ICT Inside Tibet: Use of “lie-detector” to test Communist Party members indicates escalation of control in Tibet

ICT report, May 15, 2017

Officials in an area of eastern Tibet are being compelled to undergo a polygraph test, popularly known as a ‘lie-detector test,’[1] linked to an evaluation of their political loyalty to the CCP. The news, published in the state media, is evidence of a disturbing new level of intrusion into the private lives and thoughts of Tibetans, indicating the atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia in the official sphere and the CCP’s insecurities over the erosion of its authority.

The state media report from Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) stated that the lie-detector test was being imposed in order to establish the “true feelings” of Party cadres in the region.[2] While it stated that this is a matter of establishing their “psychological stability”, the priority of the authorities appears to be to ensure political loyalty to the CCP and compliance with CCP policy.

The introduction of lie-detectors to test even Communist Party officials represents an escalation of the CCP’s efforts to assert its dominance in a climate it has created of fear and mistrust. It is also an implicit acknowledgement that in the official sphere as well as in the wider society, many Tibetans remain loyal to the Dalai Lama and maintain their strong sense of identity as Tibetans.

The Chinese authorities recently admitted that some of its officials were donating money to the Dalai Lama, which, they said, “severely undermines the Party’s fight against separatism.” (Global Times, May 1, 2017). The Global Times, an official newspaper, sought to politicize a routine practice of Tibetans, in which religious offerings are made to the Dalai Lama’s office when, for instance, a family member falls ill or dies. The Global Times stated: “Some Party officials have neglected important political issues and the country’s anti-separatist struggle” through this donation of money, according to Wang Yongjun, a senior official for the Party’s Commission of Discipline Inspection. He adds: “Such behavior has affected CPC coherence and its ability to fight separatism.”

Publicizing the initiative of the lie-detector test appears intended to send a broader message that Tibetans can face punishment not only for their actions, but even for thinking about the Dalai Lama. This was underlined by the then TAR Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who said in 2014: “Those who have fantasies about the 14th Dalai Clique, those who follow the 14th Dalai Clique, and those Party cadres involved in supporting separatist infiltration and sabotage activities will be strictly disciplined and severely punished in accordance with the law.”[3]

The report in the state media in Kardze (administered by Sichuan, and part of the Tibetan area of Kham) said that as part of a “progressive training of cadres” since April 7, “candidates are required to answer questions according their true feelings and ideas”, and that a lie-detector had been installed in order to “verify the authenticity” of the answers. So far this year more than 168 Party cadres have participated in the assessment, the article stated, reporting on a visit by the Director of the Party Organization Department Liu Jixiang to the training.

The political climate in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture has been particularly tough, in the context of its history of resistance to Chinese rule and the continued strong sense of Tibetan Buddhist identity and culture among Tibetans. In various official reports, the Chinese authorities have indicated that it is an “arduous” struggle to “maintain public order and safeguard stability” in Kardze, an oblique reference to the high number of peaceful protests and dissent in the region, and continued loyalty to the Dalai Lama.[4]

ICT has documented a stepping up of militarization and surveillance in Kardze prefecture, particularly in the area around Larung Gar religious institute since demolitions of homes and expulsions of monks and nuns began last year. An observer who was in the area said that Public Security Bureau (PSB) and police mobile stations have been placed in various towns in Sichuan: “These are equipped with video cameras, special rifles and weaponry, and digital luminous displays warning the populace to maintain order and harmony and respect Chinese laws. Typically, no vehicles with passengers inside are allowed to stop in the vicinity of mobile stations. These mobile stations create heightened tensions and further pressure on the daily lives of Tibetans, particularly considering that most Tibetan towns in Eastern Tibet (Sichuan and Qinghai) have seen an increase of military presence and construction of large military facilities, including in Serthar in recent years.”[5]

At the same time as the announcement of the lie-detector tests, the official press in Kardze announced a further ‘inspection’ conference involving official which acknowledged the need for “improvement” in the “political stance of Party cadres”.[6]

Signaling the political importance of these developments, the Sichuan provincial authorities have just announced a large-scale training of Party cadres over the next two years. An order issued on April 25 (2017) detailed the plans for training tens of thousands of people, stating that it is not only important in order to serve the Party but also to “strengthen leadership” on an “ideological and political” basis, particularly in the buildup to the 19th Party Congress this autumn, where Xi Jinping is seeking to consolidate his power.[7]

‘Ideological improvement’ measures across Tibet

Elsewhere in Tibet, there has also been a focus on ensuring allegiance among officials working for the CCP with the establishment of an ‘Inspection’ system in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), an initiative imposed from Beijing and intended to cover “inner-party supervision work”,[8] according to an official report. Party Secretary of the TAR Wu Yingjie said that it was necessary to expand “supervision and inspection” at a “grass roots level” in order to ensure effective management by the CCP.

In Qinghai, too, tens of thousands of Party cadres based in Tibetan villages as part of the intensified control measures at grass roots level began to undergo training in March, according to the state media.[9] The article stated that the cadres would travel in different groups to different Chinese provinces for a training that would be complete by the end of June (2017).

One of the main purposes of the ‘political inspection’ specified in the state media report is to ensure that all Party cadres and Communist Party members are united in their “anti-separatist” work and “social stability maintenance”, political terms aimed at ensuring compliance to official policy and eliminating dissent and loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese authorities’ concern over ensuring loyalties of the next generation was evident in another state media report from Ngaba that reported a system of “Policing Education” in which police are installed in schools in order to supervise political education and “moral management”. In language reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, an article in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Daily stated that Dzoege (Chinese: Ruo’ergai) Party Committee and Education Department were working in order to make “moral and legal” “flowers bloom all over the [school and college] campuses”.[10] The article stated that police officers had been appointed to work with schools in carrying out security work in order to create a “harmonious” political environment.

Footnotes:

[1] Lie detection, also referred to as a polygraph test, uses questioning or interrogation techniques along with technology that record physiological functions to ascertain truth and falsehood in response. The most commonly used measure to do so is the polygraph. While it is not specified in the state media article, this is likely to be the method used. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a polygraph can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates above chance, although below perfection (The polygraph and lie detection. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press. 2003. pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-309-08436-9).

[2] Official media report in Chinese, April 7, 2017, extracts translated into English by ICT: http://paper.kbcmw.com/html/2017-04/07/content_92196.htm

[3] Xinhua, November 5, 2014 http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2014-11/05/content_579554.htm

[4] Ganzi Daily, January 4, 2008. Kardze, one of 18 counties in the prefecture, has been the site of more known political detentions of Tibetans than any other county outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) since the late 1980s.

[5] ICT report, ‘Shadow of Dust Across the Sun’, March 13, 2017, https://www.savetibet.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/00620-ICT-Report-March-13-DEF-US-letter-LR.pdf

[6] Article in the official media in Chinese, April 10, 2017, referring to an inspection conference conducted by the Kardze Prefecture Party Committee on April 6 (2017).
http://paper.kbcmw.com/html/2017-04/10/content_92254.htm

[7] Sichuan official news website, May 2, 2017, http://sichuan.scol.com.cn/ggxw/201705/55892794.html, in Chinese

[8] State media in Chinese, April 16, 2017, http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-04/16/content_762760.htm. See ICT report, January 28, 2015, https://www.savetibet.org/communist-party-officials-punished-for-supporting-dalai-lama/

[9] March 18, 2017, http://epaper.tibet3.com/qhrb/html/2017-03/18/content_392389.htm

[10] Aba Daily in Chinese on April 14 (2017), http://www.abadaily.com/html/2017-04/14/content_8176.htm

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