ICT Inside Tibet: New crackdown on ‘hostile forces’ in Tibet in buildup to Party Congress

In an already oppressive political environment, restrictions on media, culture and communications in Tibet have been stepped up in the buildup to the 19th Party Congress, due to take place in the fall.

According to Tibet Daily, a crackdown on “illegal activity” has been launched in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in order to tighten security and ensure compliance to the Party state prior to the important Party meeting in Beijing, which could be held as early as October. The official report mentions that further actions will be taken to “prevent […] problematic information distributed by Dalai Clique and other Western hostile forces and track down online circulation of negative information, hyper-speculation and rumors.”

The crackdown is aimed at targeting both pornography and ‘illegal activity’, according to Tibet Daily on July 28, in order to “safeguard national unity and social stability”. The real target is clearly political, with the article specifying the importance countering “Tibetan independence propaganda” and specifying particular measures of control over the internet.[1] The article stated that the drive is in order to maintain a good “social and cultural environment” for the 19th Party Congress.

The measures include an intensification of supervision over “all kinds of illegal cultural products”, a reference to increasing controls over music, publishing and printing. Already there are tight measures in place across Tibet to eliminate any books or materials mentioning the Dalai Lama, who is specifically mentioned in the Tibet Daily article as a target. The report also refers to “the field of news media and publishing” in order to ensure no publication of “harmful political content.”

In Tibet today, almost any moderate or mild assertion of Tibetan culture or identity can be characterized as ‘criminal’ or ‘splittist’. Tibetan pop singers have been imprisoned for such references, but bans have also been applied to songs and books without overt or obvious political content. The new ruling states that the Chinese authorities will “strengthen the supervision of music and dance entertainment programs” according to Tibet Daily.

Tibetan delegates to 19th Party Congress selected

The priority of political ‘stability’ was also underlined by the TAR regional leadership in its announcement of the selection of 29 Tibetan delegates from the TAR to the 19th Party Congress. TAR Party Secretary Wu Yingjie and other delegates were shown in the report apparently casting ballots, although selection is on the basis of seniority and political loyalty to the CCP.

Wu Yingjie was cited in the state media article[2] as saying that he and the other delegates will undertake the “glorious mission” of representing the regional Party authorities to address the “political priority” of “stability maintenance”, a term referring to the CCP’s aim to create a society in which there is no dissent. According to a political glossary by Human Rights Watch, “According to Chinese political thinking, in Tibet this extreme form of ‘long-term stability’ will be achieved by eradicating dissident ideas, which are seen as the root causes of instability, rather than just the symptoms.”[3] 

In his speech to delegates, Party Secretary Wu also spoke about the importance of the “management of religious affairs.” Last week Wu Yingjie was also pictured in Lhasa meeting Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama, installed by the Chinese government as part of its long-term strategy to control Tibetan Buddhism and eliminate loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

Wu Yingjie underlined the political imperatives for the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama according to a report in the official media on August 6, specifically mentioning the need for the “Tibetan Buddhist community” and by implication Gyaltsen Norbu to “draw a firm line against the 14th Dalai Clique.”[4] According to the report, Wu Yingjie said that he hoped: “The Tibetan Buddhist community will earnestly […] adhere to the basic principles of the Party’s policies for religious work, draw a firm line against the 14th Dalai Clique, carry out religious activities in accordance with the law, resolutely safeguard national unity and social stability, strengthen ethnic unity, promote social progress, in order to contribute to the rapid development of Tibet, long-term stability, and the creation of a well-off society.”

Gyaltsen (Chinese: Gyalcain) Norbu, 25, was selected by the CCP after the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama and acknowledged by Tibetans as the authentic incarnation, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, was ‘disappeared’ in 1995. There is no indication of his whereabouts or welfare 20 years later. Last year Gyaltsen Norbu carried out a major religious teaching in Shigatse – the first time a Kalachakra initiation has been held in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) for more than half a century.[5]


Footnotes:
[1] The report is online in Chinese at: http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-07/28/content_781500.htm

[2] June 28, 2017, http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-06/28/content_775625.htm

[3] Another current Chinese political slogan is translated literally as “no cracks, no blind spots, no gaps unfilled.” This is an order or “guiding instruction” to police, Party officials, and others warning them not to overlook or neglect even the most trivial location or aspect of a case when they are assessing, investigating or searching a village, home, monastery, or any other location. According to Human Rights Watch, “It instructs them to investigate a person even when there is only the slightest suspicion that they might pose a potential threat to ‘stability maintenance.’ This instruction is repeated frequently to local officials in the TAR, ordering them to surveil all people who appear to present the slightest threat, no matter how minor or remote that threat might be.” ‘Tibet: A Glossary of Repression’, Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2017/06/20/tibet-glossary-repression

[4] State media in Chinese, extracts translated by ICT: http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2017-08/06/content_782966.htm

[5] ICT report, July 29, 2016, https://www.savetibet.org/kalachakra-with-chinese-characteristics-chinese-appointed-panchen-lama-gives-teaching-as-authorities-suppress-religious-freedom/

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