India will raise seven new battalions of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in the next few years, a minister said on Wednesday, amid tensions with neighbour China that led to deadly border clashes in 2020 and scuffles late last year.
The undemarcated 3,800-km (2,360-mile) frontier between the nuclear-armed countries stayed largely peaceful since a war in 1962, before the clashes nearly three years ago sent relations nosediving.
The ITBP primarily guards the India-China border, stretching from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh in India’s north to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh state in the east. Indian and Chinese troops have been involved in hand-to-hand clashes at some areas of the frontier in the past few years.
The new battalions, approved in a cabinet meeting and to come up by 2025/26, will cover 47 new border outposts and 12 staging camps of the ITBP, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told a news conference.
Indian and Chinese troops had minor border scuffles in December in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh, also claimed by Beijing.
The clashes were the first since troops were involved in hand-to-hand combat in the Galwan valley of Ladakh, abutting the Chinese-held Tibetan plateau. That incident led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops.
While the people of Tibet and other colonies of China are struggling for freedom of their countries from Chinese occupation, their struggle is also aimed at ensuring the national security of countries surrounding China, especially for India, and peace for the rest of the world from a belligerent China. This was a common observation of experts and advocacy groups who shared a common platform to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the ‘Declaration of Independence of Tibet’ by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1913.
The webinar was organised jointly by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) on the evening of Monday, February 13,2023. The experts who presented their perspectives were Mr Bhuchung Tsering, Interim President of International Campaign for Tibet who participated from Washington DC; Dr Uwe Meha member of the Board of Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association GSTF who participated from Switzerland; Ms Youdon Aukatsang, a Member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, who participated from Singapore; Ms Tenzyin Zochbauer, Executive Director of Tibet Initiative Deutschland (TID) who participated from Berlin; and Gonpo Dhundup, President TYC who joined in from Dharamshala.
Bhuchung Tsering dwelt upon all the five points emphasized by the 13th Dalai Lama in his Declaration. He said that the Declaration not only reiterated the independent status of Tibet but it also presented a much larger vision of the Dalai Lama about the future of Tibet. “While point-4 declared that Tibet had regained its independence after a short spell of Manchu army’s invasion of Tibet, points-1 and 2 emphasized over preserving and promotion of Tibetan national identity. Similarly, points-3 and 5 explained how the Tibetan officials should govern Tibet and work for the social welfare of the Tibetan masses”, he said.
He said the historic declaration of 1913 becomes far more significant when considered along with the Shimla Agreement between Tibet and British India and his 1932 prophecy about the future of Tibet. During the Shimla convention between Tibet, China and British India the representatives of China refused to sign the treaty because Tibet had raised the issue of those areas of Eastern Tibet that China had occupied and Tibet demanded their return. In his 1932 prophecy, the 13th Dalai Lama had warned the people of Tibet about the lurking danger from the Chinese communists and the carelessness of Tibetan officials regarding governance and national interests.
Dr Uwe Meya in his presentation underlined the danger of the world community borrowing the Chinese narrative on Tibet without examining or challenging it. He said, “In the media, and also in political debates, ‘Tibet’ is mostly referred to, if at all, as ‘TAR’. Even worse, many media use the official Chinese language when reporting on Tibet and just call it ‘a region in southwestern China’. They are unaware that with this, they implicitly and unknowingly acknowledge that Tibet has been part of China for all time. Moving to politics, we notice that most governments now do not challenge China’s “one-China” standpoint and thereby fall into the trap of accepting to treat Tibet as China’s “internal affair” and thereby weakening the Tibetan position in negotiations. Moreover, Beijing uses these statements as ‘evidence’ for its claim and uses the international community’s statements as a substitute for legitimacy to rule over Tibet. The other trap that the Western world – politicians, the media and the general public – falls into is calling the Tibetans a ‘minority’ and using euphemisms such as ‘the Tibet issue’. We must realize that Tibetans were made a minority only by the Chinese occupation.” Ms Youdon Aukatsang reminded the people that when the 13th Dalai Lama declared Tibet’s independence it was after defeating the Manchu army which was not ‘Chinese’. She said that over the history the relations between the Manchu kings and Tibet were of patron and the priest and did not mean that the Manchus were the rulers of Tibet. This simply means that this was a friendly relationship. Giving a modern example of Bhutan and India relations she said that although Bhutan is a protectorate of India, but both countries respect each other as independent countries. She said although China claims that it ‘liberated’ Tibet but the reality is that Tibet is an occupied country.
