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 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 strongly criticize the Dalai Lama and to associate Tibetan Buddhist religious activity with separatist sympathies. 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. Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, house arrest and surveillance of dissidents, and arbitrary restrictions on free movement.
Positive developments in Tibetan areas included a fifth round of dialogue between the government and envoys of the Dalai Lama. In March authorities permitted released political prisoner Phuntsog Nyidrol to travel overseas to receive medical treatment.
Deprivation of Life
On September 30, People’s Armed Police at the Nangpa La pass shot at a group of approximately 70 Tibetans, attempting to cross into Nepal, killing 17-year-old nun Kelsang Namtso and wounding others. Although officials claimed the police officers shot in self-defense, eyewitness accounts, including footage shot by a European film crew, showed that soldiers were unprovoked and fired at the Tibetans from a distance (see Torture and Freedom of Movement sections).
In April monastery and Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) officials claimed Ngawang Jangchub’s death in October 2005 was due to medical problems he had suffered from since childhood. According to other reports, he committed suicide. His death followed a heated dispute with the monastery’s “work team” over the intensification of the patriotic education campaign at the monastery, the expulsion of five monks, and his refusal to denounce the Dalai Lama.
The security apparatus employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. Tibetans repatriated from Nepal reportedly continued to suffer torture and other abuse in detention centers, including electric shocks, exposure to cold, and severe beatings, and were forced to perform heavy physical labor. Many were required to pay fines upon release.
According to news reports, more than 30 of the 70 Tibetans fired upon by soldiers at Nangpa La were captured, incarcerated, and tortured in a labor camp. A 15-year-old member of the group who later reached India reported to international media that three dozen of the Tibetans captured by soldiers were tortured with cattle prods and forced to do hard labor (see Deprivation of Life and Freedom of Movement sections).
According to a new report from the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), a group of 50 refugees was previously fired upon by Chinese troops in October 2005 at the same pass. After the shooting began the group scattered, and 23 Tibetans were reportedly arrested, detained, tortured, and interrogated at an army camp in Dingri County. The whereabouts of the remaining 27 refugees were unknown (see Freedom of Movement section).
On August 15, Nun Phuntsog Nyidrol, who was released in 2005 after serving 15 years in prison for participating in peaceful protests, testified before the UN Human Rights Council that government authorities severely beat and tortured her while in prison.
Prison authorities reportedly subjected Jigme Gyatso to beatings and solitary confinement following a December 2005 meeting with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak in Drapchi Prison.
Prisoners in Tibetan areas were generally subject to the same prison conditions as 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 one rest day every two 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.
Political prisoner Rinzin Wangyal (also known as Rinwang) 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.
Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems in Tibetan areas. The law permits police and security authorities to detain persons without arresting or charging them.
In August the ICT reported the March 2005 arrest of Lhasa history teacher Dolma Kyab. He was reportedly serving a 10-year sentence in Qushui Prison on charges of “endangering state security.” In August Bureau of Justice authorities in Lhasa denied he was detained.
Authorities reportedly detained six Tibetans from Sichuan Province for allegedly handing out leaflets advocating Tibetan independence. In early June Yiga, a former nun, and two lay women, Sonam Choetso and Jampa Yangtso, all from Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan, were detained in Lhasa. On June 1 and 2, respectively, Kayi Doega, a layman, and Sonam Lhamo, a nun from Geci Nunnery, were detained in Ganzi Prefecture on the suspicion they had organized the protest.
In late August authorities arrested Yiwang, a 16-year-old Tibetan girl from Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan, for her involvement in the campaign. No information on her trial or sentence was available.
According to a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA), on August 23 security officials arrested Khenpo Jinpa, the abbot of Choktsang Taklung Monastery in Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Khenpo Jinpa was reportedly arrested on suspicion of involvement in displaying proindependence posters at the monastery.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), on November 23 authorities reportedly arrested five monks who refused to take part in the “patriotic education campaign” that began in October 2005 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 April monastery officials denied the five had been arrested and said they were expelled from the monastery and had returned to their homes (see Freedom of Religion section).
On February 24, eight Tibetans were detained in Sichuan Province during a fur-burning campaign. They were released in March without being charged (see Freedom of Religion section).
In August 2005 four Tibetans who were detained after the burning of a slaughterhouse in Sichuan Province reportedly remained in detention in Derge County. Sherab Yonten, Sonam Gyelpo, and two others whose names are unknown continued to be held without charges and without access to relatives or defense counsel. Soepa, originally detained with the others, was released after going blind in custody due to alleged beatings and lack of access to medical care. Dawa, also originally detained with the others, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment (see Political Prisoners section).
In July 2005 monk Tsering Dhondup reportedly was detained after he allegedly wrote a “request for prayer” mentioning the Dalai Lama. According to RFA, the monastery disciplinarian who read the request for prayer, Changchup Gyaltsen, reportedly was also expelled from the monastery.
On May 23, 19-year-old monk Thubten Samten reportedly disappeared from his room in the Sera Monastery. According to the TCHRD, sources believe police arrested him for displaying pictures in his room of the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, and the Tibetan national flag. His whereabouts remained unknown.
In June border police near Tingri reportedly arrested 13 Tibetans who were planning to cross the border to Nepal. The detainees were male and in their twenties and early thirties. There were no reports on the whereabouts of those arrested.
Jigme Gyatso continued to serve a sentence for counterrevolution despite a November 2000 UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention statement that he was merely “exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Chadrel Rinpoche remained under house arrest for leaking information about the selection of the Panchen Lama. Officials denied requests by diplomatic observers to visit with him.
On February 26, former nun and schoolteacher Nyima Choedron, who was detained in 1999 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, had the remainder of her sentence commuted and was released from the TAR Prison.
On March 9, the ICT reported that Nyima Choedron’s partner, Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche, a schoolteacher and founder of the Gyatso children’s home and school who was also detained in 1999, remained in prison on charges of “splittism.”
Due to the lack of independent access to prisoners and prisons, it was difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan political prisoners. According to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s Political Prisoner Database (CECC PPD), in December there were 105 known cases of political prisoners, although the exact figure may be higher. Based on information available for 70 political prisoners, the average sentence was 10 years and 11 months, and 69 percent were monks or nuns. Approximately 52 political prisoners remained in prison in Lhasa, most serving sentences on the charge of “counterrevolution,” which was dropped from the criminal law in 1997. Authorities have stated that acts previously prosecuted as counterrevolutionary crimes continue to be considered crimes under antisubversion laws. The CECC PPD showed that 57 Tibetan political prisoners were imprisoned in the TAR, 29 in Sichuan Province, 12 in Qinghai Province, four in Gansu Province, and three in Beijing. The overall number of reported political prisoners in Tibetan areas dropped to 105 from 117 in 2005.
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 October the TCHRD reported that Dawa (also called Gyaltsen Namdak) was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for allegedly distributing pamphlets containing political material. Dawa was arrested in May. He reportedly remained in Chushul Prison at year’s end.
On September 6, authorities reportedly charged monk Lobsang Palden from Ganzi Monastery for initiating separatist activities. On August 15, he reportedly was arrested in Sichuan Province after police searched his room and found photographs of the Dalai Lama.
In May the Dui Hua Foundation released new information on the sentencing of monk Choeying Khedrub from Nagchu Prefecture. He was one of six men detained in 2000 for “endangering state security” and “supporting splittist activities.” Choeying Khedrub reportedly was sentenced to life in prison in 2001. He was one of only two Tibetans known to be serving life sentences for political offenses. The other was Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a senior monk. He initially was sentenced to death for allegedly causing explosions and inciting the separation of the state; in January 2005 his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
In November the TCHRD reported that Sonam Gyalpo, a Lhasa tailor arrested in 2005, was sentenced in the middle of the year to 12 years’ imprisonment on charges of splittism and destroying national unity.
