Canadian Foreign Minister speaks out about Tibetan political prisoners
November 13, 2017

Canada Tibet Committee, November 13, 2017 – In a response to questions about Canadian government action in defense of Tibetan political prisoners, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Chrystia Freeland, says that Canada is “closely monitoring the cases of Tibetan human rights defenders who have been detained. This includes seeking trial attendance where possible.”

Minister Freeland added that Canada has requested specific information from China about Tibet’s Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was taken by Chinese authorities in 1995 at age 6. He has not been seen or heard from since.

The Minister’s statements came in response to written questions submitted in June 2017 by Parliamentary Friends of Tibet Vice-Chair Randall Garrison (NDP), requesting details about how the Government has applied its “Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders” in the case Tibet. Garrison also asked what progress had been made by the Canadian Embassy in Beijing in efforts to obtain permission for a Canadian diplomatic delegation to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to ascertain his well-being.

In her response, Minister Freeland reiterated that the Government of Canada has called on China to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in detention.

Minister Freeland also alluded to difficulties faced by Canadian Embassy officials when seeking access to Tibet, adding that Canada will “continue to seek greater access to Tibet for our diplomats, parliamentarians, NGOs, and visiting delegations”.

Members of the Canadian parliament most recently visited Tibet in August 2017, when a delegation of MPs and Senators representing the Canada-China Legislative Association toured Tibetan areas in Qinghai and Sichuan to discuss trade, tourism, and cultural exchange with local officials. It is not known if the parliamentarians raised concerns about political prisoners during their visit, or if there has been other diplomatic exchanges since.

Minister Freeland concluded her remarks by affirming that the “Government of Canada will continue to urge the Government of China to respect the rights of ethnic Tibetans and to take steps to improve the human rights situation in Tibetan areas” and that “Canada has also consistently advocated for substantive and meaningful dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives to work toward a resolution of issues acceptable to both sides.”

Note: The Minister’s remarks are found in her response to order paper questions Q-1070 and Q-1076 at https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-200/hansard