• The Chinese authorities have imposed stringent new conditions on candidates for village-level committee elections in one area of Tibet, which includes the exclusion of anyone who has attended religious teachings by the Dalai Lama, has ‘overseas connections’ or who “secretly has sympathy for the 14th Dalai clique”.
  • The conditions were announced by Ngari (Chinese: Ali) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region as the authorities carry out a new round of committee elections all over PRC. China claims that these elections represent the implementation of ‘village democracy’, but the new Tibetan-specific conditions are a further indicator that the Tibetan people face discrimination and do not enjoy the limited rights granted by the Chinese authoritarian system.

The new conditions for candidates for village committees, both for the Party and for the Government, in Ngari Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), were announced on its official website earlier this month. Ngari is located in the south-west of the TAR and because it borders India, security measures have been intense.

The conditions specify that candidates, not only must be “politically trustworthy”, and capable of “gaining support of the masses”, but that they will be excluded if they have attended any of the Dalai Lama’s teachings, have “overseas connections” or even “communicate overseas”. The conditions stipulate that candidates must also not even harbor any private, unexpressed sympathy for the “Dalai Clique”. (A full translation of the requirements into English is included at the end of this report).

The new provisions, which may also apply in other areas of Tibet, do not feature in the ‘Organic Law of the Villagers Committees of the PRC’ introduced in 1987 and formalized in 1998. Scholars have debated whether elections at the village level across the PRC constitute a ‘Trojan horse’ for genuine democracy, or simply a project to attain regime legitimacy.[1] The conditions outlined in Ngari underline the different political circumstances in Tibet compared to elsewhere in the PRC, and highlight the pervasive and aggressive nature of the anti-Dalai Lama campaign.

Since protests swept across Tibet in 2008, the Chinese government has adopted a strategy of actively establishing Party presence in rural areas as its answer to ‘instability.’ This has led to a more pervasive and systematic approach to ‘patriotic education’ and a dramatic increase in work teams and Party cadres in rural areas of the TAR as well as well-resourced initiatives in the cultural and social sphere in Lhasa and other urban areas.

While these measures are being enforced across all Tibetan areas, implementation is particularly acute across the Tibet Autonomous Region.

In tandem with a deepening political education campaign in the TAR after 2008, the then Party Secretary Zhang Qingli ordered the examination and review of individual Party members’ records and background in the Party. According to Tibet Daily, the re-organization and examination was in order to re-build the foundation of reaching goal of “long-term political stability” in the TAR.[2] Newly recruited Party members are “the only channel for the central Party organization” to know about what Tibetans are doing.

The Chinese leadership has made it clear since 2009 that the training of a new generation of Party members at grass roots level is essential. As part of this campaign, the TAR government tested a trial of “one Party member to make contact with five families” within communities in the Barkhor area of Lhasa. Tibet Daily reported that “The responsibility of one party member is to deliver party’s important messages to five families’ members on time, to make sure they understand Party policy, to help them and watch them and deeply understand the political thoughts and concepts which influence their lifestyle”. (Tibet Daily, May 26, 2009).

A Tibetan woman in her forties gave an account to ICT of the visit of a Chinese work team to her home area in the TAR, saying that the young Chinese and Tibetan cadres stayed at her house for two weeks: “They asked many questions, about our family background, from 1959 onwards, whether we have relatives and friends in India or outside Tibet, and whether we had any family members or relatives who were involved in the 14th March [2008] incident.

They listened to our conversations and took notes. They went to all the rooms in our house and looked around; they seemed to be looking for any suspicious items such as books and photos of His Holiness. We did not have household numbers in our village, but the work team gave numbers to every house, and the Chinese girl drew a map of the village, and took lots of photographs both inside and outside the houses, and of our daily movements. […] They said: ‘How important is Dalai for you and your family and do you want him to pray when you die?’ One of them said that he would not take notes or report it to the authorities, but that he really wanted to know how important His Holiness is in our life. I told him that I believe His Holiness and that he is truly a Buddha, and that if you pray for him, you will be happy and kind. I admitted that I love and pray for His Holiness and I can’t ever remove my faith from my heart.”[3]

The new conditions for Party candidates

A translation into English by ICT of the new requirements for candidates for Party committee elections in Ngari follows below. There are two village committees, and elections are every three years.

Among the requirements are the exclusion of individuals whose relatives are studying at ‘separatist schools’ outside the PRC, a reference to Tibetans whose children are at exile schools in India. This has long been a requirement for cadres and government workers in Tibet; in 2008, the authorities issued measures stating that Tibetan children must confess if they have been to schools in India and whether they believed anything they had been taught there, according to the official Communist Party paper, Tibet Daily. Similar but less stringent measures were imposed in the mid-1990s.[4]

The reference to the exclusion of individuals who have attended religious teachings by the Dalai Lama is further evidence of a more systematic approach to block Tibetans from travelling into exile in India or elsewhere to mingle with other Tibetans in the Tibetan religious leader’s presence. This approach became evident in 2012, when the Chinese authorities launched an operation to monitor Tibetans from inside Tibet attending a major religious empowerment in Bodh Gaya, India. On their return to Tibet, many Tibetans who had attended were held in ‘re-education’ camps.[5]

