This year's commemoration of International Human Rights Day in Tokyo saw a large gathering from different countries, communities, and their supporters, to highlight human rights violations and religious persecutions in the respective countries. Kameda Taro, the moderator of the event, noted that Human Rights Day, which the Tibetans in Tokyo once observed, was later joined by Uyghurs and Southern Mongolians and their supporters. However, today it has taken an international hue, with more than ten communities and their supporters participating in the event.
This is unprecedented! What prompted such a gathering? This paper will examine what this gathering and protest mean. It will study human rights and who are the people behind the human rights violations. And it will consider what must be done to protect the world from these human rights violators. The report follows:
Human Rights and Their Implementation
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, on December 10, 1948, recognized "the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world." It declared that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Moreover, it established that these fundamental human rights are protected under the United Nations Charter.
Seventy-four years have passed since then. Are we anywhere better? Have we achieved what the founders of the declaration dreamed of and envisioned for us?
The declaration has helped raise awareness and understanding of human rights and its significance. But it has remained more on paper than implemented in the field in many countries. The reason for this sorry state is the continued priority that the leaders of the free world have accorded to their national interest for trade and economy. That priority results in accommodating and appeasing the authoritarian rule.
A Polarized World
Although the cold war mentality has gone, the world has polarized into democracy and authoritarian rule. Earlier, it was monarchies. In those days, the land and the people belonged to the royal family who ruled. Then, the people rose, and republics were established with democracy and communism as the guiding principles. Today, we see both democracy and communism bypassing the people and heading toward authoritarianism and dictatorships, respectively. Russia's Putin, China's Xi, North Korea's Kim, Syria's Assad, Lukashenko of Belarus, and Cambodia's Hun Sen are the best examples of this trend.
The time has come for the people to rise once again to overthrow totalitarian regimes and save democracy and the rule of law.
Human rights are indispensable international and universal values. People have realized that human rights violations are not only a problem of one country and its people. They are a problem of humanity and the international community. And we all need to join hands together to strongly protest against human rights violations and oppression around the world.
This sentiment is clearly reflected in the 2022 commemoration of Human Rights Day in Tokyo.
Tokyo International Human Rights Day
On December 10, more than a hundred people gathered at Hibiya Koen Library Hall and protested the gross human rights violations in their homeland. The Myanmar community representatives in Japan made an emotional appeal seeking attention to the sufferings of people in Myanmar under the military junta. In addition, the Cambodian Rescue Mission representative talked about the lack of freedom since 1985 under the dictator Hun Sen.
Stand with Ukraine Japan representatives updated the situation in Ukraine and talked about the illegal occupation by the Russian army. A former Iranian diplomat spoke on how the current regime has been suppressing the dissents. He requested the international community to sanction the Iranian government. A Belarus representative, while speaking on the worsening human rights situation in the country, expressed solidarity with the Ukrainians.
Likewise, representatives of Tibet, Uyghurs, and Southern Mongolia spoke on the gross violation of human rights taking place in their regions. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Federation, and the Democratic People's Front of China shared their fears and uncertainty under Xi Jinping's third term in China.
Hundreds March for Peace
After the speeches, the gathering started a peace march and walked through streets in Ginza, Tokyo. According to the organizers, the peace march was joined by many Japanese and foreign supporters, and the number of participants swelled to five hundred. Protestors carried national flags of the participating countries and placards and raised slogans in different languages turn by turn. Participants spoke and raised awareness about the growing totalitarian regimes and their heinous crimes.
The Chinese Communist Party and other dictatorships, such as Vladimir Putin in Russia and Kim Jong Un in North Korea, have been systematically trying to alter the status quo and violating international norms. They are the fuel and engines behind the dictatorial regimes perpetrating human rights violations in various parts of the world. The continued existence of these dictatorships is a major obstacle and hindrance to world peace and stability.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues with the support of Xi Jinping. The continuing destruction and flow of refugees from the region is a clear indication that the world is not safe with dictatorships like Putin and Xi around. It's more than ten months since Russia attacked Ukraine. Yet, despite the international community condemning Russia, we don't see the end to this war. This represents a total failure of the United Nations. In all these brutal acts against humanity, China's Xi Jinping's hand is also explicit.
