As the Communist Party of China prepares to celebrate its 70th year in power, its illegitimate and repressive rule over Tibet has had devastating repercussions for its people and its environment.
On 1st October 2019 Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to give a rousing speech on the People’s Republic of China’s National Day, expounding the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party, its leadership and his vision of sustaining and strengthening its grip on power. Through all of this self – glorification, the colonizing history and the exploitative relationship of the Party with regards to its ‘ethnic minorities’, particularly Tibet, will be silenced, shelved and written over as ‘China’s dream’ of a ‘harmonious society’ is presented for the consumption of its domestic populace while attempting to return to its mythical position as the ‘Middle Kingdom’ in the world of nation states.
In order to bring back Tibet from the periphery of obscurity to the center of the discourse itself, the following sections of this paper are voiced by the Tibetan researchers of Dharamshala based Tibet Policy Institute, that seeks to bring out the Tibetan narrative on the Tibetan issue. Each of these sections represent the area of expertise of each researcher but more importantly a key area of concern that affects Tibet and its people.
After violently fighting its way through to power, Mao Zedong uttered the now famous slogan, “The Chinese people have stood up” on 1st October 1949 and claimed the founding of a new nation for his people. In its relatively long history since its founding in 1949, China made several attempts to coopt elite leadership in Tibet. This is marked by the special invitation extended to the Tibetan leadership in 1954 to visit Beijing. Shortly after the signing of the so-called 17-Point-Agreement, China sketched the blueprint to dismember Tibetan inhabited regions in Tibet and more than half of the Tibetans have since then been administered under Chinese dominated provinces of the People’s Republic of China. The so-called Tibet Autonomous Region was later declared into existence in 1965.
Tibetan optimism of Xi Jinping coming to power during the 18th Party Congress was quashed by the intensification of surveillance and more pernicious measures to strictly govern and administer Tibetan religion. This is evidenced from the large-scale destruction of Tibetan Buddhist institutions and the heavy-handed response to the peaceful resistance of the Tibetans. As the People’s Republic of China is set to “celebrate” the occasion to mark 70 years since its founding, it is only accumulating the weight of contradictions and its uncertain future is best known to themselves.
– Dr. Tenzin Desal, Research Fellow
The Tibetan plateau has been subjected to much abrupt and adverse transformations. Under the guise of ushering in ‘development’, the Chinese totalitarian system has disempowered Tibet through it’s so called the infrastructure development strategy. Every feeder road in remote areas in Tibet including monasteries are connected with highways. However, these roads and highways are meant also for the faster deployment of armed forces and their vehicles in order to ruthlessly quash Tibetan protests, as evidenced by the swift yet brutal crackdown during the March 2008 Protests.
Airports and sophisticated train systems serve as mode of transports for the influx of Chinese tourists and migrant workers into Tibet. In the past six decades, Tibetan cities have been overwhelmingly dominated by such migrant Chinese workers and party’s cadres. As a result, Tibetans are at the risk of becoming minorities in their own country, going the way of Inner Mongolia where Han Chinese dominate the demographic.
Dr. Rinzin Dorjee, Research Fellow
The So-called liberation of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party promised much development in Tibet including for the education and protection of Tibetan language. However, the Chinese Government’s Education policy in Tibet in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s was focused primarily on educating the Tibetan masses on socialism, communism and ideas of Mao. The CCP used education to politically indoctrinate the Tibetan people in order to win their loyalty towards Beijing.
Uptil the present moment, the core agenda behind educating the Tibetans hasn’t been altered even though Chinese leaders claim that the space and freedom for use and preservation of the minority languages exist within the legal and social structure of the PRC. Access to job opportunities demands knowledge of Mandarin over Tibetan while Tibetan students lack the platform to learn their own language as top ranked universities and schools encourages the Chinese language over Tibetan. For example, 95 percent of all reading and resource materials are available in the Chinese language.
Karma Tenzin, Research Fellow
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) became one of the first countries to sign The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), “an international bills of rights for women” announced by the United Nation in 1979. However, the treatment meted out to Tibetan women—in Chinese occupied Tibet– in the decades since the adoption of CEDAW into the PRC’s legislative structure or before it stands in stark contrast to the demands laid out in the bill. Although the PRC may boast of infrastructural development carried out in Tibet–largely ramped up by its acceleration of economic status—the world cannot disregard the decades of injustice and violence perpetrated against a people whose mere existence has engendered the PRC to implement one of the most repressive political measures in the world.
The policies specifically introduced in Tibet have had a severe impact on Tibetan women. Due to these circumstances, their ethnic along with their gender and religious identities introduce them to a series of oppression that makes them triply marginalized.
The series of demonstrations carried out by nuns and monks to protest the Party’s oppressive rules were usually followed by detention and violence, particularly from 1987-1996. Chinese repression also included gendered violence against nuns. China’s state-sanctioned violence against Tibetan nuns is symbolic of China’s larger treatment against its dissenters.
The Chinese Communist Party’s introduction of the One Child Policy in I979, which was then revoked in 2016, is another example of how State has neglected Tibetan sentiments and values. The policy entailed Tibetan women to deviate from their cultural values and failing to adhere to the policy, Tibetan women have consistently found themselves in the throes of undergoing enforced abortion- a measure bolstered by the PRC.
Tashi Choedon, Research Fellow
In the 60 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet, China has censored significant amounts of content related to the issues of Tibet including both materials concerning the dispute over historical independence of Tibet and about the Dalai Lama in print and electronic media. The Party has constructed and spearheaded a systematic, comprehensive, and frequently successful effort to limit the ability of its citizens to access information on the reality of Tibet’s historical, social, cultural and economic reality.
Securitizing the Tibetan Plateau with advanced electronic surveillance and artificial intelligence will further isolate China from the rest of the world, as global society increasingly turns away from authoritarian overuse of powers in controlling free movement of information With the intent to create a network of false allegations and propaganda, the investment of the CPP in modern technologies in order to restrict movement of the people and censor information is not the way forward for a country trying to step into prominence in the global limelight and portray itself as a world leader.
Tenzin Dalha, Research Fellow
Over the last seven decades, China has constructed more than 87,000 dams. Collectively they generate 300 gigawatts of power—roughly three times what is produced in the United States. But these projects have forcefully displaced over 23 million people from their home and lands, many of whom are still suffering the impacts of displacement and dislocation.
The Tibetan Plateau is a vast mountainous region with an area of 2.5 million sq. km., which is nearly 2% of the earth’s land surface. The region was perceived as “one great zoological garden” by early explorers to the plateau. Some scientists have compared its known biodiversity to that of Amazon Rainforest. Unfortunately, Tibet’s forest, which was one of the oldest reserves in all central Asia until Chinese occupation in 1949, was reduced to 13.57 million hectares from 25.2 million hectares, about 46% reduction between 1950 and 1985, with an estimate market value of $54 billion. The alarming scale of logging in some parts of Tibet led to the 1998 Yangtze flood and the 2010 Drukchu (Zhouqu) flood, killing thousands and displacing millions in China. Despite the critical state of the Tibetan plateau, with such complex geology and fault lines, China still moves on with its ambitious plan to expand the hydropower generation in Tibet’s pristine and high biodiversity value river basins ecosystem in the major transboundary river – Zachu (Mekong), Gyalmo Ngulchu (Salween), Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), Machu (Yellow River), Drichu (Yangtze River).
Dechen Palmo, Research Fellow
Tibet has faced increased torrential rainfall since 2016, causing simultaneous floods and landslides in many parts of the region. A twin landslide (October 11, 2018 and November 3, 2018) in Palyul County in Eastern Tibet blocked the Yangtze River – the longest river in Asia for eleven days, and completely inundated the nearby Bolu Township in Tibet.
The cultural way of life in Tibet, which was greatly influenced by Bon and Buddhist traditions, strictly forbid the hunting of wild animals. For example, successive rulers in Tibet issued stringent edicts to ban hunting at several ecological sites during various periods of its history. However, with the Chinese occupation, Tibet witnessed a sudden disruption in its age-old tradition of causing minimum damage to the natural environment and its wildlife inhabitants. Many elderly Tibetans, who had to flee Tibet during the Chinese invasion in the 1950s, have seen herds of wild animals slaughtered by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with their weapons. Such hunting practice with a horrifying scale of wild animals been killed instantly was utterly alien to the land and people of Tibet.
The occupation of Tibet also gave China control over the world’s greatest water resources. Asia’s largest rivers, i.e. Indus, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow river, all originate from Tibet. These rivers have seen excessive damming and pollution in recent years. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), rivers originating from the Tibetan Plateau feed and sustain 1.5 billion people in Asia.
Tempa Gyaltsen Zamlha, Research Fellow
Xi Jinping is poised to remain at the helm of power for the foreseeable future yet the probability of positive change in the situation of Tibet remains almost non – existent. As mounds of propaganda, constructed from the inner offices of the Chinese Communist Party, is laid out for the consumption of the world, it is vital that the narrative of the Tibetans is presented to counter the deceitful claims of their colonizers. Bringing back Tibet and the voices of its people to the center of the discourse is vital for its future and survival in the face of increased Chinese repression and historical manipulation.