On March 10 every year, Tibetans around the world and their supporters come together to commemorate Tibetan Uprising Day. This year marks the 55th anniversary of the uprising.
For Tibetans, neither Dharamsala, India, or free and democratic Taiwan is their homeland. Tibet is their home. In 1959, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) invaded Tibet, forcing the 14th Dalai Lama to flee, which triggered an exodus of Tibetans across the Himalayas into India, away from ruthless persecutions and killings. This was done to save Tibetan culture and Tibetan lives, in the hope that they would some day be able to return to their peaceful homeland.
There are 376 Tibetans in exile in Taiwan, but just a minority have obtained Republic of China citizenship, while most of the others are stateless. Taiwan still has not passed a refugee act and the government does not recognize the “Green Book” issued by Tibet’s government-in-exile as a passport. Unless Tibetans here obtain an overseas Chinese temporary registration certificate, they are unable to access the same basic human rights, such as employment and medical care, held by any Republic of China (ROC) national.
The government has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and included them in the domestic legal system. The government must therefore view the issue of human rights for Tibetans based on international human rights standards.
These two covenants promise to respect, protect and improve basic human rights for everyone, without limiting rights to just those who hold citizenship. In this spirit, the government cannot view Tibetans in exile in Taiwan as being stateless. The government should pay Tibetans in exile the attention they deserve and fulfill Taiwan’s legal obligation to abide by the two covenants.
If President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government is serious about putting the two covenants into practice and bringing Taiwan in line with international practice, there are two options available.
The first would treat basic human rights and nationality as separate issues and recognize the rights of every resident of Taiwan.
The second option would be to recognize the official documents issued by the Tibetan government-in-exile and view Tibetans as having a nationality.
Taiwan’s government has long been diplomatically oppressed and militarily threatened by China and it should therefore be able to understand what the Tibetans in exile are going through. The government should also announce that it will protect the rights of Tibetans in Taiwan based on basic principles of human rights.
The Ma administration may not agree with Tibet’s struggle for independence, but this has nothing to do with protecting the basic human rights of Tibetans. Furthermore, pro-Beijing people should give more consideration to the real reasons why Tibetans protest.
If the Chinese government respects Tibetans, as it claims, why do Tibetans continue to protest? Why are so many Tibetans protesting through self-immolation? Why has the Tibetan Youth Congress not abandoned its quest for Tibetan independence? Why are Tibetans in exile around the globe still looking for a way to return home?
These are issues that every Taiwanese concerned about their own future should think carefully about.
Huang Song-lih is convener of Covenants Watch. Shih Yi-hsiang is executive secretary of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.
Translated by Drew Cameron