Women delegates protesting at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conference


As with all major UN Conferences, the UN FWCW was comprised of
two distinct meetings,the official UN Conference in which
government delegates and officially accredited NGOs participated,
and the other,the larger NGO Forum.Registration for the NGO Forum
on Women and accreditation for the official UN Conference were
two separate and independent processes.The NGO Forum Office 
administered NGO Forum applications,and the Conference Secretariat
processed the official UN Conference registrations of representatives
of accredited NGOs.

SECTION III A. NGO Forum on Women

The application process for participation at the NGO Forum 
required each participant to submit an application to the NGO
Forum Office and to apply for hotel accommodations through
the China Organising Committee (COC).Registrants were required
to submit both the Hotel Confirmation Letter (HCL) and 
Registration Letter when submitting the visa applications.  

In April, the COC announced that structural flaws in the
Beijing Workers' Stadium necessitated that the Forum venue
be moved to the town of Huairou, 45 km from Beijing.
After negotiations between the NGO Forum Office, NGO 
Facilitating Committee and the COC, the site of Huairou was
accepted as the new venue.The COC reportedly provided 
assurances that,in exchange for acceptance of this new venue,
all registrants would be issued visas, the site would be
accessible to disabled participants, shuttles would run 
between the official UN Conference in Beijing and the NGO 
Forum in Huairou,and adequate accommodations would be
available to house all participants.Although the Forum 
Office applauded the COC's efforts to accommodate the needs
of the Forum, many NGOs were still not satisfied.NGOs saw
this last minute move as the Chinese Government's attempt 
to isolate this largest gathering of activists from the 
citizens of Beijing and to minimise the interaction between
Forum participants and those at the official Conference.
However, with no other viable alternative venue at this 
late date, NGOs prepared to head to Huairou to accomplish 
their work despite these obstacles.
Of the 37,000 registered NGO Forum participants from outside
China, an estimated 20,000 - 25,000 actually attended the Forum.
Many women were unable to make timely arrangements since the COC
delayed issuing the HCLs needed to secure visas. 

Over 80 delegates of the TWD applied for participation at the 
NGO Forum.Ultimately, only 17 were able to secure visas, nine 
of them Tibetan women.Sixty-nine TWD delegates were denied the
opportunity to participate.  Specific problems included:

Fifty Swiss Tibetan women received NGO registrations that cited
their nationality as Chinese although they had applied as Tibetan refugees.  
Applying for visas as Chinese citizens would have compromised their
legal status as refugees residing in Switzerland.

Refugee travel documents were rejected by the Chinese Embassy in 
New Delhi when submitted for visas by ten women from the Tibetan 
Women's Association in India and one from the Tibetan Youth 
Congress of India, in spite of having the required documents,
the NGO Forum registration and HCL. 

Tibetan women applicants, three from Switzerland, two from Norway
and one each from Germany and the United States were denied visas
outright even though they too had the required documents.

One Tibetan woman from the United States never received the HCL
and thus was effectively denied the opportunity to apply for a 
visa for China.  

Just prior to the beginning of the Forum, the Chinese Foreign 
Ministry issued a statement that it was the prerogative of the 
Chinese Government as to whom they issued visas.Although this 
was contrary to the agreement between the UN and the host country,
no effective pressure was applied by the UN or member states to
assure that China issued visas to all registered delegates to
the Forum and official Conference.

Two countries made special efforts to secure HCLs and visas
for their citizens of Tibetan descent.The Australian Foreign 
Ministry intervened and was successful in securing visas for
two Tibetan women who held Australian citizenship.The Norwegian
Foreign Ministry made extraordinary efforts to help one of
the TWD delegates.The Norwegian Ambassador in Beijing
successfully obtained the HCL, but in the end the TWD delegate
was unable to obtain a visa from China despite repeated appeals
on her behalf  by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

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© Copyright Tibetan Women's Delegation, April 1996.