Ms Tenzing Zochbauer said that this day would be celebrated in the best way if the Tibetans use it to counter the Chinese propaganda and inform the world that Tibet was never a part of China. She emphasized the need of educating and training the young Tibetan generation about the true history of Tibet. She spoke about the campaign of her organisation TID which has been successful in enrolling more than 450 German city councils to hoist the Tibetan flag on their office buildings every year on 10th March. She said that Tibetans and Tibet supporters are working towards a day when the flag of free Tibet will be hoisted on Potala palace and the Dalia Lama will return to a free and independent Tibet.
Gonpo Dondup in his presentation and his vote of thanks said, “TYC and all Tibetans are celebrating this historic day, which very clearly underlines that Tibet has been always an independent country and that the Chinese occupation of Tibet is illegal. China is using its propaganda machinery to establish a false narrative in the international discourse against the truth of the independent status of Tibet. It is therefore the duty of every Tibetan, whether in exile or those living under the colonial occupation of Tibet, to fight back against this Chinese propaganda. While people of Tibet are struggling for a Free Tibet they are actually fighting for the national security of India and other countries surrounding China and also for the restoration of peace for the rest of world.”, he said.
All the 55 counties and districts in western half of Tibet which China has demarcated as Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) will be eventually connected by railway transport services, which will also traverse India-claimed Aksai Chin, according to China’s official chinadaily.com.cn and bharattimes.co.in Feb 13.
The “medium-to-long-term railway plan” for TAR, which was made public last week, envisages expanding the region’s rail network from the current 1,400 km to 4,000 km by 2025, including new routes that will connect India and will walk till the borders of Chinese ruled Tibet with Nepal.
The bharattimes.co.in report called the Xinjiang-Tibet Railway, which will roughly follow the route of the G219 national highway, as the most ambitious. It noted that the construction of the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway through Aksai Chin had created tensions between India and China in the lead-up to the 1962 war.
The proposed railway would start at Shigatse in southern Tibet, and run northwest along the Nepal border, before cutting north through Aksai Chin and terminating at Hotan in Xinjiang.
The planned route will pass through Rutog and around Pangong Lake on the Chinese-ruled Tibet side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The first section, from Shigatse to Pakhuktso, will be completed by 2025, with the rest of the line, to Hotan, expected to be finished by 2035.
Citing Chinese state media, the report said that by 2025, construction of a number of railway projects, including the Yan’an-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, the Shigatse-Pakhuktso section of the Xinjiang-Tibet Railway, and the Bomi- Ranwu Lake section of the Yunnan-Tibet Railway will all see major progress.
The rail network plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period and beyond released last week by the region’s Development and Reform Commission, also envisages that border railway lines will be built to Gyrong (Kyirong), a land port on the Nepal-Tibet border, and Yadong County in the Chumbi Valley, which borders India’s Sikkim and Bhutan.
The report noted that China’s railway construction in occupied Tibet is seen as serving two purposes: boosting border security by enabling it to more closely integrate border regions as well as enable rapid border mobilization when needed; and second, to accelerate the economic integration of Tibet with the hinterland.
On Friday, Tibetan activists in Dharamshala organised demonstrations against China’s strategy of mass DNA collecting and called for an end to the region’s discrimination against Tibetans.
The use of DNA samples from Tibetan children as young as five years old by China to bolster its programme of mass surveillance using Thermo Fisher kits alarmed Tibetan NGOs protesting during the demonstrations, according to Tibet Rights Collective.
While speaking to ANI, the President of the National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT) said, “Today we, the four Tibetan major non-government organisations of Tibet are here. We have about 120 NGOs all around the world organising different actions, considering today is the global week of action regarding DNA collection inside Tibet.”
As part of the Global Week of Action, the NDPT leader stated that the policy of mass DNA collection introduced by the Chinese government is how the country is building a database of DNA to surveil the Tibetan people.
“With this DNA we fear that China is right now building a database of DNA so it surely gives China unfettered power to yet commit more human rights violations against Tibetans, this will also help China in the surveillance of Tibetan people,” he added.
Tibetan non-governmental organisations, such as Students for a Free Tibet, International Tibet Network, Tibetan Women’s Association, Tibetan Youth Congress, National Democratic Party of Tibet, Free Tibet, Chushi Gandruk, and Tibetan National Congress, among others, have called for Thermo Fisher to conduct a thorough investigation into their work under the law and fight for the human rights of Tibetans in Tibet during a global week of action from January 30 to February 5, according to Tibet Rights Collective.
