The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) recently published an update on the escalating repression in Diru (Ch: Biru) County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in the Tibetan province of Kham.[i] The report quoted a source within Tibet who said that in addition to the continuing arrest and disappearance of Tibetans in Diru County for protesting Chinese policies including against mining activities, local government had issued a temporary regulation prohibiting “freedom of movement, speech and religion.”
The report mentioned that failure to abide by these regulations would result in severe punishments for the Tibetans, such as “dismissal from the monastery, cancellation of welfare provisions, and prohibiting the harvesting of the prized caterpillar fungus.” TCHRD has received scanned copies of the Tibetan version of the regulation. Due to the difficulty and risk involved in getting the regulation out of Tibet, TCHRD’s source was unable to scan the complete regulation.
The original regulation includes 4 chapters and 26 articles mainly focusing on the cracking down on separatism, the “Dalai clique”, putting restrictions on participation in religious gathering such as the Kalachakra Empowerment given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in July 2014 in Ladakh in northern India. The regulation is referred to as “Information Handbook for the Enforcement of Two Separate Regulations issued by Diru County People’s Government” (Tib: diru mimang sizhung gi tenbep khag nyi kyi dril drak lad deb). According to the document, the regulation was passed in June 2014. Its subtitle encapsulates the essence of the regulation: “A temporary regulation on the illegal activities by participating, on one’s own [initiative], in the ‘Great Prayer Festivals’, through crossing the national boundaries, creating and spreading rumors in the public, propagating harmful information, traveling to areas outside of your own locality to [engage in religious] study.”
The regulation puts extreme restrictions on holding and participating in the Great Prayer Festival, one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist festivals. Although written as Monlam Chenmo (Tibetan for ‘Great Prayer Festival’) in the Tibetan version of the regulation, it appears that the restriction is also applicable to the famous Kalachakra Empowerment given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama last month in Ladakh in northern India. For instance, Rule 1 of the regulation bans participation in ‘Great Prayer Festival’ by “crossing national boundaries” and “collusion with influence, order and other secret activities of the 14 Dalai separatist group”. According to sources with contacts in Tibet, since 2013 the Chinese authorities in Diru County have engaged in widespread arbitrary detention, arrest, with at least 15 known Tibetans sentenced to varying terms of 2 to 18 years in prison.
The extreme restrictions placed on Tibetans wishing to travel to India from Tibet to receive the Kalachakra Empowerment are not new. In January 2012, hundreds of Tibetans were detained and forced to undergo political education classes, known in the official lingo as ‘legal education’ when they returned to Tibet after attending a Kalachakra Empowerment in India. The current regulation reinforces a disturbing new trend in how Chinese authorities coerce local Tibetans into following official policies. If local Tibetans attend the “Great Prayer Festival” their right to harvest caterpillar fungus, which is the only source of income for many Tibetans, and welfare benefits are forfeited.
According to Tsering Gyal, TCHRD’s Tibetan and Chinese researcher, even a cursory glance at the regulation makes it clear that the Chinese government officials have realized they will not be able to change the thinking (Tib: samlo) of the Tibetan people through forced indoctrination. Mr Gyal said, “They have resorted to targeting the livelihood of the Tibetan people, their sources of income, mainly the prized caterpillar fungus, in the hope that they would fall in line with government policies aimed at securing ‘social stability.’”
The copies of regulation available with TCHRD is divided into two chapters. The first chapter is called chi yi tsa don, meaning a principal declaration or a preamble of the regulation. The preamble declares that the regulation was enacted taking into account the particular situation of unrest in Diru in accordance with the laws and regulations of the TAR. It warns that those participating in the ‘Great Prayer Festival’, creating and spreading rumors in public, propagating harmful information, traveling to areas outside Diru to study Buddhism, all such people will be subjected to ‘strike hard’ campaign (Tib: dung dek tsa nen). The preamble justifies such crackdown in the name of “social stability,” and invokes a host of rules and regulations. The invocation of six (or more?) PRC national and regional laws reinforces the Chinese government’s deceptive claim that Tibetans in Diru are not dealt arbitrarily but in accordance with the laws and regulations of the PRC. The second chapter is entitled “Regarding the Implementation of the Regulations or Decisions Made” (Tib: thakchoe jague the ki ten beb).
