John Kerry: Tibet “increasingly identified with self-immolations”

Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser was awarded the 2013 International Women of Courage Award in absentia by the US State Department on Friday, in honor of her work to call attention to human rights abuses in Tibet.

In presenting the award, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Tibet has become “increasingly identified with self-immolations and protests against the deteriorating human rights condition.” Since 2009, over 100 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest of China’s ongoing occupation. Woeser, Kerry said, has called attention to the desperate situation in Tibet through her blog, her poetry, and her use of social media.

Woeser, who is under house arrest in China and has been repeatedly denied a passport to leave the country, announced last week that she was dedicating her award to the Tibetans who have self-immolated. Woeser was spotted waving from the balcony of her Beijing apartment on Friday.

On Friday, the Tibetan Parliament in exile commemorated the 54th annual Tibetan Uprising Day in Dharamsala. For the first time, this year the day was also observed as Martyrs’ Day, in honor of the immolators. In a statement, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, the deputy speaker of the parliament, said:

Today, the situation in Tibet has become extremely tragic and critical, with the Chinese government pursuing a policy of colonialism whereby in all the economically profitable cities and towns, Tibetans are continuously being pushed to the fringe of the society, to live a marginalized existence of a neglected minority community. The Tibetan people are not only devoid of any kind of political freedom but are also subjected to very tight restrictions with regard to the exercise of their human rights, freedom of religious practices, freedom of movement, and linguistic freedom. And the natural environment of Tibet has been subjected to such severe ravages that it would be very hard to restore them again.

Tenphel called upon China to stop its hardline policies toward Tibetans and to negotiate with the Tibetan government. Read his full statement at the Tibet Post.

Tibetans overseas also observed Uprising Day and Martyrs’ Day. Hundreds of Tibetans protested outside Chinese embassies and consulates across Canada, shouting slogans for Free Tibet and urging the Canadian government to send a fact-finding mission.