Fifty years of repression and human rights abuse in Tibet are depicted in an unusual new report released today, a joint publication of Human Rights Watch and Aperture.
The report, "Tibet Since 1950: Silence, Prison, or Exile" ($40) contains more than one hundred color and black-and-white photographs of Tibet in the last half-century. Several recent photographs of Chinese prisons in "eastern" Tibet were taken secretly by photographer Steven Marshall, with a powerful telephoto lens, and have never been published in the West before.
The book contains essays by Tibet scholar Elliott Sperling and by journalist Orville Schell, as well as interviews with Tibetan exiles, conducted by Human Rights Watch researcher Mickey Spiegel.
As a documentary history, the book includes the texts of Chinese edicts such as the March 1989 martial law decree for Tibet, as well as a decree on "re-education" in Tibetan monasteries in China's Qinghai province. The report illustrates the extent of China's repression and the ongoing violation of basic human rights in Tibet, through arbitrary arrest, torture, unfair trials, the secular takeover of religion, and the absence of freedom of association, expression, and assembly.
"By using these exceptional photographs in this report, we hope to bring the issue of human rights in Tibet to a broader audience," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "The Chinese government cannot justify its repression of Tibetans, or of any ethnic group."
The report describes the ongoing crackdown in "eastern" Tibet, which lies outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region. About half of all Tibetans under Chinese rule live in Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Yunnan provinces. The interviews with exiles reveal how the Chinese authorities imprison Tibetans for peaceful political expression such as leafletting, putting up posters, flying the Tibetan flag, distributing the writings of the Dalai Lama, shouting slogans, and teaching other Tibetans about their history and culture. The exiles describe repeated beatings in prison, near-fatal illnesses that went untreated, and penalties suffered by entire families for the acts committed by one family member.
Human Rights Watch conducts investigations of human rights abuses in some seventy countries around the world. Since 1978, it has been a reliable source of information and a compassionate innovator for change.
Aperture is an educational, charitable organization and a public foundation devoted to photography and related visual arts. Aperture publishes a periodical, books, and portfolios of fine photography and produces world-class exhibitions to communicate with serious photographers and creative people everywhere.