New wave of repression to hit Tibet, post-Olympics?

16, July 18’08

While putting out a façade of moderation and restraint by showing undue anxiety to reopen Lhasa and its principal temples and monasteries, and even talking with envoys of the Dalai Lama on May 4 and Jul 1-2, the Chinese authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are reported to have finalised measures for a brutal crackdown on Tibetans which may be unleashed in full measure after the Aug 8-24 Olympic Games in Beijing, according to Times Online (UK) Jul 13.

While a campaign of “re-education” is already being carried out throughout the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas, its renewed implementation, at least in the former, will be reminiscent of the initial years of the Chinese annexation of Tibet and, especially, the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the report indicated.

The renewed campaign was reported to have been outlined in confidential speeches to meetings of Communist party members by Zhang Qingli, the hardline party secretary of TAR. Verbatim texts of the speeches have been kept out of the Chinese media, and printed only in the April and May editions of the Xigang Tongxun (Tibet Communications) — a classified publication restricted to party officials. The Sunday Times said it had received translations of the texts at its Hong Kong office.

In his speeches Zhang is reported to have outlined a Mao-era system of “administrative committees” to control the monasteries; he is reported to have revived officious “street committees” to watch over the city and co-ordinated an intensive military operation. He is reported to have made it clear that the talks held with envoys of the Dalai Lama were a diplomatic mask to conceal China’s actual policy. His remarkably frank speeches are reported to show that the government’s chosen response would be a classic Marxist-Leninist propaganda and re-education campaign backed by armed force.

Zhang is reported to enjoy the backing of China’s top man in his own mould, President Hu Jintao. “He also has heavyweight support on the politburo in Beijing in the shape of his mentor Wang Lequan, a 64-year-old lifetime Communist functionary believed to be directing policy in both Tibet and the neighbouring region of Xinjiang,” the report said.

Claiming that the Dalai Lama group, “exploited by western enemy forces, is making a new plan for separatism”, Zhang has told the leaders of work units to guard their gates and manage their people well. “Let leaders of street committees be vigilant and keep watch on all outsiders.”

“Propaganda and education are our party’s greatest advantages. These are the most useful weapons with which to defend ourselves against the Dalai Lama group. So let the propaganda department work more actively to expose its plots.”

The internal publication requires that the police, the government’s religious bureau and all party branches to earnestly implement Zhang’s instructions. As to how, it is reported to say, “Each department should make full use of those religious people who love the motherland and love religion, in order to make the administrative committees work with vigour.” The “administrative committees” are a standard Communist party method of installing trusted cadres who will ensure obedience to its policies inside any institution.

The report cited Lie Que, the TAR’s propaganda head, as saying in remarks published by the official Tibet Daily on Jun 2, “We must clean out the monasteries and strengthen the administrative committees. … After that we will absolutely control them.”

Although China parades ethnic Tibetan figureheads in front of foreign journalists, the TAR is, in reality, governed by the party and the army. “The outskirts of Lhasa are ringed by barracks. Every road in is blocked by checkpoints. Real power rests with Zhang and the military commander of Tibet, General Tong Guishan,” the report noted.

A Chinese shopkeeper has summed up the reason why the repression on Tibetans is so intense. “I began to realise that Tibetans hate the Han [Chinese] from their bones and their hearts,” another Times Online report Jul 13 quoted a shopkeeper who had migrated to Lhasa from Shanxi province in central China as saying. “They are a very strange nation. They do not care about material things but only about the spirit.”


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