Dharamshala, India — “Restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion remained harsh and worsened in 2020 through the use of repressive directives,” the Tibetan Human Rights Organization said in its 2020 Annual Report on the human rights situation in Tibet.
On April 26, 2021, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) in Dharamshala released its 2020 Annual Report on the human rights situation in Tibet online.
“The human rights situation in Tibet has been severely deteriorating for years, especially after Xi Jinping became president of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Human rights abuses and political repression have reached the level of 'crimes against humanity ', with an increasing number of cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention being committed in a wide-ranging and systematic manner,” the report stated.
“2020 saw oppressive policies and practices such as continued state patronage of the 'stability maintenance', 'ethnic unity ', and the 'anti-gang crime' campaigns at the Seventh Tibet Work Forum and in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025). The forum, chaired by President Xi Jinping, called for the acceleration of ‘high-quality development’ and ‘building the new modern socialist Tibet’, focusing mainly on poverty alleviation and GDP and income growth. Decided at the national level without participation from Tibetans, the so-called 'development policies' are heavily guided by the Chinese state's political goals, security agenda, and economic interests rather than genuine efforts to improve Tibetans' quality of life,” the Tibetan Human Rights group observed.
“The PRC actively uses development as a tool to penetrate deeper into Tibetan society in order to preserve 'stability maintenance', or absolute political control in Tibet. Chinese authorities continued to implement harsh policies of forced assimilation and ill-advised development, all in the name of 'stability maintenance '. This has resulted in grave violations of political, civil, economic, social, and cultural rights,” TCHRD declared.
“The enforcement of a new law on 'ethnic unity' further undermined Tibetan political and cultural identity by negating the provisions of the National Regional Autonomy Law, which promised but rarely granted meaningful autonomous powers to Tibetans. The regulations also imposed wide-ranging duties and obligations on religious groups, religious schools, and places of religious activities,” the annual report points out.
“Restrictions were also placed on 'unapproved religious practices' through the 'anti-gang crime' campaign as became evident with the imprisonment of 12 Tibetan villagers in Sog (Ch: Suo) County, Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) City, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The consistent curtailment of the right to freedom of religion and belief is furthered by the ongoing campaign to ‘Sinicize Tibetan Buddhism’, which requires Tibetan Buddhist clergy and ordinary believers to support and join the state's efforts to maintain 'stability' in the religious sphere by pledging to suppress any loyalty to the Dalai Lama, attend forced political education campaigns, among other things,” the Human Rights group stated.
“Tibetans continued to be tortured and imprisoned for any expression of devotion and loyalty to the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. This year’s 'offenders' were charged with vaguely-worded crimes like "inciting separatism" or "state subversion". Severe restrictions on possession of the Dalai Lama's photos or listening to his teachings remain in force not only in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) but also in other Tibetan areas,” the report commenced.
“Restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion remained harsh and worsened in 2020 through the use of repressive directives, including, among others, bans on using virtual private networks (VPN) and joining online discussion groups accused of working to "split the country" and "undermine national unity". The 'Middle Way Approach', a proposal mooted by the Dalai Lama to call for a genuine autonomous status for all Tibetan areas, was among the many discussion topics criminalized by these directives,” TCHRD noticed.
“The patterns of arbitrary detention and torture remained unchanged as Tibetan suspects continued to be held in detention for prolonged periods without charge or trial and subjected to both physical and psychological torture. Since Tibetan detainees are habitually charged with 'national security' crimes, they are almost always held incommunicado without access to legal representation. Of particular concern is the use of extrajudicial detention facilities that are used to subject Tibetans, particularly monks and nuns, to inhumane treatment and forced political education,” it stated.
“ PRC's development projects, concentrated in cities and towns dominated by Han Chinese, invariably provide the benefits of investment to Han Chinese and ignore a majority of the Tibetans, who are disadvantaged and disempowered, resulting in entrenched inequality, discrimination, and impoverishment. Development policies in sectors ranging from infrastructure construction and urbanization to education and language including ‘bilingual education’ policy are part of the wider agenda of creating a single Chinese national identity, so as to undermine Tibetan identity and cultural transmission,” the Tibetan Human Rights organization said.
“ The PRC’s assault on Tibetan political and cultural identity is evident in its accelerated implementation of what it calls ‘bilingual education', a policy that undermines the Tibetan education system and uses the national curriculum to promote indoctrination and assimilation. In Tibetan areas, official decrees barred schools from running classes in Tibetan medium classes. Those who protested were quickly suppressed or detained. More disturbingly, Chinese authorities have resorted to merging smaller Tibetan schools into bigger Chinese-medium schools in an apparent attempt to marginalize the Tibetan language. These policies are part of the party-state's broader nation-building agenda set on creating Chinese speaking-only, ethnic identity distinguished by its allegiance to the Chinese nation-state,” the organization criticized.
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy urged the international community, including the United Nations and its Member States as well as civil society at large, to engage with the PRC authorities and advocate for the PRC to:
1. Stop violating human rights under the pretext of 'stability maintenance' policies and practices.
2. Repeal the repressive regulations that undermine Tibetan national and cultural identity, such as the 'Regulations on the Establishment of a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress in TAR'. 3. Allow Tibetans to determine and legislate their own educational and cultural affairs as provided in the PRC's Constitution and its Law on Regional National Autonomy.
4. End all political indoctrination campaigns, such as forced political education in extrajudicial detention centres and 'The Four Standards" propaganda campaign targeted at the monastic population.
5. Repeal laws and policies that violate the protected rights to mother tongue education, peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief, and freedom from arbitrary detention and torture.
6. Implement culturally relevant educational policies by promoting Tibetan as the first language throughout primary and middle schooling in Tibet for those whom Tibetan is their mother tongue.
7. Release all Tibetans imprisoned on spurious charges under the 'anti-gang' crime campaigns. 8. Guarantee the right to legal representation and judicial oversight to all detained Tibetans.
9. Promptly and impartially investigate allegations of torture and prosecute suspected perpetrators, holding them legally accountable.
10.Halt construction of megaprojects without proper consultation or the consent of the local population. Projects must provide adequate compensation, royalty payments to local communities, and compulsory funding of extraction site rehabilitation.
11. Cease construction of new hydro dams and assess the environmental and social impact locally, nationally, and regionally of all previously constructed and proposed dams.
12. Implement the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) contained in their periodic reviews of the situation in China.
13. Invite a representative of an international organization to meet with Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama.
14. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
15. Invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the representatives of the Special Procedures to visit Tibetan areas, as agreed by the PRC during its second Universal Periodic Review.
16. Extend a 'standing invitation' to UN independent experts to conduct official visits to Tibet