New UN rights boss says discussing visit to Tibet with Chinese

Activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet

Geneva: The new United Nations human rights chief said on Thursday that he wanted to visit China, including its troubled mountainous region of Tibet, and was holding discussions with Chinese authorities.

Activists say China tramples on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, which it has ruled since its People's Liberation Army "peacefully liberated" the region in 1950. China rejects such criticism, saying its rule ended serfdom and brought development to a backward, poverty-stricken region.

Mary Robinson was the last U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit China in the late 1990s, despite repeated requests by her successors. Navi Pillay, whose term ended on Aug. 31, urged China to allow independent human rights monitors to visit Tibet and address deep-rooted frustrations.

A visit by the U.N. rights chief was agreed in principle by China when it underwent a review of its record last year at the U.N. Human Rights Council, which regularly examines those of all U.N. member states.

"China in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) agreed to the recommendation that there be a visit by the High Commissioner to Tibet. So we are discussing this issue with the Chinese authorities," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein told his first news briefing.

Zeid, Jordan's former U.N. ambassador, took up the Geneva post six weeks ago. Asked whether he might also visit other restive Chinese regions such as Xinjiang, he told reporters: "It is premature to discuss exactly where I would visit.

"We spoke of a multi-day visit, so I suspect that I would move around if indeed we are able to get the visit in place soon."

More than 120 Tibetans, including many monks, have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest Beijing's rule, with many calling for the return of their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

( Source : reuters )
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