Tibet: Tightening of Control. Annual Report 1999

1999 marked the official celebration of fifty years of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as well as forty years of the “liberation” of Tibet. The symbolic importance of both these events was characterised by various attempts by the Chinese government to display its authority and legitimacy.

Within China and in Tibet there was a tightening of the state’s control over every sphere to consolidate its power. Therefore any attempt at questioning the legitimacy of the state was ruthlessly crushed. And yet as the state tightened it’s iron grip over its citizens and subjects there were also various protests undermining the state authority, ranging from the protests within China by members of the Falung Gong sect, and the continuing resistance in Tibet and the international community over China’s illegitimate occupation of Tibet and the abuse of Tibetan human rights for the past 49 years.

Preparations for the twin anniversary celebrations took the form of an increase in surveillance and repressive measures. The anniversaries were thus a celebration of state control rather than an expression of people‟s exercise of their freedom. The harsh suppression of a peaceful demonstration in Kandze in October resulted in the arrest of at least 80 Tibetans. This is an illustration of the extent of freedom of speech and expression granted to Tibetan people. Information received this year about the May 1998 Drapchi protests is equally disturbing. Eight prisoners have had their sentences extended for up to four years. Ten Tibetans are confirmed dead as a result of gun fire and torture following the protests.

The Chinese government claims that there has been “earth-shaking” progress in social development and in the human rights situation in the last four decades under the communist rule. However the Chinese authorities refuse to acknowledge the fact that thousands of Tibetans continue to flee Tibet every year to escape from China’s oppressive policies. This year 2,474 Tibetans fled Tibet including 1,115 children below the age of 18.

China continues to violate the human rights of the Tibetan people. Fundamental aspects of Tibetan society, including language and religion are viewed with suspicion by the government and are officially discouraged. The exercise of their right to speech results in their arbitrary arrests and detention. The disparities between the standard of living of Tibetans and the Chinese settlers are glaring. China’s population transfer policy is greatly threatening Tibetan identity and access to resources.

Ever since the peaceful demonstrations in Lhasa in the late 1980’s, the Chinese government increased its dominance of Tibet. The “Strike Hard” campaign, initiated in 1996 is resulting page3image2295767104in widespread violations in Tibet. Over 11,000 monks and nuns have been expelled from their monasteries, as “work team”” imposed restrictive measure on religious activities. In 1999, this campaign was extended to lay communities as well. More than 2,000 Tibetans escape over the Himalayas every year to avoid these repressive and discriminatory measures.

International governments, lured by China’s economic prospects, continue to capitulate to the Beijing government. The European Union decided not to co-sponsor a U.S. human rights resolution during the 55 UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, assuring its defeat. During state visits by Jiang Zemin to England and France, extraordinary efforts were made to prevent the Chinese leader from encountering peaceful protesters. These visits ended as victories of commerce and large contracts for British and French corporations, but defeat of human rights.

The World Bank sponsored Western China Poverty Reduction Plan marks the involvement, for the first time of an international organization in a project entailing massive population transfers into Tibet. Two foreign researchers and one Tibetan were arrested in 1999 for attempting to research this project.

The positive developments in international politics in 1999 included the increasing recognition of self-determination movements. The intervention of the international community in Kosovo and East Timor along with the worldwide condemnation of Russia’s aggression in Chechnya is an encouraging sign for Tibet. There is an urgent need for increased pressure from foreign governments if Tibetans hope to gain their fundamental freedoms and human rights.

Click here to read the full report.

to top