The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in other provinces to be a part of the People’s Republic of China. The Tibetan population within the TAR was 2.4 million, while in autonomous prefectures and counties outside the TAR the Tibetan population was 2.9 million.
The preservation and development of the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of Tibetan areas and the protection of Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights continued to be of concern. The government strictly controlled information about, and access to Tibetan areas, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses.
The government’s human rights record in Tibetan areas of China remained poor, and the level of repression of religious freedom remained high. The government continued to view the Dalai Lama with suspicion and tended to associate Tibetan Buddhist religious activity with separatist sympathies.
Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, house arrest and other nonjudicial surveillance of dissidents, detention without public trial, repression of religious freedom, and arbitrary restrictions on free movement.
Positive developments in Tibetan areas included a fourth round of dialogue between the government and envoys of the Dalai Lama. In August the government permitted an international delegation to meet with released political prisoner Phuntsog Nyidrol in the TAR for the first time. In November the UN special rapporteur on torture visited Lhasa, the capital of the TAR, for the first time.
Deprivation of Life
In early October Ngawang Jangchub, a 28-year-old Tibetan monk, was found dead in his room at the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. According to reports, Ngawang Jangchub’s death followed a heated dispute with the monastery’s “work team” over his refusal to denounce the Dalai Lama. The government claimed Ngawang Jangchub’s death was due to medical complications relating to serious heart disease and epilepsy he had suffered from since childhood.
During the year Sichuan authorities did not respond to international calls for an inquiry into the case of Nyima Dragpa. A monk from Nyatso Monastery in Sichuan’s Ganzi (Kardze) Prefecture, Nyima Dragpa died in custody in 2003, allegedly from injuries sustained during severe beatings.
The security apparatus employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. Tibetans repatriated from Nepal reportedly suffered torture, including electric shocks, exposure to cold, severe beatings, and were forced to perform heavy physical labor. Prisoners were subjected routinely to “political investigation” sessions and were punished if deemed to be insufficiently loyal to the state.
Prisoners in Tibetan areas were generally subject to the same prison conditions as existed in other areas of the country. Forced labor was used in some prisons, detention centers, reeducation-through-labor facilities, and prison work sites. The law states that prisoners may be required to work up to 12 hours per day, with 1 rest day every 2 weeks, but these regulations often were not enforced. Conditions in administrative detention facilities, such as reeducation-through-labor camps, were similar to those in prisons.
Tibetan political prisoner Rinzin Wangyal, also known as Rinwang, age 59, reportedly died in prison in late 2004 of unknown causes. There was no official confirmation of Rinzin Wangyal’s death, nor was his body handed over to his family. Rinzin was serving a life imprisonment term, imposed in the late 1990s while he was already serving a 16-year sentence in TAR Prison Number Two (Pawo Tramo Prison). Local authorities alleged that he was involved in a plan to disrupt the 30th anniversary of the TAR and while in prison he participated in “serious prison protests,” leading to an extension of his sentence. Previously, he was imprisoned from 1967 until 1983 for political activities.
In January the Tibet Information Network (TIN) reported the detention in December 2004 of monk Sonam Phuntsog in Sichuan Province, following a fire in the hall of the local People’s Congress in the Ganzi Prefecture. TIN’s sources said that local authorities accused him of starting the fire. They also said that local authorities suspected him of being a Free Tibet activist. Prior to his arrest, Sonam Phuntsog reportedly filmed the long life prayer ceremonies held for the Dalai Lama as well as the arrival of police sent to suppress the ceremonies at the Ganzi Monastery.
In mid-January local authorities in Hainan (Tsolho) Prefecture of Qinghai Province reportedly arrested five monks from the Dakar Treldzong Monastery for publishing politically sensitive poems. The jailed monks were identified as Tashi Gyaltsen, Tsultrim Phelgyal, Tsesum Samten, Jhamphel Gyatso, and Lobsang Thargyal; they were sentenced from two to three years in prison.
