(The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) – hereinafter referred to as “Tibet” – to be part of the People’s Republic of China. The preservation and development of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage and protection of its people’s fundamental human rights continue to be of concern.)
Respect for the Integrity of the Person
The Chinese Government strictly controls access to and information about Tibet, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses. However, according to credible reports, Chinese government authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses in Tibet, including instances of torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetan nationalists for peacefully expressing their political or religious views. The tight controls on religious expression that were imposed in 2000 were enforced less strictly during the year, but the overall level of repression of religious freedom in Tibet remained high and the Government’s record of respect for religious freedom remained poor. Activities viewed as vehicles for political dissent, including celebration of some religious festivals, were not tolerated and were quickly and forcibly suppressed. Individuals accused of political activism faced ongoing and serious harassment and abuse during the year. There were reports of the death of political prisoners as well as the imprisonment and abuse or torture of nuns and monks accused of political activism. Security was intensified during sensitive anniversaries and festival days, and particularly during ceremonies surrounding the 50th anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” in the summer. There were reports of small-scale political protests by ethnic Tibetans in a number of ethnic Tibetan areas, including outside the TAR.
During the year, there were accounts of prisoner deaths from abuse, either while in detention or soon after release. According to the Tibet Information Network (TIN), the prisoner death rate among Tibetans is 1 in 46; deaths of at least 41 Tibetan political prisoners since 1989 can be attributed to severe abuse under detention; at least 20 of these prisoners had been in Lhasa’s Drapchi prison. Ngawang Lochoe (also known as Dondrub Drolma), a 28-year-old nun at Sandrup Dolma Lhakang temple, reportedly died in February after serving 9 years of a 10-year sentence for participating in “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement”. She died the same day that she was moved to a hospital from Drapchi Prison, reportedly from respiratory and heart failure.
According to recent information, a monk from Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, Penpa, died in late 1999 or early 2000 soon after being released on medical parole from the Trisam reeducation-through-labor center. He had been detained for displaying a Tibetan flag in front of the Jokhang. TIN reported that monk Konchog Dawa died in January, while under detention at the Shigatse Prefectural Detention Center. He was detained after illegally entering China from Nepal. Suicides of Tibetan prisoners have been reported.
There are many credible reports that prisoners are tortured and mistreated. Authorities use electric shocks, suspension in painful positions, and other forms of torture or abuse. TIN reported severe beatings of several nuns serving long prison sentences, including Ngawang Choezom and Phuntsog Nyidron, imprisoned in 1989 for singing proindependence songs. Government officials stated that because Phuntsog Nyidron has shown repentance, her sentence has been reduced by one year. She is scheduled to be released in 2005. Nun Ngawang Sangdrol, who was imprisoned at age 13, released 9 months later and resentenced at age 15, also reportedly was beaten severely on multiple occasions and held in solitary confinement for an extended period. Her prison sentence was extended for a third time in late 1998 to a total of 21 years for her involvement in prison demonstrations, most recently in May 1998. Ngawang Sangdrol’s health continues to be poor, despite government officials’ assertions that she is well. Prisoners who resisted the political reeducation imposed by prison authorities, particularly demands to denounce the Dalai Lama and accept Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy recognized by the Government as the Panchen Lama, also reportedly were beaten.
In February 1999, TIN and the foreign press reported increased use of military-style drills and exercises (often in either very hot or very cold weather) at Lhasa’s Drapchi prison. Prison officials reportedly force prisoners to run barefoot, to stand motionless for extended periods, and to march for extended periods while shouting patriotic slogans. Prisoners also were treated harshly in other prisons. According to credible reports, Chadrel Rinpoche, who was accused of betraying state secrets while helping the Dalai Lama choose the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, has been held in a Sichuan prison where he is separated from other prisoners, denied all outside contacts, and restricted to his cell. Although he was thought to be scheduled for release in May (6 years from the time of his initial detention), the Government told foreign officials in February that he would not be released until January 2002. The Government confirmed that Chadrel Rinpoche was being held in a Sichuan prison and that he was in “good health.”
Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan ethnomusicologist sentenced in 1996 to 18 years in prison on charges of espionage, was incarcerated in a facility near Chengdu in Sichuan Province throughout the year. According to government officials, he suffered from a variety of ailments, including digestive, urinary, kidney, and liver problems.
At least three staff members of the Gyatso Children’s Home, a Lhasa orphanage that was closed by officials in September 1999, remained in detention, reportedly charged with “endangering national security.” No further information was available on the details of these cases.
