Dharamshala: In the wake of a renewing global spotlight on the Tibet issue, adding to the 62 years of its failed suppression of the Tibetan people and the building backlash against China, the top echelons of the PRC government have reportedly been mounting a counter media campaign of an ambitious scope to quash the Tibetan narrative. The aim is to counter the unfavourable public opinion overseas and tame its citizens at home, ultimately to bring the global Tibet discourse under its orbit.
Be it the issue of Tibetan reincarnation, the annexation and the appalling state of freedom inside Tibet or the incursions along the Indo-Tibet border; China is rounding up think tank scholars, researchers, ex-scholars, and lamas to counter the discourse with the state propaganda.
The most recent manifestation of these efforts was seen when the Chinese state media published a string of propaganda articles and statements of so-called researchers invariably painting a fictitious picture of the atheistic govt’s so-called jurisdiction over Tibet and Tibetan traditions. Though it failed to grab the world’s attention, the ongoing campaign underlines an overriding priority to prevent the Tibet issue from gaining global momentum in the wake of the new US Tibet law – the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020.
Despite the unprecedented efforts and diplomatic push to diminish global attention for Tibet and the CTA, China continues to face worries of dipping global merit. The Tibet Policy and Support Act 2020, which made it US policy to oppose any attempts by the Chinese govt to install its own Dalai Lama or interference in the processes, came as a big blow to the latter’s stand on the global stage. According to the law, Chinese officials found “responsible for, complicit in, or have directly or indirectly engaged in the identification or installation of a candidate chosen by China as the future 15th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism” will face sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
This new policy on Tibet certainly rattled Beijing as was reflected in the comments of Chinese foreign spokesperson Zhao Lijian at a press briefing on 28 December 2020. He said, “Reincarnation of living Buddhas, as a unique institution of inheritance in Tibetan Buddhism, comes with a set range of rituals and conventions. The Chinese government implements the policy of freedom of religious belief. The reincarnation system is respected and protected by such legal instruments as Regulations on Religious Affairs and Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas”.
Scared over losing its grip over Tibet and fears that Tibetans inside Tibet will once again unite in a nationwide uprising, the Chinese authorities conducted a military drill in Lhasa just days after the enactment of the TPSA law. The military exercise was seen as a pre-emptive move to tame the Tibetans inside Tibet while reminding them that any potential unrest or so much as expressing support for the TPSA will be met with brutality. As China recovers from the last blow of the US’ Tibet law, it took another devastating blow to its stature when the US recently passed another landmark bill, ‘The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act’ sanctioning China for rights abuses. This action from the US adds to China’s growing concern over its debilitating global standing as more countries join the alliance against China.
Meanwhile, in what seems like a desperate attempt to counter the increasing global backlash and for reparations, Chinese President Xi Jinping on 25 February addressed a gathering in Bejing flexing that the party has achieved “complete victory” in rural poverty alleviation. Whether China has completely eradicated poverty or not must be viewed with scrutiny given the CCP’s history of manipulating data for political interest, as was seen in how they handled the Covid outbreak in the initial stage. In the case of Tibet, underneath the facade of “development” policy or the so-called “anti-poverty campaign”, China continues to commit cultural genocide and suppression of rights, shoving Tibetans and Uyghurs into military-style mass labour camps and forcing down the party’s ideology in their minds as a means to ‘educate thought’ which Beijing claims is necessary to replace the ‘negative influences of religion’.
Independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher Adrian Zenz has notedly exposed the underlying strategy for Xi’s “anti-poverty” project. Speaking to Reuters, Zenz said that the so-called poverty project is a ‘clear targetted attack’ on traditional Tibetan livelihoods. He added, “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labour.” By infusing the military-style system in the program, China’s intention is clear. They seek to practically annihilate the Tibetan culture and dilute Tibetan religion while alternatively forging absolute loyalty to the party. Thus, it is evident that the regime’s so-called developmental campaigns are driven by an overarching motive to maintain political stability more than maintaining economic stability. Even after 62 years since it occupied Tibet, the regime’s need to maintain political stability in Tibet remains ever-more urgent.
The latest Freedom in the World report by Freedom House that ranked Tibet as the number one least free country in 2020 alongside Syria is a testament to China’s misrule in Tibet. Simultaneously, the report serves to negate CCP’s claims of Tibet as the ‘socialist paradise’. The fact remains that Tibet is the only country in the world with the worst record in terms of political freedom and civil rights and where 155 Tibetans have burned themselves, calling for freedom and dignity to be restored in Tibet and for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Their spirit stands undeterred by the Chinese government’s draconian policies.
Exactly 62 years ago on this day, in 1959, Tibetans inside Tibet rose up to stage a defiant yet peaceful uprising against the illegal occupation of Tibet that was inevitably crushed by the military forces, leading to the flight of His Holiness the Dalai Lama into exile in India. Since then, despite the ever-intensifying repression and crackdown, Tibetans in Tibet have been at the forefront of the Tibetan freedom struggle, with their unflinching faith in His Holiness and allegiance to the Central Tibetan Administration, the moral and legitimate representative of Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet.
The spirit of 10 March 1959 was evoked once again on this day as thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in every corner of the world, echoing the cries of their brethren back home who can no longer protest. However, most notably this year, the Central Tibetan Administration observed its first 10 March commemoration after the US formally acknowledged the exile democratic body as the legitimate representative of the aspirations of Tibetans worldwide. This marks a historic victory for the Tibetan freedom struggle and one that should nudge the PRC government into heeding the Tibetan call to resume dialogue for the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue based on the Middle Way Policy proposed by the Central Tibetan Administration.