China Avoids UN Censure, Prepares for Tibetan Protests

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BEIJING has skirted unprecedented United Nations censure for allegedly denying basic freedoms in Tibet and across China.

China's hard-line regime won a diplomatic victory Wednesday by prompting developing countries on the 53-member UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to support a motion ending debate over the condemnation.

Although China has shunted it aside, the resolution illustrates how the issue of Chinese rule over Tibet is gradually edging onto the agendas of international forums.

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"Beijing is seeing overseas sympathy for Tibet and admiration for the Dalai Lama turn more and more into concrete diplomatic pressure," says a Western diplomat in Hong Kong. The Dalai Lama, the highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism and leader of Tibet's government in exile, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

The resolution, proposed by several Western countries, expressed concern at "continuing reports of [human rights] violations in China."

The motion urged China "to take measures to ensure the full observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Tibetans as well as all its other citizens."

Chinese troops invaded Tibet in 1950. Beijing claims that it has held sovereign rights over the Himalayan region since the 13th century, but many Tibetans disagree and have staged sporadic protests for independence in Tibet since October 1987.

Several European countries initially proposed a resolution that focused on human rights abuses by Beijing in Tibet, a place the resolution says has a "distinct cultural, religious, and ethnic identity."

The United States opposed the motion, saying the UN should uphold the human rights of all citizens under Beijing's control rather than address Tibet as an issue of self-determination. US delegates persuaded their European counterparts to back the broader motion that was proposed on Wednesday.

The Dalai Lama says that Tibet deserves special concern.

"Not only is there torture, and beatings, and these things, but there is also cultural genocide," the Dalai Lama told Agence France Presse in New Delhi.

The Tibetan government-in-exile claims that 1.2 million Tibetans, one-sixth of the population, have died as a result of China's administration.

In addition, at various periods since 1951, Communist officials in Tibet have tried to eradicate Tibetan Buddhism, the core of Tibetan culture and identity. Hard-line cadres have persecuted believers and destroyed thousands of monasteries.

In recent days, Beijing's propaganda apparatus has repeatedly asserted that Tibetans enjoy full human rights.

Also, each year the number of glowing accounts of economic development and politics in Tibet rise dramatically with the approach of Monlam Chemno, celebrations for the Tibetan lunar new year which began yesterday.

Beijing has stepped up heavy security around the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in an effort to prevent pro-independence demonstrations during the Monlam, according to foreign tourists who returned from Tibet last week.

Moreover, authorities in Lhasa have barred the entry of foreign tourist groups until the end of Monlam in mid-March, hotel operators in Lhasa say.

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