Legal safeguards for ethnic Tibetans detained or imprisoned are the same as those in the rest of China and are inadequate in design and implementation. A majority of judges are ethnic Tibetans, but most have little or no legal training. Authorities are working to address this problem through increased legal education opportunities. Trials are brief and are closed if issues of state security are involved. According to a 2000 TIN report, the length of the average sentence of Tibetan political prisoners is increasing. Since 1987 the average sentenced imposed on all Tibetan political prisoners was 4 years, 9 months. However, the average sentence of all Tibetan political prisoners still in detention in 2000 was 8 years, 8 months. Authorities report that courts handle approximately 20 cases involving crimes against state security each year, for which maximum prison sentences are 15 years for each count, not to exceed 20 years in total. Such cases mainly concern actions in support of Tibetan independence, and such activities do not have to be violent to be illegal. Reportedly 72 percent of female detainees are nuns, and approximately 74 percent of male prisoners are monks.
The lack of independent access to prisoners or to prisons makes it difficult to assess the extent and severity of abuses and the number of Tibetan prisoners. According to TIN, approximately 200 Tibetan political prisoners are detained in China, a majority of whom are monks and nuns imprisoned in the TAR. Officials from the Justice and Prison Administration Bureaus told a foreign delegation in April 2000 that of the 2,200 prisoners currently serving sentences in the TAR (76 percent of whom were ethnic Tibetan, and 20 percent ethnic Han), 110 were incarcerated for “endangering state security,” including approximately 30 nuns and 70 monks, over 90 percent of whom were incarcerated for “endangering state security.”
Promotion of family planning remains an important goal for the authorities in Tibet, but family planning policies permit most ethnic Tibetans, as well as other minority groups resident in the TAR, to have more children than Han Chinese (who are subject to the same limits as citizens in other areas of the country). Urban Tibetans are permitted to have two children, while those in rural areas often have three or more. In practice Tibetans working for the Government, especially Communist Party members, are pressured to limit themselves to one child.
The Government tightly controls foreign travel to Tibet, requiring individual travelers to secure permits for entry to the TAR. Movement within the TAR also is controlled tightly. Official visits are supervised closely and afford delegation members very few opportunities to meet local persons not previously approved by the local authorities. Foreigners, including international NGO personnel and foreign residents, were subject to increased scrutiny and travel restrictions during several periods over the year. The Government also placed restrictions on the movement of ethnic Tibetans during sensitive anniversaries and events and increased controls over border areas at these times. There were numerous reports of arbitrary detention of persons, particularly monks, returning to Tibet from Nepal. In many cases, detentions lasted for several months, although in most cases no charges were formally brought.
Some foreign NGO’s reported restrictions on their activities and, in some cases, threats of expulsion. One foreign NGO, which was shut down in 2000, has not yet been allowed to reopen.
Forced labor reportedly is used in some prisons, detention centers, reeducation-through-labor facilities, and at worksites where prisoners are used as workers. Prisoners at many sites receive some remuneration, and can earn sentence reductions by meeting or exceeding work quotas.
Chinese law mandates that prisoners can be required to work up to 12 hours per day, with one rest day every 2 weeks (Article 53 of the Statute of Reform Through Labor). However, some refugees report that work requirements are more onerous than those set forth in the law. At Drapchi prison male prisoners reportedly work in vegetable fields and in factories at the prison. Female prisoners clean toilets and also are involved in tailoring, cleaning, or spinning and sorting wool to be used in the manufacture of carpets and sweaters. According to Human Rights Watch, some Tibetan prisoners are required to work beyond their terms of imprisonment. Some prisoners in pretrial detention also are forced to work.
Freedom of Religion
The Government maintains tight controls on religious practices and places of worship. While it allows many types of religious activity in Tibet, the Government does not tolerate religious manifestations that it views as advocating Tibetan independence or any expression of separatism, which it describes as “splittism.” The Government remains suspicious of Tibetan Buddhism in general because of its links to the Dalai Lama, and this suspicion also applies to Tibetan Buddhist religious adherents who do not explicitly demonstrate their loyalty to the State. Repression of religious freedom in Tibet reached severe levels during the summer of 2000, with tight restrictions imposed on lay practices. However, these restrictions were not enforced as strictly by the end of 2000. The overall level of religious repression in Tibet remained high, and the Government’s record of respect for religious freedom remained poor during the year. Activities viewed as vehicles for political dissent, including celebration of some religious festivals, were not tolerated and were quickly and forcibly suppressed. The Government harshly criticized the Dalai Lama’s political activities and leadership of a “government-in-exile.” The official press continued to criticize vehemently the “Dalai clique” and repeatedly described him as a separatist who was determined to split China. Both central government and local officials often insist that dialog with the Dalai Lama is impossible and claim that his actions belie his repeated public assurances that he does not advocate independence for Tibet. Nonetheless, the Government asserts that it is willing to hold talks with the Dalai Lama as long as he ceases his activities to divide the country, recognizes that Tibet is an inseparable part of China, and that Taiwan is a province of China. The ban on the public display of photographs of the Dalai Lama continued, and such pictures were not readily available except illegally in many parts of the TAR.
