China in Tibet: Striking hard against human rights

9712301997 Annual Report:  Human Rights Violations in Tibet

China in Tibet: Striking Hard Against Human Rights endeavours to convey some idea of the extensive brutalities which continue to be perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the people of Tibet. The human rights of every Tibetan in what has recently been termed “the world’s largest remaining colony” have been drastically eroded under Chinese occupation; their individual rights and their rights as a people trampled under the boots of Chinese military and the trucks which carry out the natural resources and carry in Chinese settlers.

As of December 1997, there are 1216 known political prisoners languishing in Chinese prisons in Tibet. Of those, 295 are women and 39 are juvenile prisoners below the age of 19. Six reports of Tibetans dying as a result of torture and ill-treatment were received in 1997. Under China’s “Strike Hard” campaign, 2,827 monks and nuns were expelled, 165 arrests and nine deaths were reported.

The “Strike Hard” campaign and its attendant “re-education” drive, launched in Tibet in early 1996 and rapidly extended in 1997, signals an increasingly intensive momentum by Chinese authorities to crack down on Tibetans who call for independence and respect for human rights in Tibet. As Chinese work-teams surge into more and more of Tibet’s monasteries and nunneries, controls have been tightened and populations culled. The 1997 year saw the continuing detention of Tibet’s second highest spiritual leader-the eight-year-old Panchen Lama reincarnate, and the six-year sentencing of the religious figure who helped to find him.

China’s clamp down has not stopped at Tibet’s religious institutions. Threatening to extend “re-education” sessions into all spheres of Tibetan culture-which authorities recently declared “non-Buddhist” – the PRC has already made massive inroads into its efforts to sinicise the Tibetan people. Tibetan language and Tibet-related education has been drastically downgraded. Population measures-a ceaseless flow of Chinese settlers transported in to “develop” the region and the forced sterilisation of Tibetan women-combine to produce an ever-growing threat to the Tibetan people’s survival. And as “developmentî causes drastic changes to the Tibetan social structure, the most striking feature of Tibet’s Chinese-engineered economic lift-off is the lack of

Freedom of Religion

Throughout 1997, Chinese authorities intensified their brutal suppression of Tibetan people’s right to practise and express their religious beliefs. Under China’s “Strike Hard’ campaign (or “Crack Down Severely on Crimes”) implemented in Tibet since April 1996, Tibetan monks and nuns have been targeted for intensive ‘patriotic re-education’ sessions and strict controls within the monasteries and nunneries have resulted in 2,827 expulsions, 165 arrests, nine deaths and 35 voluntarily leaving their monasteries and nunneries.

Chinese work-teams have been sent into monasteries and nunneries all over Tibet to conduct “patriotic re-education” sessions to instruct monks on the “evils of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan nationalism and those. A five-point political pledge requires monks to oppose the idea of an independent Tibet, to denounce the Dalal Lama and to recognise the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama. Democratic Management Committees established by Chinese authorities in Tibetan monasteries and nunneries have been reconstituted by the work-team. Regulations allowing entrance into monasteries have been tightened and most recently entrance has been denied to those aged below 16 years, thereby further reducing the monastic population and discouraging religious studies.

China reported that so far some 30,000 of Tibet’s 46,000 Buddhist monks and nuns have received “patriotic re-education” and out of 1,787 monasteries and temples, a reported 1,780 monasteries and temples have been covered by the work-teams. Chinese authorities have announced they are now determined to extend the campaign in monasteries and nunneries into all parts of Tibetan society.

Freedom of Expression and Opinion

In 1997, 96 known cases of Tibetans arrested were recorded, most as a result of exercising their freedom of expression and opinion. The term “endangering national security” has been introduced in amendments to the Chinese criminal law, replacing the previously used term of “counter-revolutionary”, but it appears that any expression of perceived political opinion in Tibet can amount to a threat to China’s “national security”. Tibetans have been arrested in 1997 for: pasting pro-Tibetan wall posters; hanging the Tibetan national flag; writing leaflets calling for Tibetan independence and as always, for speaking the forbidden phrase of “Free Tibet”.

China’s “patriotic re-education” campaign launched in May 1996 and intensified during 1997 further restricts freedom of expression. Tibetan monk and nuns have been ordered to sign pledges of political allegiance and to accept without question the work-teams’ re-styling of Tibetan history and religion. If a monk or nun ventures to speak their own opinion, or to question those of the Chinese officials, they face arrest and expulsion from their monastery or nunnery.

Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

Almost all Tibetan political prisoners Chinese prisons in Tibet represent cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. Ninety-six such arrests were recorded in 1997 and, commonly charged with ‘endangering state security’, these individuals have received prison sentences of up to eight years. During the 1996 year, 204 cases of known arrests of Tibetans exercising their freedom of expression and assembly were reported. Due to the difficulties and time lags involved in receiving information from Tibet, a further 53 cases of arrests in 1996 were not reported until 1997, bringing the current total of known arrests for 1996 to 257. The majority of the new cases of 1996 arrests were of monks who failed to satisfy Chinese “re-education work-teams”.

Political Prisoners

As at the end of 1997, 1,216 known Tibetan political prisoners and prisoners of conscience languished in Chinese prisons in Tibet imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of assembly, or freedom of religion. This figure includes 295 women and 39 juvenile political prisoners below the age of 18. Many of these individuals have already served incredibly long periods deprived of their freedom; for some this may be the second or third time they have been imprisoned. There are currently 85 prisoners known to be serving prison sentences of 10 years and above.

The eight-year-old Panchen Lama, together with his parents, continues to be held by Chinese authorities. Chadrel Rinpoche, the head of the Search Committee for the Reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, was sentenced to six years imprisonment in 1997. Political prisoners such as Tsering Ngodup (66) and Sonam Dhondup (24) are serving periods of 12 years in prison for expressing their political views and Lobsang Tenzin (28) and Ngawang Choephel(31) have both been sentenced to 18 year prison terms on suspicion of being involved in political activities. Tanak Jigme Sangpo (71), the longest known current political prisoner in Tibet will have spent 41 years in prison Political Prisoners being held and are unable to go to their assistance. Four new cases of disappearances which occurred in 1996 were also re-ported in 1997. By the time he is released in 2011. Nuns like Phuntsok Nyidron (29), Jigme Yangehen (28), Tenzin Thupten (27), Ngawang Sangdrol (21) and Gyaltsen Dolker (27) have been sentenced from 12 to 17 years for recording songs and poems whilst in prison.


Six reports ports of Tibetans dying as a result of police torture and ill-treatment were received in 1997. Amongst these, Jamyang Thinley (25) died after four months of severe torture by prison officials. His dead body was covered in blood, bruises, and blisters caused by electrocution. Kalsang Dawa (29) had begun to cover his ears with both hands and cry out: “they are inserting electric batons into my cars” during his two and a half years of prison torture, before he was found hanging dead from his cell ceiling. Phuntsok Yangkyi (20) went into a coma after Chinese doctor extracted fluid from her body and her nails, tongue and lips turned bluish-black before she died.

Dozens of cases describing brutal torture methods by police and prison officials were also reported. Victims recall being beaten with rifle butts and sticks, kicked and punched all over the body, shocked with electric cattle prods, having iron rods jammed into their mouth, being placed in dark, tiny confinement cells in freezing temperatures and being subjected to forced blood extraction. One prisoner describes being handcuffed with his arms around a hot chimney and left there for a whole day without food or water. The scorching heat of the chimney resulted in watering blisters all over his body. One nun caught reciting Buddhist texts in prison was subjected to electric shocks in the mouth with an electric baton, And, when caught prostrating, forced to prostrate in water and ice.


