The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released its annual report for 2015 on October 8, 2015, in which it challenged China’s contention of enabling the Tibetan people to have a say in their affairs by asserting that it “observed no evidence during its 2002 to 2015 period of reporting that the Party or government solicited systematic or representative input from the Tibetan population on economic development in the Tibetan autonomous areas of China.” It said the United States government should stress to the Chinese government the importance of respecting and protecting the Tibetan culture and language.
The Commission noted that its “annual reports have documented implementation of a development model— “Chinese characteristics with Tibetan traits” that effectively boosts economic growth and household income. At the same time, officials deny Tibetans adequate rights to protect their culture, language, religion, and environment.”
CECC said it had observed reports indicating “unprecedented consequence to the pace and scale of economic development and urbanization on the Tibetan plateau, and to Tibetans living there. Urbanization, population, and railways will be among principal changes.”
The Commission also said it had “observed no indication during the 2015 reporting year of official Chinese interest in resuming a dialogue,” which has been stalled since 2010.
Among its recommendations to Members of the U.S. Congress and Administration officials, the CECC encouraged them to urge “the Chinese government to resume contact with the Dalai Lama or his representatives and engage in dialogue without preconditions.” It added, “A Chinese government decision to engage in dialogue can result in a durable and mutually beneficial outcome for the government and Tibetans that will benefit local and regional security in coming decades.” The CECC further recommended that
they should encourage “the Chinese government to take fully into account the views and preferences of Tibetans when planning infrastructure, natural resource development, and settlement or resettlement projects in the Tibetan areas of China.”
The Commission also encouraged the US Government to urge the Chinese Government to respect the freedom of movement of the Tibetan people and also to allow access to Tibet for international journalists, representatives of NGOs, the UN, and U.S. Government officials.
Congress established the CECC in 2000 to monitor China’s compliance with international human rights standards, to encourage the development of the rule of law in the PRC, and to establish and maintain a list of victims of human rights abuses in China. The Commission comprises nine Senators, nine members of the House of Representatives and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President.
Following are the findings and recommendations on Tibet in the 2015 report.
The full report, including the Tibet section (pages 298 to 324), is available here: http://www.cecc.gov/sites/chinacommission.house.gov/files/2015%20Annual%20Report.pdf
- Formal dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Chinese Communist Party and government officials has been stalled since the January 2010 ninth round. The Commission observed no indication during the 2015 reporting year of official Chinese interest in resuming a dialogue that takes into account the concerns of Tibetans who live in the Tibetan autonomous areas of China. An April 2015 government white paper reiterated that Chinese officials would “only talk with private representatives of the Dalai Lama” to discuss “the future of the Dalai Lama and some of his followers” and how the Dalai Lama would “gain the forgiveness of the central government and the Chinese people.”
- The Commission observed no evidence during its 2002 to 2015 period of reporting that the Party or government solicited systematic or representative input from the Tibetan population on economic development in the Tibetan autonomous areas of China. This past year, the Commission observed a series of reports likely to prove of unprecedented consequence to the pace and scale of economic development and urbanization on the Tibetan plateau, and to Tibetans living there. Urbanization, population, and railways will be among principal changes.
- The frequency of Tibetan self-immolation reportedly focusing on political and religious issues during the Commission’s 2015 reporting year remained similar to the 2014 reporting year as security and punitive measures targeting self-immolation remained in effect. The Commission has not observed any sign that Party and government leaders intend to respond to Tibetan grievances in a constructive manner or accept any accountability for Tibetans’ rejection of Chinese policies. Senior officials continued to blame self-immolation on foreign incitement.
- The Party and government continued efforts this past year to deepen the transformation of Tibetan Buddhism into a state managed institution that prioritizes adherence to Party and government policies as a principal feature of the religion. An April 2015 government white paper outlined the rationale for claiming authority over Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation, including that of the Dalai Lama, and noted that 2007 government regulations “further institutionalize the reincarnation process.” The Commission observed no developments this past year indicating that Party and government leaders intend to develop a “harmonious society” that tolerates Tibetan commitment toward their culture, language, and environment. In some areas, greater obstacles emerged for Tibetans seeking to organize efforts to preserve the Tibetan language or protect the environment.