“Today, our major issue is Thermo Fisher Scientific, a US products company. China has been using this product since 2012. They are using this product as a DNA production method. Till now, reports have shown that 1.2 million DNA samples have been collected without their consent, Since 1949, there have been no basic human rights in Tibet,” the Joint secretary of the Central Tibetan women’s Association (CTWA) told ANI.
Today these four organisations are here, to request and urge international bodies and non-governmental organisations to investigate more on Thermo Fisher Scientific and how its product has been used, she said.
Activists are leading a global protest against the Chinese government’s violation of Tibetans’ human rights in Tibet and at Chinese embassies across the world.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, Tibet has been subject to Chinese occupation and repression.
Even if you are personally far from Beijing’s totalitarian authority, it was well known among Tibetans that if you have relatives or connections in Tibet, you must be apolitical. Due to your acts, which occurred outside of Beijing’s purview, your family members were promptly detained, threatened, and even sentenced, according to Tibet Press.
China-Tibet tiff over the Dalai Lama issue hots up again as the US lawmakers have tabled a Bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate to strengthen America’s policy for the peaceful resolution of their differences over Tibet. Known as the Resolve Tibet Act, the bill will make it official US policy that China must resume dialogue with the envoys of the Dalai Lama, as the conflict between Tibet and China is unresolved and Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law.
The timing of the legislation is significant as it was tabled during the US visit of Penpa Tsering, the Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration. He is visiting Washington to meet with US lawmakers, including the main sponsors of the legislation and Biden administration officials.
“Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act” was introduced by Congressman Jim McGovern and Michael McCaul in the House and Senators Jeff Merkley and Todd Young in the Senate. It seeks to empower the US government to achieve its long-standing goal of getting Tibetans and Chinese authorities to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue. As a result of the Chinese government’s decades of extreme human rights abuses, Tibet is now the least-free country on earth alongside South Sudan and Syria, according to the watchdog group Freedom House.
The two sides held ten rounds of dialogue between 2002 and 2010, but the dialogue process has stalled. China has illegally occupied Tibet for over 60 years, forcing the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959. India granted him political asylum, and the Tibetan government-in-exile has been based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then. India is home to the Dalai Lama and some 100,000 Tibetan exiles. The Dalai Lama is found in the northern hill town of Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama has rejected Beijing’s longstanding demands to say that Tibet was historically part of China, a refusal cited by Beijing in declining dialogue with his representatives since 2010.
Beijing has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him a divisive figure. However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but “genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet” under the “Middle-Way approach”. McCaul alleged that the Chinese Communist Party continues to oppress the Tibetan people.
The Resolve Tibet Act offers new hope that the decades-long crisis in Tibet can come to a peaceful end. It will make it official US policy that the conflict between Tibet and China is unresolved. Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law, recognising that Tibetans have a right to self-determination and that China’s policies preclude them from exercising that right and fault China for failing to meet expectations of participating in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.
China’s embassy in Washington denounced the legislation, which has been introduced with bipartisan support, saying, “Tibet is part of China.” “We urge the US side to take concrete actions to honour its commitment of recognising Tibet as part of China, not supporting ‘Tibetan independence,’ and stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” an embassy spokesperson said.
Many observers believe China shut off the Tibet dialogue in anticipation that the cause would shrivel away without the Dalai Lama, the charismatic Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk whose once frenetic international travel schedule has slowed down in recent years.
The detention of a 30-year old Tibetan elementary school teacher, who goes by the name of Palgon his alleged contacts with exiles overseas should not come as a surprise. This is part of the system of persecution of Tibetans that Chinese authorities have put in place for a long time. However, the Covid-19 pandemic brings to the fore a new mechanism by which the State keeps tabs on Tibetans. The Voice of America (22 September) summarises the current situation in Tibet by stating that “Tibetans are monitored more heavily and face harsher repercussions than people elsewhere because of the political sensitivity of the region.” Especially in Lhasa, people were “quarantined in empty stadiums, schools, warehouses and unfinished buildings.” The situation in Tibet is unbearable and protests began against President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy first on social media in September 2022 and moved on to the streets on 27 October to protest the lockdown imposed since 8 August 2022.
