Footage by Claire Ward
Three Tibetans are recovering in a New York hospital after breaking a 30-day fast meant to call international attention to what they describe as “China’s inhumane crimes towards Tibetans.”
The men were visited by two UN officials on Thursday and presented with a letter from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
“I wish to bring to your attention that the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations are actively engaged in your concerns,” Pillay wrote, also expressing her concern about the health of the three men.
Shingza Rinpoche, Dorjee Gyalpo, and Yeshi Tenzing had swallowed nothing but water since their fast began on February 22, in a park across the street from UN headquarters in New York. On Monday, Gyalpo was forcibly removed from the park by the New York Police Department which had become concerned about the 59-year-old’s health. Gyalpo had continued to refuse food in the hospital.
The letter did not directly address the men’s five demands, including the request for a UN fact-finding mission to Tibet. Nevertheless, it did mention ongoing efforts to engage the Chinese government over alleged human rights abuses, said organiser and president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Tsewang Rigzin.
At least two dozen people have set themselves on fire in the last year to call attention to the situation to Tibet, which has been under Chinese rule for 50 years.
The demonstrators in New York had also called on the UN to pressure China to stop the “undeclared martial law,” allow in international media, release political prisoners and stop the so-called “patriotic re-education” campaign in Tibet.
“We’ve finally opened the doors of the UN,” Rigzin said. “We will continue to knock on the doors of the UN until there is freedom for Tibet and the return of our leader, the Dalai Lama.”
Rinpoche and Tenzing broke down in tears when Richard Bennett, a representative for the High Commissioner for Human Rights who is based in Geneva, presented the letter. He also brought them orange juice to break the fast.