As the Chinese government’s all-important “Two Sessions” get underway, Tibetans will be largely missing from positions of power.

In a new report released today, March 4, the International Campaign for Tibet tracks Tibetan representation in leadership at China’s national level, as well as the provincial and sub-provincial levels in Tibetan areas.

The report finds that Tibetans are mainly in token positions, while real power in Tibet remains in the hands of non-Tibetans.

These findings conflict with China’s claim that Tibetans have become “masters of their own destiny” since China’s takeover of Tibet.

The report, “Underrepresented: Tibetans kept out of most leadership positions,” arrives as Tibetans prepare to mark the 65th anniversary of their March 10, 1959 National Uprising, followed by the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile seven days later.

ICT says in the report: “The fact that the Communist Party excludes Tibetans from real leadership positions in Tibet gives reason to believe that the party leadership does not trust Tibetans to support CCP rule if they had the choice and, to the contrary, that Tibetans would choose to abolish CCP rule, if they could.”

Read ICT’s report.

National leadership

The “Two Sessions” began today in Beijing with the annual meeting of China’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, was scheduled to open its meeting on March 5.

The Chinese government has used the Two Sessions to boast about the rights given to Tibetans and other so-called “ethnic minorities.” However, ICT’s report finds that the Political Consultative Conference has only one Tibetan at the vice-presidential level, who has held the position on and off since the 1970s. Five other Tibetans are on the conference’s Standing Committee, which has a total of 299 members.

In the National People’s Congress, only one Tibetan is among the 14 vice chairs. The Congress’ 159-member Standing Committee also has just one Tibetan.

Tibetans are also largely missing from other leadership bodies at the national level. China’s 20th Party Congress has only one Tibetan in its 205 member-strong Party Central Committee, one fewer than in the 19th Party Congress. No Tibetan has ever served in the Politburo or its real-power-wielding Standing Committee.

Leadership in Tibet

While China denies Tibetans leadership opportunities in Beijing, it also largely keeps them locked out of power in their own homeland.

No Tibetan has ever served in the highest-ranking position of Communist Party secretary in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which spans most of western and central Tibet. Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces, which include the rest of the territory of Tibet, also lack Tibetan party secretaries.

There are some Tibetan party secretaries at the prefectural level in these areas, but the number has decreased since 2020.

Looking at the leadership of the security entities, including the public security bureaus—which are at the forefront of China’s control and suppression of the Tibetan people—almost all are non-Tibetans, both at the provincial as well as the prefectural level. Almost all heads of the military leadership at all levels in Tibet are also non-Tibetans.

“Looking at the situation of Tibetans in Tibet in 2024,” ICT’s report says, “rather than having their future in their own hands, they continue to be second-class citizens in their own homeland.”

Read ICT’s report, “Underrepresented: Tibetans kept out of most leadership positions.”