Sunday, June 10, 2012

Forced Labour

Laogai in Tibet conference, what it is about?

When political prisoners languish in jails for many years, how they survive ? what they are forced to do ? what are the consequence of enforced labor on prisoners? How inhuman is the practice of "Labour Through Reeducation" Ch: Laogai , Is China's treatment of Tibetan  prisoners meet the international norms and  standards that guarantee the rights of the  political prisoners? These are the questions that the Laogai conference attempt to answer by inviting the former prisoners of survivors from Tibet to share their testimonials. 
Laogai in Tibet

Under the theme of Laogai in Tibet, an important conference was held on Jun 08,2012 at Rayburn building of U.S Capital . The venue was significant, as the  congressional buildings at the heart of U.S capital Washington D.C  is an important landmark, where the American ideals of freedom, liberty, justice are upheld and preserved.


A half dozen survivors of former Tibetan political prisoners shared their stories to a large audience of media people, human rights campaigners, activists, Tibetan supporters and sympathizers and interested people at this open to all conference. Former monk and political prisoner Jamphel Moelam, took the audience on a journey of his participation in 1987s Tibetan protest in Lhasa, and his consequent imprisonment in jails. With the help of a slide show, it was an eyeopening presentation of one man's aspiration, ordeal and hope. The evidence of torture and reeducation through labour with the help of pictures, documents are very effective and engaging.  Despite of the time constraints, this former monk has presented a compelling case of Chinese's ongoing oppression and suppression of any kind of dissent in Tibet, thereby arguing persuasively that Chinese government transgresses Tibetan people's freedom of assembly, speech, protest, religion,, rights of people that are enshrined in international human rights law and universal declaration of human rights.

 Another presenter of the conference was Mr. Tsewang Dhondup. He is a living proof of Chinese atrocities on peaceful protest.  He was miraculously survived despite of  several gun shots on his body during a peaceful protest in Tehor in  2008. But he is mentally and physically tormented survivors whose facial countenances shows the angst and hope of a people and its nation.  Having his disabled arms from gun shot held up, he was forceful and loud in his narration of the incidents in his native place through a translator and, where the Chinese army shoot peaceful protesters who demanded freedom, leaving several dead on scene and the wound sustained on his body and his daring escape to India.  His passion and sincerity and the urgency  of the issue in Tibet is palpable.     His presentation has great emotional appeal to the audience and he is very spontaneous and passionate in his urge for stronger support for the Tibetan cause and Tibetan people.

Why Now?
Event organizers said the purpose of the  conference was to highlight China's forced labour prison camps  in Tibet, and to keep up the flame of Tibetan issue burning. " As the spate of self-immolations by Tibetans continues to make headlines around the world, this conference will be an opportunity to hear firsthand the use of the Laogai as a tool of repression within Tibet as Tibetans’ cultural identity is being systematically suppressed and controlled".

For Whom. 

The presence and inspiring speech by two leading congress men was the highest point of the conference from an advocacy perspective. Congress men Frank Wolf and Chris Smith minced no words on bashing the current US administration's dismay record on dealing with  human rights issue with China. Quoting Hillary Clinton's infamous statement "Human rights issue should not interfere in U.S China relations", and Obama's red carpet welcome to China's president Hu were the fodders for criticism by these two giants on right issues. They are the two leading and outspoken congress men who stood for human rights and who are very vocal on the rights issue in Tibet. Their interaction and mingling with the former survivors of the China's forced prison labor camps, and their presence and support was very significant for the  success of  the entire conference.

Force for Good.

 It is a general view shared by many of my political prisoner friends  that their contribution to Tibet cause and their sacrifice are not fully appreciated in exile. If this is true, then we are sending a wrong signal to our brave men and women in Tibet. This invitation to Washington D.C is a testament of former political prisoner's contribution for the Tibet cause, it showed their sacrifice are well recognized and respected.They are provided the opportunity to share their true stories. The conference held at the Capital Hills received wider attention from the media and public.  it was a good publicity having created ample of awareness on Tibet issues. The conference generated lots of attention and awareness on Tibet issues. and the ongoing repression in Tibet.
Room for Improvement.

While the conference provided a great opportunity, it is also quite a challenge for the participants.They are speaking on behalf of lots of other prisoners languishing in jail, and they should do justice to the cause itself by being honest, and serious about it.  As for the organizers, bringing these prisoner survivors from India and providing them accommodation  must be a high budgeted conference and very time consuming, hence effective plan and preparation is paramount for the conference success. The presentation to an English speaking audience through a translator was cumbersome and require lots of patience and energy to stay alert. The participants could be prepared more thoroughly and practice their presentation over and over to fit the time limit. 

A Timely Conference.

 This special conference on forced labor prison camps in Tibet were organized jointly by  The Laogai Research Foundation, in conjunction with the International Campaign for Tibet, the Lantos Foundation and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Indeed a  very well thought theme and conference. The presence of HH Dalai Lama's representative Lobsang Nyndak  and head of major campaign organizations and the support of US congressional personality brought much luster for the conference. A perfect opportunity for the survivors to share their accounts of abuse and victimization.  Dedicating the entire conference on Tibet issue was tremendous by a leading Chinese rights organizations.  Harry Wu's advocacy for Tibet independence and cause is remarkable.  I believe this conference was a win win for all.

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