The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in other provinces to be a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Tibetan population within the TAR was approximately 2.8 million, while in autonomous prefectures and counties outside the TAR the Tibetan population was an estimated 2.9 million. The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and, to a lesser extent, Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses.
The government’s human rights record in Tibetan areas of China remained poor, and the level of repression of religious freedom increased. Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and house arrest and surveillance of dissidents. The government restricted freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of movement. The government adopted new regulations and other measures to control the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, including measures that require government approval to name all reincarnated lamas. The preservation and development of the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of Tibetan areas and the protection of the Tibetan people’s other fundamental human rights continued to be of concern.
Deprivation of Life
In contrast with 2006, there were no reports that government security agents killed persons during the year.
There were no developments in the investigation of the September 2006 shooting at the Nangpa La pass, in which People’s Armed Police (PAP) killed Kelsang Namtso and injured others in a group of approximately 70 Tibetans attempting to enter Nepal.
There were no developments in the 2005 death of monk Ngawang Jangchub.
In April authorities arrested Phuntsok Gyaltsen, the deputy head of Phurbu Township, Palgon County, TAR. At year’s end his whereabouts were unknown.
The whereabouts of 19-year-old monk Thubten Samten, reportedly arrested in May 2006, remained unknown at year’s end. There was no information on the location of 13 Tibetans arrested near Tingri in June 2006. The whereabouts of Lhadon, a Kangma Middle School teacher in Kangma County, TAR, arrested in 2006, were unknown.
The whereabouts of the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s second most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama, and his family remained unknown. Government officials continued to claim he was under government supervision at an undisclosed location.
Torture and Other Degrading Treatment
In early September authorities detained seven ethnic Tibetan school children ages 14 and 15 in the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) of Gansu Province for allegedly writing slogans on public buildings calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. The children were held until fines were paid. According to reports, during their incarceration they were severely beaten and subjected to electric shocks. One child was released to a hospital for treatment after sustaining serious injuries believed to be the result of beatings.
Tibetans seeking to flee to India and other countries overland via Nepal risked violence and arrest at the hands of security forces. On October 18, PAP border guards reportedly fired on a group of 46 Tibetans attempting to enter Nepal at the Nangpa La pass. Three Tibetans reportedly were arrested and nine were missing; the remainder reached Nepal.
The security apparatus employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. Tibetans repatriated from Nepal reportedly continued to suffer torture and other abuse in detention centers, including electric shocks, exposure to cold, and severe beatings, and were forced to perform heavy physical labor. Many were required to pay fines upon release.
In a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report in April, monk Sonam Dorje, who served a 13-year jail term in Lhasa’s Drapchi Prison, described torture used by Chinese prison guards. He reported that the guards used rubber tubes filled with sand, electric batons, and iron tongs to beat the prisoners, and he said they were kept in solitary confinement for up to a month at a time.
Approximately 30 Tibetans captured at the Nangpa La pass in September 2006 remained in detention in a labor camp.
A group of 23 Tibetans captured at the Nangpa La pass in 2005 also remained in detention. The whereabouts of 27 other persons in the same group were unknown.
Prisoners in Tibetan areas were generally subject to the same prison conditions as in other areas of the country. Forced labor was used in some prisons, detention centers, reeducation-through-labor facilities, and prison work sites. The law states that prisoners may be required to work up to 12 hours per day, with one rest day every two weeks, but these regulations often were not enforced. Conditions in administrative detention facilities, such as reeducation-through-labor camps, were similar to those in regular prisons.
Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems in Tibetan areas. By law police may detain persons for up to 37 days without formally arresting or charging them. After the 37-day period has expired, police must either formally arrest the detainees or release them. The relatives or employer of a person arrested must be notified within 24 hours of the arrest. In practice police frequently violated these requirements.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Due to the lack of independent access to prisoners and prisons, it was difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan political prisoners. According to sources, the overall number of reported political prisoners in Tibetan areas dropped to 95, compared with 105 in 2006. However, the number of persons known to be detained for political reasons during the year rose to 24 from 13 in 2006. Based on information available for 70 political prisoners, the average sentence was 10 years and 11 months, and 67 percent were monks or nuns. Sources showed that 48 Tibetan political prisoners were imprisoned in the TAR, 34 in Sichuan Province, six in Qinghai Province, four in Gansu Province, and three in Beijing.
