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Tibetans end hunger strike, UN assures probe

world Updated: Mar 23, 2012 21:37 IST
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Three Tibetans, who have been sitting on a hunger strike outside the UN headquarters for the past one month, ended their protest after assurances from the world body that it will probe the situation in Tibet, a leader of the exiled community said in New York on Friday.

Shingza Rinpoche, 32, Dorjee Gyalpo, 59, and Yeshi Tenzing, 39, had been on a hunger strike since February 22 to draw the attention of the UN towards the suffering of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation.

Gyalpo was taken to a hospital a few days ago due to his ill health but he has continued his protest from the hospital where he refused to eat anything, Tibetan Youth Congress president Tsewang Rigzin told PTI.

He said the Tibetans called off their protests "indefinitely" yesterday after advisor to an assistant secretary general for human rights, Richard Bennett, and an official from UN chief Ban Ki-moon's office, Parfait Onanga, handed over a letter to the Tibetan protesters.

Amid cheers and tears, the Tibetans drank juice as they ended their protests surrounded by supporters and a large media contingent.

Rigzin said the letter was signed by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai and "approved" by Ban.

He said the letter states that the UN has asked special rapporteurs to investigate what is going on inside Tibet and that it will continue to engage with the Chinese government on the situation inside Tibet.

The UN has contacted the Chinese government several times about delegations going into Tibet, Rigzin said, adding that Pillai has said in Geneva that she has an open invitation to visit China but they are working on finalising the dates.

"After 30 days, we have finally opened the doors of the UN. The UN heard the Tibetan people today after a long time. This is a victory for the Tibetan people and for their nonviolent struggle," Rigzin said.

He said the Tibetan people have been "caught between a rock and a hard place" and hunger strike and self-immolation are the last two resorts of their non-violent struggle against years of Chinese occupation and oppression.

"So far it has been nonviolent but we do not know what direction the Tibetan struggle will go in future. Tibetan people are tired and completely against the illegal occupation of their homeland and oppression of their people by the Chinese government," Rigzin said.

The Tibetans will build on this victory and continue to "knock on the doors of the UN until we regain Tibet's independence and return our leader the Dalai Lama to Tibet where he rightfully belongs," Rigzin said, echoing the sentiments of the scores of Tibetans present at the hunger strike site.

Through the hunger strike, the group wanted to urge the UN to send a fact finding delegation inside Tibet to assess the critical situation there.

The group had urged the world body to pressure China to "stop the undeclared martial law in Tibet, allow international media to investigate and report on the atrocities and release political prisoners".

About 30 Tibetans, mostly Buddhist monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Rigzin said 17 of these self-immolations have happened in the last two months alone.

The UN chief had expressed concern over the health of the three Tibetans on hunger strike.

Ivan Simonovic, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, had previously met Rigzin and said he would convey the group’s concerns to the relevant Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.