China has weaponised its census exercise, is unlikely to reveal Tibet’s true population

Lhasa, Tibet. (Photo courtesy: Xinhua)

(, Dec07’20) – China will complete its seventh census, begun on Nov 1, on Dec 10, with its new features prompting a multitude of concerns. In particular, Residents must indicate whether they have family members in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan or if they have any family members outside of the country while those who are over sixty must indicate their state of health, noted Dec 6, citing Reuters Nov 2.

Additionally, because of the way the new census data is collected, Tibetans worry about having to disclose that they had family in other regions or countries. Based on their experience of the 2010 census, they fear that the 2020 census will continue to disguise the actual size of the Tibetan population and the number of Han Chinese migrants to Tibet, said the report.

Some seven million census takers go door-to-door, interviewing residents and entering information that goes directly to the government via mobile apps. Bitter Winter, which focuses on religious freedom issues in China, was reported to have talked to several census takers who had said they were instructed to pay particular attention to people’s religious status even though the question was not asked on the official census questionnaire. They had to “pay particular attention to religious materials and symbols in people’s homes.”

The report noted that the Chinese government had used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to crack down on all religious groups by closing churches, mosques, and temples, and surveilling residences to ensure that people were not gathering for a house church meeting. It saw the census as one more way to identify and target religious groups, particularly Christians.

A census taker from Shandong’s Heze city was reported to have revealed that he was ordered to report to the police anyone who wouldn’t allow him inside their home and only agree to answer questions outside their residences. The explanation was that such people were to be suspected of holding religious beliefs or may even be hosting unauthorized gatherings.


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