Thursday, 28 June 2012
I rise today in this House to highlight the serious and deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet. This serious and deteriorating situation has received some notoriety here in Australia in recent days with the visit of Dr Lobsang Sangay, the new Kalon Tripa, or Prime Minister, of Tibet in exile. With respect to the circumstances in Tibet I quote from a recent publication. On 19 June Human Rights Watch reported:
As many as several hundred Tibetans from eastern areas of the Tibetan plateau who live in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region … have been arbitrarily expelled from the city as part of a drastic security drive …
This move has come in the wake of the first immolations in Lhasa last month. The report continued:
'This arbitrary expulsion of people because of their ethnicity or place of birth is clearly discriminatory and violates their basic rights to freedom of movement and residence,' said Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch.
The wave of self-immolation protests, unknown in Tibet before 2009, has continued unabated through 2012 with some 28 Tibetans known to have set themselves on fire this year alone. These acts have often been followed by large public protests. In my view there can be almost no more serious personal and individual act of defiance than this act of personal destruction. It is a tragedy for the individuals involved but it is an enormously powerful statement of what they feel about the circumstances of their people and the situation they find themselves in. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, announced in the Senate in March:
… our ambassador will be seeking today to travel to Tibet to see for herself the grievances which have given rise to the self-immolations. … Secondly, … the deputy head of mission, who today is visiting Sichuan Province, is making today a request to the Sichuan Foreign Affairs Office to inspect Tibetan establishments in that province, again to investigate the grievances that have given rise to these extreme and distressing forms of protest. Moreover, … our ambassador in Beijing is making an application today to have permission granted for a delegation of our Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade to go to Tibet to investigate these things themselves.
Clearly, the situation in Tibet is incredibly serious. I do not for a minute believe that I should stand here and tell the Chinese government how to do their business. The Chinese government—the Chinese people as well—have been our friends and our trading partners for a long period of time. But what I would say is that this matter needs to be dealt with. The Tibetans do not seek separation from China but autonomy within a Chinese federation. They ask for China to abide by its own constitution, which protects minorities, by protecting Tibet's linguistic, religious and cultural autonomy. The right to freedom of speech and the right to freedom of assembly are essential rights. They are rights that the Tibetan people deserve to have.