Tibet’s Party boss has underlined the imperative of extinguishing inner loyalty to the Dalai Lama among Tibetan officials and preventing them from attending teachings in exile, as the importance of the “anti-separatist struggle” is emphasized at the highest levels in Beijing. His comments were made in the same week as the unannounced visit to Lhasa of one of the Dalai Lama’s most prominent supporters globally, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, and a Congressional delegation.

Unusually, the official newspaper Global Times implied some criticism of Tibet Autonomous Region Party chief Chen Quanguo’s comments when it stated that it was nevertheless “difficult to spot” “separatism”, and that “local governments should provide more information of [the Dalai Lama’s] activities in a transparent and open manner.” (Global Times, November 11, 2015).[1]

Chen Quanguo’s hardline comments, made in a ‘question and answer’ article published by the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection tackling corruption,[2] follow earlier warnings of “punishment” for Tibetans “who have fantasies about the 14th Dalai Clique”.[3] This indicated how the PRC-wide anti-corruption campaign is being used to achieve political objectives in Tibet based on further undermining the Dalai Lama. It also effectively acknowledged the Chinese authorities’ failure to eradicate loyalty to the religious leader in exile, even among Party members.

The comments also focused on the new restrictions on Tibetans in attending Dalai Lama teachings in exile, stating: “In recent years not one person from our Region has gone abroad to participate in ‘Buddhist teachings’ organized by the Dalai Clique.”

As a result of the authorities’ more systematic approach in preventing travel to teachings, and an increasingly vitriolic anti-Dalai Lama campaign, there were fewer Tibetans from Tibet than Chinese Buddhists attending a major teaching in July 2014 by the Dalai Lama in India. It was the first time this had happened since the Dalai Lama started giving major teachings in exile, and was evidence of the difficulties of Tibetans, compared to Chinese, in obtaining passports, as well as of the tighter controls on movement imposed by the authorities in Tibet.[4]

The TAR Party chief’s comments connect Xi Jinping’s politicized drive against corruption with the ‘fight against separatism’, which is allied with the increasingly systematic political campaign to eliminate loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

In a recent interview,[5] Chen described the measures currently being implemented in the TAR:

“We’re implementing greater discipline with a system of 15 provisions, the ‘Provisions Regarding the Punishment of Communist Party Cadres in Violation of Political Discipline’ and ‘Provisions for Punishing Executive Civil Servants in Violation of Political Discipline.’ These establish a ‘red line’ for serious political discipline, and set up ‘high voltage lines.’ There will be severe punishments for Party members and cadres who are without firm beliefs and convictions, those who aren’t of one mind with the Party and people, those who are ‘two-faced people’ on major issues of right and wrong, those who hold incorrect views on ethnicity, those who act like they don’t believe in religion but covertly do, those who participate in illegal organizations, and those who publicly oppose the statements of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee.

There will be severe punishments for Party members and cadres who follow the Dalai Clique, those who support infiltration and sabotage activities, those who leave the country to worship the 14th Dalai, participating in his ‘Buddhist teachings,’ listen to his sermons, and those who send their relatives and children to be educated in schools run by the 14th Dalai Clique. So far this year 19 cases of political discipline violations have been investigated, and 20 people have been punished in the Tibet Autonomous Region. In recent years not one person from our Region has gone abroad to participate in ‘Buddhist teachings’ organized by the Dalai Clique.”

Earlier this year ICT noted that restrictions on movement were contributing to a reduced number of Tibetans from inside Tibet being able to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings in India, as was the case during a Kalachakra initiation given in Ladakh in 2014.[6] Chen’s statements appear to reflect the success of these newly increased strangleholds on movement.

[1] ‘Officials warned of Dalai worship’. The comment was citing “a Tibet-based expert”, as follows: “However, a Tibet-based expert who requested anonymity said it’s hard to identify such people because separatism is an ideological issue and is usually difficult to spot during recruitment simply through their words and deeds. The expert added that the 14th Dalai Lama has been deodorizing his image, and local governments should provide more information of his activities in a transparent and open manner.” http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/951991.shtml

[2] In Chinese and translated in full into English below: http://csr.mos.gov.cn/content/2015-11/09/content_19075.htm

[3] ICT report, January 28, 2015, https://www.https://savetibet.org/communist-party-officials-punished-for-supporting-dalai-lama/

[4] See ICT report, ‘A Policy Alienating Tibetans: The denial of passports to Tibetans as China tightens control’, https://savetibet.org/policy-alienating-tibetans-denial-passports-tibetans-china-intensifies-control/

[5] http://csr.mos.gov.cn/content/2015-11/09/content_19075.htm

[6] “A Policy Alienating Tibetans,” https://savetibet.org/a-policy-alienating-tibetans-new-ict-report-on-systematic-denial-of-passports-to-tibetans/