by Hibberd Kline
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
BEIJING, China– Three Tibetan activists marked the twenty-first day of what they have announced to be an “indefinite hunger strike” in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City today.
The three say that they are fasting in protest of the continuing crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet.
No action by the United Nations or the Chinese Government to ease the situation in Tibet yet appears to be forthcoming.
However, the three human rights activists, who are confined to wheelchairs due to famine-induced weakness, cannot help but attract headlines and have succeeded in garnering a significant amount of attention.
The three activists claim to have been visited on Monday by top United Nations human rights official Ivan Simonovich, whom they purport to have told that they wish to see “concrete action” by the Chinese Government to ease the crackdown on dissent in their distant homeland. The strikers say that they shall continue their fast “indfinitely” until the Chinese Government takes such action.
Mr. Simonovich’s visit was apparently followed up today by an expression of concern for the health of the strikers from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Nonetheless, the Secretary General stated that he “affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest.”
The strikers hope to bring pressure to bear upon the United Nations to take action and have delivered a petition with five demands to that effect. The core demands included a request for a fact-finding mission into the situation in Tibet. The strikers also called upon China to open up the region to journalists, to end martial law in areas with large Tibetan populations and to release all political prisoners.
One of the activists, 69-year old Dorjee Gyalpo, informed journalists that he is prepared to give his life to achieve the goals of the group’s petition. The other two strikers explained that their goal is not merely to bring awareness to the Tibetan cause, but to resolve the situation.
The United Nations has informed the media that it has received the petition and is investigating the matter.
Elsewhere in New York City, on Saturday an estimated 2,000-4,000 local Tibetans marched in solidarity with protestors in Tibet and to mark the 53rd anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Similar marches by hundreds of Tibetan exiles also occured in cities and towns in India, which houses the Tibetan Government in exile.
The protests have taken place against the backdrop of ongoing, muffled protests in Tibet itself. Human rights organizations estimate that some two dozen Tibetans, mostly Budhist monks, have set themselves on fire in China in recent months in protest of Chinese rule. Tibetan protestors also seek the safe return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Chinese authorities have responded to the protests by branding the self-immolators as terrorists and vastly increasing the number of police and security personnel in the region. Additionally, the authorities have clamped down tightly on the internet and mobile phones in the region, in some areas reportedly blocking these forms of communication entirely.
Tibetan activists and human rights groups say that the Chinese authorities in parts of China with a sizeable Tibetan population suppress Tibet’s culture and religion and crush all public displays of dissent.
Tibet has been under varying degrees of Chinese rule ever since Chinese troops occupied the region in 1950.
For more information, please see:
Huffington Post — Self Immolations in Tibet, Hunger Strikers in New York — 14 March 2012
Voice of America — UN Chief Voices Concern for Tibetan Hunger Strikers — 14 March 2012
Al Jazeera — Fasting for Tibet outside the UN — 13 March 2012
The Telegraph India — Tibetans Decry Chinese Outrage — 11 March 2012
NBC New York — Tibetans, Activists March and Rally in NYC — 10 March 2012
Voice of America — Tibetans on Hunger Strike Demand UN Action — 09 March 2012