Only a limited number of disappearances are exposed each year in Tibet. By simply denying any knowledge of the person, the Chinese authorities are able to act with impunity. In several cases, the PRC government has admitted many months after a Tibetan has “disappeared” that she or he is in fact being detained but have refused to reveal their whereabouts. Such was the case with Gedun Choekyl Nyima, the eight-year-old boy recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama, who has been missing with his parents since May 1995. There are 10 known cases of “disappearance” of Tibetans in 1997. It is not known whether any of these ten, some as young as 16 years, have been sentenced or even charged. Their whereabouts are unknown and thus not only is the victim kept in constant fear of his or her fate, family and friends must also suffer the mental torture of not knowing whether the victim is alive or dead, where they are being held are unable to go to their assistance. Four new cases of disappearances which occurred in 1996 were also reported in 1997.

Rights of Women

Tibetan women have been subjected to brutal repression following the severe religious crackdown launched in 1996 and 137 nuns are known to have been expelled from nunneries. Tibetan women, often nuns, continue to be arrested arbitrarily and subjected to ill treatment and torture while in prison. Of the 1,216 known current political prisoners, 295 are women and 11 female political prisoners are serving more than 10 years. One woman, three months and 17 days pregnant, was kept standing in a cold room for 14 hours in a row the night of her arrest while being interrogated. She told her interrogators that she was pregnant and was feeling weak, however the pleas were ignored and the questions continued. She miscarried her child in a prison toilet the next day.

In 1997, 883 known cases of forced abortion and sterilisation of Tibetan women were received, resulting in one death and three women giving birth to dead babies. Many other Tibetan women were fined for pregnancy. Reports of strict birth control measures were received from different parts of Tibet. This is of particularly concern as, in combination with China’s massive population transfer into Tibet, it constitutes a serious threat to the survival of the Tibetan people.

A limit of two or three children is fixed by Chinese officials and those who fail to keep within the quotas may be punished with heavy fines of up to 1,500-3,000 yuan (US$ 200-400). A child born in excess of the quota may be denied school and employment opportunities. Many women do not receive proper information regarding inter-uterine devices or way not even be told they are being inserted with one and there are reported cases where the coil had become rusted or flesh had begun to grow around it.

In one sub-district of Lhasa City, 308 Tibetan women who already had three children were sterilised over a period of 22 days in late 1996. One of the women died in hospital three days after her forced sterilisation. In Jamdoon township in “TARî, all Tibetan women over the age of 16 have reportedly been inserted with long-term contraceptives. Three of the women have given birth to dead babies after being forced to undergo the operation.

Rights of the Child

Throughout 1997, Chinese authorities continued to arbitrarily detain and torture Tibetan children, to subject them to religious repression and to deny their educational and cultural rights. At least 39 Tibetan child political prisoners currently languish in Chinese prisons in Tibet for exercising their freedom of expression; the youngest is eight-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyirna. They are frequently detained in adult prisons, denied legal representation and contact with family and subjected to severe ill-treatment.

Roughly one third of the school-aged children in Tibet continue to receive no education at all. Most new schooling is built in Tibetan urban centres and is designed for the children of Chinese Rights of Children settlers. Tibetans are commonly unable to enter schools due to prohibitively high school fees and the fact that admission exams are conducted in Chinese. Monastic education has also been targeted the number of student monks and nuns has been strictly limited and high bribes are demanded to admit a child to a monastic school. A total of 613 child monks and nuns have been expelled in connection with the “Strike Hard” campaign during 1996-97.