- As of September 1, 2015, the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database contained records of 646 Tibetan political prisoners believed or presumed currently detained or imprisoned. Of those, 635 are records of Tibetans detained on or after March 10, 2008; 43 percent of them are Tibetan Buddhist monks, nuns, teachers, or trulkus. On July 12, 2015, Tenzin Deleg, recognized by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist teacher, died in prison in Sichuan province. He was sentenced in December 2002 to death with a two-year reprieve on charges of “splittism” and conspiracy to cause explosions, charges that he denied in a smuggled audiotape.
Members of the U.S. Congress and Administration officials are encouraged to:
- Urge the Chinese government to resume contact with the Dalai Lama or his representatives and engage in dialogue without preconditions. Such a dialogue should aim to protect the Tibetan culture, language, religion, and heritage within the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. A Chinese government decision to engage in dialogue can result in a durable and mutually beneficial outcome for the government and Tibetans that will benefit local and regional security in coming decades.
- Encourage the Chinese government to take fully into account the views and preferences of Tibetans when planning infrastructure, natural resource development, and settlement or resettlement projects in the Tibetan areas of China. Encourage the government to engage with appropriate experts in assessing the impact of such projects and in advising the government on the implementation and progress of such projects. Encourage the government to provide accurate and comprehensive data on the population in Tibetan areas of China.
- Urge the Chinese government to recognize the role of government regulatory measures and Party policies in the wave of Tibetan self-immolations and other protests. Stress to Chinese officials that strengthening the measures and policies that Tibetans resent is unlikely to promote “social stability” or a “harmonious society.” Urge the government to refrain from using security and judicial institutions to intimidate Tibetan communities by prosecuting and imprisoning Tibetans with alleged links to a self-immolator or for sharing self-immolation information.
- Urge the Chinese government to refrain from using intrusive management and legal measures to infringe upon and repress Tibetan Buddhists’ right to freedom of religion. Urge the government to cease treating the Dalai Lama as a security threat instead of as Tibetan Buddhism’s principal teacher. Urge the government to cease interference in the long-standing practices Tibetan Buddhists use to identify reincarnated teachers and to respect the principle summarized by the Dalai Lama that the person who reincarnates “has sole legitimate authority” over the circumstances and recognition of reincarnation. Urge the government to respect the right of Tibetan Buddhists to identify and educate religious teachers, including the Dalai Lama, in a manner consistent with Tibetan Buddhist preferences and traditions. Stress to Chinese officials that increasing pressure on Tibetan Buddhists by aggressive use of regulatory measures, “patriotic” and “legal” education, and anti-Dalai Lama campaigns is likely to harm social stability, not protect it.
- Stress to the Chinese government the importance of respecting and protecting the Tibetan culture and language. Urge Chinese officials to promote a vibrant Tibetan culture by honoring the reference in China’s Constitution to the freedoms of speech, association, assembly, and religion, and refrain from using the security establishment, courts, and law to infringe upon and repress Tibetans’ exercise of such rights. Stress the importance of respecting Tibetan wishes to maintain the role of both the Tibetan and Chinese languages in teaching modern subjects, and to refrain from criminalizing Tibetans’ passion for their language and culture.
- Continue to stress to the Chinese government the importance of distinguishing between peaceful Tibetan protesters and rioters; condemn the use of security campaigns to suppress human rights; and request the government to provide complete details about Tibetans detained, charged, or sentenced for protest-related and self-immolation-related “crimes.” Continue to raise in meetings and correspondence with Chinese officials the cases of Tibetans who remain imprisoned as punishment for the peaceful exercise of human rights.
- Encourage the Chinese government to respect the right to freedom of movement of Tibetans who travel domestically, including for the purpose of visiting Tibetan economic, cultural, and religious centers, including Lhasa; to provide Tibetans with reasonable means to apply for and receive documents necessary for lawful international travel; to respect the right of Tibetan citizens of China to reenter China after traveling abroad; to eliminate the unique travel permit required of foreign nationals who wish to travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region; and to allow access to the Tibetan autonomous areas of China to international journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, representatives of the United Nations, and U.S. Government officials.
- Request that the Chinese government follow up on a 2010 statement by the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government, reported in the Commission’s 2010 Annual Report, that Gedun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama whom the Dalai Lama recognized in 1995, is living in the TAR as an “ordinary citizen” along with his family. Urge the government to invite a representative of an international organization to meet with Gedun Choekyi Nyima so that he can express to the representative his wishes with respect to privacy.