UN rights chief to visit Tibet, considering Xinjiang tour

Times of India, 17 October 2014

In this May 23, 2014 file photo, paramilitary policemen with shields and batons patrol near the People's Square in Urumqi in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.

China is faced with another challenge to its global image with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein saying he wants to inspect the situation in Tibet. He also said he would “move around” in China and might considering visiting the restive western province of Xinjiang.

Most of the groundwork for the visit was done during the term of Hussein’s predecessor, Navi Pillay, a South African of Tamil origin, who was the commissioner until last month.There was no immediate comment from China but it is expected to make extensive arrangements to ensure that rebel monks do not manage to meet UN officials, and counter the official view of the situation. This is also a bad time for China, which is facing a students revolt on the issue of democratic reforms in Hong Kong.

“China in its Universal Periodic Review agreed to the recommendation that there be a visit by the high commissioner to Tibet. So we are discussing this issue with the Chinese authorities,” Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said.

Asked at a press conference if he would also visit the restive Chinese province of Xinjiang, Hussein said, “It is premature to discuss exactly where I would visit. We spoke of a multi-day visit, so I suspect that I would move around if indeed we are able to get the visit in place soon.”

One of the issues likely to crop during the tour by UN officials is the fate of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a popular Tibetan monk, who has been serving a life term. Over 120 Tibetans, including many monks, have committed self immolation since 2009 to highlight the cause of the rebels, protest Beijing’s rule and request for a return of spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Rebel monks have earlier sprung some nasty surprises by successfully connecting with visiting foreign diplomats and selected journalists, who have been taken to Tibet.

China points to the massive infrastructure development in Tibet, and claims to have raised the standards of living of Tibetans after decades of poverty. But its critics say that religious freedom and culture in Tibet has been systematically suppressed since the People’s Liberation Army “peacefully liberated” the region forcing the Dalai Lama to leave for India in 1959.

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