The seminar titled, “Present Situation Inside Tibet” was organised by the Tibet Policy Institute, a research centre affiliated to the Central Tibetan Administration.
Kunga Tashi, a longtime China observer and Additional Secretary of the Security Department of CTA and Tsering Tsomo, Director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy presided over the inaugural session.
Tsering Yangkyi, Deputy Director of TPI, in her welcome address highlighted the importance of the seminar against the backdrop of China’s tightening control and its persistence on repressive policies inside Tibet.
“Exile Tibetans, especially staff members of CTA and officials of various Tibetan NGOs, as representatives of the Tibetan people, must have access to well-researched and factual information on Tibet,” Ms Yangkyi said. “We hope that this seminar will provide the participants and researchers with an opportunity to have a more comprehensive and credible understanding of the situation inside Tibet.”
Tsering Tsomo, in her remarks, noted that China has systematically tightened its grip on Tibet following the large-scale peaceful protests in 2008 that spread across the Tibetan plateau.
“The Chinese government was shocked and caught unawares when the 2008 peaceful protests engulfed Tibet,” Ms Tsomo said. “Chinese leaders somehow believed that Tibet was firmly under their thumb and their policy of using money and force had been willingly accepted by the people. But the large-scale protests proved otherwise.”
She noted that repression inside Tibet has since increased and the Chinese government has commissioned tens of thousands of cadres to Tibetan areas with the agenda of changing Tibetan hearts and altering their outlook. “Tibetans are scared in their own country. Tibetans are scared of the government. Since 2008 many Tibetan officials have been removed from office or demoted and viewed with a lot of suspicion,” Ms Tsomo said.
Explaining China’s newfound push towards wider engagement with the global community, she observed that Beijing is using its money and manpower to drive home its personal agendas while stubbing out conflicting international voices. Ms Tsomo censured China for using the United Nations as a platform to thrust its “principle of non-interference” upon various regulations and meetings while actively gagging NGOs which raise human rights issues on the ground that they are interfering in China’s “internal issues” over which they reserve “sovereign rights.”
The Security Department’s China hand, Kunga Tashi, in his address summed up China’s current Tibet policy as a dual strategy of “severe political repression and liberal economics”.
Calling the situation inside Tibet a wide field of study, Mr Tashi pointed out that his analysis of Tibet is based on three important areas of research: PRC’s propaganda on Tibet, viewpoints of Tibetans inside Tibet, especially of Tibetan cadres and officials, and perspectives of Chinese dissidents and scholars outside China.
Echoing Ms Tsomo’s statement, Mr Tashi pointed out that the 2008 protests resulted in greater Chinese repression in Tibetan areas and an escalation of Chinese mistrust of Tibetans both at the public and official levels. Referring to communications passed by a recent traveler to Tibet, he said that there were as many as 11 check posts manned by police and video cameras around Lhasa’s central Tibetan area of Barkhor, leaving “no space for demonstrations in the Tibetan capital.”
Following the 2008 protests he noted that many Tibetan officials of the so called Tibetan Autonomous Region were not invited for important meetings and faced frequent security hassles while visiting Chinese areas where hotels often refused them services.
Since 2008, strict restrictions on the movement of Tibetans have been placed with the confiscation of passports, increased patrolling in border regions, installation of CCTV cameras along escape routes and announcement of monetary incentives of a few thousand yuans for information on Tibetans fleeing to exile.
Sharing his views on the recently held 6th Work Forum on Tibet – communist China’s highest policy making meeting on Tibet – Mr Tashi said that he doesn’t see any immediate improvement nor deterioration of the situation in Tibet.
Although none of the six speeches reportedly delivered at the meeting has been made public, Mr Tashi, gleaning from his sources, revealed that one of the main focus of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech was on winning over the hearts of the Tibetan people. Similarly, the meeting also discussed elaborately on paying greater attention and heed to the feelings of the people, he added.
“Such concerns are a clear indication of their policy failures in Tibet,” Mr Tashi argued. “These show that the hearts and thoughts of the Tibetan people are not in Beijing but rather in Dharamshala.”
Voicing the opinions of Tibetan officials inside Tibet, Mr Tashi explained that there could be three plausible explanations for Xi’s continued hardline stance against His Holiness the Dalai Lama as evident from the media reports following the meeting. He noted that Xi’s obstinacy is either the result of his incapacity to depart from the longstanding communist party policy or it is the outcome of the persistent pressure from the hardline group within the communist party or it is in fact Xi’s own policy on Tibet.
“However, Tibetan officials believe that the reason for Xi’s hardline stance on Tibet derives from the two former explanations and it is not Xi’s personal stance on resolving the Tibet issue,” Mr Tashi revealed. “They believe there is hope for Tibet.”
The daylong conference saw presentations by a host of TPI researchers including Sherab Woeser on the Sixth Tibet Work Forum, Shartsong Dhetan on Tibetan Minority Nationality Military Officials in the PLA, Tempa Gyaltsen on Why the Tibetan Plateau Matters, Tenzin Desal on Dilemma of Development: Tibet’s Development Project and Reductionist Reading, Tenzin Norgay on How does the CCP Maintain Regime Legitimacy in China?, Rinzin Dorjee on Future Scenario of China and its Leadership and Tenzin Tsultrim on How Internal is China’s Internal Problem?
The conference concluded with a vote of thanks by TPI Senior Fellow Tenzin Pema.
The Tibet Policy Institute organises two one-day conferences on Tibet every year in addition to an annual major conference on Tibet.