The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) recommends the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to probe the deaths of Tibetans killed in the spring 2008 protests in Tibet and to adopt measures to prohibit and prevent enforced disappearances and to provide information on the fate of missing persons including the XIth Panchen Lama.

The Committee in its concluding observations (CAT/C/CHN/CO/4) on the fourth periodic report of the PRC on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment released on 21 November 2008 asked China to ensure that all persons detained or arrested in the aftermath of the Spring 2008 events have “prompt access to an independent lawyer, independent medical care and the right to lodge complaints free from official reprisal or harassment.”

The Committee in its observations “identified three over-arching problems, which, collectively, stood in the way of ensuring the legal safeguards that the Committee generally recommended to all States parties to the Convention as necessary for the prevention of torture: the 1988 Law on the Preservation of State Secrets in the People’s Republic of China; the reported harassment of lawyers and human rights defenders; and the abuses carried out by unaccountable “thugs” who used physical violence against specific defenders but enjoy de facto immunity.”

The Committee earlier received a wide range of alternative reports from the non-governmental organizations including the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) on PRC’s violations of the UN Convention Against Torture. The alternative reports alleging widespread torture in China is available at the CAT’s website at

Some notable recommendations include:

“The Committee notes with great concern the reports received on the recent crackdown in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties in the State party which has deepened a climate of fear and further inhibits accountability. These reports follow longstanding reports of torture, beatings, shackling and other abusive treatment, in particular of Tibetan monks and nuns, at the hands of public officials, public security and state security, as well as paramilitary and even unofficial personnel at the instigation or with the acquiescence or consent of public officials. Notwithstanding the numbers provided by the State party on persons arrested and those sentenced to imprisonment in the aftermath of the March 2008 events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties, the Committee regrets the lack of further information on these persons. In particular, the State party reported that 1231 suspects “have redeemed themselves and been released after receiving education and administrative punishment”, but has provided no further information on these cases or their treatment. In particular, the Committee expresses its concern at:

(a) The large number of persons detained or arrested in the aftermath of the March 2008 demonstrations and related events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties in Gansu, Suchuan and Qinghai provinces, and the reported lack of restraint with which persons were treated, based on numerous allegations and credible reports made available to the Committee;

(b) The failure to investigate the deaths resulting from indiscriminate firing by the police into crowds of reportedly largely peaceful demonstrators in Kardze county, Ngaba county, and Lhasa;

(c) The failure to conduct independent and impartial investigations into allegations that some of the large number of persons detained or arrested have been subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;

(d) The failure to allow independent and impartial investigators into the region;

(e) The consistent allegations that some of those arrested could not notify their relatives, did not have prompt access to an independent doctor, nor to an independent lawyer, that lawyers offering to represent them were warned and otherwise deterred from providing that legal assistance, and that the speeded
up trials of 69 Tibetans led to them being reportedly sentenced in a summary manner;

(f) The large number of persons who have been arrested, but whose current whereabouts remain unknown and which the State party has been unable to clarify despite written and oral requests from the Committee (list of issues, question 2(l), CAT/C/CHN/Q/4) (arts. 2, 11 and 12).”