• Online listings show rampant use of “limited to Han” in want ads.
  • At least one state entity – the People’s Liberation Army – appears engaged in hiring bias against Tibetans.
  • Photos show Tibetans not desired or given lower pay in hiring.

New translations of job advertisements in Tibet, both online and as notices posted in public spaces, confirm overt discrimination against Tibetans. The ads also reveal that Tibetans are not even being offered menial, unskilled work in some sectors, or if they are, they are in some instances being offered a wage significantly lower than their Han counterparts.

The practice of advertising positions “limited to Han” is also observed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – referred to by its historical name of East Turkistan by many Uyghurs in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and in exile – although based on a basic survey of online employment agencies by ICT, the practice appears to be more common in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and in Lhasa in particular.

In almost all of the ads the stipulation “limited to Han” (Ch: xian Hanzu) – or simply “Han” (Ch: Hanzu) – is placed among other requirements and qualifications for the job in question, such as age, experience or holding a driver’s license.

Employers making such stipulations include the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: The Snow Lotus Hotel, a guest house in Lhasa apparently owned and operated by the Tibet Military District Logistics Bureau, is currently advertising for several restaurant servers and kitchen porters “limited to Han” (see here and here). This particular ad appears to be evidence of discrimination directly practiced by a governmental entity.

In at least one instance, Tibetan laborers were offered a significantly lower rate than their Han counterparts. A blackboard seen in an undated photograph outside the Hongqiao Employment Agency in central Lhasa clearly states Han laborers will be paid 50 yuan (US $8) per day while Tibetans will only be paid 30 yuan (US $4.75) per day (see here).

Dozens of help wanted ads can be returned on just one of the largest job-search sites in the TAR, www.0891zp.com, by searching the site with the characters for “limited to Han” (Ch: xian Hanzu). The search term not only retrieves numerous examples of job ads that include that particular phrase, but also many more that state “Not limited to male or female, Han” (Ch: nannu buxian, Hanzu). (See here, here, here and here.)

The ads contravene key principles enshrined in the Constitution of the PRC, including Article 4 which states: “All nationalities in the People’s Republic of China are equal.” China’s own National Human Rights Action Plan, an official document submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Commission that outlines the state’s adherence to human rights norms, states that “In China, all ethnic groups are equal, and the state protects the lawful rights and interest of ethnic minorities.” (National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010), undated.)

The ads also present a significant challenge to China’s efforts to meet its obligations under the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which stipulates in Article 5.e.i that states party to the convention must guarantee that all races and ethnic groups enjoy, without distinction or discrimination, “the rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favorable remuneration.” (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination)

“These job ads in today’s China bring back disturbing memories of the United States prior to the civil rights movement or South Africa prior to the anti-apartheid movement. The international community – and the citizens of the People’s Republic of China – should hold the government accountable to its legal commitments to combat discrimination, and engage Chinese authorities on steps to combat circumstances that allow racial bias to play out in Tibet,” said Mary Beth Markey, ICT President.

Beijing’s development plans for Tibet have been criticized as primarily benefiting extractive industries and interests in China, with negligible returns for local Tibetan communities. Moreover, economic development in the TAR, for example, is subsidized at a rate of 90% – which has driven double-digit GDP growth for well over a decade but is attracting increasing numbers of settlers and migrant workers from the Chinese mainland. The local Tibetan population is already at a disadvantage in the job market due to factors including language ability, connections in the Chinese-run economy, and a lack of familiarity with Chinese work practices. (For an in-depth presentation and analysis of China’s development plans in Tibet, see ICT’s report Tracking the Steel Dragon – February 2008, also available as a free PDF download.)

The practice of limiting recruitment to Chinese job applicants can be seen in other areas of the PRC which, like the TAR, are designated “nationality autonomous” in recognition of the fact that the populations of these areas are or were prevalently non-Han. In East Turkistan for example, an advertisement appeared on the Jimusa’er County government website seeking several Han health workers (see here) – according to the 2002 census, around 30% of the county’s population was non-Han, while Hotan City Tobacco Monopoly Bureau, also in East Turkistan, was hiring 10 people, and stipulated that eight should be Han and only two should be Uyghurs (see here) – Han make up less than 4% of Hotan Prefecture’s population according to official statistics, while Uyghurs make up almost 93% (See “Introduction to Hotan” (in Chinese) on the Hotan City Government website. A hotel in Ordos in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region advertised for almost 160 people in various positions, and stipulated for each of the positions that the applicants should be Han (see here). In a job advertisement for truck drivers seen on an job-search site in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the text reads “To make life easier (Ch: weile shenghuo fangbian), limited to Han” (see here).