Culture Genocide in Tibet: The Failure of Article 8 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ in Protecting the Cultural Rights of Tibetans

Jaspreet K. Sandhar


The importance of culture has been present in the international human rights field since the compilation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), but its prominence re-emerged in the 1990s following the surge of indigenous peoples’ movements. For the attainment of peace and stability, the right to culture needs to be encouraged and “cultural genocide”, the non-physical destruction of an ethnic group, should be punished. International human-rights frameworks, in particular Article 8 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),have attempted to protect such groups and their cultural identity. Despite these developments, cultural rights are the least developed and understood category of human rights, largely with regards to their enforceability, legal understanding, and scope. The granting of cultural rights to minority groups or indigenous people furthermore remains a contested and controversial subject, and one full of complexity. Though it is incorporated in human rights legislation, there exists a lack of understanding about how it works in tandem with other human rights categories. The occupation of China in Tibet has embodied a destructive colonialism that is denying the Tibetan people the freedom to exercise their fundamental cultural rights. Robert Badinter described the disappearance of Tibetan culture as cultural genocide in 1989,5 a stance that has since been adopted by those challenging China’s rule in Tibet. By exploring Article 8 of the UNDRIP and the importance of cultural identity to the Tibetan people, this paper explores how China’s nationalist policies are in breach of Article 8 and, consequently, China is carrying out cultural genocide in Tibet. In concluding, the essay examines how China’s refusal to recognise Tibetans as indigenous leaves them at an impasse, as protection offered by the frameworks is compromised by other factors.

Słowa kluczowe

cultural genocide, Tibet, indigenous peoples, colonialism, cultural rights, human rights, international law, cultural heritage, nationalism, cultural identity

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