Officials in Tibet have been warned not to fantasize about independence from China. Tibetan officials that either follow the Dalai Lama or that support separatism can expect to be strictly punished, according to top Chinese officials. The crackdown on pro-independence efforts follows a report by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which found that too many local officials have not taken a strong stance against independence efforts. The CCDI and the Chinese government have linked any sympathies or associations to pro-independence sentiments with terrorism and corruption.
China has expanded its anti-terrorism campaign to Tibet, arguing that a stable environment in that region is crucial to the rest of China. Government officials have linked separatist efforts to global terrorism. According to state media, separatists from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have gotten training from ISIL. There is now a greater Chinese military presence in Tibet than there was earlier in the year. Included in the anti-terrorist programs was training on how to deal with self-immolation by Buddhist priests, which Chinese officials officially consider “suicide terrorism.” According to Matteo Mecacci, the president of the International Campaign for Tibet, the official Chinese anti-terrorism crackdown extends even to people who merely witnessed an act of self-immolation, and can lead to long-term prison time, and even possibly the ultimate penalty of death.
A number of organizations do not accept the official claims by the Chinese government that link separatist activism to global terrorism. In a report from March 2013, the Chinese director for Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, called this anti-terrorist crackdown “Orwellian.” According to the report, increased surveillance and stepped up police presence constituted a violation of human rights, and impinged on the rights of individuals, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The report recommended that China effectively end this campaign.
That seems unlikely, however, as Chen Quanguo, Communist Party chief of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, argued in an article on the front page of the Tibetan Daily that every effort would be made to crack down on separatist sentiments. Chen Quanguo was responding to the report by the CCDI, saying that this anti-terrorism campaign should be stepped up even further, if anything. In effect, Tibetans have been now been strongly warned to not allow themselves to dream about independence, and hopes of gaining independence have essentially been deemed a fantasy by Chinese officials.
Xiong Kunxin, a professor at the Minzu University of China, has been particularly vocal about what he considers almost to be an ethnic cleansing campaign by separatists, headed by the Dalai Lama. Xiong Kunxin suggested that the Dalai Lama is not nearly as peaceful as many around the world believe, and that the Nobel Peace Prize winner favored utilizing violent methods to achieve independence. He argued that separatists want to force out the Han population out of Tibet. The Han people constitute the ethnic majority in China.
Meanwhile, China’s overall effort to assert greater control in the region is also evident in other ways, as well. It is increasing efforts to modernize the infrastructure. President Xi Jinping’s government is going ahead with the 402 km Nyinhchi rail line along the border. It is one of three such projects designed to improve the existing infrastructure with a network of new rail lines and highways. These efforts are being overseen by the National Development and Reform Commission, and so far, they have spent an estimated 250 billion Yuan ($40.6 billion) towards these projects.
As China maneuvers to assert ever greater control in Tibet, locals officials have been clearly warned now not to fantasize about independence from China. The government in Beijing considers those who strive for Tibetan independence to be terrorists, and government officials who show any signs of wanting independence are accused of corruption.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Joaquin Uy – Flickr