attention.

* * *

The nine Tibetans, identified in the release as Anya Sengdra, Dorjee Daktal, Kelsang Choklang, Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu and Namesy were all detained after they protested illegal mining activities or exposed the poaching of endangered wild lives.

Three of the activists are serving up to 11-years jail sentences. However, China has not made public the jail sentences of the remaining six, namely Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu and Namsey.

The experts have sought to know the extent of access to legal representation the imprisoned Tibetans had, and whether any of them had been provided with medical assistance while in prison.

Since the defenders were sentenced, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was recognised at the international level by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

“If China is committed to tackle the impacts of climate change, it should refrain from persecuting environmental human rights defenders and release all nine immediately,” the experts have said.

* * *

China has declared mining as one of its pillar industries in occupied Tibet, and has also continued to carry out massive environmentally devastating urbanization and infrastructure projects. These have led to increasing persecution and long-term imprisonment of many environment defenders.

In a report published in June 2022, Washington-based advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet had documented 50 known cases of such Tibetans arbitrarily detained, arrested, tried and/or sentenced since 2008. Of the 50 documented cases, the prison sentences imposed on 35 of the individuals are known. The sentences range from one year and nine months to 21 years, with an average sentence length of nine years, said the group Aug 10 while reporting on the UN experts’ statement.

The environmental health of Tibet has major global implications. As the world’s “Third Pole” and Asia’s “water tower,” the Tibetan Plateau holds the largest volume of frozen freshwater outside the polar regions and is the source of Asia’s eight great rivers, ultimately sustaining the livelihoods of up to 1.4 billion people living downstream, the group has pointed out.


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