International Law

The Future of Tibet and the Rule of Law

To many in the Western World, Tibet brings to mind the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gayatso, a humble man who has achieved celebrity status primarily through news reports showing him meeting with heads of state and famous actors who are Buddhists. Relatively few understand that the Dalai Lama lives in exile while his fellow Tibetans suffer many human rights violations imposed by the Chinese government.

Perhaps exile is a blessing in disguise. For to criticize the regime for its misuse of the rule of law to crush Tibetan dissent is a sure path to incarceration. For example, school teacher Dolma Kyab wrote an unpublished manuscript using the pen name Lobsang Kelsang Gyatso. Because the manuscript criticized Chinese oppression of Tibet, the teacher is serving a 10 ½-year prison term. 

Unfortunately, this Dolma Kyab's case is not unique. Tibetans who expose human rights violations through writings, film and photography are beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes simply disappear (presumably murdered). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights seems to be used as a checklist of behaviors that the Chinese regime intentionally violates to oppress Tibetans.

In the past two months, approximately three dozen Tibetans have responded to these human rights abuses by setting themselves on fire in protest. The Chinese government blames others for promoting self-immolation instead of examining the regime's own misconduct for causing this reaction. 

To help protect the rights of the Tibetan people, the international community and NGOs should work together to:

1. Shine a global media spotlight on Tibetan human rights abuses in such a way that China loses face every time rights are violated, that is, shame the regime into making reforms.

2. Obtain U.N. non-Member Observer State status for the Tibet Autonomous Region.

3. Insist that requests to open foreign consulates in Lhasa be granted.

4. Improve the quality of life for Tibetan refugees living in Nepal and India.

5. Ensure that the current Dalai Lama's successor is not a hand-picked puppet of the Chinese government.

Unless and until China is willing to protect the fundamental human rights of Tibetans, rather than trampling such rights by abusing the rule of law, the Chinese regime is unworthy to represent or rule the Tibetan people. 

Recommended Reading

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Chinese Government: We Will Choose Next Dalai Lama, Tricycle (Feb. 15, 2011)

Fresh calls for Special EU Coordinator for Tibet, Phayul (Dec. 14, 2012)

China must urgently address rights violations in Tibet: UN, Times of India (Dec. 2, 2012)

TPI newspaper launched on International Human Rights Day, Tibet Post Int'l (Dec. 12, 2012)

New documentary tells personal stories of Tibet self-immolators, Phayul (Dec. 13, 2012)

Tibetan writer Dolma Kyab awarded by Chinese writers' group, Phayul (Dec. 5, 2012)

China Detains Two Tibetans in Self-Immolation Protests, NY Times (Dec. 10, 2012)

Tibet is Burning, NY Times (Dec. 12, 2012)