It is an open secret that China has spies planted in the Tibetan diaspora community. However, the extent to which it has penetrated the community was relatively unknown until the recent case of a Tibetan charged by Sweden for spying on his fellow countrymen and women.
Interestingly, the person charged was comfortably embedded in the community and was known to attend anti-China Tibetan protest rallies in Stockholm and other parts of Europe. He is reported to be one of the most passionate and steadfast holders of the Tibet banner. In light of such backgrounds, Sweden’s decision to charge the person sent shockwaves and injected an element of fear and disbelief in the Tibetan community.
What’s alarming even more was that Sweden has only a minuscule Tibetan community of less than 140 people. Hence, it is left to the imagination to wonder, if China has thought it important to plant spies in a community of 140-odd people, it wouldn’t be illogical to fear the worse in the case of a larger Tibetan community. It is during such moments of confusion that many Tibetans feel the line between foe and friend, both twisted and blurred.
It is not that Tibetans are unaware of the threats posed by Chinese machinations. Espionage is an integral component of international politics and effective administration. Moreover, media reports are rife these days with speculations of Chinese surveillance network spread across the world, from students to even government officials. China’s fifth column strategy is a well-known phenomenon and the world is now increasingly coming under the shadow of a highly sophisticated and complex Chinese surveillance program.
This network now seems to have spread into respectable institutions such as universities through anodyne-sounding Confucius institutes and Chinese student unions, which acts as a front for overseas youth party cells.
In the case of the Tibetan community, one of the main goals of these spies, as it turns out, is to sabotage the Tibetan movement by attacking the sacred institutions and shake the public morale. These people effectively act as an invisible hand of China to manipulate the Tibetan people and disintegrate the national identity. They also monitor Tibetan political activities and report it to their handlers in China or elsewhere who in turn intimidate relatives or family members of the targets residing in Tibet.
Besides the ongoing brutal repression of the Tibetan people inside Tibet, most Tibetans associate the Chinese threat with just politics and economics. It’s the external political aspect they are more concerned with. And rightly so, as it’s not uncommon for world leaders to avoid meeting or sometimes cancel meetings (although already affirmed) with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Tibetan political leader Dr Lobsang Sangay at the last minute under Chinese influence. Sometimes, financial aids for Tibetan projects are mysteriously cancelled at the eleventh hour. At such times, Tibetans express their legitimate anger, pain and disappointment.
However, China’s attempts to undermine the Tibetan movement go beyond the usual fare of political bullying. Fortunately, Tibetans are now gradually waking up to this frightful reality of China’s multipronged and unimaginable sinister designs. Spies sent exclusively to foment trouble within the community are not viewed as an abstract phenomenon anymore; they are increasingly considered as potent and existing threats, and adequate measures are taken to counter the threats.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are that of the individual and does not necessarily reflect those of the Central Tibetan Administration.
*Jamphel Shonu is the editor of Tibet.net, CTA’s official news website and Tibetan Bulletin, the bi-monthly English magazine of the Central Tibetan Administration.