June 12, 2007

Tibet, a distressing picture

“If the present situation is the same in 15 years then I think Tibet is finished,” said the 71-year-old Dalai Lama in Melbourne a few days ago. “China has almost completed its aim to totally destroy Tibet,” he added. Yet, AP reported that Australian Prime Minister John Howard has refused to announce whether he will meet—he said he was checking his schedule ...—with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is set to visit Canberra later this month, a prospect that prompted China's foreign ministry to warn Australian officials against engaging His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

In confirmation of Dalai Lama’s warning a 79-page report entitled “No one has the liberty to refuse,” released on Sunday, June 10, 2007, by Human Rights Watch, says that the Chinese government is forcibly relocating Tibetan herders to urban areas and farmland, destroying their livelihoods and way of life, and denying them access to justice for violations of their rights. Many of them have been required to slaughter their livestock and move into newly built housing colonies without consultation or compensation. Since 2000 the Chinese government’s campaign has put traditional lifestyles and livelihoods at risk for the approximately 700,000 people who have been resettled in western China, says the report.

That is why Human Rights Watch, the international organisation which monitors respect for human rights throughout the world, called on the Chinese government to impose a moratorium on all resettlements

until a mechanism can be established whereby independent experts carry out a review of policies that require or produce displacement and resettlement of Tibetan herders and other rural populations in Tibetan areas, the confiscation of their property, or imposed slaughter of their livestock. This review should entail assessing the compliance under Chinese law, such as the new Property Rights Law 2007, and international law with the rights of Tibetan herders.

As it was not enough, according to Kai Mueller, Executive Director of ICT-Germany, there is now also an environmental emergency. In fact he ‘roof of the world' is threatened by melting glaciers and other extreme weather phenomena, with disastrous predictably consequences for the lives of millions of people in Asia as well as those on the high plateau (a recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast that, if current trends continue, 80% of Himalayan glaciers will be gone in 30 years). China's presence in Tibet for more than half a century, says Kai Mueller,

“has had devastating effects on the environment so far, particularly as a result of Beijing's plans for fast-track economic development of the region. Deforestation, mega-projects such as the new railway to Lhasa, water shortages and hydro-power projects, unchecked effects of the extractive industry and the beginning of mass tourism are serious threats to the fragile Tibetan high-altitude environment, which matters to the whole of Asia and the rest of the world.”

This is indeed a very distressing picture of the situation. ICT has called upon the G8 to press President Hu to move forward with an environmental plan for Tibet that takes into account the fragility of the unique high-plateau environment, which is so critical to the rest of the world.
UPDATE — June 12, 2007, 11:00 am
1. Australian PM John Howard will meet the Dalai Lama. After first saying Howard was trying to find time in his schedule to meet His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the prime minister's office said Tuesday the two would meet “later in the week.”
2. Speaking in Canberra, the Dalai Lama has warned major nations not to try to contain China's economic and military rise, but has urged countries like Australia to use their trading clout to pressure Beijing on human rights, Reuters reports.

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