The US State Department released its annual report on human rights situation in Tibet on March 31, 2003, which documents series of human rights violations in Tibet. This report is part of the overall Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002 Released by its Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
The text of the Tibet section of the report appears below:
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; March 31, 2003
(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. For information on ethnic Tibetans living in other regions of China outside the TAR, see the China Country Report on Human Rights Practices.)
Respect for the Integrity of the Person
The Government’s human rights record remained poor, although there were some positive developments. The year was marked by the first early releases of Tibetan political prisoners, with seven prisoners released before serving their full sentences. The Government also permitted visits to Tibet by emissaries of the Dalai Lama and provided reporters and foreign officials with somewhat greater access to the region. However, authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, 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 overall level of repression of religious freedom in Tibet, while somewhat less oppressive for lay followers than in previous years, remained high. Individuals accused of political activism faced ongoing harassment during the year. There were reports of imprisonment and abuse of nuns and monks accused of political activism. Security was intensified during sensitive anniversaries and festival days, while activities viewed as vehicles for political dissent, including celebration of some religious festivals, were suppressed. There were reports of small-scale political protests by ethnic Tibetans in a number of ethnic Tibetan areas, including areas outside Tibet.
There were no reports of prisoner deaths during the year. Deaths of at least 41 Tibetan political prisoners since 1989 can be attributed to severe abuse under detention; at least 20 of those prisoners had been in Lhasa’s Drapchi Prison. In 2001 Ngawang Lochoe (also known as Dondrub Drolma), a 28-year-old nun at Sandrup Dolma Lhakang temple, reportedly died 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.
During the year, Chinese authorities granted early releases to seven Tibetan political prisoners, with sentence reductions ranging from 2 months to 12 years. Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan ethnomusicologist sentenced in 1996 to 18 years in prison on charges of espionage, was released on medical parole in January.
Five nuns serving long prison terms for protest-related activity were released prior to the end of their prison terms; three of these terms were due to expire within a year. Ngawang Sangdrol, the longest-serving female political prisoner in Tibet, was released on medical parole on October 17. Her prison sentence had been extended three times for her involvement in prison demonstrations but in 2001 was reduced by 18 months for good behavior. She was due for release in 2011. During her incarceration, she was beaten severely on multiple occasions and held in solitary confinement for an extended period. On March 21, Gyaltsen Dolkar was released after serving more than 11 years of a 12-year sentence for demonstrating and recording patriotic Tibetan songs. In May Tenzin Thubten and Ngawang Choekyi were released. They were also among the group of 14 nuns who received lengthy sentence extensions for recording songs in prison in 1993. Tenzin Thubten was 2 months short of serving her full 12-year sentence when released, while Ngawang Choekyi was released almost 3 years before the end of her term. Ngawang Choezom was released in June, 9 months before the end of her 11-year sentence.
In March Tibet’s longest-serving political prisoner, Takna Jigme Sangpo, was released from Drapchi Prison into the custody of a Lhasa relative. He subsequently left the country for medical treatment and, at year’s end, resided in Europe. Sangpo, who in the 1960s and 1970s had served 13 years in prison, was given a 15-year sentence in 1983 for “spreading and inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda.” He subsequently received two sentence extensions for protest activity in prison and was scheduled for release in September 2011.
There were credible reports that prisoners continued to be mistreated. Many former prisoners maintained that authorities used electric shocks, suspension in painful positions, and other forms of torture and abuse. Prisoners routinely were subjected to “political investigation” sessions and were punished if they were deemed to be insufficiently loyal to the state. Unrepentant political prisoners at Lhasa’s Drapchi Prison were sent to “isolation cells” for 6 months to 1 year to “break their spirit.” Prisoners in this detention area were kept isolated from other prisoners, and sometimes were confined to solitary cells. Sangpo described six other prisoners as having served some portion of their sentences there.
According to Chinese officials, Chadrel Rinpoche, who was accused of betraying state secrets while helping the Dalai Lama choose the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, was released from prison in February, having served his full sentence. Officials claimed that since his release he has been “studying scriptures in seclusion,” but credible reports indicated that he effectively was held under house arrest.
In December an appeals court upheld death sentences against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Lobsang Dhondup, who were arrested and sentenced earlier in the year for alleged involvement in a series of bombings in Sichuan (see Section 1.e.).
