A group of 23-member expert committee reviewed China on the implementation of the UN International Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, on 12 May 2023, in the ongoing 85th session of the Committee commenced on 8 May 2023. In line with the review of China by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in its 85th session, Tibet groups, namely the Tibet Bureau, Tibetan Women Associations and Tibet Advocacy Coalition group made submissions to the committee on Tibet, individually. Furthermore, an oral joint statement to draw the committee’s attention to the situation of Tibetan women was delivered on the first day of the session held on 8 May 2023.
Representative Thinlay Chukki and UN Advocacy Officer Kalden Tsomo of the Tibet Bureau along with President of Tibetan Women Association Tenzing Dolma and Tibet Advocacy Coalition’s coordinator Gloria Montgomery took part in the review session on China.
During the day-long review session, the UN experts raised numerous pressing questions to the Chinese delegations concerning the situation of women in China and regions under its control including Tibet, and in special administrative areas: Hong Kong and Macau. More than 40 members of Chinese delegations attended the session. However, the delegations, yet again, failed to give sufficient responses to the experts, resulting in repeated interventions from the chair and the country’s rapporteur reminding the delegations to provide “specific replies” to the questions raised by the experts.
With reference to the situation of Tibetan women in Tibet, the experts questioned China on a wide range of pertinent issues, including the forcible removal of Tibetan nomads and herders; Tibetan women subjected to military-style vocational training, low-skilled and low-paid employment; participation of women in public and diplomatic service, including Tibetan women; legal grounds for confiscation of passports, including women in Tibet; access to education in Tibetan language and issues on mental health safeguard for Tibetan children in residential schools.
Raising the issues of forcible removal of Tibetan nomads, farmers and herders from their ancestral land, the expert raised, “In the name of creating employment opportunities, Tibetans, including women are subjected to military-style vocational training in Tibet”. She further referred to the findings by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery that an extensive labour transfer program has shifted mainly farmers, herders and other rural women workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment. In light of these issues, the expert asked China to a) provide concrete figures of Tibetan farmers, herders and nomads who have been forcibly removed from their lands within the last decades and provide gender aggregated data; b) Reasons for providing Tibetan rural women workers with low skilled and low paid employment training under labour transfer program; c) Indicate a number of Tibetan women subjected to forced labour transfer program across China. The large team Chinese delegation could not respond to the issue raised by the expert during the session.
In accordance with the state’s obligation to take necessary measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life, the expert raised the issue of circumstances surrounding the limited participation of women in political and public spheres. The expert asked China to indicate efforts to increase women participation or candidates for political positions and in the diplomacy corps, including Tibetans. Responding to the Chinese delegation’s hazy replies to the question raised by an expert, the chair rapporteur had to point out the delegation’s response to explicitly raise “how many of these (Chinese women) in public life are Tibetans, Uyghur…”?
The expert asked Chinese delegations to clarify and provide information on issues related to the confiscation of passports and identity documents. While acknowledging the experts’ awareness of problems faced by women, including in Tibet, on restrictions of movement, the expert asked Chinese delegations on conditions under which individuals are restricted to travelling abroad; legal grounds that state agents confiscate the passports and identity documents of the individuals. Following the un-concise response by the Chinese delegation, the expert promptly flagged-up that the question raised by the expert had not been answered.
In light of ongoing large-scale assimilatory policy by China in Tibet through residential schools, the expert raised the issue of mental health and aggregated data of Tibetan children in “forced residential schools” in Tibet.
Furthermore, the experts questioned China over the situation of women subjected to state-led interethnic marriages, the situation of women human rights defenders, including protection from harassment, punishment and retaliation against their work and the state’s support to the work of civil society organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations.