Earlier this year, TCHRD released a manual from the People’s Armed Police (PAP) that described how many members of the PAP are suffering from nightmares and flashbacks as a result of the treatment they inflicted upon Tibetans in 2008. Now, a video of eight senior PAP firefighters beating five young recruits in Inner Mongolia has gone viral in the PRC.
The over 15-minute long video shows the young PAP officers being beaten while forced to stand at attention. They are slapped, punched and kicked. One victim was kicked by two of his abusers while he lay on the ground. Others are kneed, knocked against a wall, and have their heads slammed against the wall. The senior members of the PAP also beat the victims with belts and sticks that they broke over the victim’s heads. After seven minutes some of the victims clearly had trouble getting back to their feet and standing.
The video quickly became one of the most searched for items on PRC’s most popular search engine. The Chinese public was shocked to see the members of their domestic military acting like “hooligans” and being “cruel to their own compatriots.” However, for Tibetans this sort of treatment is expected and an inevitable part of any detention by the PRC. During pre-sentencing detention, in prison, and in PRC’s extrajudicial detention centers, Tibetans are routinely beaten not only with fists, sticks, and belts, but also with chairs and electric batons. While the video shows some instances of compassion—for Tibetans there is none. After their beatings Tibetans are returned to solitary confinement, overcrowded cells, or labor and given a starvation diet.
On another level the public’s revulsion at the video demonstrates both the strength and weakness of the PRC. That the public was surprised at the conduct of the PAP, who some thought of as “the most loveable people,” demonstrates that the PRC has effectively hidden from its own people how Tibetans are treated. More importantly, it demonstrates that the PRC is unable to keep the horrific treatment it inflicts on Tibetans and other ethnic minorities away from the Chinese people. Torture cannot be contained. As one commentator of Weibo, the PRC’s twitter service, asked, “If you treat your own comrades like that, how do you treat others?” The PAP treats Tibetans so severely that the PAP officers suffer from nightmares and flashbacks.
The local government responded to the video by claiming that it had suspended the people involved and launched an investigation. This is unlikely to change the PAP’s conduct but proves that public attention can achieve some incremental progress. If the PRC is going to abolish torture, and the conduct that horrified its citizens, it must take action to abolish torture where it is most entrenched, such as in Tibet. If the PRC will not or cannot abolish torture, as it committed itself to in the 3rd Plenum Decision, the treatment in the video will be inflicted not only upon Tibetans and PAP officers but any person who is unfortunate enough to fall into the PAP’s clutches.