Jigme Tenzin Nyima and Nyima Choedron, owners of a Lhasa orphanage closed by officials in 1999, were convicted of “espionage and endangering national security” and were serving sentences, according to a Prison Administration Bureau official. The status of a third orphanage staff member, reportedly still under detention at year’s end, was unknown.
Legal safeguards for ethnic Tibetans detained or imprisoned were the same as those in the rest of China and were inadequate in both design and implementation. A majority of judges were ethnic Tibetans, but most had little or no legal training. Authorities worked to address this problem through increased legal education opportunities. Trials were brief and were closed if issues of state security were involved. Maximum prison sentences for such crimes were 15 years for each count, not to exceed 20 years in total. Such cases mainly concerned actions in support of Tibetan independence, and such activities did not have to be violent to be illegal or to draw a heavy sentence.
The lack of independent access to prisoners and prisons made it difficult to assess the extent and severity of abuses and the number of Tibetan prisoners. According to the Tibet Information Network (TIN), there were 160 to 170 Tibetan political prisoners imprisoned in China, a majority of whom were monks and nuns imprisoned in Tibet. A Prison Administration Bureau official told a foreign delegation in May that of the 2,300 prisoners currently serving sentences in Tibet, 5 percent were incarcerated for “endangering state security or national unity.” He reported that, due to releases, the number decreased from 115 such prisoners in 2001 to 110 prisoners as of May. Based on TIN’s February report, these included approximately 90 monks and 15 nuns. In August three monks at Drepung Monastery and two at nearby Nechung Monastery were detained after a picture of the Dalai Lama was found in the car of one of the monks. Two of the monks also were implicated in an attempt to raise the Tibetan flag at a ceremony celebrating the “50th Anniversary of Tibet’s Peaceful Liberation” in 2001.
Family planning policies permit most ethnic Tibetans, as well as other minority groups resident in Tibet, to have more children than Han Chinese, who were subject to the same limits as Han Chinese in other areas of the country. Urban Tibetans were permitted to have two children, while those in rural areas often had three or more. In practice, Tibetans working for the Government, especially Communist Party members, were pressured to limit themselves to one child.
The Government regulated foreign travel to Tibet, requiring individual travelers to secure permits for entry to Tibet. Movement of foreigners within Tibet also was controlled tightly. Official visits were supervised closely and afforded delegation members very few opportunities to meet local persons not previously approved by the local authorities. Travel of foreigners and foreign NGO staff was closely monitored, although someforeign NGOs reported fewer restrictions on their travel.
During the year, there were many reliable reports of increased difficulties for ethnic Tibetan residents in obtaining passports. 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. Detentions generally lasted for several months, although in most cases no charges were brought formally.
Forced labor reportedly was used in some prisons, detention centers, reeducation-through-labor facilities, and at work sites where prisoners were used as workers. Prisoners at many sites received some remuneration and could earn sentence reductions by meeting or exceeding work quotas.
Chinese law mandates that prisoners may be required to work up to 12 hours per day, with 1 rest day every 2 weeks. However, some former prisoners reported that work requirements were more onerous than those set forth in the law. At Drapchi Prison, male prisoners reportedly worked in vegetable fields and in factories at the prison. Female prisoners cleaned toilets and also were involved in tailoring, cleaning, or spinning and sorting wool to be used in the manufacture of carpets and sweaters.
Freedom of Religion
The overall level of religious repression in Tibet, while less oppressive for lay followers than in previous years, remained high. The Government maintained tight controls on some religious practices and some places of worship. While it allowed many types of religious activity, the Government did not tolerate religious manifestations that it viewed as advocating Tibetan independence or any expression of separatism, which it describes as “splittism.” The Government remained suspicious of Tibetan Buddhism in general because of its links to the Dalai Lama, and this suspicion extended to religious adherents who did not explicitly demonstrate their loyalty to the State. Security was intensified during sensitive anniversaries and festival days, while activities viewed as vehicles for political dissent, including celebrations of some religious festivals, were suppressed.
Early in the year, the Government continued its practice of harshly criticizing the Dalai Lama’s political activities and leadership of a government-in-exile. However, the criticism was muted somewhat after the Government extended invitations to several emissaries of the Dalai Lama to visit Tibet and other areas of China. Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama’s elder brother, visited in July, making his first trip to Tibet since he left in 1959. In September Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama’s representatives to the United States and Europe respectively, traveled to Beijing, Lhasa, and other cities where they met with a number of government officials. It was unclear whether the Government viewed these visits as first steps toward dialog with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. 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 Tibet.