China: a Prominent Human Rights Violator
Despite being a founding nation of the United Nations, China continuously hinders UN resolutions aimed at the CCP regime's gross violation of human rights and religious freedom in China-occupied regions.
In June 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a joint statement of concern about the human rights situation in Tibet, Uyghurs, and Hong Kong. Forty-four nations supported the concern and condemned China. But China plotted and managed to get the support of 69 countries to block it. Most of its support came from totalitarian regimes and developing nations hooked under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) debt traps.
China's Belt and Road Trap and UN Veto Power
This year in October, China carried out intense lobbying and bully tactics to dislodge debate on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet's report on the situation in Uyghur (East Turkestan). Her report documents serious human rights abuses and possible crimes again humanity in the region.
Through debt traps, the CCP leadership has now acquired a strong and nefarious means to disrupt international norms and global order. This is very dangerous as it promotes authoritarian rule. Signficantly, it undermines the freedom of the countries under Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative. China holds these nations hostage while flouting international norms and flexing its muscle to extend its hegemony.
Human rights violations and suppression of religious freedom in China and its occupied regions are an open secret. However, the United Nations is rendered impotent to condemning China or holding it accountable. China has consistently misused the veto power to disregard criticism and have its own way. Therefore, the very purpose of the United Nations charter and norms is lost.
Xi Jinping, the Dictator
In 2022 alone, Xi Jinping has used various dubious and evil methods to extend his term. He has disregarded the Chinese constitution and suppressed dissent. This third term for Xi Jinping forebodes tragedy for world peace and stability. People in China, Tibet, Uyghur, Southern Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the neighboring Asian countries will have a hard time managing the mayhem Xi's third term will usher in.
The Chinese people have been oppressed for so long under the Chinese Communist regime that they have reached a point where they cannot take it any longer. Xi's Zero COVID-19 policy has come as a last straw. It has tried to crush and hush all those with positive symptoms and anyone associated with the affected. The general public and students have protested, demanding Xi to step down.
By Remaining Silent, We Lose Everything
A large number of people came out and protested in more than 20 cities in China. The sentiment conveyed was that by remaining silent, we lose almost everything. Therefore, by protesting, we have nothing to lose. By breaking the silence, we hope to regain what we have lost. Protesters boldly and openly demanded Xi to step down and free China. Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and others bravely came out to protest the stupid policy and the draconian rules. People around the world expressed solidarity with the Chinese people.
The protests have demonstrated that Chinese people are not happy with the CCP's policy and Xi Jinping's leadership. They have also shown the vulnerability of Xi's China. Now, the international community needs to help liberate China from the Communist regime and hand it back into the hands of the Chinese people. This is not only for the Chinese people, but for the larger interest of world peace and security.
Japan Under Threat
Japan is a peaceful and democratic country bound by its constitution not to militarize. For the past decades, Japan tried its best to accommodate China's provocations with the hope that someday China may change and reciprocate the goodwill.
But continued provocative aggression from China has forced the Japanese government to pay more attention to its defense. This year both the House of Representatives and the House of Councllors passed resolutions to condemn China for continued violations of human rights. Tokyo has also brought the QUAD members closer together to deter Chinese military activities in the Indo-Pacific region. Time and again, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned the international community of the challenges posed by an assertive rising China.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine and North Korea's continued missile threats, both with China's support, have made Japan wary of China. The government has decided to increase its defense budget to 2 percent of GDP within five years, with annual spending of ¥11 trillion JPY (over $80 billion USD), from 1 percent now. This would make Japan's the third-largest military budget after the United States and China.
China has threatened to occupy Taiwan and recently launched a missile into the Sea of Japan. This is arrogance, aggression, and outright provocation. A normal, responsible nation would never do such a provocative thing. Xi has vowed to bring Taiwan under China's control in his third term. This is very dangerous. It threatens tol usher in World War III and bring chaos and destruction around the world, including China. The world must stop this.
