China: One thousand protesters unaccounted for in Tibet lock-down

As the Olympic torch relay travels to Lhasa, Amnesty International today urged the Chinese government to provide information about the over 1,000 people detained during the protests last March and called for free access to Tibet by independent observers.

The call came as Amnesty International published an update on the situation in Tibet since the outbreak of violence – looking at the continuing violent crackdown against protesters, the situation of those detained, including those reported to have been beaten and deprived of proper health care and adequate food, and the severe censorship facing journalists and Tibetans.

“There is very little information coming out of Tibet, but the information we have paints a dire picture of arbitrary detentions and abuse of detainees,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

“With the torch relay about to enter Tibetan areas, this should be an opportunity to shine some light on the situation there.”

Official reports only provide information on a small number of those who have been sentenced after questionable trials.

Foreign journalists are still blocked from entering Tibet. Limited reports that have come through friends and family members to the media and Tibetan organizations say police and security forces have confiscated mobile phones, computers and other communications equipment in hundreds of raids on monasteries, nunneries and private homes, physically preventing thousands from communication with the outside world.

Those who dare to find ways of sending information to foreign media or human rights organizations regarding protests and arrests, risk arrest and imprisonment.

“The complete lock-down in Tibet is allowing human rights abuses such as arbitrary detentions,  ill treatment and severe censorship to go unreported and unpunished,” said Sam Zarifi.

“Hundreds of people languish in Chinese prisons for peacefully expressing their opinions, in appalling conditions and without their relatives even knowing where they are. The passing of the torch should allow journalists a chance to see the actual situation on the ground and promote the ‘Free and Open Olympics’ promised in the Beijing Olympic Action Plan.”

Chinese authorities have not only detained monks and nuns and other protesters, they have also targeted Tibetan artists who did not have any direct involvement in the on-going protests. What these figures had in common was involvement in efforts to preserve Tibetan culture. Jamyang Kyi, a well-known singer, TV presenter and producer, was arrested on 1 April from her work place at the Qinghai TV station and held incommunicado for at least one month before, it is believed, being placed under house arrest, only after paying a significant fee.

Background Information Initial protests after March 10 turned violent and targeted ethnic Han Chinese individuals and businesses. But protesters, often led by monks and nuns, are believed to have been mainly peaceful since March 14, when the Dalai Lama exhorted demonstrators to avoid violence.

The Olympic torch relay is travelling through China under great scrutiny and with journalists highly controlled in areas such as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The original schedule for the torch relay travelling through Tibet has been changed and it is now reported to be on Saturday 21 June.