At the ongoing 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Kai Mueller raised cases of arbitrary detention and disappearance of Tibetans and human rights issues related to development policies in Tibet. Mueller spoke on behalf of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

“Tibetans continue to be arbitrarily detained for practicing their religious beliefs, for voicing dissent with government policies or for defending their rights,” Mueller said, raising the cases of Rinchen TsultrimGo Sherab Gyatso and Dorjee Tashi. While Go Sherab Gyatso’s whereabouts are still unknown, Tibetan businessman Dorjee Tashi’s case is particularly concerning, and his testimony on torture he suffered during pre-trial detention has become available only now.

Mueller noted with serious concern reports about an ongoing wave of arrests of Tibetans in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) prefecture in Sichuan province amid a crackdown by authorities on language rights and possession of images of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The Human Rights Council heard the reports of the UN Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance.

With regard to the report of the special rapporteur on the right to development, Mueller delivered a statement on behalf of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights calling on the special rapporteur and Human Rights Council member states to consider the project of “development” and the right to development within the context of climate responses with serious caution. He noted so-called “development” and “environmental” policies in the People’s Republic of China have been used to disempower local Tibetans, extract resources and damage their local environments.

Mueller cited policies such as grassland privatization, nomad relocation and the expansion of extractive industries as accelerating desertification and the loss of a major carbon sink. He urged the special rapporteur and member states to prioritize the promotion of fundamental civil and political rights, so that individuals can access information and participate in policy decision-making, as well as seek accountability and justice, regardless of whether policies are development or climate focused.