Tibetan NGOs Must 'Register' or Close

Chinese authorities block community efforts to organize around social and environmental issues.

Thousands of Tibetans defy Chinese authorities and attend a religious gathering at a key monastery in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in July 2011.
Photo courtesy of Atruk Tseten.

Grassroots social groups operating in a Tibetan area of China’s Sichuan province are being forced to register by the authorities or face closure as Beijing moves to restrict the ability of Tibetans to organize around issues of concern, according to a Tibetan rights group in exile.

Nongovernmental (NGO) organizations working in Sichuan’s  Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture must now register with authorities according to “criteria listed by the government,” the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a May 2 statement.

Groups failing to register with the prefecture’s Bureau of Civil Affairs by the end of the month will be declared “illegal” and closed, TCHRD said, quoting an April 26 government directive announced in the state-run Ganzi Daily News.

“Chinese authorities have issued a notice demanding that all Tibetan NGOs in the Kardze region register by May 31 or face closure,” TCHRD deputy director Jampel Monlam said, speaking to RFA on Thursday.

“These NGOs benefit the Tibetan community, but the Chinese authorities do not trust these organizations, and their workers are arrested time and time again,” Jampel Monlam said.

'Politically sensitive'

Many of the groups were founded by local Tibetans to organize educational, religious, environmental, and welfare activities, and included “informal” groups set up to mediate local disputes, TCHRD said in its May 2 statement.

“However, the Chinese authorities view the activities of Tibetan NGOs as politically sensitive,” TCHRD said.

“For the Chinese government, any activity involving a large number of Tibetans, even if non-political or for the welfare of the local community is political in nature. In the past, there have been many instances where Tibetan NGOs have been declared illegal, forcibly closed and their members arrested.”

Three local groups have already been shut down in the last three months, including a Tibetan-language school closed on April 2 and an association set up by 13 area villages to “promote harmony” and settle disputes that was closed on April 14, TCHRD said.

“The government move to close the organization provoked a protest among local Tibetans following which many Tibetans were injured and hospitalized after they were beaten up by security officers,” TCHRD said, adding, “Over 33 Tibetans still remain detained.”

And in February, Chinese authorities detained four members of an environmental group, the Tawu Environmental Protection Association, that had opposed Chinese mining, deforestation, fishing in sacred rivers, and the smuggling of wildlife products, TCHRD said.

Sichuan’s Kardze prefecture has been the scene of repeated protests in recent months by Tibetans challenging rule by Beijing, including many of the 35 self-immolations reported in Tibetan regions since February 2009.

Reported by Ugen Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Tseten Namgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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