Government officials stated that the “patriotic education” campaign, which began in the mid-1990s and dispatched work teams to conduct intensive mandatory political training sessions for nuns and monks at religious sites, was completed in 2000. Officials acknowledged, however, that patriotic education activities for monks and nuns continued on a regular basis at some monasteries and nunneries. There were several credible reports during the year of work teams conducting mandatory political training for monks and nuns at specific religious sites in advance of important anniversaries or other events. Training sessions, which addressed 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, were aimed at enforcing compliance with government regulations and policies, and either cowing or weeding out monks and nuns who resisted political indoctrination and remained politically loyal to the Dalai Lama.
According to regulations posted at the entrances of many monasteries, monks were required to be “patriotic,” and authorities often required monks and nuns 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’s political authority; recognize the unity of China and Tibet; and not listen to the Voice of America or Radio Free Asia. Some noncompliant monks and nuns have been expelled from religious sites. Others departed “voluntarily” rather than denounce the Dalai Lama.
Ongoing political education requirements were resented deeply by monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists. Although there was 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 some monks and nuns fled to India to escape the campaigns.
The number of Tibetans who entered Nepal seeking refugee status to escape conditions in Tibet decreased from approximately 3,000 in 2000 to 1,268 during the year, according to the UNHCR. It was difficult for Tibetans to travel to India for religious purposes. Nevertheless, many Tibetans, including monks and nuns, visited India via third countries and returned to Tibet after temporary stays. In May TIN reported that the Chinese Government appeared to be making greater efforts to encourage exiles to return to Tibet. While some exiled Tibetans have returned, the approval process remained cumbersome.
Chinese officials stated that Tibet had more than 46,000 Buddhist monks and nuns and more than 1,700 monasteries, temples, and religious sites. However, officials have cited these same figures since 1996, despite the fact that the numbers of monks and nuns have dropped significantly at many sites as a result of the patriotic education campaign and the expulsion of “unpatriotic” monks and nuns. These figures encompass only Tibet; tens of thousands of monks and nuns live in other ethnic Tibetan areas of China, including parts of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai Provinces. The Government stated that there were no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, and that each monastery’s “democratic management committee” (DMC) could decide on its own how many monks the monastery could support. However, these committees were government-controlled, and in practice the Government generally imposed strict limits on the number of monks in major monasteries. Some monasteries reportedly were required to decrease the number of monks associated with them.
In 2001 Chinese authorities ordered thousands of monks and nuns to leave the Serthar Tibetan Buddhist Institute, also known as the Larung Gar monastic encampment, located in the Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. 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. After a year’s absence, during which time he underwent medical treatment, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok was allowed to return to Serthar in July, and thousands of monks and nuns were again in residence at year’s end.
The Government had the right to disapprove any individual’s application to take up religious orders; however, it did not exercise this right uniformly. In some areas, it was against regulations to join a monastery before the age of 18, but many younger boys continued the tradition of entering monastic life. Young novices, who traditionally served as attendants to older monks while receiving a basic monastic education and awaiting formal ordination, continued to be admitted to some TAR monasteries.
Most Tibetans practiced Buddhism to some degree. This held true for many ethnic Tibetan government officials and Communist Party members. Some 1,000 Tibetan Buddhist religious figures held positions in local people’s congresses and committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The Government continued 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, had apparently ended. During the year, some reports indicated that government workers felt reduced pressure to restrict their personal expressions of religious belief. However, authorities continued to pressure public sector employees, through political training and threats of termination, to demonstrate their loyalty to the State and refrain from actions that could be construed as lending explicit or tacit support to the Dalai Lama. Public sector employees were reportedly pressured not to send their children to India to be educated and to refrain from going on pilgrimages to Mt. Kailash, a holy site in Western Tibet believed by Tibetan Buddhists to be the abode of Lord Shiva, during the Sagadawa festival. Restrictions prevented the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday in July. However, major religious festivals such as Monlam, Sagadawa, and the Drepung Shodon were celebrated in a slightly more open atmosphere than in previous years.
The Government continued to oversee the daily operations of major religious sites. The Government, which did not contribute to the regular operating funds of monasteries, retained management control of the monasteries through democratic management committees and local religious affairs bureaus. In recent years, DMCs at several large monasteries began 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. As a result, such “scholar monks” had to engage in income-generating activities at least part-time. Experts expressed concern that fewer monks would be qualified to serve as teachers in the future as a result. In addition, the Government moved in recent years to curb the proliferation of monasteries, which it contended were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community.
During 1999 the TAR Religious Affairs Bureau confirmed that its officers were members of the Communist Party and that members were required to be atheists; a large percentage of the members of the religious affairs bureaus were 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 sat 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. 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. The Karmapa alleged that several of his personal attendants were detained during the year. In August foreign officials were allowed to visit the Tsurphu monastery, where approximately 300 monks were said to be in residence. There were few monks or other visitors present during the visit. Officials claimed that the monks were away on summer holiday visiting their families. According to credible reports, no new monks have been permitted to enter Tsurphu monastery since the Karmapa left, but religious activity at the monastery continued.
The departure of the Karmapa increased tensions and heightened the authorities’ efforts to exert control over the process for finding and educating reincarnated lamas. The Dalai Lama, who by tradition plays a role in the selection of important religious figures, continued to refuse to recognize the selection of Sonam Phuntsog as the seventh reincarnation of the Reting Rinpoche, and many of the monks at Reting Monastery reportedly also did not accept the child as the Reting Rinpoche. Sonam Phuntsog lived with his family under heavy guard in his residence near the monastery. Authorities tightly controlled access to the area. Another young reincarnate lama, 9 year-old Pawo Rinpoche, lived under effective house arrest at Nenang monastery and reportedly was denied access to his religious tutors. The Pawo Rinpoche, recognized by the Karmapa, was one of the senior Karma Kargyu lamas remaining in Tibet.
The Panchen Lama is one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most prominent figures. The Government continued to insist that Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy it recognized and enthroned in 1995, was the Panchen Lama’s 11th reincarnation. The authorities tightly controlled all aspects of his life, and he made a highly orchestrated visit to Tibet in July. His public appearances were marked by a heavy security presence, and the authorities strictly limited 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, were denied. He first disappeared in 1995, when he was 6 years old. Government officials stated that the boy was being held for his own protection and that he lived in Tibet and attended classes as a “normal schoolboy.” The authorities also maintained that both boys were well cared for and were receiving a good education. The vast majority of Tibetan Buddhists continued to recognize Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama. The Communist Party 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 were on display. Instead, more prominently displayed were pictures of the 10th Panchen Lama, which some foreign observers interpreted as a rejection of Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy recognized by the Government to be the Panchen Lama. Pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima were banned by the Government.
The Government stated that since the end of the Cultural Revolution, it had contributed sums in excess of $36 million to $48 million (RMB 300 to 400 million) toward the restoration of a number of important Buddhist sites that were destroyed before and during the Cultural Revolution. 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 received 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 were ethnic Tibetans. Nonetheless, many positions of political authority were held by ethnic Han Chinese, and most key decisions in Tibet were made by ethnic Han. Although the TAR government passed a law in May making Tibetan the official language of Tibet and promoting its development, the widespread teaching and use of Mandarin Chinese undermined the ability of younger Tibetans to speak and read their native language.
Tibet is one of China’s poorest regions, and ethnic Tibetans are one of the poorest ethnic groups. The central Government and other provinces of China heavily subsidized the Tibetan economy, which, according to official statistics, grew by an average annual rate of over 10 percent for the last decade. Over 90 percent of Tibet’s budget came from outside sources. Tibet also benefited from a wide variety of favorable economic and tax policies. Government development policies have helped raise the 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 sought to take advantage of the new economic opportunities. Most of these migrants professed to be temporary residents, but small businesses run by ethnic Han and Hui citizens, mostly restaurants and retail shops, predominated in almost all Tibetan cities.
The Dalai Lama, Tibetan experts, and others expressed concern that development projects and other central Government policies initiated in 1994 and reemphasized and expanded at the Fourth Tibet Work Forum in 2001 would continue to promote a considerable influx of non-Tibetan Chinese into Tibet. They feared that Tibet’s traditional culture and ethnic Tibetan demographic dominance will be overwhelmed by such migration.
Tibetans were reportedly discriminated against in employment in some urban occupations; ethnic Han were hired preferentially for many jobs and received greater pay for the same work. In addition, many jobs required proficiency in Chinese, which limited opportunities for many ethnic Tibetans. Connections also reportedly worked to the advantage of the ethnic Han, who tended to hold most of the higher ranking positions, and it was more difficult for Tibetans than Han to get permits and loans to open businesses. Other fundamental worker rights recognized by the International Labor Organization, including the right to organize and the right to bargain collectively, that were broadly denied in the rest of China were also 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 was obvious and widespread. Buildings were of Chinese architectural style, the Chinese language was spoken widely, and Chinese characters were used in most commercial and official communications. A traditional Tibetan-style building complex located in the UNESCO-protected downtown area of Lhasa was demolished during the year to make way for a more modern structure.
Chinese officials asserted that 95 percent of Tibet’s officially registered population was Tibetan, with Han and other ethnic groups making up the remaining 5 percent. However, officials acknowledged that these figures did not include the large number of “temporary” Han residents, including military and paramilitary troops and their dependents, many of whom had lived in Tibet for years. Many observers estimated that more than half of Lhasa’s population was Han Chinese, and even official estimates put the number of temporary Han Chinese residents at over 100,000; elsewhere in Tibet, the Han percentage of the population was significantly lower. In rural areas, the Han presence often was negligible.
Malnutrition among Tibetan children has historically been widespread in many areas of the TAR. This was particularly true of rural areas and 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 were said to be relatively common among children in some areas. Special programs, sponsored by both government bodies and foreign NGOs, were in place in some areas to address these problems.
According to official government statistics, 42 percent of persons in Tibet were illiterate or semi-literate. Illiteracy and semi-literacy rates were as high as 90 percent in some areas. Approximately 87 percent of eligible children attended primary school. Most pupils in rural areas received only 1 to 3 years of education.
Primary schools at the village level followed a Tibetan curriculum. According to local education officials, Tibetan was the main language of instruction in 60 percent of middle schools, especially in more remote areas, although there were special classes offering instruction in Chinese. However, some NGOs maintained that the official figures were inaccurate, claiming that fewer Tibetan children received instruction in the Tibetan language. Most of those who attended regional high schools continued to receive some of their education in Tibetan, but knowledge of Chinese was essential as most classes were in Chinese. Tibetan curriculum high schools existed in a few areas. The Government continued to allocate funds to enable Tibetan secondary students to study in schools elsewhere in China. According to government figures, there were 13,000 Tibetan students studying in approximately 100 schools in different parts of China. Knowledge of Chinese usually was necessary to receive a higher education, although some colleges established to serve ethnic minorities allowed for study of some subjects in Tibetan.
Tibet University was established to train Tibetan teachers for the local educational system. Ethnic Tibetans resented the fact that Han representation in the student body and faculty far exceeded their proportion of the total TAR population. Although Tibetans were given admission preference, Han Chinese students frequently gained admission because they scored higher on admission exams due to stronger Chinese-language skills and educational backgrounds. Authorities reportedly required professors, particularly those from Tibet University’s Tibetan Language Department, which was viewed as a potential source of dissent, to attend political education sessions and limited course studies and materials in an effort to prevent separatist political and religious activity on campus. Many ancient or religious texts were banned from the curriculum for political reasons.
Prostitution was a growing problem in Tibet, as it was elsewhere in the country. Hundreds of brothels operated semi-openly in Lhasa. Up to 10,000 commercial sex workers may have been employed in Lhasa alone. Some of the prostitution occurred at sites owned by the Party, the Government, and the military. Most prostitutes in Tibet were ethnic Han women, mainly from Sichuan. However, a substantial number of ethnic Tibetans, mainly young girls from rural or nomadic areas, also worked as prostitutes. The incidence of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes in Tibet was unknown but was 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 were 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 were required to pass an examination on tourism and political ideology. Many Tibetan tour guides educated abroad reportedly failed the exam.
Tibet Autonomous Regional Television, a Tibetan-language satellite television channel, broadcast in Tibetan for 12 hours each day. There also were two bilingual channels on which Tibetan language programs made up 15 percent of the total. The Tibetan language services of Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (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. RFA stated that Tibetans were subject to intimidation and fines for listening to foreign-language broadcasts.
The Internet has been available in Tibetan cities since 1999. Lhasa had numerous Internet cafes, and the number of Internet users in Tibet continued to grow rapidly.
China’s economic development policies, supported in Tibet by government subsidies, were modernizing parts of Tibetan society and changing traditional Tibetan ways of life. 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 ethnic Tibetans and risked undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage.