The following is the text of a statement by Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, and United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, January 24, 2012, posted at:
As United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, I am gravely concerned by reports of violence and continuing heightened tensions in Tibetan areas of China, including reports of security forces in Sichuan province opening fire on protesters, killing some and injuring others.
These reports follow the self-immolation of four Tibetans earlier this month, bringing the number of reported self-immolations by Tibetans to 16—mostly monks and former monks, and two nuns—since March 2011.
The U.S. Government consistently and directly has raised the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with the Chinese government. The U.S. Government repeatedly has urged the Chinese government to address the counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.
As I have noted previously, these policies include dramatically expanded Chinese government controls on religious life and practice; ongoing “patriotic education” campaigns within monasteries that require monks to denounce the Dalai Lama; the permanent placement of Chinese officials in monasteries; increasingly intensive surveillance, arbitrary detentions and disappearances of Tibetans; and restrictions on and imprisonment of some families and friends of self-immolators. Over the last year, Chinese government security and judicial officials also have detained and imprisoned Tibetan writers, artists, intellectuals, and cultural advocates who criticized Chinese government policies.
We call on the Chinese government to safeguard the universal human rights of all of China’s citizens. We urge Chinese security forces to exercise restraint, and we renew our call to allow access to Tibetan areas of China for journalists, diplomats and other observers. We call on the Chinese government to resume substantive, results-oriented dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to address the underlying grievances of China’s Tibetan population.