A top human rights group is urging the international community to form a contact group on Tibet in order to push the Chinese government to improve what it says is the "worsening human rights situation" there.
In a statement Friday, Human Rights Watch
calls on world governments who are concerned about Tibet to discuss the formation of such a group on the sidelines of next week's United Nations General Assembly
The New York-based organization says a contact group could pressure China to consider resuming "meaningful negotiations with Tibetan representatives." It also says such an initiative could demonstrate "heightened international concern" about Tibet.
About 50 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, mostly in protest against what they see as Chinese repression of their religion and culture - a charge Beijing denies. At least seven of the self-immolations occurred last month.
Human Rights Watch says that Beijing has responded to the growing number of self-immolations and protests with sweeping arrests and detentions. China has also strengthened the blackout on information coming from Tibetan areas.
China, which has the world's second largest economy, has put diplomatic pressure on international governments that publicly condemn its policies in Tibet. The country also discourages international forums from addressing the issue, saying it is an internal dispute regarding its own sovereignty.
But Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch says "concerned governments should set aside their fears of irking Beijing and press China to respect Tibetans' basic rights."