An unknown number of Tibetans were serving sentences in reeducation-through-labor camps and other forms of administrative detention not subject to judicial review.
On January 8, plainclothes officers reportedly arrested Jamyang Gyatso, a monk from Gansu Province. Local residents speculated that he was detained for helping persons listen to RFA broadcasts. Gyatso was beaten while in prison and released in September.
In January the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported the February 2006 detention of Buchung, a monk from Tashilhunpo Monastery. Buchung reportedly had a compact disc containing the Dalai Lama’s 2006 Kalachakara teaching. At year’s end there was no information on whether he had been charged or sentenced.
In January the RFA reported the December 2006 arrest of Penpa, a village leader from Dingri County in Shigatse Prefecture, TAR. Police reportedly searched Penpa’s home and found materials relating to the Kalachakara teachings of the Dalai Lama. TibetInfoNet reported that in February Penpa was sentenced to three years in Nyari Prison in Shigatse.
On July 16, according to the TCHRD, Khenpo Jinpa, the abbot of Chogtsang Talung Monastery in Ganzi (Kardze) TAP, Sichuan Province, was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of endangering national security. The TCHRD reported that Khenpo Jinpa was detained in August 2006 and accused of distributing leaflets in support of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama.
On August 1, ethnic Tibetan Rongye Adrak was arrested in the Ganzi TAP after calling for the Dalai Lama’s return at a public event. On November 20, the Ganzi Intermediate People’s Court convicted him of inciting separatism and sentenced him to eight years in prison. Senior monk Adak Lupoe, who is Rongye Adrak’s nephew, as well as Jarib Lothog and art teacher and musician Kunkhyen were subsequently arrested and convicted of leaking intelligence and endangering national security after they attempted to provide pictures and information concerning Rongye Adrak’s arrest to foreign organizations. Lupoe received a 10-year sentence, Kunkhyen nine years, and Luthog three years.
The following persons remained in prison: Dawa (also called Gyaltsen Namdak), sentenced in October 2006 to five years’ imprisonment for allegedly distributing pamphlets containing political material; monk Lobsang Palden from Ganzi Monastery, charged in September 2006 for initiating separatist activities based on his alleged possession of photographs of the Dalai Lama; teacher Dolma Kyab; Sherab Yonten, Sonam Gyelpo, and two others; and monk Tsering Dhondup.
There was no information regarding the following 2006 cases: six Tibetans from Sichuan Province detained for allegedly advocating Tibetan independence; former nun Yiga and lay women Sonam Choetso and Jampa Yangtso, all from the Ganzi TAP and detained in Lhasa; layman Kayi Doega and nun Sonam Lhamo, detained in the Ganzi TAP; and Yiwang, a 17-year-old Tibetan girl from the Ganzi TAP.
The status of the following persons arrested in 2005 remained unconfirmed at year’s end: nuns Choekyi Drolma and Tamdrin Tsomo; monks Namkha Gyaltsen, Dargyal Gyatso, and Jamyang Sambdrub; monk and teacher of traditional monastic dance Gendun; and monks Ngawang Namdrol, Ngawang Nyingpo, Ngawang Thupten, Ngawang Phelgey, and Phuntsok Thupwang from Drepung Monastery in Lhasa.
Jigme Gyatso and Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche remained in prison at year’s end, as did monk Choeying Khedrub from Nagchu Prefecture, sentenced to life in prison in 2001 on charges of “endangering state security” and “supporting splittist activities.” He was one of two Tibetans known to be serving life sentences for political offenses. The other was Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a senior monk imprisoned for allegedly setting explosives and inciting separatism.
Chadrel Rinpoche remained under house arrest; officials denied requests by foreign diplomats to visit him.
Denial of Fair Public Trial
Legal safeguards for Tibetans detained or imprisoned were inadequate in both design and implementation. Most judges in the TAR had little or no legal training. According to a TAR Bureau of Justice official, all seven cities and prefectures had established legal assistance centers that offered services in the Tibetan language. Prisoners may request a meeting with a government-appointed attorney, but in practice many defendants did not have access to legal representation. In cases involving state security, trials were often cursory and closed. By law maximum prison sentences for crimes such as “endangering state security” and “splitting the country” are 15 years for each count, not to exceed 20 years in total. Such sentences are frequently given to Tibetans for alleged support of Tibetan independence regardless of whether such activities involved violence.