Monk Namkha Gyaltsen, a chant master from Ganzi Monastery in Sichuan Province, was serving an eight-year sentence in Ganzi Prison for allegedly posting, displaying, and circulating Tibetan independence pamphlets in Ganzi in 2005. Authorities denied access to visitors, and his condition remained unknown.
In January a court in Gannan Prefecture, Gansu Province, reportedly sentenced five Tibetan monks and nuns to up to three years’ imprisonment for displaying and distributing posters in 2005 that were critical of the government. According to the Free Tibet Campaign, nuns Choekyi Drolma and Tamdrin Tsomo and monk Dargyal Gyatso were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and nun Yonten Tsomo and monk Yamyang Samdrub to 18 months’ imprisonment. Nun Yonten Tsomo was released at the end of the year. The charges against the monks and other nuns were unknown.
In January Gendun, a monk and teacher of traditional monastic dance from Amdo, was sentenced to four years in prison after he spoke about Tibetan culture and history at a teacher training college in February 2005. Twenty monks, students, and teachers detained in connection with his case reportedly were released soon after they were detained.
Other political prisoners in detention at year’s end included: monk Sonam Phuntsog; Tashi Gyaltsen, Tsultrim Phelgyal, Tsesum Samten, Jhamphel Gyatso, and Lobsang Thargyal from Dakar Treldzong Monastery in Qinghai Province; Jigme Dasang, a monk from Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai Province; Ngawang Phulchung, a monk from Drepung Monastery; Tibetan Buddhist monk Jigme Gyatso; and Lobsang Khedrub and Gyalpo.
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 proindependence 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 proindependence slogans in a bar.
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 Bureau of Justice, all seven cities and prefectures had established legal assistance centers, which offered services in the Tibetan language. Justice Bureau officials confirmed that there is a new prisoner appointment application by which prisoners may request a meeting with a government-appointed attorney. Nevertheless, many defendants still 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 alleged to be in support of Tibetan independence, and activities did not have to be violent to be illegal or to draw a heavy sentence.
Freedom of Speech and Press, including Internet Freedom
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 authorities as Chinese-language services. However, Tibetans were able to listen to the broadcasts at least some of the time.
During the year the Tibet Culture Web site, a domestic site devoted to contemporary Tibetan culture, was shut down intermittently. In July authorities closed Internet blogs of well-known Tibetan author Oser. In press reports the writer speculated the closure was due to her posting of a picture of the Dalai Lama and expression of birthday wishes for him.
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”).
On August 8, the newly appointed party secretary in the TAR, Zhang Qingli, sharply criticized the Dalai Lama, describing him in an interview with a foreign magazine as a “false religious leader” and dismissing his “middle way” approach as “splittism.” In a May 16 address to Party officials in Lhasa, Zhang said the Communist Party was engaged in a “fight to the death struggle” against the Dalai Lama and his supporters. According to the Xinhua News Agency, in a July press conference TAR Chairman Champa Phuntsok described the Dalai Lama as a “politician in Buddhist robes and Italian shoes.”
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 RAB officers were members of the CCP and that religious belief was incompatible with CCP membership. However, some lower-level RAB officials practiced Buddhism.
The atmosphere for religious freedom varied from region to region. Conditions were more relaxed in some Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Monks outside the TAR who want to study in the TAR are required to get official permission from the RAB, although such permission was not readily granted. Sources said that ethnic Han Chinese monks generally were 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 were 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.
In February and March Tibetan Buddhists in Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces and the TAR carried out animal pelt-burning campaigns to destroy wild animal pelts traditionally worn in Tibetan clothing. The activities were a response to a call from the Dalai Lama during January Kolachakara celebrations in India to increase awareness of wildlife protection. Authorities banned the public burnings, which they saw as demonstrations of loyalty to the Dalai Lama, and detained some participants in Ganzi, Sichuan Province (see Arbitrary Arrest and Detention section).
In June an overseas Web site reported that the government began a political education campaign for school children in Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province, to prevent involvement in the animal pelt-burning campaign.
In February envoys of the Dalai Lama came to China for the fifth round of talks since 2002. 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 reportedly ordered Tibetans working for the government to refrain from going to temples during the Saga Dawa festival in May or risk losing their jobs.
In early September authorities permitted Buddhists in Gansu Province’s Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to celebrate the festival of Kalachakara, which was originally scheduled for July 6, the birthday of the Dalai Lama, but then postponed by authorities.
In December Tibetan government workers, retired staff and cadres, students, and party members were banned from participating or observing celebrations of the Gaden Ngachoe Festival, which commemorates the death of a 14th-century Buddhist teacher and founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
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 most major monasteries and could not be purchased openly in the TAR.
During the year international observers saw pictures of a number of religious figures, including the Dalai Lama, displayed more widely in some 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.
TAR Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau officials confirmed that the TAR had approximately 46,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns and more than 1,700 venues for Tibetan Buddhist activities. Officials 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 strictly controlled. According to statistics collected by the China Center for Tibetan Studies, a government research institution, there were 1,535 monasteries in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Government officials closely associated Buddhist monasteries with proindependence activism in Tibetan areas of China. Spiritual leaders encountered difficulty reestablishing 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 known 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 age 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.
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 political education sessions intensified in Lhasa beginning in April 2005. In July 2005 18 monks were expelled from Sera Monastery, and eight others were detained before they were to be tested on the contents of political education materials. In October 2005 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.
In August officials from the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs told diplomatic observers that political education was carried out for all citizens, not just monks and nuns. 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.
In April religious authorities in the TAR stated that five Drepung Monastery monks had been expelled from the monastery in October 2005 for failing to satisfactorily participate in political education classes. Reports from international media sources indicated that the monks had been detained (see Arbitrary Arrest and Detention section).
During the year the official Ganzi Prefecture government Web site reported that in 2005 the permanent work team at Serthar Buddhist Institute destroyed 74 illegal houses in the monastery during its “management of religious work.” The same Web site reported that 853 houses were destroyed and 1,100 monks and nuns were evicted from the Yachen Monastery.
Diplomatic observers repeatedly have been denied access to Nenang Monastery to verify the well-being of Pawo Rinpoche, who was recognized by the Karmapa Lama in 1994 and has lived under strict government supervision since that time.
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 is the Panchen Lama’s 11th reincarnation. The government continued to deny access to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who was recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, and his whereabouts were unknown. Government officials claimed he was under government supervision at an undisclosed location for his own protection and attended classes as a “normal schoolboy.” While the overwhelming majority of Tibetan Buddhists recognized Gendun Choeki Nyima as the Panchen Lama, Tibetan monks claimed that they have been forced to sign statements pledging allegiance to Gyalsten Norbu, who the government selected. The CCP also urged its members to support the “official” Panchen Lama.
In 2005 diplomatic officials met 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 was closely supervised by the government through the selection of his religious and lay tutors.
In August Gyaltsen Norbu traveled to his home town in Nagchu Prefecture for the first time since 1995. According to press reports, he presided over a blessing ritual for 4,000 local persons.
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 law provides for the freedom to travel; however, in practice 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. While none of the TAR’s 70 counties were officially closed to foreigners, access for foreigners to many areas of the TAR remained problematic.
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. 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 that in January individuals returning to Tibet from the Kolachakara celebrations in India were required to register with authorities in the TAR. 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 June border police near Tingri reportedly arrested 13 Tibetans who were planning to cross the border into Nepal (see Arbitrary Arrest and Detention section).
