Tibetans, Uyghurs Remember Those Who ‘Disappeared’ at China’s Hands

News of detentions and of disappearances and deaths in custody is frequently delayed in reaching outside contacts because of communication clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities.
2021.08.30
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Tibetans, Uyghurs Remember Those Who ‘Disappeared’ at China’s Hands Tibetan writer and environmental activist Sey Nam, now believed held in an unknown location, is shown in an undated photo.
Photo provided by Golok Jigme

Rights groups called on the world on Monday to remember the Tibetans, Uyghurs, and members of other groups who have been forcibly “disappeared” at the hands of Chinese authorities, with one rights group estimating disappearances in China’s mainland alone at up to 50,000 in the current year.

In Tibetan areas of China, at least 40 cases of enforced disappearance have been recorded during the last three years, said Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) in a statement on Aug. 30, the 38th annual International Day of the Disappeared.

Victims have included monks and nuns, writers and artists, farmers and community leaders, and students and other intellectuals, TCHRD said in its report, adding that the majority of those disappeared were described by authorities as suspects in cases of “endangering state security” or “disclosing state secrets.”

In one recent case, two residents of the Tachu township in the Nagchu (in Chinese, Naqu) municipality of the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture were detained in 2019 for resisting forced patriotic education during the run-up to the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, TCHRD said.

Norsang, 36, one of those detained, was taken into custody in September, and another man, Lhadar, 37, was detained a month later.

“In May 2021, it was learned that Norsang had died in custody a week after his detention in 2019,” TCHRD said, citing a source who informed the rights group that the man had been subjected to severe beatings and torture, leading to his death.

News of detentions and of disappearances and deaths in custody is frequently delayed from reaching outside contacts because of strict communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in Tibetan areas.

“[But] Tibetans continue to disappear every year, crippling family life and community cohesion,” TCHRD added, calling on China to ratify the United Nations’ Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

“There are so many Tibetans who are arrested by the Chinese government, yet their whereabouts and the reasons for their arrests remain unknown for a very long time,” Pema Gyal, a researcher at the London-based rights group Tibet Watch, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Some even die, but the information about them remains unknown.”

“The Chinese government enforces its control on Tibetans by means of political threats and punishments, so Tibetans have no political or civil rights or the right to freedom of expression,” Gyal said, adding that China claims to be a country that respects the law and that it will become a "rule-of-law" nation by 2035.

“However, we know that there are no human rights or freedom for Tibetans living in Tibet, so the claim they are a law-abiding nation is a complete lie,” he said.

'Dark deeds'

Also on Monday, the Washington-based Campaign for Uyghurs said that China has now become “a primary perpetrator of force disappearances,” adding that China’s ruling Communist Party has moved over a million Uyghurs into internment camps and prison cells, targeting the mostly Muslim ethnic group because of its religion and national identity.

“Their dark deeds are performed with the full knowledge of the existence of the United Nations and international governments, and yet the Chinese government is still being given every opportunity to shine on the world stage,” the Campaign said in its statement.

Beijing will soon be hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics while engaged in the forced disappearance of Uyghur intellectuals, scholars, and civil servants as part of an ongoing program of active genocide, the Campaign said.

“We must not allow the Beijing Olympics to serve as a platform for this regime to display its false human rights record on the international stage," the rights group added.

As many as 50,000 people may have vanished at the same time into programs of “residential surveillance” and other systems of detention in China’s mainland, according to Safeguard Defenders, a rights group based in Madrid and with offices across Asia.

China now uses at least six methods for forced disappearance, including holding persons incommunicado in residential locations and retaining persons in custody after their sentences end, Safeguard Defenders said.

Other victims disappear after their formal release from prison, are registered under false names in pre-trial detention centers, or are held in administrative detention, while others more rarely are simply kidnapped, the rights group said.

Reported by Sangyal Kunchok for RFA’s Tibetan Service and by the Uyghur Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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