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Amnesty International protests crackdown in Tibet


Amnesty International protests crackdown in Tibet

Amnesty International is joining nationwide vigils tomorrow, Wednesday 19 March, to protest China's violent crackdown on protesters in Tibet.

Amnesty International is calling on Chinese authorities to remove the shroud of secrecy surrounding recent protests, arguing that "human rights abuses flourish in the dark."

It wants an independent United Nations investigation into the events of the past week, and unimpeded access for media.

Amnesty International spokesperson Margaret Taylor warns that the current situation has all the ingredients for grave human rights violations to occur.

"A large number of troops have been deployed in the region. The Chinese authorities have a well documented history of treating independence protesters very harshly. And Amnesty International knows that where such volatile situations occur out of the public spotlight, the human rights of individuals are placed at very grave risk."

Taylor comments that Amnesty International has already received reports of an extremely worrying situation in Tibet.

"Eye-witness accounts received by Amnesty International have included disturbing details of excessive and lethal force against Tibetan protestors. An unknown number of protestors, many of them peaceful, have been severely beaten and/or detained across the capital. And those who remain at large have been threatened with being "severely punished" if they do not surrender."

New Zealand's role in speaking out about such alleged abuses is critical, says Taylor

"New Zealand is poised to become the first western country to sign a free trade agreement with China. This brings with it tremendous responsibilities. We need to demonstrate that engagement with China is an opportunity to influence China with regard to issues that are important to New Zealanders – and this includes a vision where human rights are respected for all."

"We encourage the New Zealand government to continue to speak out for human rights at every opportunity," Taylor says.

VIGILS FOR TIBET:

Amnesty International will have a presence at events occurring in Auckland: Aotea Square, 5:30pm Wellington: Parliament Grounds, 5:30pm Christchurch: Cathedral Square, 5:00pm Dunedin: Union Lawn, Otago University, 12:30pm See www.amnesty.org.nz for more details.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Protests started Monday 10th March when around 400 monks began a march from Drepung Monastery heading into central Lhasa, demanding the easing of a government-imposed campaign which forces monks to write denunciations of the Dalai Lama and subjects them to government political propaganda. Over 50 of them were arrested on the way to the city. Subsequent protests began in other monasteries in support of those detained, leading to more general unrest throughout Lhasa and in other parts of Tibet in which lay people joined in. Protests among Tibetans in the neighbouring provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan have also been reported.

Police and military forces were reported to have fired teargas into crowds, beaten protestors and fired live ammunition in an attempt to disperse them. Protests in Lhasa turned violent, with some protestors setting fire to a police car, and specifically targeting and setting fire to Chinese-owned businesses. Official Chinese sources reported ten dead, largely businesspeople in Lhasa. There are unconfirmed reports of many more casualties.

Police and military forces have surrounded three major monasteries in the Lhasa area, confining monks inside and beating those who have attempted to leave. Monks from Sera monastery are reported to have started a hunger strike demanding the withdrawal of military forces from their monastery.

Peaceful protests by Tibetans have also occurred in India and Nepal. In India protestors intending to march to the Chinese border were subjected to a restraining order and detained. In Nepal, protests in Kathmandu were violently dispersed and demonstrators who were briefly detained reported being beaten and otherwise ill-treated.

ENDS

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