ICT Inside Tibet: The four loves and the enemy within: new ideological campaign in Tibet reflects heightened agenda of control in 19th Party Congress year

This image from the official media shows the ‘four loves’ campaign being taken into the monasteries in the TAR, with a particular emphasis on preparing for the 19th Party Congress in Beijing later in the year.

The Chinese authorities have launched a new ideological campaign in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) aimed at “diluting the negative impact of religion” and promoting loyalty to Xi Jinping as part of an intensified control agenda in the year of the 19th Party Congress.

The new propaganda effort is focused around the “four loves”, which are defined as “core interests” of the Chinese Communist Party; the motherland; one’s home town, and one’s livelihood – and was promoted in numerous meetings around the region over the last two weeks.[1] The campaign also focuses on “four stresses”, which aims to generate admiration and loyalty for the Party and unity of the ‘motherland’. Officials have promoted the campaign in monasteries across the TAR, indicating the priority of ensuring compliance with CCP policy among Tibetan monks and nuns,[2] and also in schools and Tibet University.[3]

The 19th Party Congress, in which Xi Jinping is expected to consolidate his power, has been referenced in various official meetings in Tibet since the beginning of the year[4] and during visits by TAR leaders to military bases in the buildup to the sensitive Tibetan New Year (Losar) period in February. Meetings across the TAR were held to emphasise the “four loves” and “four stresses”, including in Nyingtri (Chinese: Linzhi), Shigatse (Chinese: Rigaze) and Chamdo (Qamdo or Changdu). Retrograde CCP rhetoric in the state media referred to the campaign’s intention of “diluting the negative impact of religion” and strengthening “ideological education work for the masses”.[5]

Propaganda drive follows compulsory commemoration of ‘Serf Emancipation’

The propaganda drive appears to reflect uncertainties among the Party authorities of the allegiance of Tibetans in a critical year for consolidating central power, and follows the biggest commemoration so far of the officially-designated ‘Serfs Emancipation Day’ on March 28. This is a compulsory celebration intended to mark an end to Tibetan ‘feudalism’ before the CCP took over Tibet. This date was designated an anniversary in 2009, the year after protests swept across Tibet, as part of a propaganda drive asserting the dominance of the Party state in 2009. For Tibetans, March 28 is symbolic of a different anniversary – the defeat of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, the dissolution of the Tibetan government, and over 55 years of separation from the Dalai Lama.

Although the anniversary is intended to mark a ‘liberation’, it is notable that the repressive apparatus of the state was primarily in view for its commemoration. Tibet Daily reported that the national anthem was sung at the gathering on March 28 by “the Tibet People’s Procuratorate, the Tibet Military Region, the Armed Police Tibet Corps, the Tibet Public Security Frontier Corps, the Tibetan Public Security Fire Corps Chief Officer” as well as “the People’s Procuratorate”. (Tibet Daily, March 29).[6]

Beijing seeks to justify its position in Tibet by stating that it wiped out “theocracy, feudalism and slavery” in Tibet. However, the PRC does not allow open discussion of whether Tibet was ‘feudal’ or ‘oppressive’, and Chinese and Tibetan officials in Tibet and China would face serious repercussions should they not concur with the state’s position on issues such as social conditions in Tibet prior to its ‘liberation’.

Crackdown emphasized by military drills underlining harsh political message of control

Tibet Daily also reiterated that the Serfs Emancipation Day was an opportunity to unite more closely around the Party Central Committee with “Xi Jinping at the core”. While Tibet Daily stated that the anniversary marked “a great and glorious chapter in the history of Tibet and even in the history of world civilization”, a more sober note was struck elsewhere in the official media when senior official Deng Xiaogang referred to the current situation in Tibet of “social stability” as being “complicated and grim”.

Deng Xiaogang, Deputy Party Secretary of the TAR, who has been particularly associated with the security crackdown in Lhasa and beyond, was speaking at a video conference on March 17 at the “social stability maintenance headquarters”, which also emphasized the importance of the upcoming 19th Party Congress in Beijing.[7] A series of video conferences and other meetings on the same theme followed a series of large-scale military drills in Lhasa and elsewhere in the TAR just prior to the March 10 Uprising anniversary.