In May according to the London-based Free Tibet Campaign, authorities in the Gansu Province detained three Tibetan nuns and two monks. Nuns Yonten Drolma, Tadrin Tsomo, and Choekyi Drolma and monks Jamyang Samdrub and Dargye Gyatso were reportedly arrested for distributing letters calling for Tibetan independence at a local monastery, market, and other areas. The Congressional Executive Commission on China Political Prisoner Database (CECC PPD) also listed monk Sherab detained as part of this group.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported in June that local authorities detained Jigme Dasang, a Tibetan monk from Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai Province. No charges were reported.
In a case of apparent preventative detention, state security detained a tailor, Sonam Gyalpo, as he returned from work on August 25. Officials reported he was detained on suspicion of endangering national security. On September 28, Sonam Gyalpo was officially arrested on charges of separating the country and destroying national unity.
A number of former political prisoners and other suspected activists were reportedly detained in the period prior to the 40th anniversary of the founding of the TAR on September 1. According to Human Rights Watch, Sonam, a monk from the Potala Palace, was detained by security forces on August 21; officials claimed no action had been taken against him.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), authorities arrested five monks who refused to take part in the “patriotic campaign” that began in October at the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. The monks, who were identified as Ngawang Namdrol, Ngawang Nyingpo, Ngawang Thupten, Ngawang Phelgey, and Phuntsok Thupwang reportedly refused to denounce the Dalai Lama and recognize Tibet as part of China.
In August Tibetan Buddhist nun Phuntsog Nyidrol, who was released early from Lhasa’s TAR Prison in February 2004, was permitted to meet with visiting foreign government officials. Phuntsog Nyidrol received a nine-year sentence for taking part in peaceful demonstrations supporting the Dalai Lama in 1989. In 1993 her sentence was extended to 17 years after she and other nuns recorded songs about their devotion to Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Since her release authorities restricted Phuntsog Nyidrol’s movements and associations. Although she expressed interest in traveling abroad for medical treatment, the government refused to issue her a passport.
Chadrel Rinpoche, released in 2002 after six years and six months in prison for leaking information about the selection of the Panchen Lama, was reportedly still under house arrest near Lhasa.
The lack of independent access to prisoners and prisons made it difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan political prisoners or to assess the extent and severity of abuses. According to the CECC PPD, there were 117 Tibetan political prisoners and 65 percent of them were monks and nuns. The CECC reported that the number of political prisoners declined this year to less than one fifth the number 10 years ago.
Approximately 50 political prisoners remained in the TAR Prison in Lhasa, most serving sentences on the charge of “counterrevolution,” which was dropped from the criminal law in 1997. Chinese authorities have stated that acts previously prosecuted as counterrevolutionary crimes continue to be considered crimes under China’s antisubversion laws. The CECC PPD estimated that nearly 70 Tibetan political prisoners were imprisoned in the TAR, nearly 35 in Sichuan Province, fewer than 15 in Qinghai Province, and 6 in Gansu. None were documented in Yunnan Province. The overall number of political prisoners in Tibetan areas dropped to 117 from 145 in 2004.
An unknown number of Tibetans were serving sentences in “reeducation-through-labor” camps and other forms of administrative detention not subject to judicial review.
In March the World Tibet Network News (WTN) reported that local authorities extended Tibetan Buddhist monk Jigme Gyatso’s prison term from 15 to 17 years. He was arrested in Lhasa in 1996 for alleged “political activities.”
TCHRD reported that monks Lobsang Khedrub and Gyalpo were detained in Ganzi Prefecture in February 2004 and subsequently sentenced to 11 years in prison for raising a banned Tibetan national flag.
The status of the following persons arrested in 2004 remained unconfirmed at year’s end: Nyima Dorjee and Lobsang Dorjee who were arrested for hanging pro-independence posters on government buildings; Choeden Rinzen who was arrested for possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan National flag; Dejor, Tsering Dawa, and Datsok who were detained after clashing with Chinese workers over a mining project, and Nyima Tenzen and Sonam Nyidup who protested their detention by shouting pro-independence slogans in a bar.
