The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released its 2009 Annual Report on Friday, October 16, 2009, offering a comprehensive account of human rights and rule-of-law developments in Tibet and throughout the People’s Republic of China. The annual report is the second since protests swept across Tibet in March 2008, and within its analysis of concerns, states “As of September 2009, the Commission had not seen public reports suggesting that Chinese authorities had lessened repressive security measures in Tibetan communities.”
Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “The Tibet section of the CECC 2009 Annual Report makes for grim reading: there is nothing within the research to suggest that the Chinese government has reflected on the roots of the protests that started in March 2008, and everything to suggest that the protests, with all their awful consequences, could therefore happen again – notwithstanding China’s brute suppression.”
The section on Tibet opens by documenting the Chinese authorities’ far more aggressive stance towards the Dalai Lama and the leaders and institutions of second countries who publicly met with him over the preceding year. Along with Taiwan, Tibet is now broadly defined by Beijing as China’s “core interest,” and sections of the official media – echoing comments made in March by Yang Jiechi, China’s Foreign Minister – suggesting a diplomatic norm should be for all countries to deny entry to the Dalai Lama, otherwise cooperation on a range of issues would be “impossible.” CECC questions the inherent notion that international support for the Dalai Lama could expose China to the threat of a breakup by pointing out first that the Dalai Lama continues to call for autonomy, and not independence; and second, that the countries welcoming the Dalai Lama invariably do not deny or challenge China’s sovereignty over Tibet. The report cites expert testimony given to the CECC suggesting that this more aggressive position on Tibet and the Dalai Lama is an emblematic facet of China’s generally more assertive stance in the world.
The report, which is available for downloading from the CECC’s website at www.cecc.gov, documents how the Chinese authorities in Tibet have “strengthened the policies and measures that frustrated Tibetans prior to the wave of Tibetan protests that started in March 2008.” These include an intensification of ‘patriotic education’ requirements at monasteries, schools and other state-run institutions that“compel Tibetans to endorse state antagonism toward the Dalai Lama and increase stress to local stability.” The report adds “Chinese Government and Communist Party interference with the norms of Tibetan Buddhism and unremitting antagonism toward the Dalai Lama, key factors underlying the March 2008 eruption of Tibetan protests, continued to deepen Tibetan resentment and fuel additional Tibetan protests.”
Two major issues covered by the CECC’s annual reporting period from October 2008 to October 2009 were the eighth round of dialogue between representatives of the Dalai Lama and senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials held in November 2008; and the release in May 2009 of a report by a group of Chinese scholars which broadly contradicted official pronouncements about the causes of the protests across Tibet starting in March 2008.
The CECC report notes that the environment for dialogue“continued to deteriorate.” During the eighth round of dialogue the Tibetan side presented a “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” which defined the nature and scope of proposed Tibetan autonomy within the PRC. The CECC report states that the Memorandum has “the potential to resolve” key points of contention such as the definition of Tibetan territory. However, the memorandum was dismissed by the Chinese side which instead demanded new preconditions to negotiations, which “pressure the Dalai Lama to take on the role of an active proponent of Chinese Government political objectives.”
The CECC report describes the report by scholars at the Open Constitution Initiative (OCI) as written “in a manner that shows the authors aimed for officials to review the document,” and notes that it “rejected the government’s core assertion” that the protests starting in March 2008 were exclusively the result of external provocations by “the Dalai clique,” and provided recommendation for improving China’s administration of Tibet that directly address ongoing policy failures. (The report by the Open Constitution Initiative can be seen here ») OCI was closed down in July 2009 on the orders of the local Beijing government amid allegations of tax evasion; the CECC report noted no apparent attributing of the group’s report on Tibet to its eventual closure.
CECC’s report contains a breakdown of political imprisonment in Tibet following the protests starting in March 2008, and refers to the CECC’s online political prisoner database (www.cecc.gov/pages/victims/index.php) which carries details on 670 Tibetans detained since March 2008. “The surge in the number of political detainees and prisoners beginning in March 2008 appears to be the largest since the current period of Tibetan political activism began in 1987,” states the report. However, the report also notes the Chinese authorities’ measures to prevent reliable information about political protest from leaving Tibet and their failure to provide any such information themselves, which has presented “insurmountable obstacles in creating an accurate account of the number of Tibetan political detainees and their status under China’s legal system.”
Also detailed in the report are government development plans or Tibet, “development policies that Tibetans resent and that many Tibetans (including the Dalai Lama) believe threaten the Tibetan culture and environment.” These include plans to expand Lhasa itself, likely to cause the population of the city to “soar”; plans for several new railway lines into Tibet including an electrified line from Chengdu to Lhasa capable of speeds in excess of 200 kmh (125 mph); and the continued settlement of tens of thousands of Tibetan nomads into “socialist new villages” as part of a plan publicly endorsed by President Hu Jintao in March 2009.