News and Views on Tibet

Human rights violations and repression tactics prevalent in Tibet: CECC 2023 report

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By Tsering Dhundup

DHARAMSHALA, May 13: The United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released its 2023 Annual Report on May 10, detailing continued violation of human rights and rule of law in Tibet.

The 373-page report, released by U.S. Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) of the bipartisan and bicameral CECC. CECC Chair Smith remarked, “The Annual Report sets the standard in terms of documenting the People’s Republic of China’s failure to abide by human rights norms and in holding Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their repeated and sustained atrocities and crimes against humanity – up to and including that most pernicious of human rights violations, genocide.”

New to the report is a chapter titled “Technology-Enhanced Authoritarianism,” recognising the role of technology in surveillance and repression. The report documents harassment campaigns against U.S. citizens by PRC agents, global brands’ complicity in forced labour, and the misuse of national security laws to suppress rights.

In the Commission’s report for the 2023 reporting year, it was highlighted that Chinese Communist Party and government officials championed the “integration” of occupied people, persisting with the enforcement of policies that undermine the rights of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Mongols, Hui, and other so called ethnic minority groups to preserve their languages and cultures. The election of Pan Yue to the Party Central Committee in October 2022, after his appointment to the State Ethnic Affairs Commission in June 2022, signalled the probable continuity of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s assimilation and “ethnic fusion” policies.

The report provided an overview of conditions in all regions occupied by China, including Tibet. Notable observations emerged from the assessment of Tibet’s situation, Firstly, it highlighted the absence of any apparent interest from People’s Republic of China (PRC) officials in resuming formal negotiations with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, with the last round of talks occurring in January 2010. Furthermore, it revealed the continued efforts of the PRC to restrict and control the religious practices of Tibetans, predominantly adherents of Tibetan Buddhism. These restrictions included prohibitions on religious worship during important events and politically sensitive anniversaries, alongside constraints on accessing religious institutions like Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples. Moreover, the PRC maintained control over the process of selecting and recognizing Tibetan Buddhist reincarnated teachers, including the Dalai Lama.

Additionally, the report noted the absence of reports on Tibetan self-immolations during the 2023 reporting year, marking the first year since 2021 without such incidents. However, it pointed out alleged harassment by Chinese authorities towards the family members of Tibetans who had previously self-immolated. International observers expressed concerns over PRC policies that severely curtailed the usage of Tibetan and other local languages, including measures like school closures and reductions in language instruction, particularly outside of standard Mandarin. Moreover, reports detailed police-run programs in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai province, where officials collected sensitive biometric information from millions of Tibetans and residents in recent years. These programs, involving the collection of DNA, blood samples, and iris scans, were reportedly utilized for social control, surveillance, and repression within Tibet.

The report further emphasized instances where officials in Tibetan areas punished residents for exercising protected rights, such as expressing religious beliefs or criticizing PRC policies. Notable cases included Rongbo Gangkar, a writer and translator detained since 2021 for advocating the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday; Thubsam, accused of disseminating “information about Tibet” and later sentenced to two years in prison for alleged “leaking state secrets” and “separatism”; and Jamyang, also known as Zangkar Jamyang, detained in June 2020 and held incommunicado until information emerged in March 2023 regarding his four-year sentence related to advocacy for Tibetan language rights in schools.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by Congress in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China and to submit an annual report to the President and Congress. The Commission consists of nine senators, nine members of the house of representatives, and five senior administration officials appointed by the President.

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