Eyewitness accounts confirm that Chinese security forces used disproportionate force and acted with deliberate brutality in the wave of Tibetan protests that began on March 10, 2008, Human Rights Watch says in a new report. The report charges that many violations continue today, including disappearances, wrongful convictions and imprisonment, persecution of families, and the targeting of Tibetans suspected of sympathizing with the protest movement.
The 73-page report, “I Saw It with My Own Eyes”: Abuses by Security Forces in Tibet, 2008-2010, is based on more than 200 interviews with Tibetan refugees and recent visitors to the restive region, as well as official Chinese sources. “Dozens of eyewitness testimonies and the government’s own sources show clearly the official willingness to use lethal force against unarmed protestors,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “This report decisively refutes the Chinese government’s claim that it handled the protests in line with international standards and domestic laws.”
The report also suggests that contrary to government claims, Chinese security forces opened fire indiscriminately on protesters in at least four separate incidents, including in an area of central Lhasa on March 14.
The report charges that in order to avoid external or independent scrutiny of the security operations, the Chinese authorities effectively locked down the entire Tibetan plateau and dispatched massive numbers of troops across all Tibetan-inhabited areas of the People’s Republic. It expelled journalists and foreign observers, restricted travel to and within the region, cut or monitored telecommunications and the Internet, and arrested anyone suspected of reporting on the crackdown. Beijing has rejected all calls for independent investigations into the protests, including those from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch has condemned violence committed by Tibetan protesters as well as by security forces. In Lhasa alone, 21 people were killed and several hundred injured over the March 14-15 time period in 2008, according to government figures. In multiple incidents, HRW says eyewitness testimonies show that Chinese forces acted in contravention of international standards—including prohibitions against disproportionate use of force, torture, and arbitrary detention, as well as the right to peaceful assembly—despite government claims to the contrary. (HRW, July 21)