On September 30, Chinese border forces at the Nangpa La pass shot at a group of approximately 70 Tibetans who were attempting to cross into Nepal, killing 17-year-old nun Kelsang Namtso and injuring others. The group included monks, nuns, and children. Eyewitness accounts reported that soldiers fired at the group from a distance. These accounts appeared to contradict claims made shortly after the incident by state-controlled media, which claimed the group had attacked the border troops. Forty-three members of the group arrived in Katmandu. Other members of the group were caught by soldiers, and photographs of the incident showed soldiers standing watch over a group of children. A 15-year-old member of the group who later reached India reported to international media that three dozen of the Tibetans captured by soldiers were tortured with cattle prods and forced to do hard labor. The whereabouts of the remaining members of the group were unknown (see Deprivation of Life and Torture sections).
According to a report from the ICT, a group of 50 refugees was previously fired upon by Chinese troops in October 2005 at the same pass (see Torture section).
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that during the year 2,405 Tibetans arrived at the Tibet Reception Center (TRC) in Nepal, compared with 3,395 in 2005. During the year departures were higher than arrivals, with 2,946 Tibetans departing the TRC for India. This was due to a backlog at the TRC at the end of 2005.
Nevertheless, thousands of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, visited India via third countries and returned to China after temporary stays. The majority of Tibetans who transited via Nepal to India were young, with ages ranging from six to 30, and the main reason they migrated was the lack of Tibetan-language educational facilities and opportunities for religious education.
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.
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.
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 100,000 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, mostly restaurants and retail shops, run by Han and Hui migrants predominated in cities throughout the Tibetan areas.
In Tibetan areas outside the TAR, Tibetans increased their majority share as natural population growth outpaced net migration by non-Tibetans.
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 2005 the government launched a campaign known as Ramdrang Rangdrik (Do It Yourself program). Ostensibly aimed at relocating Tibetans and improving their housing conditions, the campaign required villagers to build houses according to strict official specifications within two to three years, often forcing them to go into debt to cover construction costs. According to Human Rights Watch, Tibetans were told that modern houses were necessary to make a good impression on visitors and tourists. However, many of the houses did not have water or electricity and were often smaller than traditional Tibetan homes.
In 2005 state media reported that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 75 percent of all government employees in the TAR. However, Han Chinese continued to hold key positions, including party secretary of the TAR. Tibetans holding government positions were prohibited from worshipping at monasteries or practicing their religion.
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 use of the Chinese language was widespread 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.
Women and Children
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 Web site, female cadres in the TAR accounted for more than 30 percent of the TAR’s total cadres.
Prostitution was a growing problem in Tibetan areas, and hundreds of brothels operated semi-openly in Lhasa. International development workers in the TAR reported there were no reliable data on the number of commercial sex workers employed in Lhasa and Shigatse, the TAR’s two largest cities, although some estimates placed the number of sex workers as high as 10,000. Some of the prostitution occurred at sites owned by the CCP, the government, and the military. Most prostitutes in the TAR were Han 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 them particularly vulnerable.
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 use of both languages was also impacted by the rate of illiteracy among Tibetans, which the CECC Annual Report reported was more than five times higher (47.55 percent) than the national average (9.08 percent), according to the 2000 census data. The TAR rate of illiteracy (47.25 percent) was the highest in the country and was nearly twice as high as in the second-ranked Qinghai Province (25.22 percent). Primary school was the only level of educational attainment for which data showed 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 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, and Chinese was generally used to teach certain subjects, such as arithmetic and science. 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.
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 and benefit these groups disproportionately. There was widespread concern that the opening of the Qinghai-TAR railroad in April would increase this migration and threaten traditional culture and the demographic dominance of Tibetans.
On July 1, General Secretary Hu Jintao traveled to Lhasa to inaugurate the Qinghai-TAR railroad. In September official press reports stated that the line had carried 272,700 passengers and 37,400 tons of freight since entering service. Approximately 40 percent of the passengers were tourists, 30 percent business persons, and the remainder students, transient workers, traders, and persons visiting relatives in Tibet.
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.