The phasing out of Tibetan language in schooling reveals an ominous tend to sinicise Tibetan children. In April 1997, officials in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” announced that Tibetan language would no longer be the sole language for education in primary schools and implied that in some cases Chinese would actually replace Tibetan altogether as the language of medium. Tibetan children now in exile report being forbidden from wearing Tibetan clothes, eating Tibetan food, observing Tibetan holidays and carrying photographs of the Dalal Lama. Recent child refugees also describe variety of brutal punishments implemented in Chinese-administered schools in Tibet. Reports of being made to clean drains, wash teachers’ clothing and clean industrial areas were received from the interviewed students. Even primary school students-children between six and 12 years-were subjected to beatings using rubber clubs, whips, belts, electric wires, chair legs, whole chairs, bamboo sticks and other instruments.

Racial Discrimination

Discrimination by Chinese authorities against Tibetans on the basis of their race is paramount in many spheres of life, including public representation, employment education and health. The majority of government and other public officials in Tibet are either Chinese or directly chosen by Chinese and the Democratic Management Committees established by Chinese “work teams” in Tibetan monasteries and nunneries comprise individuals directly chosen by the Chinese authorities.

Workers’ rights of Tibetans are seriously violated throughout the “TARî through the use of compulsory and unpaid labour and China itself admits that a minimum wage has been introduced everywhere except for the “TAR. In the early part of 1997, 69 to 72 Tibetans working as government tour guides in Lhasa lost their jobs, ostensibly on the ground that they had made unauthorised trips to India. Reports indicated that Chinese tour guides would be appointed to replace the Tibetans.

Tibetan children in exile describe various methods of discrimination against Tibetan students including higher school fees; having to pay for their chairs, desks and books as well as anything broken at school. A widespread inequality regarding the right to education is the entrance examination which is commonly held completely or mostly in Chinese, even since 1997, for the Tibet University in Lhasa. The students also reported discrimination in the content of their education, saying that they rarely received any lessons regarding Tibetan culture or history.

Tibetan refugees have reported local Tibetans having to pay full price to receive medical treatment while patients do not have to pay anything. High prices for their hospital expenses included: 800 to 1,000 yuan as a deposit; 20 yuan per night for a bed; 200 yuan for a bottle of glucose; and further payment for a check-up. It was reported that seriously ill Tibetans had died after being refused hospital care for not having the requisite deposit.

Right to Subsistance

In contrast with claims made by the PRC regarding the advancement of socio- economic conditions in Tibet, the accounts of 70 Tibetan refugees who have recently escaped from different parts of Tibet reveal that China’s economic policy in Tibet has severely affected the huge percentage of Tibetans who live in rural areas of Tibet. Innumerable Tibetans report that economic repression is drastically affecting their livelihood and their ability to feed themselves and their family.

China’s taxation policy plays a crucial role in this repression. Tibetans are subjected to various forms of taxation, some unbelievably high, irrespective of their economic position, and there is no evidence that those who are forced to pay the taxes benefit in any way from the revenue. A variety of taxes are imposed; on land, animals, wool and fur, hides, meg grains, butter, milk, cheese, hay, fertiliser and medicinal plants. “Old age” and “education” taxes are also charged, even if the person receives no schooling and no social security. A tax on non-residents who visit Lhasa has also been reported to have been in place since the beginning of 1997. A new tax on the right to circumambulate has been reported and even a “human tax” was reported.

Population Transfer

The preservation of the Tibetan identity is perhaps the most critical and immediate threat faced by the Tibetan people today. Since mid-1994, it is estimated that more than 500,000 new Chinese immigrants have been moved into Tibet 110 work on the 62 new industrial development projects initiated by Beijing. The population transfer that accompanies such project results in further marginalisation of the six million Tibetans who are now outnumbered by an estimated 7.5 million Chinese settlers.

These settlers receive preferential treatment in housing, employment, education and social services. New schools and hospitals constructed in the ìTARî are primarily located in large towns and cities, and are geared toward Chinese settlers. Traditional Tibetan-style housing has been destroyed in favour of Communist-style blocks and development projects promise to wreak further havoc on Tibet’s fragile ecological system already seriously endangered by China’s extensive deforestation and mining.