This year, there was a dramatic decline in the number of Tibetans from inside Tibet who were able to attend a major religious teaching by the Dalai Lama in Ladakh in July. A month before the teaching, the Chinese authorities tightened controls in Ngari, and deployed paramilitary troops to block Tibetans from making a pilgrimage to the sacred Mount Kailash in western Tibet and restrict travel in border areas. The moves were linked to the authorities’ objectives in preventing Tibetans from attending a major religious teaching, the Kalachakra, by the Dalai Lama across the border in Ladakh from July 3.[6]

The conditions for leadership change of “two committees”[7] of the village

(Originally published on the government website of Ngari (Chinese: Ali) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region on September 3, 2014.)

The foremost conditions for a candidate are to be knowledgeable and capable, with good morals, and politically trust worthy. The candidates for members of the leadership “two committees” of the villages need to have good understanding of politics, trust of the people, love of the work, good leadership skills, be capable of maintaining stability, and serving the public.

A. The basic condition for the candidates

i. Support the leadership of the CCP, support socialist system, support regional minority autonomy system, unwavering support of development with Chinese characteristics and Tibetan features, make firm distinctive line from the Fourteenth Dalai Clique, firm defense of the unification of motherland and unity of all ethnic groups, firmly against separatism and defend stability.
ii. Be an example of leader for improvement of the regulations and policies of the Party. Obedient to the political discipline of the Party, discipline of the organization, rules against separatism, rules of finance and of working for the masses; obedience to the law, and performance of the job according to the rules and regulations.
iii. Have a strong sense of the job and responsibility, committed to take responsibility, unwavering, just, and honest.
iv. Have a strong wish of serving, be capable of service for the masses, be good at guiding work of masses, and gaining support of the masses.
v. Appropriate age, physically healthy, industrious, love of work, a certain level of basic education, capable of organizing and coordinating, capable of leading the masses to create wealth.
vi. To be a member of the two committees, one must be a member or preparatory member of the communist party; the education level for the secretary and director must be at least middle school level.

B. People who cannot be candidates

i. Person who has committed criminal activities, participated in riots and rebellions, practiced evil religions and illegal activities, is bad influence to the masses.
ii. Person who has attended overseas “religious gatherings” organized by the Fourteenth Dalai,[8] person who has attended teachings or participated in illegal organizations and activities in monasteries outside of the TAR (Larung Gar, Serthar Monastery, Yarchen Monastery)[9]; persons with overseas connections; persons communicating overseas; persons with relatives or children who are working for the organizations of the Fourteenth Dalai Cliques, or as ordained clergy at overseas monasteries or studying at overseas separatist schools; secretly holding sympathy and support for the Fourteenth Dalai Clique.[10]

iii. Person who obstructs normal running of the Village in the name of religion, ethnicity, or even underground evil powers, person who cheats and oppresses the masses.
iv. Person who has poor knowledge of the law, creates trouble without reason, submits petitions without order, submits petitions for long periods, or is bad influence on social stability.
v. Person with poor political sense and moral ethics, person who does not perform legal duties, person held in bad esteem by the masses.
vi. Person who has bad motivations for becoming candidate, Getting votes illegally, efforts to sabotage elections by any means.
vii. If spouse or direct relative is a member of one of the two committees.
viii. If anything does not comply with the rules and regulations of the election.

[1] See, for instance, Gunther Schubert’s paper, ‘Village Elections in the PRC: A Trojan Horse of Democracy?’ Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften (Institute for East Asian Studies/East Asian Politics), Gerhard-Mercator-University Duisburg, published in January, 2002, http://homepage.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/david.beckeherm/WiSe%202005-2006/Hausarbeit/Dorfwahlen%20in%20China%20-%20Demokratieansatz%20oder%20Opium%20f%FCrs%20Volk/Quellen/discuss19.pdf

[2] Tibet Daily, September 23, 2009.

[3] For the full interview, see ICT report ‘Storm in the Grasslands: Self-Immolations in Tibet and Chinese policy’, p 55, https://savetibet.org/storm-in-the-grasslands-self-immolations-in-tibet-and-chinese-policy/

[4] ICT report, September 22, 2008, https://savetibet.org/tibetan-children-due-to-face-forced-confessions-punishment-for-studying-in-india/

[5] ICT report, February 22, 2012, https://savetibet.org/lockdown-in-lhasa-at-tibetan-new-year-unprecedented-detentions-of-hundreds-of-tibetans-after-dalai-lama-teaching-in-exile/

[6] ICT report, June 12, 2014, https://savetibet.org/china-tightens-control-prevents-pilgrimage-before-major-dalai-lama-teaching-in-exile/

[7] The two committees are the Party and Government Village Committees

[8] A disrespectful contraction of the title ‘Dalai Lama’

[9] Unusually, these specific establishments are named in the conditions. Larung Gar, Serthar and Yachen are important religious encampments where thousands of Tibetans and Chinese study Tibetan Buddhism under important lamas.

[10] A disrespectful title for the Dalai Lama and his followers.