Using ‘a falcon’s ability to seize’ to fight ‘the enemy’ within

At one official meeting on ‘social stability’, the Party Secretary of Chamdo City Norbu Dhondup made a direct reference to the wave of self-immolations across Tibet, stating that it was imperative to “knock down those who lead others to try to ‘become heroes’; and target those who come to be self-immolators, terrorists, and extremists; destroy illegal organizations; and highlight the dignity of our legal and socialist system. We should start to use every power: A hunting dog’s sense of smell, a bat’s sense of hearing, and a falcon’s ability to seize, so that we can fight strongly via intelligence and the internet to know [the enemy] before they take any action.”[8]

Norbu Dhondup’s vivid language indicates the more systematic approach of the CCP’s surveillance networks – in which even moderate and reasoned critique or expressions of cultural or religious identity can be characterized as the ‘enemy’ other, and as ‘splittist’ and criminal. Since 2008, the CCP has shifted from responding to incidents of protest and dissent, to new pre-emptive, more comprehensive steps of hyper-securitization involving thousands of Party cadres operating at a grass roots village level and more intensive ‘patriotic education’.

The crackdown in the TAR has been particularly intense in both Chamdo and Nagchu. The authorities regard Chamdo as “a strategic bridge between the Tibet Autonomous Region and the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai”[9] that has been of particular strategic importance to Beijing since the Communist authorities gained control of central Tibet when Chamdo, eastern Tibet’s provincial capital, fell to the People’s Liberation Army on October 7, 1950.

A large-scale military drill in Nagchu in the TAR involved hundreds of heavily armed paramilitary police and soldiers.

The message of Party dominance and force was further underscored with a large-scale military drill in Nagchu in the TAR on March 6, a few days before the March 10 Uprising Day anniversary, involving more than 200 heavily armed paramilitary police and soldiers with “50 types of advanced military vehicles”.[10] The drill was aimed at ensuring political objectives of improving “level of emergency response for all cases of social stability” in the area.

TAR Party Secretary Wu Yingjie, who is also Commander of the ‘Stability Maintenance Corps’, has been particularly associated with a harsh and violent crackdown in Nagchu notably following the refusal of villagers in Driru (Chinese: Biru) to display Chinese national flags in October 2014. This sweeping crackdown has involved an incident in which police fired into unarmed crowds, Tibetans have died under torture, including a senior monk who was beaten to death,[11] and the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of Tibetans.[12]

The military drills and continued emphasis on propaganda work, with Party officials emphasizing an intensive ideological focus in meetings at monasteries – indicate the CCP’s continued preoccupation with ensuring compliance particularly among religious practitioners, appearing to signify an awareness of the Dalai Lama’s enduring influence despite the intensity of the ideological campaign against the Tibetan religious leader. At a high-level recent meeting among members of the CPPCC National Committee, officials acknowledged that generally the PRC “lacks high-caliber and influential personages among various religious groups” (April 14, Xinhua in English).

The meeting on April 13 was chaired by top political advisor Yu Shenzheng, who is on the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and heads the important Leading Group on Tibet, and concluded that: “It is an important duty for all religious groups to train more believers that are politically reliable, accomplished in religious study, moral and can play a role in critical moments.” The CCP requires monks and nuns to be ‘patriotic’, in other words, loyalty to the Party state, before their religious commitments – which is effectively an inversion of usual priorities for monastics.

The Tibetan delegation to the People’s National Congress in Beijing underlined its “unswerving” “struggle against separatism” towards an improvement in “social stability” in its latest Work Report, highlighting the need to “resolutely protect the authority of Xi Jinping as the core” of the CCP.[13] “Separatism” and “social stability” are politically charged terms used to blame the Dalai Lama and prevent mobilization of protests or even moderate challenges to the authority of the CCP.

Meeting the Tibetan delegation at the People’s National Congress following the presentation of the TAR work report, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the importance of the Tibet issue to the Chinese government, saying that it was significant particularly because it is a border area, important ecologically (China is dependent upon the water of Tibet, the earth’s Third Pole)[14] and so has a vital role in China’s “national security and stability”.[15]

Video of self-immolation depicts security volunteers; state media announces extensive training for Party cadres

A video that emerged on Chinese social media this week depicted police and security volunteers racing to the scene of a self-immolation in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) on April 15. The footage shows police spraying fire extinguishers on a blackened, smoky body lying on the ground – a man named later by Tibetan sources as 30-year old Wangchuk Tseten. (The video can be viewed at: http://www.voatibetanenglish.com/a/3811393.html). As police deploy fire extinguishers, other men, one in a red armband and one in a blue armband, are seen rushing towards the police and self-immolator. Across Tibet, as part of a comprehensive ‘grid management’ security system, so-called ‘Red Armband Patrols’ – security volunteers – are increasingly active in surveillance and monitoring of people’s everyday lives.