The PRC justifies its denigration from individual rights on the grounds that it has concentrated on promoting collective rights, the Tibetan people are nonetheless deprived of their most precious collective right: their cultural identity. In May 1997, Chinese authorities declared that: ìreligion must adapt to the development needs of socialism and not socialism adapting to the needs of religion,” and in July, Chen Kulyuan, Party Secretary of the “TAR”, argued that Buddhism is marginal to Tibetan culture and that Tibetan culture must be exposed to Chinese influences.

At the 53rd UN Commission on Human Rights, the PRC launched massive lobbying efforts to end the “confrontational approach” and to adopt a “more positive bilateral dialogue”. A Right to Subsistence number of countries have taken China up on this offer, holding high level meetings with Chinese officials where human rights were indeed placed on the agenda.

What has this approach yielded for the human rights of the Tibetan people? An occasional symbolic gesture – the release of one or two political prisoners, the signing of certain international instruments – always timed to influence UN voting patterns or economic negotiations with particular states. The reality is that the bilateral “dialogue” did not bring any concrete desired result to alleviate the sufferings of the Tibetan people.

The human rights situation in Chinese-occupied Tibet has a distinct character. It is a combination of countless gross abuses of individual universal human rights as well as an assault on the collective rights of the Tibetan people as a whole. Human rights violations against Tibetan people are frequently perpetrated through systematic and institutionalised racial and cultural discrimination. Political, religious and cultural repression has been intensified in 1997 and is currently implemented in schools, monastic institutions and public office; a widespread drive by Chinese authorities to extend their control over all spheres of Tibetan life. The ultimate result of such tactics is the annihilation of the entire race, religion and heritage of the Tibetan people.


This report makes clear that the PRC’s international obligations regarding the human rights of the Tibetan people in Tibet continue to be violated in total disregard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Member states of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in particular and the international community in general are therefore requested to urge the PRC to:

  • Halt the policy of religious persecution through the forceful “patriotic re-education” campaign which has to date resulted in 2,827 expulsions of monks and nuns from their monasteries and nunneries, 165 arrests and nine deaths.
  • Release all prisoners of conscience who were arbitrarily detained in violation of their freedom of expression under the premise of “endangering state security”. Currently 1,216 prisoners of conscience are languishing in various Chinese prisons in Tibet and of those 295 are women political prisoners and 39 are juveniles below the age of 18.
  • Ensure that all those detained for alleged political or religious activities are charged with a recognised criminal offence and in accordance with international standards and that they are granted a fair and public trial within a reasonable time. Inform detainees immediately upon their detention of the charges against them and allow them regular access to legal representation and contact with family and friends.
  • Prohibit the use of torture during interrogation and detention and conform to the provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture; investigate immediately reports of torture or mistreatment of detainees and ensure that prison and detention centre officials are held accountable; allow prisoners prompt and adequate access to medical care; and investigate immediately any deaths in custody and allow external medical authorities and the family to examine the body.
  • End policies of forced abortion and sterilisation. In 1997, 883 known cases of forced abortion and sterilisation of Tibetan women; three cases of women giving birth to dead babies and one case of death due to sterilisation were received. Strict birth control measures were reported in different areas of Tibet targeting female between the age of 16 to 45.
  • Respect the rights of Tibetan children and release all juvenile political prisoners, including Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Ensure that all Tibetan children have access to free, compulsory primary education; ensure that Tibetan students are not discriminated against with regard to access to educational institutions and the charging of school fees; and allow Tibetan children to be educated in their mother tongue of Tibetan and on subjects relating to Tibetan history and culture.
  • Prevent the transfer of Chinese population to Tibet which marginalises the Tibetan people in economic, political, social and cultural spheres and fluffier threatens the survival of the Tibetan people’s race and identity.
  • Protect the rights of Tibetans to own their lawfully earned income and review the harsh economic policies and imposition of high taxation that threatens the livelihood of poor Tibetans.
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