Tibet, a Militarized Region
The Tibetan Plateau used to be known as a most peaceful region. But now it is the most militarized region in the world, and Tibet has become a police state. Tibet has been closed for the last two to three years, with absolutely no information and people coming out or going into Tibet.
In the past, Tibetans in and outside of Tibet were able to communicate with each other by cell phone, video chat, etc. But now, these communication functions are tapped, monitored, and blocked. Those found trying to communicate with the outside world are arrested. They are tortured on false charges of spying and divulging state secrets. Information about their relatives living outside Tibet is forcefully extracted.
Mandarin Chinese is being pushed as the first language. Tibetan, Uyghur, and Southern Mongolian children are taken away from their homes to special boarding schools where they are taught only Mandarin Chinese. Likewise, their curriculum teaches Communist Chinese Party history and ideology. When the children return home for vacations, they are unable to speak their native tongue. This education system changes all of their senses and ways of thinking.
Destroying Identity, Language, and Culture
Tibetan monks are forbidden to teach Buddhism to the Chinese. And the Chinese are forbidden to learn Buddhism from Tibetan monks. This is because the CCP regime thinks the regime would be in danger if the Chinese and Tibetans get along with each other. So, if there are separatists, it is the leaders of the CCP regime.
Xi Jinping's one China policy is about one country, one people, and one language. He has also announced many times national rejuvenation and a socialist ideology with unique Chinese characteristics. This is very dangerous for Tibet, Uyghur, Southern Mongolia, and other ethnic minorities. It is a plan to destroy their identity, language, and culture and to sinicize them. Here we should be clear that the Chinese people do not agree with this terrible and cruel policy. It is the policy exclusively of the CCP regime.
China, a Threat to the International Community
The policy of the Chinese Communist regime is territorial expansion. It has invaded Tibet, Manchuria, East Turkistan (Uyghur), and South Mongolia. Since the Chinese occupation of the Tibetan plateau, Nepal, India, and Bhutan have faced continued threats and border intrusions from China. Just recently, in early December 2022, China unilaterally attempted to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Arunachal Pradesh. Indian troops were prompted to retaliate and stop the intrusion.
The border regions have become highly militarized and volatile. This is very dangerous not only for Tibet, but for Asia and world peace. In East Asia, China's aggressive and provocative actions are turning the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region into highly militarized zones. Japan's Senkaku and Yonaguni Islands are in danger. What would become of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Senkaku is there in Tibet for all to see.
Resolve International Issues at the International Level
Xi Jinping's China has become a threat to world peace and stability. Different communities suffering human rights violations under different totalitarian regimes have come together on the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day in Tokyo to raise their voices. This has demonstrated that human rights violations are not an isolated issue.
Human rights are an international issue that should be resolved at the international level. This is a clear message to Xi Jinping and other dictators that the world is watching. The gathering of more than ten countries and communities should be seen as a death knell for Xi Jinping and dictators around the world.
The world cannot allow what has happened in Tibet and what is now happening in Ukraine to happen again. It is high time that free and democratic countries unite and do more than lip service to deter the onslaught of democratic and international norms by totalitarian regimes. Russia must withdraw from the occupied regions of Ukraine and uphold the United Nations Charter to resolve the conflict through dialog and peaceful means. China and its totalitarian cronies must stop human rights violations and oppressive policies. Instead they must adopt a peaceful and just approach to resolving international differences.
Communism and authoritarian rule must come to an end. Xi Jinping and dictators around the world must realize that democracy is inevitable and people will not remain slaves forever.
At the same time, the international community must realize that by remaining silent, we may lose everything. Such silence would deprive our children of the inherent dignity and inalienable rights, the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world, which the founders of the United Nations deliberated and endorsed some 77 years ago.
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Author: Tsewang Gyalpo Arya
Dr Tsewang Gyalpo Arya is the Representative of Liaison of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Japan and East Asia. He is the former Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations and former Director of the Tibet Policy Institute of Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, India. Disclaimer: The view expressed above is the author's own.