In a recent state media report from Qinghai, the government announced a further training program of thousands of Party cadres in Xining last month, the latest phase of the ambitious deployment of a major surveillance scheme since 2011 in the Tibet Autonomous Region and beyond in eastern Tibet which involves the intrusive presence of Party cadres in villages and monasteries. Indicating the scale and extent of the more systematic measures now in place, a report in the Qinghai provincial media announced that the first batch of Party cadres were sent for training in March as part of a program that will continue until the end of June, involving more than 10,000 “grass roots Party cadres”.[16]


Footnotes:
[1] This rendering of the ‘Four Loves’ is taken direct from various state media articles, including Tibet Daily in Chinese on March 27. The categories are described differently by different sources, for instance by analyst Claude Arpi who writes on his blog: “The Four Merits refers to being ‘Civilized, Polite, Moral and Dedicated’ while the Four Loves are Love for the Motherland (China) and Hometown, Love for the parents, Love and Respect for the teachers and elders and finally Love for learning and working.” (http://claudearpi.blogspot.com/2017/04/four-merits-and-four-loves-in-full-swing.html)

[2] For instance as detailed in this report: (http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-04/03/content_760065.htm)

[3] This Chinese language article gives an impression of the scale of the campaign: http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-04/03/content_760065.htm

[4] See ICT report, https://www.savetibet.org/ict-inside-tibet-tibetan-new-year-marked-by-security-agenda-mass-deployment-of-troops-for-prayer-festival/

[5] Tibet Daily article, http://www.tibet.cn/news/focus/1490576774719.shtml

[6] http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-03/29/content_759289.htm

[7] March 18, 2017, http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-03/18/content_757083.htm

[8] Translation by ICT from the Chinese of an extract from the following state media report: http://sz.cdbao.cn/Html/2017-03-07/11764.html

[9] Tibet Daily, April 17, 2009

[10] Article in the state media in Chinese at: http://www.xznqnews.com/05naqu/system/2017/03/06/021458430.shtml

[11] Ngawang Jampel, 45, (also known as Ngawang Jamyang), was among three monks from Tarmoe monastery in Driru (Chinese: Biru), who ‘disappeared’ into detention on November 23, 2013 while on a visit to Lhasa. This followed a police raid on the monastery, which was then shut down, and paramilitary troops stationed there. Less than a month later, Ngawang Jampel, who had been healthy and robust, was dead, and Tibetan sources in contact with Tibetans in Driru said it was clear he had been beaten to death in custody. Ngawang Jampel had been one of the highest-ranking scholars at his monastery and had founded a Buddhist dialectics class for local people. He gave free teachings on Tibetan Buddhism and culture to lay people and monks, and was known for his skills in mediation in community disputes. See ICT report, ‘Torture and Impunity: 29 cases of Tibetan political prisoners’, https://www.savetibet.org/newsroom/torture-and-impunity-29-cases-of-tibetan-political-prisoners/

[12] See the extensive reporting by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy on the crackdown in Driru atwww.tchrd.org

[13] Chinese state media article in Chinese at http://cpc.people.com.cn/n1/2017/0307/c117005-29129857.html

[14] See ICT report on Tibet’s water, ‘Blue Gold from the Highest Plateau: Tibet’s water and global climate change’, https://www.savetibet.org/new-report-reveals-global-significance-of-tibet/

[15] Li Keqiang met the Tibetan delegation to the People’s National Congress on February 7 (2017). Account of the meeting in Chinese at: http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2017-03/07/content_5174749.htm

[16] Report in official media in Chinese on March 18 (2017) at http://epaper.tibet3.com/qhrb/html/2017-03/18/content_392389.htm. Also see ICT report, ‘Tightening of an invisible net’, at https://www.savetibet.org/tightening-of-an-invisible-net-new-security-measures-in-eastern-tibet-heighten-surveillance-control/

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