Freedom of Speech and Press
The Chinese government continued to jam Voice of America’s and RFA’s Tibetan- and Chinese-language services and the Oslo-based Voice of Tibet. Some Tibetans reported that at times they were able to receive such broadcasts; however, research indicated that listenership was down because of the jamming.
The government severely restricted travel by foreign journalists to Tibetan areas of China. These restrictions remained in force during the year despite the January 1 implementation of new temporary regulations governing foreign media coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games. Under the new regulations, foreign journalists no longer need to obtain permission from local authorities before conducting interviews and investigations outside Beijing and Shanghai. In practice foreign journalists were not allowed to travel independently in the TAR.
During the year the PRC Ministry of Culture strongly tightened content restrictions for the largest Chinese language Tibet-related Web site, tibetcul.com. The ministry ordered the site to limit the content to tourism information, improve control over its blogs, and delete all sensitive articles. In July Chinese authorities permanently closed the Tibetan literary Web site The Lamp. The Internet blogs of well-known Tibetan poet and journalist Tsering Woeser, also known as Oser, remained closed. Most foreign Tibet-related Web sites critical of official policy in Tibet were blocked to users in China year round.
Academic and Cultural Freedom
Authorities in Tibetan areas required professors and students at institutions of higher education to attend political education sessions in an effort to prevent separatist political and religious activities on campus. The government controlled curricula, texts, and other course materials as well as the publication of historically or politically sensitive academic books (see Protection of Cultural Heritage).
Freedom of Religion
The law provides for freedom of religious belief, and the government’s 2004 white paper “Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet” states, “Tibetans fully enjoy the freedom of religious belief.” However, the level of repression in Tibetan areas increased, especially in the TAR and the Ganzi TAP. The government maintained tight controls on religious practices and places of worship in Tibetan areas. Although authorities permitted many traditional practices and public manifestations of belief, they promptly and forcibly suppressed activities they viewed as vehicles for political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence.
The atmosphere for religious freedom varied from region to region. Although conditions were more relaxed in some Tibetan areas outside the TAR, repression increased in other Tibetan areas. For example, as part of a patriotic education campaign in the Ganzi TAP, home to 700,000 ethnic Tibetans, officials forced monks to sign statements denouncing the Dalai Lama and compelled many parents to withdraw their children from educational programs at monasteries or schools in India and place them in Chinese schools. The environment in the Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of northern Sichuan Province was less repressive.
The government especially repressed any religious activity perceived as venerating the Dalai Lama, whom the authorities and many ethnic Tibetans see as continuing a tradition of both political and religious leadership. In July the State Administration for Religious Affairs announced new regulations described by the official press as a “move to institutionalize the management of reincarnation.” Under the new rules, which went into effect September 1 and codify the government’s existing policy of seeking to influence the selection of Tibetan religious leaders, the Chinese government must approve all reincarnations of lamas. Outside observers and many Tibetans criticized the measures as an unwarranted interference in Tibetan religious affairs. Some experts viewed these regulations as an attempt to minimize the Dalai Lama’s influence and strengthen government control over the process of selecting reincarnate lamas, including the selection of the next Dalai Lama.
The Panchen Lama is Tibetan Buddhism’s second most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama. According to Tibetan religious tradition, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama recognize each others’ incarnations. The government continued to insist that Gyaltsen Norbu is the Panchen Lama’s 11th reincarnation and to deny access to Gendun Choekyi Nyima. While the overwhelming majority of Tibetan Buddhists recognized Gendun Choeki Nyima as the Panchen Lama, Tibetan monks claimed that they were forced to sign statements pledging allegiance to Gyalsten Norbu. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also urged its members to support the “official” Panchen Lama.
The government routinely asserted control over the process of finding and educating reincarnate lamas. In 2005 diplomatic officials met the seven-year-old child approved by the government as the seventh reincarnation of Reting Rinpoche. His appointment was reportedly disputed by many of the monks at Reting Monastery in 2000 because the Dalai Lama did not recognize the selection. The Reting Rinpoche’s religious training was closely supervised by the government through the selection of his religious and lay tutors.
Diplomatic observers repeatedly have been denied access to Nenang Monastery to verify the well-being of Pawo Rinpoche, who was recognized by the Karmapa in 1994 and has lived under strict government supervision since that time.
Security was intensified in the TAR and in other Tibetan areas during the Dalai Lama’s birthday, sensitive anniversaries, and festival days. In March the TibetInfoNet reported that CCP members and civil servants were instructed not to visit temples in Lhasa during the March session of the National People’s Congress; persons who disobeyed would face expulsion and dismissal. In May government officials reportedly warned some parents of Lhasa school students that their children would face expulsion from school if they participated in religious activities during the holy month of Saga Dawa. The prohibition on celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6 continued.
During the time the Dalai Lama was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal on October 17, Lhasa citizens were ordered not to carry out any religious or celebratory activities. Drepung Monastery was closed for up to a week, and no one was allowed to enter or exit. There were also reports that at least one other monastery was closed and that some Tibetans were temporarily detained after celebrations and prayers in Gansu Province. Public access to monasteries in Lhasa and some other Tibetan areas was restricted temporarily.
During the summer Chinese authorities reportedly circulated a petition for monks at Lithang Monastery in Sichuan Province to sign stating that they did not want the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. There were reports that monks in other nearby monasteries were also required to sign such a petition.
A sixth round of discussions between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Chinese government officials was held June 29 to July 5 in Shanghai and Nanjing but ended with no apparent progress. During the year the Chinese government escalated its criticism of the Dalai Lama, partly in conjunction with the Dalai Lama’s meetings with foreign leaders. When the Dalai Lama was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in October, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman stated, “The words and deeds of the Dalai Lama in the past decade show he is a political refugee engaged in secessionist activities in the camouflage of religion.”
TAR party secretary Zhang Qingli continued to criticize the Dalai Lama, accusing him of linking with “hostile forces” within and outside China to overthrow China’s socialist system. TAR government chairman Qiangba Puncog stated that the “high degree of autonomy for Tibet” advocated by the Dalai Lama was contrary to the wishes of Tibetans and to the Chinese constitution.
In 2006-7 the government of the Golog TAP in Qinghai Province held “Meetings Condemning the Dalai Lama” in all 66 monasteries in the prefecture. However, many monasteries refused to participate in the meetings. In May Abbot Khenpo Tsanor of Dungkyab Monastery in Gande County of Golog Prefecture was forced to step down after he refused to hold these meetings at his monastery and to sign documents condemning the Dalai Lama.
Government officials maintained that possessing or displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama was legal. However, authorities appeared to view possession of such photos as evidence of separatist sentiment when detaining individuals on political charges. Pictures of the Dalai Lama were not openly displayed in most major monasteries and could not be purchased openly in the TAR. In December the Ganzi Daily reported that Ganzi TAP officials were collecting hundreds of photographs of the Dalai Lama together with pledges from Tibetans “not to believe in him” anymore.
International observers saw pictures of a number of religious figures, including the Dalai Lama, displayed more widely in some Tibetan areas outside the TAR. The government continued to ban pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama. Photos of the “official” Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, were not widely displayed. However, photos of the previous Panchen Lama, his daughter, and the Karmapa (who fled to India in 1999) were widely sold and displayed.
On January 1, the “TAR Implementation of the PRC Religious Affairs Regulations” (TAR Implementing Regulations) came into force, superseding the TAR’s 1991 regulations. The TAR Implementing Regulations of the 2005 PRC religious affairs regulations assert state control over all aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, including religious groups, venues, and personnel. According to Chinese media reports, the TAR Implementing Regulations would play an important role in resisting the “Dalai Clique’s separatist activities.”
The TAR Implementing Regulations and the parallel November 2006 revision of the Sichuan Province Religious Affairs Regulations more explicitly codify existing practice regulating the government’s control over the movement of registered nuns and monks by requiring that they seek permission from county-level religious affairs officials to travel to another prefecture or county-level city within the TAR. In practice similar restrictions were sometimes applied even to monks visiting another monastery within the same county. The previous regulations required monks and nuns to seek travel permission only if they were visiting another province. According to the educational practices of Tibetan Buddhism, monks and nuns must travel to receive specialized training from teachers who are considered experts in their particular theological traditions. In December a Tibetan Buddhist monk told the Ganzi Daily, the official newspaper of the Ganzi Prefecture Communist Party Committee, that monks in Lithang, Ganzi TAP, needed permission to leave their monasteries and go into town.
The TAR Implementing Regulations also increase the government’s control over the building and management of religious structures. According to Article 13 of the TAR Implementing Regulations, individuals and organizations must petition the government’s Religious Affairs Department to build religious structures. The department may demolish a religious structure built without authorization. In mid-May the PAP demolished a nearly completed statue of Guru Padmasambava at Samye Monastery in Lhoka Prefecture in the TAR. The statue was being constructed with donations from Han Chinese Buddhists from Guangdong Province.
Chapter two, Articles 48 and 49, of the TAR Implementing Regulations forbid the carrying out of “monastic construction” and “reconstructing, extending, or repairing religious venues” without official permission. Structures that violate these provisions may be torn down by Chinese authorities. Government officials sometimes used regulations regarding religious structures to demolish the homes of individual monks and nuns. In the Ganzi TAP, where Sichuan Province authorities applied similar restrictions on religious structures, officials destroyed the homes of more than 60 monks and nuns in the first half of the year.
The TAR Implementing Regulations also grant the government control over large-scale religious gatherings. Chapter 2, Articles 27 and 28, require that monasteries request permission to hold large or important religious events. In October Pangsa Monastery was closed after a dramatic surge in the number of devotees visiting the reliquary statue.
The TAR had 1,750 registered religious venues. Government officials closely associated Buddhist monasteries with proindependence activism in Tibetan areas. Spiritual leaders encountered difficulty reestablishing historical monasteries due to lack of funds, general limitations on monastic education, and lack of authorization to build and operate religious institutions. Officials in some areas contended such religious institutions were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community.
The government stated there were no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries and that each monastery’s Democratic Management Committee (DMC) decided independently how many monks the monastery could support. However, the government exercised strict control over most monasteries through the DMCs and imposed strict limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, particularly within the TAR. The government had the right to disapprove any individual’s application to take up religious orders, and there were reports during the year of some young monks and monks critical of the government being forced out of monasteries.
Authorities limited the traditional practice of sending young boys to monasteries for religious training by means of regulations that forbade monasteries from accepting individuals under the age of 18. Nevertheless, many monasteries continued to admit younger boys, often delaying their formal registration as monks until age 18. According to the Ganzi Daily, hundreds of young monks in the Ganzi TAP were reportedly removed from monasteries and placed in regular schools as part of the patriotic education campaign.
Monks outside the TAR who want to study in the TAR are required to obtain official permission from the religious affairs bureaus (RABs) of their home province and the TAR RAB, but such permission was not readily granted. Sources reported that ethnic Han Chinese monks generally were not allowed to undertake religious study in the TAR.
The quality and availability of high-level religious teachers in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained inadequate. Many teachers were in exile, older teachers were not being replaced, and those remaining in Tibetan areas outside the TAR had difficulty securing permission to teach in the TAR.
Although Tibetan monks were not allowed to conduct large-scale religious teachings outside Tibetan areas, many monks continued to give private teachings to audiences in non-Tibetan regions of China. According to reports, ethnic Han Chinese Buddhists outside Tibetan areas were sometimes discouraged from inviting Tibetan monks to give teachings. Such visits require explicit permission from both the TAR and the receiving province’s RAB. Nevertheless, Tibetan monks sometimes traveled in plain clothes outside the TAR to teach.
Monasteries in the TAR were not allowed to establish relationships with other monasteries or hold joint religious activities.
The government continued to oversee the daily operations of major monasteries. The government, which did not contribute to the monasteries’ operating funds, retained management control of monasteries through the DMCs and local RABs. Regulations restricted leadership of many DMCs to “patriotic and devoted” monks and nuns and specified that the government must approve all members of the committees. At some monasteries government officials also sat on the committees. DMCs at several large TAR monasteries diverted funds generated by the sale of entrance tickets or donated by pilgrims to purposes other than the support of monks engaged in full-time religious study. As a result, some “scholar monks” who had formerly been fully supported had to engage in income-generating activities. Some experts were concerned that, as a result, fewer monks would be qualified to serve as teachers.
Government officials claimed that the patriotic education campaign in the TAR, which often consisted of intensive, weeks-long sessions conducted by outside work teams, ended in 2000. However, monks and nuns continued to undergo political education on a regular basis. According to the Ganzi Daily, the Ganzi TAP government sent cadres to the TAR to learn the patriotic education campaign model and began applying it in the Ganzi TAP, home to 700,000 ethnic Tibetans.