Following the conclusion of the “patriotic education” campaign begun in the mid-1990s, the Government declared “success” in increasing its control over the Tibetan Buddhist establishment. Political education activities in monasteries continued at many sites throughout the region, though at a lower level of intensity.
Official “work teams” continued to periodically visit monasteries to conduct required sessions on such topics as relations between Tibetans and Han Chinese, Tibet’s historical status as a part of China, and the role of the Dalai Lama in attempting to “split” the country. According to regulations posted at the entrances of many monasteries, monks are required to be “patriotic,” and authorities require monks to: Sign a declaration agreeing to reject independence for Tibet; reject Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama; reject and denounce the Dalai Lama; recognize the unity of China and Tibet; and not listen to the Voice of America. Monks who refused these terms risked expulsion from their monasteries; others were forced to leave their monasteries after failing to pass exams on these topics or being found “politically unqualified;” others leave “voluntarily” rather than denounce the Dalai Lama. Many monks and nuns who attempt to protest peacefully or refuse to abide by rules imposed by government authorities in Buddhist monasteries are subject to detention.
Ongoing political education requirements are resented deeply by monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists. Although there has been some reduction of patriotic education activities throughout the region as the objectives of increasing control over the monasteries and reducing the numbers of monks and nuns were achieved, many monasteries and nunneries were disrupted severely, and monks and nuns have fled to India to escape the campaigns. Historically, up to 3,000 Tibetans enter Nepal each year to escape conditions in Tibet, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; many of these refugees claim that they left because of the “patriotic education” activities.
Chinese authorities closely associate Buddhist monasteries with proindependence activism in Tibet. The Government has moved to curb the proliferation of monasteries, which it contends are a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community.
Chinese officials state that Tibet has more than 46,300 Buddhist monks and nuns and some 1,787 monasteries, temples, and religious sites. These numbers apply only to the TAR; thousands of monks and nuns live in other ethnic Tibetan areas of China, including parts of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai Provinces. Officials have used these same figures for several years, although there are credible reports that the numbers of monks and nuns have dropped significantly at many sites in the TAR, especially since the beginning of the “patriotic education” campaign in the mid-1990s. According to a TIN report, the number of monks and nuns in some monasteries and nunneries fell in 2000, as part of an effort to restrict religious observance. The Government states that there are no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, and that each monastery’s democratic management committee decides on its own how many monks the monastery can support. However, these committees are government controlled; in practice the Government generally imposes strict limits on the number of monks in major monasteries. Some monasteries reportedly have been required to decrease the number of monks associated with them. In June Chinese authorities ordered thousands of monks and nuns to leave the Serthar Tibetan Buddhist Institute located in the Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province (also known as the Larung Gar monastic encampment). The Government maintained that the facility, which housed the largest concentration of monks and nuns in the country, was reduced in size for sanitation and hygiene reasons. Foreign observers believed that the authorities moved against the Institute because of its size and the influence of its charismatic founder, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. At year’s end, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok had not returned to the Institute.
The Government has the right to disapprove any individual’s application to take up religious orders, although it does not uniformly exercise this right. Although by regulation monks are prohibited from joining a monastery prior to the age of 18, many younger boys continue the tradition of entering monastic life. However, in some areas many young novices, who traditionally served as attendants to older monks while receiving a basic monastic education and awaiting formal ordination, have been expelled from monasteries in recent years for being underage. The fact that these novices were not regular members of the monasteries has allowed authorities to deny that there has been a significant decline in the numbers of monks.
Most Tibetans practice Buddhism to some degree. This holds true for many ethnic Tibetan government officials and Communist Party members. Some 1,000 religious figures hold positions in local people’s congresses and committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The Government continues to insist that party members adhere to the Party’s code of atheism. A 3-year drive to promote atheism and science among government workers, first begun in January 1999, was extended to more government offices and to schools. The drive was launched to promote economic progress, strengthen the struggle against separatism, and stem “the Dalai clique’s reactionary infiltration,” according to official press reports. Authorities threatened to terminate the employment of government employees whose children are studying in India (where the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile is located) if they did not bring the children back to Tibet.
The tight restrictions on lay religious activity imposed in 2000 no longer were strictly enforced, although other restrictions on religious expression remained in place. Some reports indicate that government workers now feel less pressure to restrict their personal expressions of religious belief. However, while Tibetans burned incense and celebrated Sagadawa by making the lingkor (a pilgrimage circuit around the religious sites of Lhasa), restrictions and bans on celebrating other important religious holidays continued. Restrictions were imposed by the authorities to prevent celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday in July. Reports indicate that Tibetans were forbidden to hold traditional incense-burning ceremonies on that day, and that most places of worship were closed, although there were reports of many Tibetans celebrating early or privately.
The Government continues to oversee the daily operations of major religious sites. The Government, which does not contribute to the regular operating funds of monasteries, retains management control of the monasteries through democratic management committees (DMC) and local religious affairs bureaus. In recent years, DMCs at several large monasteries have begun to collect all funds generated by sales of entrance tickets or donated by pilgrims, which previously were disbursed to monks engaged in full-time religious study for advanced religious degrees. Such “scholar monks” now must engage in income-generating activities at least part-time. Several experts are concerned that fewer monks will be qualified to serve as teachers in the future as a result.
During 1999 the TAR Religious Affairs Bureau confirmed that its officers are members of the Communist Party and that members are required to be atheists; a large percentage of the members of the religious affairs bureaus are non-Tibetans. Regulations restrict leadership of DMCs to “patriotic and devoted” monks and nuns, and they specify that the Government must approve all members of the committees. At some monasteries, government officials also sit on the committees.
Following the December 1999 flight to India of the Karmapa, leader of Tibetan Buddhism’s Karma Kargyu school and one of the most influential religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism, authorities restricted access to Tsurphu monastery, the seat of the Karmapa, and reportedly increased “patriotic education” activities there. In several public statements, the Karmapa asserted that he left because of controls on his movements and the refusal either to allow him to go to India to be trained by his spiritual mentors or to allow his mentors to come to him. Soon after his flight, TIN reported that at least two Tsurphu monks were arrested and that the Karmapa’s parents were placed under surveillance. Government officials denied that there were any arrests or that the Karmapa’s parents have faced restrictions of any kind. The atmosphere at Tsurphu reportedly remains tense, with a permanent police presence and intensified restrictions on monks that appear to be aimed at discouraging them from following their spiritual teacher into exile. In December 2000, foreign officials were allowed to visit the Tsurphu monastery, where approximately 325 monks were said to be in residence. There were few other visitors at the time, even though December usually is a popular time for pilgrims to visit. According to reports, no new monks have been permitted to enter Tsurphu monastery since the Karmapa left, but religious activity at the monastery has continued.
The departure of the Karmapa added to tensions and increased the authorities’ efforts to exert control over the process for finding and educating reincarnated lamas. The Dalai Lama, who by tradition approves the selection of important religious figures, continues to refuse to recognize the selection of Sonam Phuntsog as the seventh reincarnation of the Reting Rinpoche; many of the monks at Reting Monastery reportedly did not accept the child as the Reting Rinpoche, and eight monks were arrested in 2000 for protesting his selection. He now lives with his family under heavy guard in his residence near the monastery. Authorities tightly controlled access to the area. Another young reincarnate lama, 8 year-old Pawo Rinpoche, also lives under house arrest at Nenang monastery and reportedly has been denied access to his religious tutors. The Pawo Rinpoche was recognized by the Karmapa and is one of the senior Karma Kargyu lamas remaining in Tibet. Foreign officials have repeatedly been denied permission to visit Nenang Monastery.
The Panchen Lama is one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most prominent figures, after the Dalai Lama. The Government continued to insist that Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy it recognizes and enthroned in 1995, is the Panchen Lama’s 11th reincarnation. The authorities tightly control all aspects of his life, and he has appeared publicly in Beijing and the TAR only on rare occasions. His public appearances were marked by a heavy security presence. The authorities strictly limit access to the boy. Meanwhile, repeated requests for access to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, to confirm his well-being and whereabouts have been denied. He first disappeared in 1995, when he was 6 years old. Government officials have stated that the boy is being held for his own protection, and that he lives in Tibet and attends classes as a “normal schoolboy.” The authorities also maintain that both boys are being well cared for and are receiving a good education. The vast majority of Tibetan Buddhists continue to recognize Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama. Tibetan monks have claimed that they were forced to sign statements pledging allegiance to the boy the Government selected as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. The Communist Party also urged its members to support the “official” Panchen Lama, and government authorities at both the regional and city levels had pictures of the boy printed for use in public and private religious displays; however, very few photographs of him are on display. Instead, more prominently displayed are pictures of the 10th Panchen Lama, which some foreign observers interpret as a rejection of Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy recognized by the Government to be the Panchen Lama. The Government banned pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama to be the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.
The Government has stated that since the end of the Cultural Revolution, it has contributed sums in excess of $40 million (300 to 400 million RMB) toward the restoration of a number of important Buddhist sites that were destroyed before and during that period. Government funding of restoration efforts ostensibly was done to support the practice of religion, but also was done in part to promote the development of tourism in Tibet. Most recent restoration efforts were funded privately, although several large religious sites also were receiving government support for reconstruction projects during the year.
Economic Development and Protection of Cultural Heritage
Tibetans, as one of China’s 55 minority ethnic groups, receive preferential treatment in marriage and family planning policies, and, to a lesser extent, in university admissions and government employment. According to official government statistics, 74 percent of all government employees in Tibet are ethnic Tibetans. Nonetheless, many positions of political authority are held by ethnic Han Chinese, and most key decisions in Tibet are made by ethnic Han. Although government regulations stipulate that government and legal documents are to be in Tibetan, in practice, written communications by officials and government documents very frequently only are in Chinese.
The Central Government and other provinces of China heavily subsidize the Tibetan economy, which, according to official statistics, has grown by an average annual rate of over 10 percent for the last decade. Over 90 percent of Tibet’s budget income comes from outside sources. Tibet also benefits from a wide variety of favorable economic and tax policies. Government development policies have helped raise the material living standards of most ethnic Tibetans, particularly by providing better transportation and communications facilities. However, in recent years, freer movement of persons throughout China, government-sponsored development, and the prospect of economic opportunity in Tibet have led to a substantial increase in the non-Tibetan population (including China’s Muslim Hui minority as well as Han Chinese) in Lhasa and other urban areas as migrant workers from China’s large transient population seek to take advantage of these new economic opportunities. Most of these migrants profess to be temporary residents, but small businesses run by ethnic Han and Hui citizens (mostly restaurants and retail shops) predominate in almost all Tibetan cities.
The Dalai Lama, Tibetan experts, and others have expressed concern that development projects and other Central Government policies initiated in 1994 and reemphasized and expanded at the 4th Tibet Work Forum in June will continue to promote a considerable influx of non-Tibetan Chinese into Tibet. They fear that Tibet’s traditional culture and ethnic Tibetan demographic dominance will be overwhelmed by such migration.
Tibetans are reportedly discriminated against in employment in some urban occupations; ethnic Han are hired preferentially for many jobs and receive greater pay for the same work. Ethnic Tibetans reportedly are fired discriminatorily from some jobs. In addition many jobs require proficiency in Chinese (which limits opportunities for many ethnic Tibetans). Connections also reportedly work to the advantage of the ethnic Han (who tend to be in the higher ranking positions), and it is more difficult for Tibetans to get permits and loans to open businesses than it is for ethnic Han. Other fundamental worker rights recognized by the International Labor Organization, including the right to organize and the right to bargain collectively that are broadly denied in the rest of China are denied in Tibet.
Rapid economic growth, the expanding tourism industry, and the introduction of more modern cultural influences also have disrupted traditional living patterns and customs and threatened traditional Tibetan culture. In Lhasa the Chinese cultural presence is obvious and widespread. Buildings are of Chinese architectural style; the Chinese language is spoken widely, and Chinese characters are used in most commercial and official communications. Many observers estimate that more than half of Lhasa’s population is Han Chinese; elsewhere in the TAR, the Han percentage of the population is significantly lower. In rural areas, the Han presence often is negligible. Chinese officials assert that 95 percent of Tibet’s officially registered population is Tibetan, with Han and other ethnic groups making up the remaining 5 percent. Officials report that these figures do not include the large number of “temporary” Han residents, including military and paramilitary troops and their dependents, many of whom have lived in Tibet for years.
There are reports that malnutrition among Tibetan children is widespread in many areas of the TAR. This is particularly true of rural areas and has resulted in high rates of stunted growth among children. Nutritional deficiency ailments, such as goiter (from a lack of iodine), night blindness (from a lack of Vitamin A), and rickets are said to be relatively common among children in some areas. Special programs–sponsored by both government and NGO groups–are in place in some areas to address these problems.
According to official government statistics, 42 percent of persons in the TAR are illiterate or semiliterate. Illiteracy and semiliteracy rates are as high as 90 percent in some areas. Approximately 83 percent of eligible children attend primary school, according to official statistics, but most pupils end their formal education after graduating from village schools. Chinese officials over the past few years have downgraded the use of Tibetan in education and in 1997 announced that they would begin teaching Chinese to Tibetan children starting in the first grade. The Government stated that this step was taken in order to make Tibetan children more competitive with their Han counterparts, and to provide more educational and employment opportunities in the long run. Primary schools at the village level follow a Tibetan curriculum, but these schools usually have only two or three grades.
According to local education officials, Tibetan is the main language of instruction in 60 percent of middle schools, especially in more remote areas, although there are special classes offering instruction in Chinese. NGO’s maintain that this figure is inaccurately high. Most, but not all, of the students in the Chinese classes are ethnic Han. Most of those who attend regional high schools continue to receive some of their education in Tibetan, but knowledge of Chinese is essential as most classes are in Chinese. Tibetan curriculum high schools exist in a few areas. The Government continues to allocate funds to enable Tibetan secondary students to study in schools elsewhere in China. According to government figures, there are 13,000 Tibetan students currently studying in some 100 schools in different parts of China. Knowledge of Chinese usually is necessary to receive a higher education, although some minority colleges allow for study of some subjects in Tibetan.
Tibet University was established to train Tibetan teachers for the local educational system. Ethnic Tibetans resent the fact that Han representation in the student body and faculty far exceeds their proportion of the total TAR population. Although Tibetans are given admission preference, Han Chinese students frequently gain admission because they score higher on admission exams due to stronger Chinese-language skills and educational backgrounds. Authorities reportedly require professors, particularly those from Tibet University’s Tibetan Language Department, which is viewed as a potential source of dissent, to attend political education sessions and limit course studies and materials in an effort to prevent “separatist” political and religious activity on campus. Many ancient or religious texts are banned from the curriculum for political reasons.
Prostitution is a growing problem in Tibet, as it is elsewhere in the country, according to experts working in the region. Hundreds of brothels operate openly in Lhasa. Up to 10,000 commercial sex workers may be employed in Lhasa alone. Much of the prostitution occurs at sites owned by the Party, the Government, or the military. Most prostitutes in Tibet are ethnic Han women, mainly from Sichuan. However, a substantial number of ethnic Tibetans, mainly young girls from rural or nomadic areas, also work as prostitutes. The incidence of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes in Tibet is unknown but is believed to be relatively high.
During the year, there were reports that TAR authorities were pressuring employers of ethnic Tibetans who were raised or educated in India to dismiss such employees, especially in the tourism industry. Lhasa tour agencies have been forced to dismiss ethnic Tibetan tour guides educated in India and Nepal. These guides were required to seek employment with the Government’s Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB). Prior to gaining employment with the TTB, applicants must pass an examination on tourism and politics. Many, if not most, Tibetan tour guides educated abroad reportedly fail this exam. Tourist hotels and restaurants have been “encouraged” to dismiss ethnic Tibetan employees educated abroad, as well.
Tibet Autonomous Regional Television, a Tibetan-language satellite television channel, broadcasts in Tibetan for 12 hours each day. There also are two bilingual channels on which Tibetan language programs make up 15 percent of the total. The signals of the Tibetan language services of Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) as well as of the Oslo-based Voice of Tibet suffer from the same jamming of their frequencies by Chinese authorities as the signals of their Chinese language services. However, Tibetans are able to listen to the broadcasts at least some of the time. RFA states that Tibetans are subject to intimidation and fines for listening to foreign language broadcasts, including RFA.
The Internet has been open to the public since April 1999. At year’s end, Lhasa had several Internet cafes, and estimates put the number of Internet users in Tibet at several thousand.
China’s economic development policies, supported in Tibet by central government subsidies, are modernizing parts of Tibetan society and changing traditional Tibetan ways of life. Although the Government has 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 continue to limit the fundamental freedoms of ethnic Tibetans and risk undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage.