By Tenzin Sangmo
Satellite image of a gulag in Tibet. Photo by Vinayak Bhat
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 15: Contrary to the Communist Party of China (CPC) third plenum decision announced at the end of 2013 to abolish Re-education Through Labor (RTL), more RTLs, renamed “Political education training camps” have been cropping up in Tibet, now employing monastery complex for the same purpose.
Originally, RTL was modelled after the gulag system in the Soviet Union.The Print
revealed days ago that exclusive satellite imagery accessed by them shows at least three re-education centres colloquially known as ‘Gulags’ under construction in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Re-education camps in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been in the news for subjecting an estimated 1.1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities to what is called “torture and political brainwashing,” although such treatments continue to be meted out to the Tibetans for decades.
As per Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy’s (TCHRD) special report in 2014 titled Gulags of Tibet
, ”4 million people have been sent to RTL since its inception in the 1950s. It was designed to facilitate the purges of people who were suspected of opposing the newly installed Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
The author of The Print article, Retired Colonel Vinayak Bhat, a military intelligence veteran and an expert on satellite imagery interpretation, talked on “Tracking China’s Gulags in Tibet” at the Tibet Policy Institute (TPI) of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) yesterday further elaborating on the practice.
Satellite images, some as recent as November 10, 2018, shows isolated monasteries being constructed or renovated in the last 2-3 years in Kham, Nagchu and Shigatse with modern Chinese architectural influence and camp-like structure.
These monastery complexes are being built away from any locality, below the mountains, fortified by multiple fences and walls as thick as 5.5 meters in width. Bhat inferred that the design of the monastery complexes strongly indicated that it is being used as correction facility or Gulags for Tibetan monks who are unwilling to follow the diktats of the CPC.
Gulags being constructed for the lay people with high-security walls can be clearly seen with the main prison structure surrounded by other facilities to be used as detention and indoctrination centres.
The detainees are allegedly used as forced labour in government factories and projects during the day time or as per shift timings. The Tibet Daily
also carried a report on January 21 saying, “Shigatse City is close to the reality of opening a ‘political education training camp’ that plans to invite the party’s 19th National Congress, experts and scholars to teach and implement the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CPC, carry out anti-separatist struggle education and patriotism education, and teach new lessons in a simple way.”