On January 6, authorities released Tibetan monk Tashi Phuntsog, who served two years and nine months of his seven-year sentence. Tashi Phuntsog was detained in 2002 following the arrest of his colleague, prominent Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek. Tashi Phuntsog was detained in conjunction with a series of bombings in Sichuan Province.
In April Drepung monk Jamphel Jangchub was released after serving 16 years in prison.
Tibetan Buddhist monks Chogri and Topden, who were detained in July for unfurling a Tibetan flag in Chogri Monastery in Draggo County, Ganzi, were released later in the year. At year’s end Chogri was in the Chogri Monastery, while Topden was reportedly no longer a monk.
Denial of Fair Public Trial
Legal safeguards for Tibetans detained or imprisoned were inadequate in both design and implementation. Most judges had little or no legal training. According to an official of the TAR higher people’s court, all seven cities and prefectures had established legal assistance centers, although these centers did not offer services in Tibetan language. Some accused persons did not have access to legal representation. Moreover, their trials were cursory and closed if issues of state security were involved. Under the law, maximum prison sentences for crimes such as “endangering state security” and “splitting the country” were 15 years for each count, not to exceed 20 years in total. Such cases mainly concerned actions perceived to be in support of Tibetan independence, and activities did not have to be violent to be illegal or to draw a heavy sentence.
In January the government commuted the death sentence of Tenzin Delek, a prominent lama from Ganzi, to life in prison. Foreign governments and international organizations raised concerns about the lack of due process and transparency in Tenzin Delek’s legal proceedings. Tenzin Delek was originally detained in 2002.
Freedom of Religion
The level of repression in Tibetan areas remained high, and the government’s record of respect for religious freedom remained poor during the year. The law provides for freedom of religious belief, and the government’s 2004 white paper on Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet states “Tibetans fully enjoy the freedom of religious belief.” However, the government maintained tight controls on religious practices and places of worship in Tibetan areas. Although authorities permitted many traditional practices and public manifestations of belief, they promptly and forcibly suppressed activities they viewed as vehicles for political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence, such as religious activities venerating the Dalai Lama (which the government described as “splittist”).
Approximately 615 Tibetan Buddhist religious figures held positions in local people’s congresses and local Chinese people’s political consultative conferences in the TAR. However, the government continued to insist that CCP members and senior employees adhere to the CCP’s code of atheism, and routine political training for cadres continued to promote atheism. TAR officials confirmed that some Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) officers were members of the CCP and that religious belief is incompatible with CCP membership. However, some lower-level RAB officials practiced Buddhism.
The atmosphere for religious freedom varied from region to region. Conditions were generally more relaxed in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Monks outside the TAR who want to study in the TAR are required to get official permission from government religious bureaus, which were not readily granted. Sources said that ethnic Han Chinese monks were generally not allowed to undertake religious study in the TAR. Although Tibetan monks were not allowed to conduct large-scale religious teachings outside Tibetan areas, many monks continued to give private teachings to audiences in non-Tibetan regions of China.
Monasteries in the TAR are not allowed to establish any relationship with other monasteries or hold joint religious activities. Monasteries are required to report to the local government and request permission to hold any large or important religious events or to build new temples.
On June 30 and July 1, Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s special envoy, and several other representatives, met with Chinese authorities in Bern, Switzerland, the fourth such meeting since 2002. The idea of periodic meetings at venues outside of China was discussed during the third session of talks in September 2004. In his public remarks, the Dalai Lama continued to call for a “middle way” approach, which included “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet but not independence.
Security was intensified during the Dalai Lama’s birthday, sensitive anniversaries, and festival days in the TAR and in some other Tibetan areas as well. The prohibition on celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6 continued.
Government officials maintained that possessing or displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama was legal. However, authorities appeared to view possession of such photos as evidence of separatist sentiment when detaining individuals on political charges. Pictures of the Dalai Lama were not openly displayed in major monasteries and could not be purchased openly in the TAR. In January TAR authorities from Lhatse Dzong in Shigatse Prefecture reportedly arrested Phuntsok Tsering, the chant master of Magar Dhargyeling Monastery, on charges of possessing a portrait of the Dalai Lama. In April the TIN reported raids on Tibetan homes in the TAR border town of Dram. Officials reportedly entered the houses of the Tibetan residents and confiscated pictures and books that contained speeches of the Dalai Lama.
During the year international observers saw pictures of a number of religious figures, including the Dalai Lama, displayed more widely in Tibetan areas outside the TAR. The government continued to ban pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama. Photos of the “official” Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, were not widely displayed, most likely because most Tibetans do not recognize him as the Panchen Lama.
The government’s 2004 white paper stated that the TAR had more than 46 thousand Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns and more than 17 hundred venues for Tibetan Buddhist activities. Officials have cited almost identical figures since 1996, although the number of monks and nuns has dropped at many sites due to the patriotic education campaign and the expulsion of many monks and nuns who refused to denounce the Dalai Lama or who were found to be “politically unqualified.” These numbers represented only the TAR, where the number of monks and nuns was very strictly controlled. According to statistics collected by the China Center for Tibetan Studies, a government research institution, there are 1,535 monasteries in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Government officials closely associated Buddhist monasteries with pro-independence activism in Tibetan areas of China. Spiritual leaders encountered difficulty re-establishing historical monasteries due to lack of funds, general limitations on monastic education, and lack of authorization to build and operate religious institutions; officials in some areas contended such religious institutions were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community.
The government stated there were no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries and that each monastery’s democratic management committee (DMC) decided independently how many monks the monastery could support. However, the government exercised strict control over most monasteries through the DMCs and imposed strict limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, particularly within the TAR. The government had the right to disapprove any individual’s application to take up religious orders, although there were no reports of the government exercising this right during the year. Authorities limited the traditional practice of sending young boys to monasteries for religious training by means of regulations that forbade monasteries from accepting individuals under the age of 18. Nevertheless, many monasteries continued to admit younger boys, often delaying their formal registration until the age of 18.
The government continued to oversee the daily operations of major monasteries. The government, which did not contribute to the monasteries’ operating funds, retained management control of monasteries through the DMCs and local RABs. Regulations restricted leadership of many DMCs to “patriotic and devoted” monks and nuns and specified that the government must approve all members of the committees. At some monasteries government officials also sat on the committees.
The quality and availability of high-level religious teachers in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained inadequate; many teachers were in exile, older teachers were not being replaced, and those remaining in Tibetan areas outside the TAR had difficulty securing permission to teach in the TAR. DMCs at several large TAR monasteries used funds generated by the sales of entrance tickets or donated by pilgrims for purposes other than the support of monks engaged in full-time religious study. As a result, some “scholar monks” who had formerly been fully supported had to engage in income-generating activities. Some experts were concerned that, as a result, fewer monks will be qualified to serve as teachers. However, in July 2004, for the first time in 16 years authorities permitted resumption of the Geshe Lharampa examinations, the highest religious examinations in the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Government officials claimed that the patriotic education campaign, which often consisted of intensive, weeks-long sessions conducted by outside work teams, ended in 2000. However, monks and nuns continued to undergo political education on a regular basis. Numerous credible sources reported that the political education sessions intensified in the Lhasa area beginning in April. In July, 18 monks were expelled from Sera Monastery, and 8 others were detained before they were to be tested. In October RFA reported that 40 of the approximately 50 nuns residing at the Gyarak Nunnery near Lhasa were expelled for refusing to participate in political education. Because the primary responsibility for conducting political education shifted from government officials to monastery leaders, the form, content, and frequency of training at each monastery appeared to vary widely. However, conducting such training remained a requirement and has become a routine part of monastic management.
During the year the Ganzi Prefecture Web site reported that the Permanent Work Team at Serthar destroyed 74 illegal houses in the monastery during its “management of religious work.”
The Karmapa Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism’s Karma Kagyu sect and one of the most influential religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism, remained in exile following his 1999 flight to India. The Karmapa Lama stated that he fled because of the government’s controls on his movements and its refusal either to allow him to go to India to be trained by his spiritual mentors or to allow his teachers to come to him. During the year, an official international delegation was permitted to visit Tsurphu Monastery, the seat of the Karmapa Lama, for the first time since 2001. While they did not meet with monastery officials, they were able to talk to some monks and learned that the current population was less than it was five years ago.
The government routinely asserted control over the process of finding and educating reincarnate lamas. The Panchen Lama is Tibetan Buddhism’s second most prominent figure, after the Dalai Lama. The government continued to insist that Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy it selected in 1995, is the Panchen Lama’s 11th reincarnation. The government continued to refuse to allow access to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama in 1995 as the 11th Panchen Lama (when he was six years old), and his whereabouts were unknown. Government officials claimed the boy was under government supervision at an undisclosed location for his own protection and attends classes as a “normal schoolboy.” All requests from the international community to access the boy, in order to confirm his well-being, have been refused. While the overwhelming majority of Tibetan Buddhists recognized the boy identified by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, Tibetan monks claimed that they were forced to sign statements pledging allegiance to the boy the government selected. The CCP also urged its members to support the “official” Panchen Lama.
The government-recognized Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, made his first visit to Tibetan areas of Sichuan Province from June 12 to 28. According to official media reports, during his stay Gyaltsen Norbu held head-touching ceremonies to bless more than 60 thousand persons, some of whom reported being screened by security forces prior to receiving the head touching blessing. Gyaltsen Norbu reportedly toured dozens of counties in Sichuan and held religious rituals in more than 10 Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries.
In April Chinese authorities permitted diplomatic officials to meet the seven-year-old child approved by the government as the seventh reincarnation of Reting Rinpoche. His appointment was reportedly disputed by many of the monks at Reting Monastery in 2000 because the Dalai Lama did not recognize the selection. The Reting Rinpoche’s religious training, which began during the year, was closely supervised by the government through the selection of his religious and lay tutors.
Pawo Rinpoche, who was recognized by the Karmapa Lama in 1994, lived under strict government supervision at Nenang Monastery.
The government claimed that since 1949 it has contributed approximately $36 million (RMB 300 million) to renovate and open more than 1,400 monasteries and to repair cultural relics, many of which were destroyed before and during the Cultural Revolution.
Despite the government’s efforts, many monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution were never rebuilt or repaired, and others remained only partially repaired. Government funding of restoration efforts ostensibly supported the practice of religion but also promoted the development of tourism in Tibetan areas. Most recent restoration efforts were funded privately, although a few religious sites also received government support for reconstruction projects during the year.
Freedom of Movement
The government strictly regulated travel and freedom of movement of Tibetans, especially within the TAR. Many Tibetans, particularly those from rural areas, continued to report difficulties obtaining passports.
The government also regulated foreign travel to the TAR. In accordance with a 1989 regulation, foreign visitors (excluding individuals from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) were required to obtain an official confirmation letter issued by the government before entering the TAR. Most tourists obtained such letters by booking tours through officially registered travel agencies. In 2004, state media announced that foreign tourists would enjoy “unrestricted access to all 70 counties of the TAR.” However, TAR authorities were unable to confirm the change, and travelers reported that many restrictions remained in place. During the 40th anniversary of the 1965 founding of the TAR in September, there were reports that foreigners were refused permission to travel to Tibetan areas from August 20 to September 10.
