An international human rights group has said that China changed its Tibetan policy in 2001 focusing on accelerated economic development and tightened control over alleged “secessionist” activities. In its annual global survey released on January 16, 2002, the New York based Human Rights Watch included summaries of human rights events in 2001 in 66 countries, as well as refugee issues, international justice, corporate social responsibility, and the weapons trade. The 670-page Human Rights Watch World Report 2002 included a separate section on the situation in Tibet.

Commenting on the overall situation in China, the survey said, “The Chinese leadership’s preoccupation with stability in the face of continued economic and social upheaval fueled an increase in human rights violations. China’s increasingly prominent international profile, symbolized in 2001 by its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and by Beijing’s successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics, was accompanied by tightened controls on fundamental freedoms. The leadership turned to trusted tools, limiting free expression by arresting academics, closing newspapers and magazines, strictly controlling Internet content, and utilizing a refurbished Strike Hard campaign to circumvent legal safeguards for criminal suspects and alleged separatists, terrorists, and so-called religious extremists. In its campaign to eradicate Falungong, Chinese officials imprisoned thousands of practitioners and used torture and psychological pressure to force recantations. Legal experts continued the work of professionalizing the legal system but authorities in too many cases invoked “rule of law” to justify repressive politics. After the September 11 attacks in the United States, Chinese officials used concern with global terrorism as justification for crackdowns in Tibet and Xinjiang.”

Given below is the full text of the section on Tibet.

China revised its overall Tibetan policy in June 2001, the fourth such change since it took command of the region in 1950. Goals for 2001-2006 included accelerated economic development and tightened control over alleged “secessionist” activities. During a July visit, Vice-President Hu Jintao stated that it was “essential to fight unequivocally against separatist activities by the Dalai clique and anti-China forces in the world.”

Efforts to engage the Chinese leadership in a dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama were unsuccessful in 2001. Following the Dalai Lama’s criticism of Chinese policy during a speech to the European Parliament general assembly on October 24, Chinese officials reiterated their position that talks could take place only if the Dalai Lama renounced his “separatist stand” and openly acknowledged that Tibet was an inalienable part of China, Taiwan merely a province, and “the government of the People’s Republic of China the sole legitimate government representing the whole of China.”

At the beginning of the Tibetan New Year in February, government workers, cadres, and school children were banned from attending prayer festivals at monasteries or from contributing to temples and monasteries. During Monlam Chemo, formerly a festival of great religious significance, monks at Lhasa’s major monasteries were not permitted to leave their respective complexes, and government authorities banned certain rites.

The Strike Hard campaign in Tibet had a decidedly political focus. At a May meeting in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), courts were ordered to carry out the campaign forcefully against “those whose crimes endanger state security,” and “those who guide people illegally across borders,” in other words, against those who help Tibetans reach Nepal or Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama’s home in exile. During the first month of the campaign, 254 people were caught trying to leave or reenter the TAR, many allegedly carrying “reactionary propaganda materials.” In June, police in the Lhasa region detained hundreds of Tibetans who burned incense, said prayers, or threw tsampa (roasted barley) into the air in defiance of an order banning celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Some twenty Tibetans were arrested or sentenced in 2001 for “splittist” activities. In October, at least three foreign tourists and three Tibetans were detained in Lhasa in October for displaying the banned Tibetan flag and shouting pro-independence slogans.

Authorities cut back the number of nuns and monks from 8,000 to 1,400 at the Buddhist Study Center Larung Gar near Serthar in Sichuan province, destroying their housing as they left. A similar order was put into effect at Yachen, another encampment in Sichuan. Authorities continued to deny access to the Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The boy, now twelve years old, disappeared from public view in 1995 after Beijing chose another child as the reincarnation. Chadrel Rinpoche, the senior lama who led the search, was still in prison. He was last seen in mid-May 1995 shortly before he was sentenced to a six-year prison term.