Radio Free Asia reports that the writer, Palgon, was arrested at his home in August 2022 and has been incommunicado ever since. “His family members were also not informed or given proper reasons for his arrest other than Palgon’s contact with people in exile to offer prayers to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” one source told RFA. Palgon is from the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China’s south-eastern Qinghai province. He was an elementary school teacher in the prefecture’s Pema county, but he later resigned from his role and continued as an independent writer. Over the last few months, RFA has reported on China’s arrests of monks, writers, young protestors, and other Tibetan figures in a wide-ranging crackdown. Those detained will often be held incommunicado for months before being sentenced.
This trend of controlling the lives of ordinary citizens of Tibet continued even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Tibetans were arrested for sharing online Covid-related photos and videos. For instance, the local media reported the case of a nomad, Rinchen Dhondup and other six fellow Tibetans who were arrested (14 September 2022) for this reason.Other Tibetans were arrested in Lhasa, Nagqhu, and other counties for similar crimes. Of all this repressive policy against Tibetans using the supposedly anti-Covid measures, one key point is especially alarming. First, to ascertain infections, Tibetans are compelled to undertake antigen tests. Social media showed pictures and footage of Tibetans standing in huge lines in inclement weather. Many were women with their little children: all had to wait in harsh conditions for being tested. Secondly, even some people who tested negative were separated from others, quarantined, and repeatedly monitored.
Voice of America reported that a Tibetan man and his three young children were taken to the Lhasa Beijing Middle School Quarantine Center after the man’s wife’s anti-COVID test was inconclusive. “Authorities,” reports VoA, “required the entire family to quarantine with 800 people.” Two of those young kids “developed fevers in the school facility where there were no doctors, medicine or medical treatments.” It is quite difficult to describe this as a measure to protect the health of Tibetans. Again, in a viral audio recording, a Tibetan father pleads with a government official at one of the Lhasa quarantine centers to not separate him from his year-old child” even though they had all tested negative for COVID. “Now we have tested positive,” the Tibetan father lamented, “and you want to take away our child.” Once more, it is rather difficult to describe this as a measure to protect the health of Tibetans.
In the second half of September 2022, the number of worldwide infections was the lowest since March 2020, when virtually the entire world was under a lockdown. The World Health Organization, then announced that the pandemic was virtually over. Yet, China remained in a state of lockdown since early August. If what the WHO said at that time was correct, this massive and strict Chinese lockdown had no reason to be in place. The situation continued for weeks, exacerbating Chinese citizens, impoverishing businesses, and destroying families. Finally, in late November protests burst out in the streets of unprecedented magnitude since the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen square. Demonstrations were held in the nation’s capital Beijing, in the country’s financial capital Shanghai, in the trade and manufacturing center of Guangzhou, as well as in many other cities across the country. It was the consequence of the “Zero COVID” policy of Xi Jinping: harsh, severe, and also unmotivated if the Chinese-friendly WHO was not lying.
On 24 November 2022, a fire broke out in a residential building in Urumqi. Officially, ten Uyghur died and an additional nine were injured, while independent and more believable sources assessed casualties at 44. In fact, they were victims of President Xi’s zero-covid policy. The strict “zero covid” policy of the government prevented the residents from leaving the building and interfered with the efforts of firefighters. This ignited more popular demonstrations, protesting the infamous and murderous lockdown. In front of the huge protests throughout the country, the government seemed not to know what to do: either continue with the lockdown, risking deadly incidents reminiscent of Tiananmen, or lose its face in front of the protesters and the world. We all know what happened.
Suddenly, China ended the lockdown, just like nothing had happened for months, a few hours after saying that the lockdown was indispensable and will continue. Chinese citizens began to move freely around the country and reportedly the infection sky-rocketed again. While the whole world begs the Chinese regime to tell the truth, at least once, and release true data on the infections, no one yet knows the real figures. The “zero-covid” policy of Xi has been a great tool for repression. Lockdowns and similar measures greatly helped the regime to implement its gigantic and hyper-technological system of control and surveillance of its citizens, under the pretext of protecting their health. Maybe Xi’s policy also partially counteracted the infections by COVID 19, but for sure it brought repression to its zenith.
China has replaced a 2016 cyber law in Tibet with effect from Feb 1 to give more power to impose tougher punishments for anyone deemed to be creating “public disorder by engaging in separatist acts,” reported the Tibetan service of rfa.org Jan 1.
The report said the new law was designed to strengthen digital surveillance and censorship in the region, with new requirements allowing authorities to target Tibetans for online activity deemed critical of Chinese rule in the region.