The incomplete copy obtained by TCHRD contains 23 articles, though there could be more. The available articles in the regulation and a summary of each article are below. (Note that the following translation does not include articles 7, 8, 13, 19, 20, 21 due to unavailability of the documents):
Article 1 prohibits participating in or organizing activities for “the Great Prayer Festivals.” It equates these activities as an illegal act of causing terror and trickery, and colluding with the “separatist forces of the 14th Dalai clique.” It also refers to colluding with the “influence, order and other secret activities of the 14th Dalai separatist group”. It says: Activities such as crossing the national boundaries and participating, on one’s own [initiative], in ‘Great Prayer Festival’, as mentioned in the regulation, refers to those attempting through various means to participate in the ‘Great Prayer festival’.
Article 2 calls upon the law enforcement authorities to punish any Tibetans or their family members, including their spouses and children, who crossed the “the national boundaries by participating in the illegal acts of ‘Great Prayer Festival’. They also lose their right to harvest caterpillar fungus for three to five years and welfare benefits. Tibetans can also be sentenced to six months of “legal education.”
It says: The relevant law enforcement authorities should investigate and sentence any one participating in the following illegal activities of the ‘Great Prayer Festival’ by crossing the national boundaries. Any one crossing the national boundaries, including their parents, spouses, children should be deprived of their rights to harvest the caterpillar fungus for three to five years. They should be also fully deprived of their rights to welfare provisions. Those who are not sentenced should be subjected to six months of legal education.
The illegal activities of the ‘Great Prayer Festival’ are:
a) Participating in the activities of the ‘Great Prayer Festival’ under various pretexts and through various means by crossing the national boundaries and then returning to their homeland.
b) Indulging in trickery and terror, so as to instigate others to participate in the ‘Great Prayer Festival’, and helping organize the activities of the ‘Great Prayer Festival’.
Article 3 states that any one “participating in the Great Prayer Festivals by crossing the national boundaries” will have their household registration cancelled and their immediate family will be prohibited from harvesting caterpillar fungus for three to five years. It says: Any one participating in the “Great Prayer Festivals” by crossing the national boundaries shall be dealt with in accordance to the regulation “two things that are not allowed.” Moreover, their household registration shall be cancelled, and their parents, spouses and children shall not be allowed to harvest caterpillar fungus for three to five years, and their welfare provisions shall also be cancelled.
The activities of crossing the national boundaries are: a) Visiting the border areas for medication and meeting of relatives; also under the pretext of religious activities such as traveling to other areas to seek the blessings of sacred mountains/sites and participating in the activities of ‘Great Prayer Festival’ by crossing the national boundaries. b) Making fake travel documents, changing information in the travel documents, using the travel documents of others, passing on [one’s] travel documents to others, all such activities of crossing national boundaries and [traveling outside Diru] to participate in ‘Great Prayer Festival’.
Article 4 states that meaning monks and nuns if they are found participating in ‘Great Prayer Festivals’ by the crossing of national boundaries will be kicked out of their monastery or nunnery, barred from entering another monastery or nunnery, and lose their right to welfare.
It says: Religious professionals participating in the activities of ‘Great Prayer Festivals’ through the crossing of national boundaries, and under various pretexts, shall be dealt with in accordance to regulation 2 and 3 of this said implemented document/regulation. Moreover, they will be dismissed from their monasteries and nunneries, their permission to conduct religious studies withdrawn, and their welfare provisions completely cancelled. It shall be ensured that the population of the monastery shall be lessened by [dismissing] those participating in the ‘Great Prayer Festivals’ by crossing national boundaries.
Article 5 addresses the punishment of officials employed by the state and retired official. Their punishment and the punishment of their family members and distant relatives is provided in Rules 2 and 3. It says: Cadres and officials employed in the state offices and professional organizations, as well as retired cadres, if they are found participating in ‘Great Prayer Festivals’ through the following activities, they shall be punished in accordance to articles 2 and 3 of the laws and regulations of the Party and Government for Cadres. Moreover, they shall be considered as abdicating official duty for six months:
(a) retired officials and cadres participating in the activities of ‘Great Prayer Festivals’ by crossing the national boundaries.
(b) Family members/relatives of the retired cadres and officials (siblings and other distant relatives) participating in the activities of ‘Great Prayer Festivals’.
Article 6 provides a punishment for people who participated in the ‘Great Prayer Festival’ before the regulation criminalized their participation. This regulation explicitly violates one of the most fundamental principles of law—that there can be no punishment without a crime. It says: Those who have participated in the ‘Great Prayer Festivals’ by crossing national boundaries before the implementation and propagation of this particular regulation, and those who have not returned from the ‘Great Prayer Festivals’, their household registration shall be withdrawn in accordance with the law. Those who have returned and been subjected to regulation, they shall be given thorough education regarding the regulation prohibiting [participating in Great Prayer festivals].
Article 9 concerns how to deal with people “spreading rumors on the Internet.” It says: Those who, under the influence of trickery of others, indulge in making and spreading rumors or propagating harmful information on the Internet, such people shall be investigated and dealt with by the relevant law enforcement agencies. Moreover, those whose crime is not serious shall be subjected to a forced legal education for two months.
Article 10 concerns with people who have been found indulging in various acts “in contravention of the law”, this includes, “having strong nationalistic fervor,” publicizing information the 14th Dalai Lama’s speeches or information that praises him, and “any harmful information that condemns Chinese policies in Tibet.”
Article 10 says that people who are found guilty will be prevented from harvesting caterpillar fungus for more than one year and lose their welfare benefits. People found not guilty will be subjected to at least six months of legal education.
It says: Those people who have been found guilty of indulging in the following acts in contravention of the law should be investigated by the relevant law enforcement agencies, and they should be prevented from harvesting caterpillar fungus for more than one year and their welfare provision rights cancelled. Those who are not found guilty should be subjected to legal education for at least six months.
The illegal activities are:
a) Those having strong nationalistic fervor, or attempting to create discord among different nationalities, also speeches humiliating other nationalities propagated on the Internet.
b) Spreading and propagating information on the Internet advocating separatism
c) Making and propagating rebellious propaganda materials by selling or importing them or propagating them by postal service or possessing them in violation of the law.
d) Making or spreading rumors on social networking sites that are widely noticed or indulging in trickery and deception by propagating harmful information.
e) Activities such as propagating videos or songs in praise of the 14th Dalai and his separatist organization.
f) Propagating harmful speeches and other activities of the 14th Dalai and his separatist organization on the Internet.
g) Any fake speech that contravenes truth or any harmful information that condemns Chinese policies in Tibet.
h) Any poems, songs that promote Tibetan independence, separatism of nationalities, praising the 14th Dalai and his clique and also those that condemn the Chinese policies in Tibet.
Article 11 concerns with spreading and propagating harmful information on the Internet as mentioned in the preamble. People found guilty are preventing from harvesting caterpillar fungus for two years and lose their welfare benefits. People found not guilty are sentenced to six months of legal education. It says: Those found guilty of indulging in the following activities shall be dealt with in accordance to the law by the law enforcement agencies. Such people should be prevented from harvesting caterpillar fungus for two years, and their welfare provision rights abrogated. Those who are not found guilty and thus not sentenced should be subjected to six months of legal education:
a) Propagating more than five harmful information/emails or propagating one harmful email/information among many people; also propagating over and again other [harmful] information.
b) Making rumors or propagating them, and also spreading harmful information more than twice [on the internet].
c) Propagating rebellious and harmful speeches and information through the pretexts of having picnics, building private schools, participating in religious and other mass activities.
d) Terrorizing young novices and manipulating them into making or propagating rumors, as well as spreading harmful information on the Internet.
e) Forcing and terrorizing a [adult] person to make and propagate rumors and spread harmful information on the Internet.
Article 12 is about punishing the serious offenders of the law. It says: Instigating disturbances by colluding with evil hands [forces], indulging in illegal beating, smashing and looting [activities]; also spreading rumors and harmful information on the Internet, leading to terrible consequences.
Criminals leading and spearheading the forces of evil influences shall be dealt with in accordance to the law. Assembling people and petitioning higher authorities, indulging in … [text missing].
Article 14 concerns the transgressions of the law committed by minors. It says: Those minors, who are not older than 16, if they indulge in making and propagating rumors or spreading harmful information on the Internet, the law enforcement agencies should deal with them in accordance to the law; moreover, they should be prohibited from harvesting caterpillar fungus for one year. Those who have not been found guilty shall be subjected to forced legal education for two months. Those who are responsible for looking after the 16- year-old minors shall be prevented from harvesting caterpillar fungus for one year, and those who are responsible for the oversight of political activities shall be subjected to forced legal education for two months.
Article 15 is about how to deal with state officials if they are found guilty of making and spreading rumors. It says: State cadres, and officials working in professional fields, if they indulge in making and propagating rumors or spreading harmful information on the Internet, the relevant law enforcement agencies shall not only deal with them in accordance to the law, but also with the laws and regulations dealing with cadres of the Party and government. Moreover, they shall be dealt with in accordance to the regulation 9, 10, 11 and 12 of this document, and the amount of time/days spent undergoing legal education shall be considered as absent without leave from workplace.
Rule 16 provides a general outline about what it means to be travelling “on one’s own” to areas outside one’s locality to pursue “illegal religious education.” It says: As declared in this regulation, travelling on their own to areas outside one’s locality to pursue illegal acts of religious education refers to religious professionals, and those people who engage in religious pursuits in the society without any permanent status, as well as general masses who travel on their own to areas outside one’s locality without getting permission from the United Front and Religious Bureau office of their respective localities.
Article 17 is about the punishment that will be meted out to monks and nuns who travel on their own, that is without official permission, to areas outside one’s locality to pursue religious education. It warns: Monks and nuns, travelling on their own, to areas outside for religious study shall be dismissed from their monasteries and nunneries, and their official permission/certificates allowing them to engage in religious activities, shall be withdrawn. Moreover, the welfare provision rights of these monks and nuns will also be cancelled [.]
Article 18 is about how to deal with state cadres, officials working in professional institutes and retired cadres who engage in religious education outside their locality. It warns: State cadres, officials of the professional institutes, and retired cadres, if they are found traveling to areas outside their locality and engage in religious studies, their salaries or retirement benefits shall be withdrawn temporarily. They shall be dealt severely with in accordance to the laws and regulations concerning cadres of the Party and government. On their return [from their travels to areas outside their own locality], they shall be subjected to six months of forced legal education, and the time or days spent undergoing this legal education shall be considered as being absent from official work.
Article 22 concerns the punishment that will be meted out to Tibetans who fail to hoist the Chinese National Flag. It warns: Those who fail to hoist the Chinese national flag within the specific period, in violation of the point 11 of the chapter 2 of the regulation on household registration system shall be dealt with in accordance to the ‘township laws and regulations’. Moreover, such residents shall be subjected to forced legal education for a period of two months. Those who fail to hoist the national flag twice a year shall be prohibited from harvesting the caterpillar fungus for a period of one year, and their welfare provision rights cancelled. Furthermore, they shall be subjected to four months of forced legal education.