Official visits to the TAR were supervised closely and afforded delegation members very few opportunities to meet local persons not previously approved by the authorities. However, during the year several large official foreign delegations were permitted to visit the TAR. One international delegation was able to meet with monastery management committees and raise official concerns about human rights and religious freedom. Foreigners could travel freely in most Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Tibetans continued to encounter substantial difficulties and obstacles in traveling to India for religious and other purposes. The government placed restrictions on the movement of Tibetans during sensitive anniversaries and events and increased controls over border areas at these times. There were reports of arbitrary detention of persons, particularly monks, returning from Nepal. Detentions generally lasted for several months, although in most cases no formal charges were brought.
In January RFA reported that Tibetan pilgrims heading for Nepal and India on pilgrimage from Ganzi were asked to return home after the TAR authorities in Lhasa revoked their travel permits. The authorities gave no explanation for the revocation.
In September RFA reported that Chinese border forces opened fire on a group of 51 Tibetan asylum-seekers trying to travel to Nepal by way of Dhingri, in Shigatse Prefecture. All but three were taken into custody, and their whereabouts remained unknown. The group included six children between the ages of 10 and 11, two nuns and one monk. On November 3, TIN reported the detention in the TAR of 14 Tibetans from Amdo who were attempting to travel to India via Nepal.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 3,395 Tibetan new arrivals approached UNHCR in Nepal during the year; 3,352 Tibetans departed for India, of whom 2,340 received UNHCR transit assistance, and 1,012 Tibetans left for India by their own means.
Nevertheless, thousands of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, visited India via third countries and returned to China after temporary stays. In 2004 RFA reported that the majority of Tibetans who transited via Nepal to India were young, whose ages ranged from 6 to 30, and that the main reason they migrated was the lack of Tibetan-language educational facilities and opportunities for religious education.
According to China’s 2000 census, the population of Tibetans in the TAR was 2.4 million while the population of Tibetans in autonomous prefectures and counties outside the TAR was 2.9 million. Tibetans made up 94 percent of the population of the TAR. Government-sponsored development and new economic opportunities attracted migrant workers from China’s large transient population to Tibetan areas. The result was a net increase in the non-Tibetan share of the TAR population from approximately 4 percent in 1990 to 6 percent in 2000. However, TAR census figures did not include a large number of long-term Han residents, such as cadres, skilled workers, unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their dependents.
In Tibetan areas outside the TAR, Tibetans increased their majority share as natural population growth outpaced net migration by non-Tibetans. Migrants to the TAR were overwhelmingly concentrated in cities and towns, while Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of the rural population. One official estimate put the number of Han residents in Lhasa at 100 thousand out of a total population of approximately 409,500, although many observers estimated that more than half of Lhasa’s population was Han Chinese. Small businesses run by Han and Hui migrants–mostly restaurants and retail shops–predominated in cities throughout the Tibetan areas.
Family planning policies permitted Tibetans and members of other minority groups to have more children than Han. Urban Tibetans, including Communist Party members, and some ethnic Han Chinese living in Tibetan areas were generally permitted to have two children. Rural Tibetans were encouraged, but not required, to limit births to three children.
The TAR is one of China’s poorest regions, and Tibetans are one of the poorest groups; malnutrition among Tibetan children continued to be widespread in many areas of the TAR.
In August state media reported that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 70 percent of all government employees in the TAR. However, Han Chinese continued to hold key positions, including party secretary of the TAR.
Some Tibetans reported that they experienced discrimination in employment and claimed Han Chinese were hired preferentially for many jobs and received greater pay for the same work. In recent years some Tibetans reported that it was more difficult for Tibetans than Han to get permits and loans to open businesses. The widespread use of the Chinese language in urban areas and many businesses limited employment opportunities for Tibetans who did not speak Chinese.
The TAR tourism bureau continued its policy of refusing to hire Tibetan tour guides educated in India or Nepal. Government officials have stated that all tour guides working in the TAR were required to seek employment with the Tourism Bureau and pass a licensing exam on tourism and political ideology. The government’s stated intent was to ensure that all tour guides provide visitors with the government’s position opposing Tibetan independence and the activities of the Dalai Lama.
