Richard Gere,Chairman of ICT, Lhadon Tethong and Tenzin Dorjee of Tibet Action Institute presenting their testimonies at the CECC’s hearing on Tibet. Photo: OOT

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Washington, D.C – Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing on “Preserving Tibet: combating cultural erasure, forced assimilation and transnational repression” and witness Richard Gere said, ‘Repression has been most severe in Tibet and East Turkestan, where CCP policies have included the separation of families, the prohibition of language, the destruction of religious sites and institutions, the collection of DNA.’

The US Congressional-Executive Committee on China held a hearing on "Preserving Tibet: Cultural Erasure, Forced Assimilation and Coercion of Tibetans in the United States" on March 28, 2023. Witnesses included Penpa Tsering, the Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration, Richard Gere, Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, and Lhadon Tethong and Tenzin Dorjee of the Tibet Action Institute.

According the committee, in this hearing, the Commission will examine growing restrictions on linguistic and cultural rights in Tibet and transnational repression faced by Tibetans abroad. The goal is to explore the diplomatic and policy options for the United States and other like-minded countries to help preserve Tibetan cultural heritage and to defend against threats and intimidation targeting Tibetans in the United States and around the world.

Sikyong Penpa Tsering of Central Tibetan Administration said, "We often get asked as to why we don’t hear about Tibet any more. PRC’s Orwellian gridlock system, use of all means of artificial intelligence to surveil people, control the flow of information, and lockdown of Tibet to the outside world. Even those in leadership roles in education, religion, culture and environment are being arbitrarily arrested or just disappear. One’s actions are linked to welfare of one’s near and dear ones. 157 Tibetans were known to have self-immolated since 2009, hoping against hope that the PRC government would pay some attention to their plight and hoping against hope that the international community would come to their rescue, but to no avail. The Chinese government focuses too much on development and fails to understand the real aspirations of the Tibetan people."

"Tibetan language, religion and culture are the bedrock of Tibetan identity. Compassion and non-violence, which form the foundation of our culture, will undoubtedly promote peace and harmony in the world. However, these are facing unprecedented threat of eradication. The atheist Chinese government is trying to fully control the process and authority of recognising the reincarnation of Trulkus, that is unique to Tibetan Buddhism, besides interference in the study of Buddhist philosophy and control on their movement," Sikyong added.

Richard Gere, Chairman of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said, "For decades, the Chinese Communist Party’s ethnic policies have been largely predicated on containment, denial, destruction, and assimilation. Repression has been most severe in Tibet- and in East Turkestan it should be noted as well- where CCP policies have included the separation of families, the prohibition of language, the destruction of religious sites and institutions, the collection of DNA and a pervasive surveillance system through which the denial of information or movement is implemented."

"But briefly, in service to Beijing’s long-standing agenda to sinicize Tibet and “manage” individual nationalities, the Chinese Communist Party’s policies have been characterized by cruelty, collective violence and persecution," Richard Gere added.

"The saddest truth is that the CCP’s process of assimilation and erasure is all too often concealed by Beijing’s intricate and powerful propaganda machine. Within China’s digital prison, just like all authoritarian regimes, the Chinese government targets the very core attributes that define the continuity of a people. Specifically, the family unit, religious expression, cultural tradition, language, and environment," ICT Chairman Gere said.

"The CCP has converted Tibet into a surveillance state combining more brutal oppressive techniques with a panopticon of technology that monitors the movements, phone calls, and internet habits of every citizen. Constant monitoring and information control, internet blackouts and intrusive electronic surveillance are now pervasive at all levels of society," Richard Gere continued.

"China’s surveillance no longer halts at the Tibetan border. The CCPs techno-authoritarianism and fear tactics extend to Tibetan communities abroad. This oppression is being perpetrated behind a digital iron curtain to hide reality on the ground. We also must take seriously the pervasiveness of the surveillance in and outside of Tibet and the harm it's doing psychologically the younger generation, who find themselves not only surveilled on platforms such as TikTok, but also harassed for who they are. The development of these systems of repression, reaching all the way around the world, reflects the lengths the CCP will go to to dismantle the Tibetan civilization," Chairman of ICT said.

Lhadon Tethong of Tibet Action Institution said, "We found that at least 800,000 Tibetan children were living in a massive network of boarding primary, middle and secondary schools across historical Tibet. This shockingly high number means that at least three out of every four Tibetan children aged six to eighteen are now separated from their families and living in state-run schools where the medium of instruction and the entire curriculum is focused on China’s history, culture and Communist Party ideology."

"The Chinese state is removing Tibetan children from their homes by force or coercion and placing them in schools where they have to speak Chinese and conform to Chinese culture and tradition while stripping them of their own identity, including their religion and their mother tongue. If this is not colonial education, I don’t know what is. And when viewed together with the all out attack on Tibetan Buddhism and the nomadic way of life, we can see that Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party intends to destroy everything that makes Tibetans Tibetan," she added.

"China is committing genocide in Tibet. And has been working for decades to change history, to distort and obscure the present situation on the ground so as to erase Tibet from the world stage, both in the past and in the present. And now, through the genocidal project being carried out in boarding schools in Tibet, Beijing seeks to erase Tibet even in the future, by seizing control of nearly all Tibetan children and wiping out the essence of their Tibetanness in their own hearts and minds," she said.

Tenzin Dorjee of the Tibet Action Institute also highlighted the increase in repressive policies against Tibetans and the threat of transnational repression, not only against Tibetans, but also against Hong Kongers, Uyghurs, Chinese and all those who have raised human rights issues in China around the world.