In a public notice just ahead of the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6, 2022, the Lhasa Municipality Public Security Bureau has offered rewards for Tibetans reporting on crimes against “state security” in order to “build an iron wall of stability.”

The notice (archived version), issued on July 4, offers up to 300,000 Chinese Yuan ($44,840) as financial incentive to Tibetans in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Eight out of the 12 points listed in the notice as the “scope of clue reporting” are directly related to Tibetan activism, which the Chinese government defines as “illegal and criminal activities.” This can include reading or speaking about, for instance, foreign newspaper articles or broadcasts about Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

In the 12 points detailing the scope of reporting to the bureau, eight points are directly related to what can be considered as protected expression of thought and opinion. While point 7 explicitly states that online activities connected to “Tibet independence” should be considered a crime, other forms of Tibetan expression of opinion and thought in the form of speech, writing, audio or video materials, wearing flags and other souvenirs are also listed as crimes relevant for reporting to the authorities.

“The International Campaign for Tibet is deeply concerned about the measures,” ICT said today. “The Chinese authorities in Tibet are using tactics to turn Tibetans against each other by creating further fear and distrust among families, friends and neighbors. These rewards represent measures of a totalitarian system, deeply affecting the lives of Tibetans and criminalizing peaceful dissent and activities that are protected by international law.”

Partial translation of the notice detailing the scope of reporting on “illegal activities and crimes”

  1. Illegal and criminal clues that spread rumors, defame and slander the state power and the socialist system, and endanger national sovereignty.
  2. Illegal and criminal clues on publishing and disseminating harmful remarks, publications, audio and video materials, undermining ethnic unity, creating ethnic division, inciting ethnic hatred and undermining national unity.
  3. Illegal and criminal clues of collusion with overseas institutions, organizations and individuals, stealing, spying on, selling, and illegally providing state secrets or intelligence.
  4. Illegal and criminal clues that use the name of religion to endanger national security, collude with foreign forces to interfere in domestic religious affairs, distort religious teachings, or use other methods to incite and advocate violence and other extremist and ethnic discrimination ideas.
  5. Illegal and criminal clues of funding or assisting hostile forces or other organizations or individuals to endanger national security.
  6. Illegal and criminal clues of making, selling, distributing, listening to, reading, storing and other publications that promote terrorism, extremist publications, audio and video materials or other items, hoarding or wearing flags, clothing, utensils, souvenirs, etc. containing terrorism and extremism contents, financing terrorist activities and separatist sabotage activities.
  7. Illegal and criminal clues that use the Internet to create and spread rumors, or publish or spread incitement to harmful speeches that endanger political security and social stability, download, produce, disseminate and store anti-propaganda information through the Internet or mobile phones, mobile storage media, e-readers, etc., and gathering the crowd to preach and spread the idea of “Tibet independence”.
  8. Illegal and criminal clues that use the power of family and clan to run rampant in villages, oppress the masses, control grass-roots political power, manipulate and interfere with grass-roots public affairs, and interfere with and undermine rural governance and social stability.
  9. Illegal and criminal clues of illegal operation, transportation, trading, storage of explosive, flammable, toxic, corrosive hazardous chemicals and sales, storage, and provision of hazardous chemicals, and selling, storing and providing scattered gasoline and diesel in violation of the “Administrative Measures for the Sales of Fragmented Oil Products in the Tibet Autonomous Region” (Order No. 117 of the People’s Government of the Autonomous Region).
  10. Illegal and criminal clues on venting anger or taking revenge on the society, prepare clues to commit extremist violent crimes such as murder, injury, arson, explosion, poisoning, etc.
  11. Illegal and criminal clues of illegally manufacturing, trading, transporting, mailing, storing, possessing, and possession of guns (including parts), ammunition, explosives, dangerous chemicals, and controlled knives.
  12. Other various illegal and criminal acts that seriously affect the people’s sense of security.

