A measure in the US House calls on China to settle the Tibet issue

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that urges China to resolve issues related to Tibet through dialogue with the Dalai Lama or Tibetan leaders and directs the State Department to actively counter disinformation about the history of the formerly independent country.

The Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Dispute Act, also known as the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by a vote of 392-28, with 11 abstentions.

To become law, it still needs to pass the Senate.

It calls for a resumption in negotiations between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, or his representatives. Since 2010, no formal dialogue has happened and Chinese officials continue to make unreasonable demands of the Dalai Lama as a condition for further dialogue.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, and Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, along with Senators Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, and Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 uprising against rule by China, which invaded the then independent Himalayan country in 1950.

Since then, Beijing has sought to legitimize Chinese rule through the suppression of dissent and policies undermining Tibetan culture and language.

‘Clear message’

The legislation articulates that Tibet includes the Tibetan-populated regions of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, in addition to the Tibet Autonomous Region, thereby challenging China’s claim that Tibet is restricted to that latter region alone.

The bill’s passage “sends a clear message to China that Tibet has always been an independent nation and negates the Chinese government’s claim that Tibet has historically been a part of China,” said Namgyal Choedup, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration to North America.

The bill states that “claims made by officials of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party that Tibet has been a part of China since ancient times are historically inaccurate.”

On Tuesday, McGovern, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, urged Congress to support the legislation, saying, “A vote for this bill is a vote to recognize the rights of the Tibetan people. And it is a vote to insist on resolving the dispute between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China peacefully, in accordance with international law, through dialogue, without preconditions. There is still an opportunity to do this. But time is running out.”

Beijing believes that the Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharamsala, India, wants to split off the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan-populated areas in China’s Sichuan and Qinghai provinces from the rest of the country.

Chinese authorities have urged Tibetan monks to denounce the Dalai Lama, and even possessing a photo of him is a crime.

However, the Dalai Lama does not advocate for independence but rather a “Middle Way” that accepts Tibet’s status as a part of China and urges greater cultural and religious freedoms, including strengthened language rights that are guaranteed for ethnic minorities under China’s constitution.

“Today’s vote shows that U.S. support for Tibet is only growing stronger even after 65 years of China’s control and occupation,” International Campaign for Tibet President Tencho Gyatso told RFA.

“China has been playing a waiting game, hoping that the international community would eventually abandon Tibet. Clearly that is not the case,” he said. “The Chinese government should take the hint and restart the dialogue process with Tibetan leaders.”

China prohibits Tibetan children from attending private schools and participating in religious activities.

Ethnic Tibetans have expressed alarm over door-to-door inspection by China’s communist authorities to ensure children are not taking private classes and participating in religious activities during their winter break.

The authorities are conducting random inspections in “residential areas and commercial establishments” in Tibet and other Tibetan-populated regions, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Jan. 9 citing unnamed sources.

“In addition to random door-to-door investigations, local authorities are also carrying out surveys of the Tibetan children,” a source in China’s southwestern Qinghai province told RFA.

The surveys were aimed “to find out what subjects are being taught to them in their out-of-school courses and where,” the source added.

In a notice issued on Nov. 30, 2023, the Lhasa city Education Department, while announcing the winter break from Dec. 30, 2023, until Feb. 27-29, 2024, had outlined the kind of education parents could give their children.

The notice also highlighted the work that teachers would need to do during the holiday period.

Parents were urged to not engage in the religious education of school children, and they were to “make sure the children are completely free from the influence of religion,” the notice said.

Tibetan children could participate in supplementary classes and workshops taught only by government-authorized individuals and organizations and on subjects approved by the authorities, the notice added.

The notice also emphasized the continued ban on Tibetan children’s participation in religious activities.

Earlier this month, the Chinese Education Department issued a notice reiterating a 2021 ban prohibiting Tibetan children from taking informal Tibetan language classes or workshops during their winter holidays.

The notice also ordered local authorities to intensify their supervision and investigation of supplementary lessons for Tibetan children and to carry out strict disciplinary action against those violating the rule, prompting inspections.

The random inspections during day and night were conducted in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, Labrang Monastery in Gansu province, and the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, RFA reported.

Another unnamed source in Xiahe county-based Labrang Monastery, home to the largest number of monks outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region, said that the move was restricting the traditional teaching system.

“In the past, there was a strong tradition of providing supplementary, private tuitions to Tibetan children in the fields of Tibetan grammar, religion, math, and storytelling during their winter break,” the source said.

“Now, only a few Chinese government-authorized organizations and individuals who carry out political re-education programs are allowed to give [lessons] to Tibetan students,” the source added.

Reports say China’s tightening of its grip on these practices is a veiled attack aimed at the ramping up of efforts to impose President Xi Jinping’s plans for the “Sinicization of religion” policy.

Sinicization promoted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a profoundly political ideology that aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy, and supporting party leadership.

Another source alleged that the prohibition of the study of the Tibetan language in schools and out-of-school programs has caused Tibetan children to lose touch with their native language and identity.

The situation is “a very alarming and concerning development,” the source said.

In March 2022, the Chinese authorities had pushed to implement policies to supplant Tibetan language education in schools with all classes taught only in Chinese.

Critics had alleged that the move was aimed at weakening the Tibetan children’s connection to their national identity and traditional language and culture.

In 2021, the New Mexico-based Tibet Action Institute released a report alleging that hundreds of thousands of Tibetan children between the ages of 4 and 18 were being separated from their families and forced to live in state-run boarding schools.

Allegedly, the “teachers only speak in Mandarin and conduct all school curriculum in Mandarin, including nursery rhymes and bedtime stories,” in those boarding schools, the report said.

Tibetans returning to Chinese-occupied Tibet alleged that the effects of the forced distancing from the Tibetan language and culture are evident in the way their young relatives who attend boarding schools interact with them, the report stated.

The massive geological collision that created the Himalayas may also be dividing Tibet.

The Indian plate may be peeling into two as it slides under the Eurasian plate, tearing Tibet apart in the process.

Tibet may be tearing in two beneath the rising Himalayas, with pieces of the continental plate peeling off like the lid off a tin of fish, researchers have discovered.

According to new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union and posted as a pre-peer-reviewed pre-print online, this shows that the geology beneath the world’s highest mountain range may be even more complex than previously believed.

The Himalayas are growing because two continental tectonic plates, the Indian and Eurasian plates, are colliding beneath the colossal mountain range. In cases where oceanic and continental plates collide, the denser oceanic plate slides beneath the lighter continental plate in a process called subduction. When two similarly dense continental plates collide, however — as is the case below the Himalayas — it’s not so simple to predict which plate will end up under the other, and geoscientists are still unsure exactly what’s going on in Tibet.

Some suggest that the bulk of the Indian plate may simply be sliding under the Eurasian plate without diving deeply into the mantle, a process called underplating; others believe that perhaps deeper parts of the Indian plate are subducting, while the upper parts are wedging themselves stubbornly against the bulk of Tibet.

The new research suggests that the answer could be both these explanations. The researchers found evidence that the Indian plate is subducting, but it’s warping and tearing as it does so, with the upper half delaminating, or peeling away.

“We didn’t know continents could behave this way, and that is, for solid earth science, pretty fundamental,” Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geodynamicist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who was not involved in the work, told Science Magazine.

To get a clearer picture of what’s happening below Tibet, the researchers investigated earthquake waves traveling through the crust at the region where the two plates collide. They reconstructed images from these waves showing what appear to be tears in the slab of the Indian plate’s crust. In places, the bottom of the Indian plate is 124 miles (200 kilometers) deep, Science Magazine reported. In others, it is only 62 miles (100 km) to the bottom of the plate, suggesting some of it has peeled away.

Previous work, published in 2022 in the journal PNAS, also showed variations in the types of helium bubbling up from geothermal springs in the region. One variation of helium, known as helium-3, is found in mantle rocks, while helium with lower concentrations of helium-3 is likely to come from the crust. By mapping the variations in helium over multiple springs, the researchers found the boundary where the two plates currently meet just north of the Himalayas. The findings from these geochemical studies support the earthquake wave results in hinting at a splintering plate, the researchers wrote.

The new research may also point to areas of increased earthquake risk along the plate boundary, according to Science, though researchers don’t yet fully understand how tearing and warping deep within the crust translates to the buildup of stress at the surface.

A significant mechanism that is expanding the Himalayas may be rupturing Tibet.

The Indian Continental Plate could be splitting in two, according to a new study.

India could be breaking horizontally – rather than vertically like East Africa – as it runs into Eurasia, separating into two layers about 100 kilometres (60 miles) thick.

The Himalayas’ most distinctive feature is the Tibetan Plateau behind them. One theory is that Tibet is a result of the Indian Plate sliding under the Eurasian Plate. A process that has occurred over 60 million years.

However, at the American Geophysical Union conference in December, a new option was presented.

This view argued the Indian Plate is “delaminating”. With the top part of the Plate peeling off to prop up Tibet, while the denser bottom sinks into the mantle. Proponents say the upper part is thick enough to account for Tibet’s enormous altitude. Meanwhile the lower section is behaving in a manner familiar from the way oceanic plates are forced underneath continental plates.

“We didn’t know continents could behave this way and that is, for solid earth science, pretty fundamental,” Professor Dow van Hinsbergen of Utrecht University, told Science Magazine.

Of course, it isn’t very practical to go up to 100 kilometres deep to check the ideas, so the conclusions are drawn from inconclusive hints, with many supporters of the theory drawing their evidence from helium that bubbles up through Tibetan springs.

Helium is relatively rare on Earth, but helium-3 is rarer still, having to be left over from the planet’s formation. On the other hand, some radioactive processes produce new helium-4. Additionally, high concentrations of helium-3 indicate a source in the mantle.

By measuring the isotope ratio of helium at 200 Tibetan springs, Simon Klemperer of Stanford University and co-authors found a pattern indicating the mantle is close enough to the surface of northern Tibet for helium-3 to reach escape. Further south, the leaking gas is mostly helium-4, leading the team to conclude the plate has not split there yet and forms a barrier the helium can’t cross. One area near Bhutan is their exception. Here, researchers think, the mantle has penetrated the crust, creating the anomalous signal.

Earthquake patterns in the region support the theory, suggesting the mantle intrusion is coming from the eastern side of the plateau.

The authors of the study also suspect the process has been aided by the Indian Plate’s shape, as it’s thicker at its northernmost point and thinner at the sides. With even modest pressures from mantle material above the lower part of the plate can peel it off.

Article focus: The ongoing tale of Tibetan exiles’ housing situation in India

The issue of housing for Tibetan exiles in India persists as a complex challenge, despite concerted efforts from multiple stakeholders, including the Indian government, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), and associated religious leaders. While the larger chunk of Tibetan exiles in India have been accommodated in established and compact settlements, a number of Tibetan exiles still linger in a limbo of extended uncertainty. The responsibility to help those who are without housing facilities rests with the exile Tibetan government, known officially as the Central Tibetan Administration. However, the weight of blame does not rest entirely on the administration.

The affected group notably include newly arrived Tibetans and members of scattered Tibetan settlements, who, despite arriving early in India, do not have homes of their own. This disparity in housing provision stands stark against the backdrop of 35 established Tibetan settlements in India, 12 in Nepal, and 7 in Bhutan, which serve as vital anchors of the community.

History and present initiatives

The genesis of the housing issue can be traced back to the aftermath of China’s occupation of Tibet in 1959, compelling over 80,000 Tibetans to seek refuge outside Tibet. The Dalai Lama and the Government in exile took on the arduous task of rehabilitating these displaced refugees. Tibetan refugee settlements were established in collaboration with India, Nepal, and Bhutan, with the aim to preserve Tibetan socio-cultural values within cohesive communities.

Despite the establishment of these settlements, a considerable number of Tibetans continue to live outside these established communities, presenting a persistent challenge. To address this disparity, the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration, under the 16th Kashag, launched the “Building Back Compact Communities” (BBCC) project, also known as “Shipoe Leyshi” in Tibetan.

The primary objective of this initiative is to provide housing facilities to Tibetan exiles lacking permanent residences, thereby fostering a sense of belonging and stability within the diaspora. The last administration led by former President Dr. Lobsang Sangay has also undertaken projects to provide housing, in new compact communities in Bir, Bylakuppe, Dickyiling where many households were provided housing. Successive administrations over the course of the last few decades have also pushed forward with their own initiatives to solve the problem of housing.

The current administration, in an official notice from the Department of Home on October 18, 2023, revealed that 655 households, primarily comprising recently arrived Tibetans from Tibet, applied for housing allotment. Additionally, a subsequent notification on April 28, 2023, urged homeless Tibetan households to register, resulting in 992 new household names, including 354 newly arrived Tibetan households and 638 scattered Tibetan households. As of now, a total of 1,647 households have registered for the project.

The plan ahead

The 1,647 households consist of Tibetan exiles from various locations across India, including Banglore, Mundgod, Lugsam, Kollegal, Ladakh, Tengang, Shillong, Bir Dege, Bir BTS, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kullu, Mandi, Sunder Nagar, Rewalsar, Gangtok, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sonada, Dehradun, Harbertpur, and Hunsur, encompassing 2,661 family members.

The CTA plans to rehabilitate these households by carving out chunks of land in existing Tibetan settlements of Odisha (Phuntsokling), Mainpat in Chhattisgarh state (Phendheling), and in Mundgod (Doeguling), Bylakuppe (Chokor), Hunsur (Rabgyaling), Kollegal (Dhondenling), Bylakuppe (Lugsum Samdupling), Bylakuppe (DickiLarsoe) in South Indian states of Karnataka. They were given the deadline of November 10 to complete the form and select at least two preferred settlements as options from the lot.

Upon finalizing the preferred choice of settlements, the CTA will provide a plot of land as well as financial assistance to construct the houses. Families choosing Mundgod (Doeguling) and Bylakuppe (Dicki Larsoe) will receive 5 lakh rupees from the CTA, while those opting for Hunsur (Rabgyaling) and Kollegal (Dhondenling) will receive 7.5 lakh rupees. Those choosing Bylakuppe (Lugsam Samdupling) will receive 2.5 lakh rupees, and families selecting Odisha (Phuntsokling) and Mainpat in Chhattisgarh state (Phendheling) will have the entire houses built for them by the CTA.

Deputy Secretary of the Department of Home, Ngudup Woeser, speaking to Phayul revealed that the project began some time ago. However, limited participation in the form-filling stage has slowed the project’s progress and that the project is currently stuck in its early stages. When the households finalize their preferred settlement choices, the department will then coordinate with settlements to identify available land in those settlements. The entire project is expected to take between 2 to 4 years.

This initiative aligns with the incumbent Sikyong Penpa Tsering’s speech in Shimla on May 11, 2023, where he highlighted that the growing trend of migration of young Tibetans from India to foreign countries, has led to a decline in school enrollment and settlement population. The present Kashag plans to revitalize settlements and schools by resettling the people who lack permanent residence in areas with available land and housing.

President Tsering said that his project serves two purposes; one of providing housing to the houseless Tibetans but also strengthening the existing Tibetan settlements and repopulating the settlements which have been depleted by varying factors like migration to the west, declining birth rate as well as little to no new refugees from Tibet.

Voices from the ground

The ongoing project by the current administration as well as those initiated by the previous administration under former President Dr. Lobsang Sangay is not immune to criticism, with questions over viability, practicality and quality of finished projects.

Challenges of livelihood is a persistent talking point in the larger context of the relocation project. Phuntsok, a third-generation resident of Rangzen Camp in Shimla, shared his concerns about the proposed relocation project impacting the approximately 60 households in his scattered Tibetan settlement in Shimla. The community originally settled in the region decades ago when Tibetan refugees were involved in road construction for a livelihood and later set up small businesses along the encampment . Phuntsok emphasized the economic challenges that they would face if they were to relocate to the new settlements, as the families in their camp are currently engaged in business activities in Shimla during the summer.

He explained that the Himachal government had instructed them to vacate the land, promising an alternative plot in Shimla. Despite their legal stay-order, Phuntsok expressed confusion about the future, questioning whether they would have the opportunity to register for housing once the Himachal government fulfils its commitment to allot plots near Shimla, especially if they participate in the housing scheme under the Tibetan government.

CTA official Ngudup Woeser told Phayul that efforts by the administration to acquire land for households in legally contested areas like Shimla, Dharamshala, among others have not been successful and that the department cannot assist individuals who wish to remain in these contested areas. The President of the CTA, Penpa Tsering has said on several occasions that houseless Tibetans can avail the benefits of housing while also being engaged in businesses and livelihoods elsewhere so that households can use the housing during the time when they are not engaged in their seasonal businesses. He stressed that his administration will exercise “leniency” in that regard, in contrast to his predecessor.

Another grievance towards the project is the size of the houses, particularly those allotted in the projects initiated by the previous Kashag. Dekyi Yangzom, leader of newly inaugurated Mundgod Camp 10, a project that was initiated by the previous administration and completed a few months ago, told Phayul that the problems are faced by the small families due to the size of the houses. The housing for bigger families consisting of more than two family members is spacious and good but the housing for childless families and single people are small, with only one room, kitchen and bathroom. Out of 40 houses, 24 are 300 sq. ft, which were distributed to a single person or a family with two members, whereas the remaining 16 are 600 sq. ft, which were distributed to families with more than two members.

She, however, added that we are grateful to the Tibetan government for allotting them the houses but said that with the money spent on that scale, the finished product could have been more user-friendly in terms of space. Questions however linger over whether expectations for more spacious and better housing are legitimate or overly expectant of the administration whose capability to deploy funds are dependent on availability of funds as well as the approval of the parliament.

What is the way forward?

The Project “Building Back Compact Communities” to provide land and housing to houseless households has a host of challenges primarily stemming from the absence of common ground between the CTA and the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries must have realistic expectations from the administration on what help the CTA can provide, considering the limited funds as well as the number of people seeking help. Since government projects are for the masses, each unit cannot be tailor fitted to the needs of individuals.

On the administration’s part, the key agenda should be scoping the ground realities and understanding the needs of the beneficiaries so that the funds deployed translate into fulfilling the aspiration of the target group, and avoiding grievances in the future. Projects must be drafted in consultation with stakeholders, especially when it is for the rehabilitation of the mass.

The Lord Mayor of London is connected to the Chinese official who is said to have violated the human rights of Tibetan monks.

The Lord Mayor of London heads a business linked to a ‘ruthless’ Chinese politician accused of human rights abuses in Tibet.

The Mail on Sunday last month revealed concerns over Professor Michael Mainelli’s links to Beijing and his calls for a wave of Chinese nationals to be recruited into the City of London’s ancient guilds.

Now this newspaper has learned that Z/Yen, a consultancy Prof Mainelli founded, is sponsored by a Chinese research institute chaired by Ye Xiaowen, a hardline Communist apparatchik who for more than a decade oversaw Beijing’s crackdown on followers of Tibet’s exiled Dalai Lama.

Ye, 73, was last year barred from entering Taiwan because of his appalling human rights record.

Our revelations will fuel criticisms that Prof Mainelli – figurehead of the Square Mile – is ‘naive’ and potentially ‘unfit’ to help the City combat threats from Beijing.

MI5 has told British business China’s ‘covert pressure across the globe’ was ‘the most game-changing challenge we face’.

‘The Lord Mayor should be aware that he is cooperating with a ruthless hardline party apparatchik who has played a pivotal role in extreme policies to control and eliminate religious faith in China,’ said Tenzin Choekyi, from human rights campaign Tibet Watch.

Z/Yen, chaired by Prof Mainelli, lists China Development Institute (CDI) among its ‘platinum sponsors’.

CDI’s board of directors is chaired by Ye, China’s head of religious affairs between 1995 and 2009, who is accused of orchestrating a series of attacks against Tibetan Buddhism.

Under Ye’s leadership, monks and nuns were forced to undergo ‘patriotic education’, while reincarnations of Tibetan religious figures must now be approved by Beijing.

In 1995, senior Communist officials, including Ye, seized control of the search for Tibet’s second most senior monk, the Panchen Lama.

A six-year-old boy chosen by the exiled Dalai Lama was kidnapped by Chinese police and never seen again.

In 2008, hundreds of Tibetans were held after protests before the Olympics. Ye is also accused of a brutal crackdown on the Falun Gong sect, calling it a ‘poisonous tumour’.

Last February, Taiwan said it had banned Ye from attending a commemoration ceremony on the island. It said Ye’s previous visit in 2009 sparked public protests.

Last night Chung Ching Kwong, analyst at the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, demanded Prof Mainelli disclose how much money CDI has paid Z/Yen in sponsorship.

She said: ‘Ye is linked to so many human rights abuses, receiving any funding from this person is unacceptable. What kind of message does this send to the public about the image of the City of London?’

The City of London Corporation said: ‘The Foreign Office recently engaged with CDI, and we will continue to seek guidance from the Foreign Office on the current status of our relations with China.’

Z/Yen last night said it had ‘no dealings’ with Ye and that Prof Mainelli is on a ‘sabbatical’ from the consultancy during his year as Lord Mayor.

Exiled former leader: Tibet is not in focus, persecution is still present.

The plight of Tibet has become less discussed internationally but repression continues and China is applying what it did there to other regions, a former head of the Tibetan government-in-exile said on Saturday.
China seized control of Tibet in 1950 in what it describes as a “peaceful liberation” from feudalistic serfdom. International human rights groups and exiles routinely condemn what they call China’s oppressive rule in Tibetan areas.
Speaking to Reuters during a visit to Taiwan to observe the island’s elections, Lobsang Sangay, the leader of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration until 2021, said Tibet had somewhat fallen off the international agenda.
“I think Tibet is not current,” said Sangay, who remains an influential figure in the exile community and close to exiled spiritual leader and Nobel laureate the Dalai Lama, who he met with in India just before arriving in Taipei.
Tibet went through mass protests in 2008 before Beijing held the Olympics, and then a series of self-immolations by Tibetans in protest against Chinese rule, but then what China was doing to Uyghurs in Xinjiang followed by the security crackdown in Hong Kong took more attention, he added.
“On the one hand, yes, there is less coverage about Tibet. That doesn’t mean the situation in Tibet is less serious,” Sangay said.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China does not recognise the exiled government, and has defended its rule in Tibet as bringing much needed development to what was a backward and feudal society.
Sangay said other ethnic minorities in China had very similar experiences to the Tibetans.
“I always say, if you close your eyes and listen to a Mongolian speaking, a Uyghur speaking, a Tibetan speaking, the situation is very similar.”
In the 1990s and early 2000s problems in Tibet were viewed as an “isolated, more peripheral issue”, and people who visited China thought engagement would make the country “more like us”, Sangay said.
“But when it happened to the Uyghurs, to Hong Kong and potentially Taiwan, people thought hey, this is a system you are dealing with. This is an expansionist power.”

Door-to-door campaign by China aims to prevent Tibetan kids from enrolling in private schools and practicing their religion

Chinese authorities are carrying out random checks in residential areas and commercial establishments in several parts of Tibet to ensure that Tibetan children don’t attend private Tibetan classes denied in their regular schooling or engage in religious practices during their ongoing winter break, reported the Tibetan service of rfa.org Jan 9, citing local Tibetan sources.

The move followed a directive issued by what the report called Chinese Education Department earlier this month, ordering local authorities to intensify their supervision and investigation of people violating the rule that has been in force since 2021, banning Tibetan children from taking supplementary lessons (in Tibetan language and culture), and to carry out strict disciplinary action against violators.

The 2021 rules issued by authorities in various Tibetan-populated provinces are said to prohibit Tibetan children from attending informal Tibetan language classes or workshops during their winter holidays.

The directive issued to local authorities require investigations to be carried out in residential areas and commercial establishments at various times of day and night, report said, citing sources from Tibet’s capital Lhasa, Labrang Monastery in Gansu province, and Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province.

In Lhasa, the local notice, issued on Nov 30, is said to make it clear that parents “must make sure the children are completely free from the influence of religion.” They also must ensure that children “voluntarily distance themselves from places of worship” and that they must not participate in any religious activities.

In Qinghai’s Yushu, the source has said, “In addition to random door-to-door investigations, local authorities are also carrying out surveys of the Tibetan children to find out what subjects are being taught to them in their out-of-school courses and where.”

Its local notice, while emphasizing the continued ban on participation in religious activities, is said to make it clear that Tibetan children could only participate in supplementary classes and workshops taught by government-authorized individuals and organizations and on subjects approved by the authorities.

In Gansu’s Labrang Monastery, home to the largest number of monks outside Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region, the source has said, “In the past, there was a strong tradition of providing supplementary, private tuitions to Tibetan children in the fields of Tibetan grammar, religion, math, and storytelling during their winter break.”

But now, “only a few Chinese government-authorized organizations and individuals who carry out political re-education programmes are allowed to give [lessons] to Tibetan students.”

The source has confirmed that in Gansu too, there is a stricter enforcement of the ban on study of Tibetan language and on Tibetan children participating in religious activities.

Given this latest development across the Tibetan regions, another Tibetan source has said: “With the prohibition of the study of Tibetan language, both in schools and in out-of-school programs, it has now become increasingly evident that young Tibetan children have lost touch with their native language and identity, a very alarming and concerning development.”

This is because under President Xi Jinping’s all-out Sinicization drive, schools across the Tibetan areas of what constitutes the People’s Republic of China have replaced Tibetan with Mandarin Chinese as the only language for teaching all subjects in all classes.

UN’s China assessment has to have strong wording about Tibet.

As the United Nations prepares to take up China’s report at the upcoming Universal Periodic Review at the end of January, the accelerating deterioration in Tibet demands that UN member states scrutinize China and that the UN adopts strong language on Tibet in its concluding report.

China’s Universal Periodic Review will take place Jan. 23 in Geneva. The UPR is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council to assess the human rights record of every UN member state every four to five years.

In July 2023 the International Campaign for Tibet and the International Federation for Human Rights submitted a joint report detailing systematic and widespread patterns of rights violations in Tibet. The report particularly highlighted three aspects that indicate a shift to a more oppressive and destructive system:

The so-called “residential boarding schools” in Tibet, which have coerced the separation of over 1 million Tibetan children from their families, and an attendant focus on uprooting the Tibetan language
Forcible and coercive expulsion of nomads and rural agrarians from their traditional lands
Punishment for religious expression coupled with an insidious infiltration of religious institutions.
Since the joint report, the situation in Tibet continues to show further deterioration. The Chinese government’s policy of repression is clearly aimed at eradicating the authentic and self-determined Tibetan culture.

Alarming programs
More information has emerged about the alarming residential school system and the relocation programs that impact millions of Tibetans.

On Dec. 14, 2023, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing its concern at the state of Tibetan children and forced assimilation practices through Chinese boarding schools in Tibet. The resolution, adopted with 477 voices in favor and 14 against, strongly condemns “the repressive assimilation policies throughout China, especially the boarding school system in Tibet” and calls on China to immediately abolish this system.

At a side event at the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023 on the “State of Fundamental Freedoms in Tibet,” ICT Germany Executive Director Kai Müller spoke on the forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads. Commending the UN Working Group against Enforced Disappearance, which highlighted 16 cases of missing Tibetans, he urged the member states of the Human Rights Council to ask the Chinese government in the upcoming UPR in January to disclose the whereabouts of “disappeared” Tibetans, to put an end to this deeply worrying pattern and to hold accountable those responsible for torture and ill-treatment in the Chinese state apparatus.

In December 2023, a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken was sent by 24 members of the US House of Representatives urging “the Biden Administration to ensure that the severe human rights violations being committed by the People’s Republic of China against the Tibetan people are front and center during the PRC’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR).”

The letter said, “The fourth UPR cycle for the PRC, scheduled for January 23, 2024, offers an important opportunity for the United States to shine a light on the human rights violations committed by the Chinese government in Tibet and against the Tibetan people. The U.S. delegation should raise the situation in Tibet in its advanced questions and offer specific recommendations to the PRC government during the process. By doing so, the United States can play a pivotal role in the protection of human rights and the preservation of the full range of human rights of the Tibetan people.”

This week, over 35 multi-faith and human rights leaders sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council president about China’s human rights record with a particular reference to religious freedom. The letter says: “Since the third cycle of China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2018, the situation has deteriorated significantly. Violations perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party and those who do its bidding have been widespread and systematic.” The letter adds: “A few examples are illustrative: Policies to erode Tibetan Buddhism are expanding, including punishment for even the slightest expression affirming the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, participation in open religious ceremony, and the demand that Beijing approve designation of clergy.

False promises
At the conclusion of China’s 2018 Universal Periodic Review, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng declared that his government had accepted 284 of 346 recommendations. Le asserted that the high acceptance rate and “smooth and successful” review proved that Beijing’s human rights record enjoyed “wide recognition.”

However, a briefing paper in December 2023 by The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a coalition of Chinese and international human rights non-governmental organizations, said

the overwhelming majority of those accepted recommendations were so weak, vague, or based on flawed assumptions, that progress towards them cannot be meaningfully verified. Worse still, dozens of the accepted recommendations also clearly or implicitly endorse human rights violations. The Chinese government had not accepted 284 recommendations designed to fulfill the UPR’s original objective to “improve…the human rights situation on the ground” and “fulfill…the State’s human rights obligations and commitments.” Making and accepting recommendations that do nothing to halt the authorities’ assault on human rights and their defenders undermines the purpose of the UPR.

CHRD further said,

The Chinese government has, as in the past three rounds of UPR, systematically blocked victims and civil society from participating in the preparation of its State reports, even though States under review are supposed “to prepare the information through a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders.” The government silenced critical voices domestically and engaged in transnational repression to intimidate victims and NGOs internationally. China’s state reports inevitably did not present an “objective” assessment of its human rights record.

Recommendations for the UN and China
As UN Member States prepare for China’s January 2024 UPR, they should firmly and clearly focus on the goal of making positive changes inside the country at a time when rights are under severe attack. As importantly, diplomats should be acutely aware that they—unlike the victims of Chinese government atrocity crimes or even ordinary citizens—are afforded an opportunity to participate in an assessment of the Chinese government’s rights records in the room during the UPR dialogue. Member States must speak truth to power—before, during and after the January dialogue, inside and beyond the halls at the Palais des Nations.

Following are the recommendations made by the International Campaign for Tibet and the International Federation for Human Rights to the government of China in our joint submission for the fourth cycle of China’s UPR on Jan. 23.

Relocation and resettlement programs
Halt coercive relocation and resettlement policies in Tibet, and allow for the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent to be applied, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Respect the principles of equal treatment, community participation, information transparency, freedom of speech, and fair treatment of local communities with regard to the planning and implementation of environmental policies.
Provide access to justice via an independent judiciary for individuals subjected to relocation programs.
Provide detailed information on cases of redress, remedy, and compensation sought by affected Tibetans, including those rejected or granted by the authorities.
Labor transfer programs
Halt and review labor transfer and training schemes in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Make information on the design and implementation of labor transfer and training schemes in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan regions publicly available and include provisions that allow Tibetans to opt out.
Provide access to justice via an independent judiciary for individuals subjected to labor transfer and training schemes in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Boarding schools
Immediately abolish the boarding school and preschool system imposed on Tibetan children and authorize and subsidize the establishment of private Tibetan schools.
Revise the “bilingual education” policy that replaces Tibetan with Mandarin as the medium of education, ensure that all Tibetan children are able to use Tibetan in every aspect of their schooling, and reverse the closure of schools providing education in the Tibetan language.
Halt indoctrination, based on political ideology and disregard for child rights at all levels of the school curricula, and ensure that Tibetan students are permitted to learn about their own history, culture, and religion.
Religious freedom and language
End policies of “Sinicization” that eradicate core tenets of Tibetan culture, such as language, religious beliefs, and ways of life.
Recognize, respect, and protect Tibetan culture and the right of Tibetans to practice their traditions, customs, religious beliefs, language, and other manifestations of their cultural identity, free from state intervention, in accordance with international law.
End the persecution of Tibetans exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief, and end intervention into the appointment of Tibetan Buddhist clergy.
Release information on the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, grant independent access to him, and allow him to exercise his right to freedom of movement.
End policies that uproot the use of Tibetan language, re-introduce Tibetan language as a medium of education in schools, and allow for privately run Tibetan language schools, particularly in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.
Arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment in Tibet
Immediately ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and ensure that its provisions are applicable to the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Effectively address threats, attacks, harassment, and intimidation against Tibetan human rights defenders, including by thoroughly, promptly, and independently investigating human rights violations and abuses against them, bringing the perpetrators to justice in fair trials, and providing effective remedies and adequate reparation to the victims.
End the persecution of independent cultural expression and release all those detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of thought and expression, including the Tibetans Go Sherab Gyatso, Anya Sengdra, Rinchen Tsultrim, and Dorjee Tashi.
Urgently release all those Tibetans who have documented the consequences of land use policies, mining, damming or poaching, and advocated for redress.
Access to Tibet and cooperation with UN mechanisms
Allow immediate and unfettered access to Tibet for journalists and independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN special procedures’ mandate holders.
Sino-Tibetan dialogue
Resume the dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama without preconditions with a view to implement a mutually beneficial and lasting resolution to the Sino- Tibetan conflict that allows the Tibetan people to protect their culture and preserve their identity.

Infrastructure along the Sino-Indian Border in the Year-End Review of the Indian Defense Ministry

The Indian Ministry of Defense released its Year End Review 2023 a few days ago. The review provides a state of play on areas under its purview including defense production and exports, major defense acquisitions, border infrastructure, and individual service updates from the Indian army, navy and air force.

Much of what India is attempting to do in the defense realm has to do with China and its growing military prowess. However, a look at past year-end reviews demonstrates that it is not always so overt in doing so. In this regard, the Year End Review for 2020 was an exception, as there was a special emphasis on China’s aggressive behavior. The review came only a few months after the Galwan clash, in which India lost 20 soldiers, so this is maybe not so surprising. But since then, it appears that India has gone on to do a more general review that scans all the major developments concerning the Indian Ministry of Defense.

Even though there was no specific mention of China in this year’s review, the construction of border infrastructure along the India-China border is accelerating and there is a detailed appraisal of the current status in the review. This is important given that India and China are still locked in a conflict with a total of around 150,000 troops standing by on both sides of the border. Many commentators have suggested that it was the infrastructure race that led to the Chinese actions in 2020.

Upgraded infrastructure comes with enormous benefits, from better trade to commercial prospects. It’s also a critical enabler for applying military power. In the case of India and China, there has been an evident military imbalance as far as defense platforms, military units, and the physical infrastructure. China’s focus on building modern state-of-the-art infrastructure across the border and in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has had an important bearing in terms of its ability to get troops to the border. The extensive road network in Tibet as well as the rail links that China has developed in these areas have facilitated troop mobilization by road and rail in a short time span. Further, China’s establishment of oil and logistic depots all along the border areas says a lot about the advanced infrastructure capabilities that China has put in place, which in turn put India at a significant disadvantage.

The Indian side continues to face limitations when it comes to troop mobility and logistics supply to forward areas because of the relatively poorer state of infrastructure on its side of the border. Infrastructure development on the Indian side has picked up pace in recent years, but the Indian military still faces many constraints. In October, in a study on the state of the Sino-Indian border infrastructure John Swartz provided a detailed account of the improvements to date. Swartz writes that “the increased number of tunnels and bridges also signals far more investment, operational capacity, and technical capability, while independently adding to the quality of the road system.” He added that as far as air forces are concerned, India has enjoyed topography-induced “strategic advantage” (which allows India to launch aircraft at full capacity) and therefore even with a smaller budget, India’s position is not badly placed. However, the rail connectivity in the border areas presents a rather bleak picture, with Swartz arguing that there exists “a large asymmetry.”

The 2023 review notes that the Indian Defense Minister dedicated a total of 118 infrastructure projects led by the Border Roads Organization (BRO), although this is across the country and not limited to Sino-Indian border areas alone. In September, the minister unveiled 90 projects across 11 states and union territories. Of the 90 projects, a large number of them belong to the Sino-Indian border areas including 36 in Arunachal Pradesh; 26 in Ladakh; 11 in Jammu & Kashmir; five in Mizoram; three in Himachal Pradesh; two each in Sikkim, Uttarakhand and West Bengal and one in Nagaland. Across different sectors along the Sino-Indian border, notable projects included the Nechiphu Tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh; as well as two airfields, two helipads, 22 roads and 63 bridges. In January 2023, 28 infrastructure projects were kicked off at an event at Siyom Bridge on Along-Yingkiong road in Arunachal Pradesh. These projects included 22 bridges, including Siyom bridge; three roads and three other projects in seven border states or union territories of the Northern and North-Eastern regions, comprising of eight projects in Ladakh; five in Arunachal Pradesh; four in Jammu and Kashmir; three each in Sikkim, Punjab and Uttarakhand and two in Rajasthan. The review claimed that the BRO was able to complete these strategically vital projects in record time, most of them within a single working season using the best available technology.

As for the scale of work, the review stated that 601 kms of roads have been finished during the year. The review added that extensive work has been done “on India-China Border Roads and all other Op-Critical Roads along the Northern Borders.” This includes critical roads such as Nimu-Padam Darcha road, Gunji-Kutti-Jolingkong road, Balipara- Chardwar-Tawang road, TCC-Taksing road, TCC-Maza road that are proceeding at an accelerated pace. Some of the major road projects that are at varying stages of work, with some nearing completion in the coming months include: Raqni-Ustad-Pharkiyan Gali road and Srinagar-Baramulla-Uri road in Jammu and Kashmir; alternate connecting road to DBO road in Ladakh as well as the Chushul-Dungti-Fukche-Demchok road; and in Uttarakhand, the Gunii-Kutti-Jollingkong road, a road in the Ghatiabagarh-Lakhanpur-Lipulekh Pass, and Nyu Sobla-Tidang road. The government also set up three telemedicine nodes, including two in Ladakh and one in Mizoram this year. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs has approved the construction of four roads, a total of 255 kms, in Arunachal Pradesh under Project Arunank.

As for tunnels, the BRO has undertaken work on 20 tunnels, 10 of which are under construction and 10 in the planning stage. The BRO will soon begin working on the 4.1 km Shinku La Tunnel on the Nimu-Padam-Darcha road in Ladakh, with aims to complete it by December 2025, according to Union Minister Anurag Thakur who detailed the Cabinet decision. When completed, this will be the highest tunnel in the world at an altitude of 15,855 ft, and will provide better connectivity irrespective of weather to the border areas around Ladakh. Another important tunnel project currently underway is the Sela tunnel on Balipara-Chariduar-Tawang Road in Arunachal Pradesh which involves two tunnels of twin tube configuration. The review notes that this can reduce the travel distance by more than 8 kms and bring down travel time by an hour, and most importantly it will establish all-weather connectivity to Tawang. This tunnel, when completed, will possibly break another record in terms of being the longest bi-lane highway tunnel in the world at an altitude of 13,800 feet. There is also the 260-meter Kandi Tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir, strengthening connectivity between Jammu and Poonch that was completed in October. Some of the key bridges in the border areas include a permanent bridge over the Shyok River in Ladakh which was completed in March. During the year, a total of 3,179 meters of bridges were developed.

All of this has been possible with better financial allocation and a sharper focus from the government following on from the increasingly adversarial nature of ties between India and China. According to the review, the BRO’s budget has come to “a record high of Rs 12,340 crore in FY 2022-23 with a 100% jump in the funds allocated under GS Capital Head over the preceding two years which now stands at Rs 5,000 crore.”

Given the state of bilateral relations between India and China, New Delhi is doubling down on its efforts regarding strategic border infrastructure. In fact, since the Galwan conflict began in the summer of 2020, infrastructure development has received a strategic push to get troops and military supplies positioned near border areas. India’s push comes in the wake of China’s two-decade-long push from the late 1980s to construct state-of-the-art infrastructure across Tibet and the Sino-Indian border areas. India’s defensive approach to infrastructure development changed only in the late 2000s after seeing China’s modern road and railway networks and what they meant in the context of the Sino-Indian border conflict.