In February officials from the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs told diplomatic observers that political education was carried out for all citizens, not just monks and nuns. Because the primary responsibility for conducting political education shifted from government officials to monastery leaders, the form, content, and frequency of training at each monastery appeared to vary widely. However, conducting such training remained a requirement and was a routine part of monastic management.
The deputy party secretary of the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee stated at an educational conference held in the Ganzi TAP in August that “the major targets of these patriotic educational activities must be Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and monks and nuns.”
In November the Patriotic Education Leading Group of the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee held a conference on enhancing the patriotic educational campaign in the Ganzi TAP. It was reported that the prefecture carried out patriotic educational campaigns during the year at 95 prefecture-level government units, 18 counties, 850 schools, and 532 monasteries.
In the Ganzi TAP a patriotic education campaign focused on CCP members and monks, seeking to strengthen the loyalty of wavering party members, some of whom follow the Dalai Lama, under the slogan “The Party is key, and the focus is the monasteries.”
During the year the TAR government tightened its control over Tibetan cultural relics. Under Article 3 of the July revision of the TAR Cultural Relics Protection Regulations, the TAR asserts ownership of religious institutions as cultural sites, and of cultural and religious relics. Article 3 also provides that monasteries may not lend relics to other monasteries without state permission.
According to PRC press reports, from 1949 to year’s end, the Chinese government spent $83 million (RMB 600 million) on the preservation of Tibetan historical and cultural relics. This included renovating and reopening more than 1,400 monasteries and repairing cultural relics, many damaged or destroyed before and during the Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, many monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution were not rebuilt or repaired, and others remained only partially repaired. Government funding of restoration efforts as cultural preservation also promoted the development of tourism in Tibetan areas. Most recent restoration efforts were funded privately, although a few religious sites also received government support for reconstruction projects during the year.
Approximately 615 Tibetan Buddhist religious figures held positions in local people’s congresses and local Chinese people’s political consultative conferences in the TAR. However, the government continued to insist that CCP members and senior employees adhere to the CCP’s code of atheism, and routine political training for cadres continued to promote atheism. TAR officials confirmed that some RAB officers were CCP members and that religious belief was incompatible with CCP membership. However, some lower-level RAB officials practiced Buddhism.
Freedom of Movement
The law provides for the freedom to travel; however, in practice the government strictly regulated travel and freedom of movement of Tibetans, especially within the TAR. Many Tibetans, particularly those from rural areas, continued to report difficulties obtaining passports.
Tibetans continued to encounter substantial difficulties and obstacles in traveling to India for religious, educational, and other purposes. The government placed restrictions on the movement of Tibetans during sensitive anniversaries and events and increased controls over border areas at these times. There were reports of arbitrary detention of persons, particularly monks, returning from Nepal. Detentions generally lasted for several months, although in most cases no formal charges were brought.
Border guards continued to use force to prevent unauthorized border crossings. On October 18, PAP border guards reportedly shot at 46 Tibetans attempting to enter Nepal at the Nangpa La pass. In September 2006 Chinese border forces at the Nangpa La pass shot at a group of approximately 70 Tibetans attempting to enter Nepal, killing one and injuring others. The group included monks, nuns, and children.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that during the year 2,156 Tibetans arrived at the Tibet Reception Center in Nepal, compared with 2,405 in 2006. During the year 2,156 Tibetans departed the reception center for India. Nevertheless, thousands of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, visited India via third countries, and some returned after temporary stays. The majority of Tibetans who transited via Nepal to India were young persons six to 30 years of age who migrated principally due to cultural suppression, including the lack of Tibetan-language educational facilities and opportunities for religious education.
The Karmapa, leader of Tibetan Buddhism’s Karma Kagyu schools and one of the most influential religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism, remained in exile following his 1999 flight to India.
The government also regulated foreign travel to the TAR. In accordance with a 1989 regulation, foreign visitors were required to obtain an official confirmation letter issued by the government before entering the TAR. Most tourists obtained such letters by booking tours through officially registered travel agencies. While none of the TAR’s 70 counties were officially closed to foreigners, access for foreigners to many areas of the TAR remained problematic.
Official visits to the TAR were supervised closely and afforded delegation members very few opportunities to meet local persons not previously approved by the authorities. Foreigners could travel freely in most Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
Although according to TAR census figures, Tibetans made up 92 percent of the population of the TAR’s permanently registered population; however, official population figures did not include a large number of long-, medium-, and short-term Han residents, such as cadres, skilled workers, unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their dependents. Chinese social scientists placed the total number of this floating population (including tourists and visitors on short-term business trips) for Lhasa alone at more than 200,000 (a figure that comprised half of Lhasa’s overall population and more than 10 percent of the TAR’s population) during the May to November high season for tourism and migrant workers. The size of this floating, mostly ethnic Han population rapidly increased over the past decade, especially since the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway in July 2006.
Migrants to the TAR were overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas, where government economic policies disproportionately benefited Han migrants. Small businesses, mostly restaurants and retail shops, run by Han and Hui migrants predominated in cities throughout the Tibetan areas. Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of the rural population, according to official census figures.
Family planning policies permitted Tibetans and members of other minority groups to have more children than Han. Urban Tibetans, including Communist Party members, and some ethnic Han Chinese living in Tibetan areas were generally permitted to have two children. Rural Tibetans were encouraged, but not required, to limit births to three children.
Since 2000 the government has been implementing a resettlement campaign of Tibetan nomads into urban areas across the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Officially nomads are encouraged with monetary incentives to kill or sell their livestock and move to newly created Tibetan communities. However, reports existed of incidences of compulsory resettlement with compensation that was promised but either never materialized or was inadequate.
In January TAR Party Secretary Zhang Qingli stated that the restructuring of Tibetan farming and grazing communities was not only to promote economic development but also to counteract the Dalai Lama’s influence. He also stated that to do so was essential for “continuing to carry out major development of west China.” In 2006 a total of 25,000 TAR nomad and farming households were resettled, and another 52,000 were planned for 2008. Improving housing conditions and education for Tibet’s poorest were among the goals of resettlement, yet a requirement that villagers build houses according to strict official specifications within two or three years often forced resettled families into debt to cover construction costs.
During the year state media reported that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 60 percent of all government employees in the TAR. However, Han Chinese continued to hold the top CCP positions in nearly all counties and prefectures, including party secretary of the TAR. Tibetans holding government positions were prohibited from worshipping at monasteries or practicing their religion.
Some Tibetans reported that they experienced discrimination in employment and claimed that Han Chinese were hired preferentially for many jobs and received greater pay for the same work. Some Tibetans reported that it was more difficult for Tibetans than Han to get permits and loans to open businesses. The use of the Chinese language was widespread in urban areas, and many businesses limited employment opportunities for Tibetans who did not speak Chinese.
The TAR tourism bureau continued its policy of refusing to hire Tibetan tour guides educated in India or Nepal. Government officials stated that all tour guides working in the TAR were required to seek employment with the Tourism Bureau and pass a licensing exam on tourism and political ideology. The government’s stated intent was to ensure that all tour guides provide visitors with the government’s position opposing Tibetan independence and the activities of the Dalai Lama. Some ethnic Tibetan tour guides in the TAR complained of unfair competition from government-sponsored “Help Tibet” tour guides brought in from outside the TAR and put to work after receiving a crash course on Tibet.
Women and Children
There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. However, women were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of government. According to an official Web site, female cadres in the TAR accounted for more than 30 percent of the TAR’s total cadres.
There was no information on the incidence of rape or domestic violence.
Prostitution was a growing problem in Tibetan areas, and hundreds of brothels operated semiopenly in Lhasa. International development workers in the TAR reported there was no reliable data on the number of persons engaged in commercial sex acts in Lhasa and Shigatse, the TAR’s two largest cities, although some estimates placed the number of such persons as high as 10,000. Some of the prostitution occurred at sites owned by the CCP, the government, and the military. Most prostitutes in the TAR were Han women, mainly from Sichuan. However, some Tibetans, mainly young girls from rural or nomadic areas, also engaged in prostitution. The incidence of HIV/AIDS among prostitutes in Tibetan areas was unknown, but lack of knowledge about HIV transmission and economic pressures on prostitutes to engage in unprotected sex made them particularly vulnerable.
The TAR is one of the few areas of China that does not have a skewed sex ratio resulting from sex-selective abortion and inadequate health care for female infants.
Primary school education was compulsory, free, and universal, according to official statements. According to official TAR statistics, 96.5 percent of children between the ages of six and 13 were in school, and 90 percent of the TAR’s 520,000 primary school students completed lower middle school, for a total of nine years of education. In 2003 the UN special rapporteur on the right to education in China reported that education statistics did not accurately reflect attendance and were not independently verified. Miscellaneous fees for the TAR’s 131,000 middle school students were abolished in mid-year.
Both Tibetan and Chinese are official languages in the TAR, and both languages were used on public and commercial signs. However, Chinese was spoken widely and was used for most commercial and official communications. The use of both languages was also affected by the rate of illiteracy among Tibetans, which reportedly was more than five times higher (47.6 percent) than the national average (9.1 percent), according to 2000 census data. The TAR’s overall rate of illiteracy (47.3 percent) was the highest in the country and was nearly twice as high as in the second-ranked Qinghai Province (25.2 percent). In many rural and nomadic areas, children received only one to three years of Tibetan language education before continuing their education in a Chinese-language school. The illiteracy rate of youth and adults fell from 95 percent before 1959 to 15 percent at the end of 2005. However, the illiteracy rate for this group was much higher than 15 percent in some areas. According to a 2006 report by the Xinhua News Agency, a looser definition of literacy was used for Tibetan speakers than for Chinese speakers in rural Tibet. Tibetan-speaking peasants and nomads were considered literate if they could read and write the 30 letters of the Tibetan syllabary. Chinese-speaking nomads and herders were considered literate if they could recognize 1,500 Chinese characters.
Protection of Cultural Heritage
Rapid economic growth, the expanding tourism industry, the resettlement of nomads, and the introduction of more modern cultural influences have disrupted traditional living patterns and customs and threatened traditional Tibetan cultural. Residents lacked the right to play a role in protecting their cultural heritage.
The Dalai Lama, Tibetan experts, and other observers expressed concern that development projects and other central government policies disproportionately benefited non-Tibetans and continued to promote a considerable influx of Han Chinese, Hui, and other ethnic groups into the TAR. The opening of the Qinghai-TAR railroad in 2006 increased migration of non-Tibetans into the TAR. The government reported the railroad carried 1.5 million passengers during the year, with approximately half of those passengers being nontourists.
Residents lacked the right to play a role in protecting their cultural heritage. The TAR government asserted ownership over religious relics and monasteries. Although in recent years the government made efforts to restore some of the physical structures and other aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture damaged or destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, repressive social and political controls continued to limit the fundamental freedoms of Tibetans and risked undermining Tibet’s unique cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage.
In May local Tibetans from Daocheng County of the Ganzi TAP clashed with authorities over the development of Yading, an important Buddhist religious mountain area.
In June a similar conflict occurred between Tibetans from Bamei Town in the Ganzi TAP and mining developers in the sacred Yala Mountain area. Local citizens destroyed vehicles of party and government officials and the mine owner. Chinese authorities reportedly detained 10 village elders who tried to petition provincial and central level officials about the exploitation of the holy mountain. The petitioners reportedly were badly beaten.
The government established a comprehensive national Tibetan-language curriculum, and many elementary schools in Tibetan areas used Tibetan as the primary language of instruction. Tibetan students also were required to study Chinese, and Chinese was generally used to teach certain subjects, such as arithmetic and science. In middle and high schools–even some officially designated as Tibetan schools–teachers often used Tibetan only to teach classes in Tibetan language, literature, and culture and taught all other classes in Chinese.
As a practical matter, proficiency in Chinese was essential to receive a higher education. China’s most prestigious universities provided instruction only in Chinese, while the lower-ranked universities established to serve ethnic minorities allowed study of only some subjects in Tibetan. Apart from some universities specifically for ethnic minorities, Chinese universities generally required English language proficiency for entrance. Most graduates of Tibetan schools, however, learned only Chinese and Tibetan and were thus unable to attend the better universities. One consequence was a shortage of Tibetans trained in science and engineering and a near total reliance on imported technical specialists from outside the TAR to work on development projects inside the TAR.
Opportunities to study at Tibetan-language schools were greater in the TAR, while opportunities to study at privately funded Tibetan-language schools and to receive a traditional Tibetan-language religious education were greater in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.