Hong Kong church commission urges China to stop suppressing Tibetans

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The Hong Kong Diocese's Justice and Peace Commission urged China to stop its suppression of demonstrators and media in Tibet.

"We protest that the Chinese government uses force to suppress the (Tibetan) demonstrators and forbids Hong Kong reporters to cover unrest in Tibet," the commission said in a March 18 statement.

Or Yan Yan, commission spokeswoman, told Catholic News Service March 18 the commission asked the Chinese government to stop all forms of suppression in Tibet and to enter into dialogue with the Tibetan people.

"We ask the Chinese government to ensure that its people may enjoy ... civil rights as stated in its constitution and to allow (the Tibetan) people to enjoy autonomy and to respect their religion and culture," Or said. She added that the commission would protest at the Chinese government office in Hong Kong March 19.

In its statement, the justice and peace commission said the demonstrations were partially to protest China's abuse of Tibetans' right to autonomy; it said China had forced Tibetans to adopt the culture of ethnic Hans.

The commission also urged Beijing to respect freedom of the press and allow the media to cover the news in Tibet.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said that keeping the media from covering the unrest in Tibet was unacceptable. Hong Kong journalists were ordered and escorted out of the Tibetan city of Lhasa March 17.

"Banning Hong Kong reporters from covering news in Tibet will only arouse suspicions in the outside world that the government is going to cover up certain facts. It will be detrimental to the opening-up image of China," the association said March 17.

What began in Tibet in early March as relatively peaceful protests to mark the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule turned to rioting followed by a crackdown by Chinese troops.

Chinese authorities said the final death toll was 13 people, while Tibetan exile groups put the figure at more than 80.

China claims sovereignty over Tibet while many Tibetans, including those loyal to the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, want a return to autonomy for the region. The Dalai Lama called the crackdown "cultural genocide" and threatened to resign as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile if the situation spun out of control.

A March 14 statement by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal body, said: "Religious freedom restrictions and abuses in Tibet have long been some of the worst in China. The quick show of force used over the last week is part of the Chinese government's wider policy to discredit the Dalai Lama by accusing him of trying to disrupt the 2008 Olympic Games" in China.

In its annual report on countries' human rights practices, released March 11, the U.S. Department of State dropped China from its list of countries with the worst human rights violations.

Hong Kong church commission urges China to stop suppressing Tibetans
By Francis Wong
Catholic News Service

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