REPORT: China has Tibet under permanent repressive surveillance

Chinese secret surveillance on Tibetans from the roofs of Buildings in Lhasa. (Photo courtesy: TPI)
Chinese secret surveillance on Tibetans from the roofs of Buildings in Lhasa. (Photo courtesy: TPI)

(, Jan19’16) – China is continuing in Tibet what was initially meant to be a limited, three-year period of a highly intrusive surveillance campaign that monitors the activities and thinking of the Tibetan people and carries out political education in order to turn each of the more than 5000 villages in the region into “a fortress” in “the struggle against separatism”, said New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch in a new report Jan 18.

The campaign involves stationing teams of four or more cadres in each village, including with a Tibetan interpreter, to set up new Communist Party organizations, establish local security schemes, gather information about villagers that could lead to detentions or punishment, and other measures. The teams also carry out re-education to make villagers to “Feel the Party’s kindness” and other topics.

The group says official media reports describe how the teams pressure villagers to publicly show support for the ruling Communist Party and to oppose the Dalai Lama.

The campaign was launched by Beijing in 2011 and euphemistically titled as “Benefit the Masses”, the purpose being to prevent the recurrence of the protests that spread across the Tibetan plateau in 2008. Some 21,000 Party officials, government officers, members of government enterprises and work-units, members of the People’s Armed Police and the Public Security forces from township and urban areas of the TAR were sent to live in the villages. The scheme, which cost more than 25 percent of the regional government’s budget, was supposed to last for three years, the report said.

The report notes that the campaign was unprecedented in terms of duration and relative size in China, where in the past full-time government and Party administrators have rarely if ever been stationed for extended periods to areas below the level of the township.

According to routine coverage of the village-based work teams’ works in the official media, the team members are required to carry out “five duties,” of which three are political or security operations: building up Party and other organizations in the village, “maintaining social stability,” and carrying out “Feeling the Party’s kindness” education with villagers. The other two duties involve promoting economic development and providing “practical benefit” to the villagers.

Under the slogan of “all villages become fortresses, and everyone is a watchman”, the teams recruit and train new Party members and establish “grassroots stability maintenance” organizations such as “joint defense teams” or “patrol teams.”

Official media reports are cited as saying that in the fourth year of the village-based cadre scheme in Nagchu, one of seven prefecture-level areas in the TAR, the cadre teams had held 1,686 political education sessions, made 45,903 “propaganda education visits to households,” and recruited 1,194 new Party members. Teams in Shigatse municipality were reported to have recruited 10,030 new Party members during the four years thus far of the scheme, while fourth-batch teams in Lhokha prefecture were reported to have held 3,625 sessions “on exposing the heinous reactionary crimes of the 14th Dalai clique.”

The campaign was supposed to end in Oct 2014. But in Dec 2014, the TAR authorities issued a communiqué that referred to the “mechanism of village-stationed cadres’ work” as “long-term,” together with “suggestions” of ways “to consolidate and expand the excellent initial results” of village-cadres work, while noting that there should be “no changes” to the cadres’ work in villages.

Later in Aug 2015, the report said, a statement posted on a government Tibetan-language website said that the TAR authorities had called for work teams “to be constantly stationed at their village committees”. It was reported to have added that “on hearing that village-based-cadre work was to continue, the rural masses were overjoyed, saying that this was one of the Party and government’s best policies to benefit rural areas.”

The work team cadres are apparently being sent in batches to the villages. It notes that the state media in the TAR had published a series of reports referring to the “fourth batch” of village-based cadres and the “fourth phase” of village-based cadre work. And in Nov 2015, at a meeting to award outstanding and progressive village and monastery-based cadres from the fourth batch, the departure of the “fifth batch” was officially announced. This confirmed indications that no end-date had been set for the program, the group added.

The rights group has called on China to end the highly intrusive and repressive surveillance scheme in Tibet, for it “openly and massively infringes upon the basic rights of Tibetans protected under Chinese and international law.”


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