Tibetan State Workers, Party Members ‘Held Hostage’ For Visitors’ Good Behavior

Tibetan pilgrims kneel at the entrance to the Jokhang temple in Lhasa in a file photo.

Tibetans visiting relatives in Tibetan areas of China can now be hosted only by government workers or members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, with penalties threatened for those whose guests overstay their permitted time or otherwise misbehave, Tibetan sources say.

Previously, any family members in Tibet could apply to host a visit as a guarantor of their visitor’s good behavior, a source living in Tibet told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

“But now, the guarantor must be a government worker or Party member,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This holds the guarantor responsible as ‘collateral’ for any fault of the visiting relative, since in the case of any infraction, the guarantor could lose their job or face demotion,” the source said.

Written in Chinese and Tibetan, an official form now a year old and recently obtained by RFA  warns against infractions, and pledges the applicant to ensure his guest “abides by the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China” and not spread “rumors” or take part in political rallies or protests.

“He or she will not leave the place of their intended visit or loiter around, and will depart for his or her country of origin on the due date and will not overstay [their visit],” the form addressed for return to a government desk in Lhasa continues, without however specifying a required work status or affiliation of the applicant.

As a condition for acceptance of the request, the applicant then agrees as guarantor to “bear legal responsibility and face any consequences” for violations of the terms of the agreement.

Closely scrutinized

Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan now living in the U.S. and recently returned from Tibet says that even with an application signed by a guarantor, there is no assurance that a visa will be granted, and that an application for a visa by a Tibetan living in the U.S. is closely scrutinized by the Chinese embassy and by Chinese government departments at various levels.

“It is a long and difficult process,” he said, adding that Tibetan applicants for visas are routinely singled out at the Chinese embassy for questioning in separate rooms and are required to provide documents unrelated to the granting of a visa, such as a short biography of the applicant, old passports, and birth certificates.

Relatives in Tibet would also then be called in for questioning on a variety of issues, he said.

“It is this kind of discrimination against Tibetan Americans visiting Tibet that led the U.S. government to pass the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018,” he said.

In a move pushing for greater U.S. access to Tibet, now largely closed by China to American diplomats and journalists, President Donald Trump in December 2018 signed into law a bill denying visas to Chinese officials responsible for blocking entry to the Beijing-ruled Himalayan region.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 requires the U.S. Secretary of State to identify Chinese officials responsible for excluding U.S. citizens, including Americans of Tibetan ethnic origin, from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and then ban them from entering the United States.

The law also requires the State Department to provide to the Congress each year a list of U.S. citizens blocked from entry to Tibet.

A formerly independent nation, Tibet was taken over and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India.

Chinese authorities now maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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