However, the law does not specify the type of violations that would get individual Tibetans in trouble with authorities, the report said, thereby giving Chinese police arbitrary power to target anyone having cultural, social, or religious conversations related to Tibet.
“[The law] will leave room for Chinese authorities to arrest and detain them on simple but also uncertain charges,” Sangay Kyab, described as a researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights, has said.
The report cited Article 11 of the new law as saying anyone seen to be posing a threat to national security and public interest, deemed to be anti-socialist, or seen as engaging in separatism by maintaining any association with Tibetan independence groups or individuals will face punishment.
Also seen as liable to be punished are those who would share related photos, speeches, campaigns, books or videos, or who support these activities.
China has banned residents of a Tibetan county in Sichuan Province from having any kind of contact with their brethren living in exile and is subjecting them to random searches to enforce it, reported the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Jan 2, citing people with knowledge of the latest development there.
The communication clampdown in Draggo (Chinese: Luhuo) county in the Province’s Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture is the latest measure by Chinese authorities to bring locals to heel following the demolitions of huge Buddha statues in the area beginning 2021, as monks and local residents were forced to watch, the report said, citing local sources.
“Beginning January this year, local Chinese authorities in Draggo County have warned Tibetans living in the region to stop communicating with people outside Tibet,” one source has said, requesting anonymity due to safety concerns.
“Their cell phones are randomly probed and restricted from sharing any kinds of information with the outside,” he has said. “They are also not allowed to contact their family members or send money.”
Draggo has a history of strong and persistent resistance to Chinese rule that dates back from the middle of the last century when China invaded Tibet and the non-violent protests there has continued unabated to this day.
The area was subjected to a particularly harsh religious repression last year with landmark Buddha statues and other religious objects being destroyed and worshipper forced to watch the sacrilegious attacks; those who protested were arrested. Tibetans suspected of sending information about the destruction to the outside world have also been arrested.
The Cultural Revolution-style destruction was stated to have been carried out under Draggo’s Communist Party chief Wang Dongsheng, who had earlier overseen a campaign of the expulsion of Buddhist clergy and destruction at the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, then the world’s largest, located in neighbouring Serthar County.
“Ever since Wang Dongsheng was appointed as county chief in Draggo, the campaign against the Tibetans has gone from bad to worse,” another local Tibetan has said. He has added that “the staff and those with authority in the monasteries have been forced to attend re-education programs.”
A prominent Tibetan Buddhist monk who had completed his monastic education in India has died recently after he was arrested and jailed for life by Chinese police in a traditionally Tibetan area of Sichuan Province last year, said the exile Tibetan administration on its Tibet.net website Feb 2.
The monk, Geshe Phende Gyaltsen, 56, was arrested by Chinese police in Lithang (Chinese: Litang) County of Kardze (Ganzi) Prefecture in Mar 2022 while meditating in a dispute between two parties in the country, the report said.
It was not clear what the dispute was about and which parties were involved in it. The exact reason why the monk was arrested and given a life sentence is also not clear.
He was stated to have died on Jan 26 due to unknown ill-health, the report said.
The authorities initially transferred the monk’s remains to his native village of Gyongpa in Lithang County, where local Tibetans were banned from visiting it with the imposition of restrictions on their movement for three days. The body was then stated to have been shifted to Beijing.
Geshe Phende Gyaltsen had travelled to India in 1985 and joined Sera Mey Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka state, where he earned his Geshe Degree.
He was then stated to have travelled to Dharamshala, Manali, Darjeeling, Bhutan etc on a prolonged spiritual retreat before returning to Tibet to give religious teachings.
He was also stated to be actively engaged in renovating the Shedrub Dhargyeling Monastery in Lithang.
Chinese authorities in Qinghai Province had taken away in Aug 2022 a young Tibetan writer for having communicated with exile contacts and asked them to offer prayers to the Dalai Lama, reported the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Jan 25.
The whereabouts of Palgon, 30, who was taken away from his home in the province’s Golog prefecture, has remained unknown ever since.
“His family members were also not informed or given proper reasons for his arrest other than Palgon’s contact with people in exile to offer prayers to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” the report quoted a local Tibetan source as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Palgon was stated to be an elementary school teacher in the prefecture’s Pema County before leaving this job to continue as an independent writer.
“Palgon usually is very active on social media platforms and audio chat groups where he writes and engages,” the report quoted another local Tibetan source as saying.