Three recent developments bring to bear global attention on the Tibetan issue starkly. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its Third Periodic Review report (6 March) notes that numerous issues related to human rights of theTibetan people require serious and urgent attention of the international community. A few days later Freedom House released its Freedom in the World Index for 2023 which ranks Tibet as the world’s least free country. Finally, and most importantly, are steps being taken by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to further intensify Sinicization of Tibet by launching a community consciousness programme to make Tibetans more aware of the CPC and its efforts to build a Tibet with Chinese characteristics. Every step that the CPC takes to Sinicize Tibet is being closely watched by the rest of the world, however, what matters is the degree to which action is taken to stem the onslaught against Tibetan culture and identity.
The CPC’s attempts to Sinicize Tibetans have taken one step ahead with the recent inauguration of a ‘Chinese Nation Community Consciousness Building Research Center’ in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) to promote “national consciousness” reports Tibet Rights Collective (TRC). According to State media, the centre will conduct research on how to promote “community consciousness” among Tibetans, focusing on promoting the Chinese government’s policies in the region. TRC reports that the “Three Consciences” education and propaganda group in Lang County, Nyingchi City, TAR aims to promote national consciousness, citizen consciousness, and rule of law consciousness, especially to Tibetan religious figures to control their thoughts and beliefs.
TRC reports that the campaign began in May 2022, as the CPC expressed concerned that Tibetan religious figures could be supporting the non-violent resistance movement and encouraging resistance to Chinese rule.Tibetan religious figures have been subjected to re-education programmes before, but this campaign is even more extreme. Monks and nuns are being asked to renounce and condemn traditional Tibetan Buddhist practices, including Tsethar, the practice of releasing animals from captivity, and Saka Dawa, a holy month of fasting and abstaining from meat. Many Tibetans see this as an attempt to strip them of their religious and cultural identity and force them to accept Chinese rule.
The “Three Consciousness Campaign” is the latest in a series of measures taken by the CCP to control the Tibetan population. The Chinese government has been accused of human rights abuses in the region, including torture, forced labour, and religious persecution.The campaign has sparked international condemnation, with human rights groups and governments calling on China to respect the rights of the Tibetan people. It is in this context that one must see the release of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ ‘Concluding Observations’ in its Third Periodic Review of China on 6 March. This report underscores numerous issues related to human rights of the Tibetan people under the Chinese government which require serious and urgent attention of the international community. Tibet Press reports that these issues include a serious onslaught on Tibetan culture and religion, forced relocation of nomad communities, poor treatment, and exploitation of Tibetan culture,
and brainwashing and forced assimilation of Tibetan children through CPC-run boarding schools.
Near simultaneously, Freedom House, a global watchdog of human freedoms around the world released its report (9 March) titled “Freedom in the World 2023 Report” which ranks Tibet as “World’s least-free country” along with South Sudan and Syria. The report has been successively released for the third year after similar Freedom House reports in 2021 and 2022 that Tibet has won the dubious distinction of being ranked at the bottom of community of nations. Freedom House in its report found that both Chinese and Tibetans living in Tibet lacked basic rights. However, the Chinese authorities are particularly rigorous in suppressing any signs of dissent among Tibetans, including manifestations of Tibetan religious beliefs and cultural identity, as per the news report.
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), a prominent Tibet advocacy group in the US and Europe, said, “After more than six decades of illegal occupation, China has turned Tibet into the world’s least-free country…. With Tibet once again at the bottom of Freedom House’s global freedom scores, it’s imperative that the global community take action to resolve the decades-long conflict in Tibet”. The ICT also mentioned about the bipartisan bill which was recently presented by Democratic and Republican representatives of US for passing “Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act” which acknowledges Tibet as an ‘unresolved’ issue and makes it an official US policy that China must resume talks with Dalai Lama to determine Tibet’s legal status under the international law.
The world has witnessed a “return of Mao’s Cultural Revolution” in Tibet since Xi Jinping took over as Chinese President. His openly expressed aim of wiping out Tibet’s distinct cultural and social identity by assimilating Tibetans into a “uniform” Chinese identity has given rise to fears among the Tibetan population and human rights activists globally.During his visit to Tibet in July 2021, Xi addressed Chinese administrative officials of Tibet and local Communist cadres calling on them to take necessary measures to convert Tibetan Buddhism into a ‘Buddhism with Chinese Characteristics’. His call for attack on the religious faith of Tibetans exposed the failure of Chinese authorities to “tame and discipline the Tibetans even 70 after their colonial rule over Tibet”.
The UN Committee also mentions China’s ongoing campaign of putting an end to the traditional lifestyle of Tibetan nomads who regularly migrate along with their yaks, sheep, and cows with changing seasons. These nomads account for about one-third of original Tibet’s six million population.Chinese authorities have been forcing Tibetan nomads to sell off their animals and settle into designated, small, and newly developed crowded settlements where a strong Chinese surveillance system can keep them under close watch, as per the news report.In the report, the UN Committee has highlighted “coercive labour programs implemented in Tibet and a systematic ban on the use of the Tibetan language.” The report has particularly focused on “the Chinese government’s extensive resettlement policy and forced assimilation of Tibetan children at state-run boarding schools.”
This concern gained international momentum in recent years after reports from occupied Tibet about hundreds of thousands of Tibetan children, being forcibly taken
away from their families and being admitted to residential schools which are run by the CPC cadres.Tibetan Youth Congress leader Gonpo Dhundup notes that Xi Jinping is also using a similar way to convert future generations of Tibet who would look Tibetan in their physical appearance, but their brains and hearts will be programmed as “perfect communist cadres of China,” as per the Tibet Press report. The UN Committee report has called for independent international investigations into the current Tibetan situation. Tibetans around the world need to rally in support of their brethren in TAR and impress upon the world community to rapidly ostracise China for its human rights violations of Tibetans.