There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. However, women were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of government. According to an official Chinese Web site, there were 28,197 female cadres in the TAR, accounting for 32 percent of the TAR’s total cadres; 16 percent of those were county-level female cadres.
Prostitution was a growing problem in Tibetan areas, and hundreds of brothels operated semi-openly in Lhasa. Up to 10 thousand commercial sex workers may have been employed in Lhasa alone. Some of the prostitution occurred at sites owned by the CCP, the government, and the military. Most prostitutes in the TAR were Han Chinese women, mainly from Sichuan. However, some Tibetans, mainly young girls from rural or nomadic areas, also worked as prostitutes. The incidence of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes in Tibetan areas was unknown, but lack of knowledge about HIV transmission and economic pressures on prostitutes to engage in unprotected sex made an increase in the rate of HIV infection likely.
Protection of Cultural Heritage
Rapid economic growth, the expanding tourism industry, and the introduction of more modern cultural influences have disrupted traditional living patterns and customs and threatened traditional Tibetan culture. Residents lacked the right to play a role in protecting their cultural heritage.
The Dalai Lama, Tibetan experts, and other observers expressed concern that development projects and other central government policies would continue to promote a considerable influx of Han Chinese, Hui, and other ethnic groups into the TAR. They feared that the TAR’s traditional culture and Tibetan demographic dominance would be negatively affected by such migration. Development projects and policies were reemphasized and expanded at the “Fourth Tibet Work Conference” in 2001, including the recently opened Qinghai-Tibet railroad.
Both Tibetan and Chinese are official languages in the TAR, and both languages were used on public and commercial signs. However, the Chinese language was spoken widely and was used for most commercial and official communications.
The CECC Annual Report said that the rate of illiteracy among Tibetans (47.55 percent) was more than five times higher than China’s national average (9.08 percent), according to the 2000 census data. The TAR rate of illiteracy (47.25 percent) is the highest in the country and is nearly twice as high as the second-ranked Qinghai Province (25.22 percent). Primary school is the only level of educational attainment for which data show Tibetans nearly on par with the national average. In practice, many pupils in rural and nomadic areas received only one to three years of schooling. The illiteracy rate of youth and adults in the prime of life fell from 95 percent before 1959 to 22 percent at the end of 2004. However, the illiteracy rate for this group was much higher than 22 percent in some areas.
The government has established a comprehensive national Tibetan-language curriculum, and many elementary schools in Tibetan areas used Tibetan as the primary language of instruction. Tibetan students were also required to study Chinese language and Chinese was generally used to teach certain subjects, such as arithmetic. In middle and high schools–even some officially designated as “Tibetan” schools–teachers often used Tibetan only to teach classes in Tibetan language, literature, and culture and taught all other classes in Chinese. As a practical matter, proficiency in Chinese was essential to receive a higher education. China’s most prestigious universities provided instruction only in Chinese, while the lower-ranked universities established to serve ethnic minorities allowed study of only some subjects in Tibetan. Opportunities to study at Tibetan-language schools were greater in the TAR, while opportunities to study at privately funded Tibetan-language schools and to receive a traditional Tibetan-language religious education were greater in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Authorities in Tibetan areas required professors and students at institutions of higher education to attend political education sessions and limited course studies and materials in an effort to prevent separatist political and religious activities on campus. Students at Tibet University were prohibited from engaging in religious practice. The government controlled curricula, texts, and other course materials.
The Tibetan-language services of Voice of America and RFA, as well as of the Oslo-based Voice of Tibet, suffered from the same jamming of their frequencies by Chinese authorities as their Chinese-language services. However, Tibetans were able to listen to the broadcasts at least some of the time. In April authorities shut down the Tibet culture Web site, a domestic Chinese site devoted to contemporary Tibetan culture.
Although the government made efforts in recent years to restore some of the physical structures and other aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture damaged or destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, repressive social and political controls continued to limit the fundamental freedoms of Tibetans and risked undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage.