‘Discipline Committees’ Boost Surveillance, Tighten Security in Tibet

‘Discipline Committees’ Boost Surveillance, Tighten Security in Tibet Trucks carrying Chinese security troops move through the streets of Tibet's Lhoka city in a March 2021 photo.
State Media

Hundreds of so-called Discipline Committees set up by Chinese authorities are imposing tightened security measures across Tibet, with almost 2,000 “inspectors” deployed in rural areas to oversee the functioning of villages and towns, Tibetan sources say.

Authorities in March announced the establishment of 697 committees staffed by 1,960 inspectors, state media sources said, adding that the groups have tightened surveillance especially in and near villages on the border, demanding that travel documents be shown by Tibetans traveling in those areas.

Large numbers of blue-uniformed security troops have now been deployed in Tibet’s Lhodrag (Chinese, Luozha) and Nyalam (Nielamu) counties, a Tibetan resident of the regional capital Lhasa told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

“And any Tibetans traveling there from outside these regions have to show a document stamped with a travel permit,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There has been a surge in crackdowns by Chinese authorities on villages in Tibet in recent years, though this used to happen more in the cities and towns before,” he said.

“Following [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s declaration that in administering the border regions, “'We must first of all stabilize Tibet,'” we have seen an intensified crackdown on Tibetans living inside Tibet,” a second source said, also declining to be named for reasons of security.

Chinese authorities recently carried out a wave of arrests in Lhasa and along Tibet’s border with Nepal in the run-up to a month of politically sensitive anniversaries beginning in March, including the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan national uprising against Chinese rule, sources said in earlier reports.

Among those taken into custody were Tibetans suspected of sharing information on the deaths of Chinese soldiers killed in a border clash with India last June in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh, one source in Lhasa told RFA on March 1.

Chinese authorities in Tibet maintain tight controls over information flows in the region, arresting Tibetans for sharing news and opinions on social media and for contacting relatives living in exile, sometimes with news of anti-China protests, according to rights groups and other experts.

“Since Xi Jinping assumed power, the crackdown and policies aimed at destroying Tibetan culture and identity have intensified more than ever,” Tsering Tsomo, director of the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, told RFA.

“We usually consider human rights to be an issue of an individual’s own rights and freedoms, but in the case of Tibet, this has come to involve the survival of the Tibetan people themselves,” Tsomo said, adding, “This is about protecting the human rights of an entire race.”

'A tool of the Party'

A report released Wednesday by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) says heavy surveillance and control risk turning the Tibetan Buddhist monastic community into “a tool of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The report, “Party Above Buddhism: China’s Surveillance and Control of Tibetan Monasteries and Nunneries,” details a campaign of “direct oversight of monasteries and nunneries; stationing police and party cadres inside religious institutions; and pressuring monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama.”

The report notes that the United Front Work Department, the agency that has direct oversight of all religions, saw its budget for the Tibet Autonomous Region shoot up from from 23.9 million yuan in 2016 to 62 million yuan last year, and cites state media figures showing that in 2015 as many as 6,575 cadres from the party and government work in the 1,787 monasteries in the TAR.

“Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism requires Tibetan Buddhist institutions, canon and the clergy to be subservient to the Communist Party’s leadership and its core values. The policy aims to curb the clergy’s moral visions and conform it to the state ideology,” said the ICT report.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

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

Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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