The human rights situation in Tibet took a sharp downward turn last year with tightened restrictions on travel by Tibetans and the introduction by China of a campaign against “organized crime” targeting Tibetan civil society and cultural practices, an India-based rights group said in an annual report released on Thursday.
Calling 2018 a “pivotal year” for human rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas of China, the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said that new policies and regulations have led to “an increased restriction on human rights and lives of the Tibetan people.”
A nationwide campaign against “crime” and “black and evil forces” introduced at the beginning of the year resulted in the detention, arrest, and torture of human rights and environmental activists and of ordinary Tibetans promoting the use of the Tibetan language, the rights group said in its report.
“Peaceful dissent of any kind and degree was met with harsh penalties,” TCHRD said.
The right to freedom of movement was similarly restricted during the year, with Tibetans coming from outside the TAR required to obtain temporary passes when visiting the regional capital Lhasa, and others forced to surrender their passports to prevent travel to India and Nepal on pilgrimage, the rights group said.
Religious rights restricted
Tibetan schoolchildren and government workers were meanwhile banned from taking part in public religious observances and from paying visits to monasteries during the year, and young monks were removed from their religious communities and forcibly enrolled in Chinese government schools.
Over 200 novice monks were forced in this way from their monasteries in July in Sershul county in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, TCHRD said, adding “Many of the evicted monks were students of Buddhist logic and philosophy, and some were exceptional students.”
“Tibetan religious institutions were also targeted for their role in promoting Tibetan language education,” TCHRD said, citing local directives forbidding monasteries from conducting language workshops for Tibetan students during their holidays from school.
Arbitrary arrests, detentions
Meanwhile, “the arbitrary arrest and detention of peaceful Tibetan protesters and other human rights activists continued unabated,” TCHRD said, adding that restrictions by China on the peaceful assembly of Tibetans remained “severe.”
Especially targeted for harsh suppression were protests, by individuals or by groups, calling for the return from exile of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, TCHRD said.
In December, two young Tibetans set themselves ablaze in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in Sichuan province in opposition to China’s rule, as well as political and religious repression in the TAR and other Tibetan areas.
They raised to 157 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans since the wave of fiery protests against nearly 70 years of Chinese rule of their homeland began in 2009.
China maintains that it peacefully liberated Tibet from feudal rule, and that Tibetans enjoy the economic development it has brought to the region.