Similar measures

The Public Security Bureau explicitly cites the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Anti-Terrorism Law of the PRC, the Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the PRC, as well as other laws and regulations of the PRC and the Tibet Autonomous Region as bases for issuing the public notice. Depending on the “significance” of a report to the authorities, the PSB offers financial rewards to informants with an incremental range from 3,000 ($448) to 300,000 ($44,840) Chinese yuan with protection to the informant (Jǔbào rén).

The notice is consistent with similar measures by the Chinese authorities, for example in 2018[1] and 2019.[2] In 2018, in a nationwide campaign against so-called “illegal content,” Chinese authorities were offering rewards to those who inform on others suspected of crimes against “state security.” At that time, coinciding with the campaign, a series of graphic cartoons were distributed in Lhasa, including one of a closed fist smashing into two people marked with the Chinese characters for “black (illegal)” and “evil.” The Dalai Lama is characterized as a leader of such “evil forces” by the Chinese authorities. A circular on social media issued by the Chinese Public Security Bureau on Nov. 14, 2018 and obtained by the International Campaign for Tibet stated that 30 boxes across Lhasa had been set up for citizens to report on such “criminal issues.”[3]

Already in 2012, Chinese security authorities posted notices in the Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) area in Kanlho (Gannan) offering substantial rewards for information about the “black hand” behind four recent Tibetan self-immolations in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.[4]

Screenshot

Screenshot of Lhasa Public Security Bureau offering financial rewards for reporting on each other.

In February 2019, a similar notice was released that criminalized online activities to “collect, produce, download, store, publish, disseminate, and publicise malicious attacks against the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, the socialist system, the regional ethnic autonomy system, and the party and the government’s policy of managing TAR.” The 2019 notice offered rewards of up to 300,000 yuan (US $45,858.93), up from 100,000 yuan (US $15,286.31), the same authorities announced in a directive issued by the TAR Public Security Bureau in 2018.

Dalai Lama birthday

The fact that the public notice was issued just two days ahead of the Dalai Lama’s 87th birthday is also noteworthy. In the eyes of the authorities, organizing or participating in the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday is a crime in Tibet. Not only celebrating in person, but celebrating virtually in the form of art, poetry, literature or simple comments draws intense scrutiny from the authorities in the name of social and political stability.

In recent years, the Chinese government has been both explicitly and implicitly framing the issue of Tibet and rights activism as a matter of national security for China, hence the justification for the securitization of Tibet and the draconian security measures against Tibetans.

The current public notice issued by the Lhasa Public Security Bureau is an explicit statement of viewing dissenting views on Chinese policies in Tibet, reverence to the Dalai Lama, or grassroots activities to protect culture and identity as a danger against the national security of China. The Chinese state narrative on China’s political leader’s, Wang Yang’s, inspection to Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan area in Gansu province in May this year was also framed in terms of China’s national security. Beijing’s broadly defined “Overall National Security Concept” and the application of heavy-handed national security laws have led to a climate of repression in Tibet.

Footnotes:
[1] “Chinese Authorities Crushing Freedom of Expression in the Name of Internet Security,” Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, August 5, 2019, https://tchrd.org/chinese-authorities-crushing-freedom-of-expression-in-the-name-of-internet-security/.

[2] “China Announces ‘Strike Hard’ Campaign against Online Activities Aimed at ‘Splitting the Country’ and ‘Undermining National Unity’ in Tibet,” Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, December 28, 2020, https://tchrd.org/china-announces-strike-hard-campaign-against-online-activities-aimed-at-splitting-the-country-and-undermining-national-unity-in-tibet/.

[3] “The Illegality of Everything: China’s New Campaign Offers Rewards for Information on ‘Illegal Content,’” International Campaign for Tibet, December 3, 2018, https://savetibet.org/the-illegality-of-everything-chinas-new-campaign-offers-rewards-for-information-on-illegal-content/.

[4] “Chinese Authorities Offer Large Rewards for Information on ‘Black Hand’ behind Tibetan Self-Immolations,” International Campaign for Tibet, October 24, 2012, https://savetibet.org/chinese-authorities-offer-large-rewards-for-information-on-black-hand-behind-tibetan-self-immolations/.

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