UN experts expressed concerns [press release] Tuesday over human rights restrictions on Tibetan [advocacy website] Buddhist monasteries in China's Sichuan province. UN experts are concerned about reports of heavy security measures surrounding the Kirti monastery, which houses approximately 2,500 Buddhist monks. UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief [official website] Heiner Bielefeldt stated:
Intimidation of the lay and monastic community must be avoided, and the right of members of the monastic community and the wider community to freely practice their religion, should be fully respected by the Chinese Government. Restrictive measures not only curtail the right to freedom of religion or belief, but further exacerbate the existing tensions and are counterproductive.These alleged security forces include officers in riot gear, soldiers with automatic rifles, trucks with armed personnel on the streets to the monastery, security raids, surveillance within monasteries and police presence both inside and outside of the monasteries to monitor religious activities. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression [official website] Frank La Rue voiced his concern over allegations of restricted internet access and mobile service as well as the lack of access for journalists to the area. La Rue recommended that the Chinese government "listen to and address the legitimate grievances of the monastic community" instead of taking reported security measures.
China's human rights record has been widely criticized. In June, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [official website], another party to Tuesday's statement, urged China to address its practice of "enforced disappearances" [JURIST report] and reveal the location of 355 detained Tibetan monks. Earlier in June, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] urged China to release protestors [JURIST report] arrested during peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] in June 1989. Rights groups marked the twentieth anniversary in 2009 and called for the government to investigate the incident [JURIST report]. In May, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] called for the immediate release of Chinese rights activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Liu, awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia, is currently serving an 11-year prison term [JURIST reports] after being convicted on charges of subversion in a trial that lasted only two hours and was closed to foreign diplomats. In March, the UN called on the Chinese government to free detained human rights lawyer [JURIST report] Gao Zhisheng [advocacy website; JURIST news archive].