Heavy Taxation Threatens Survival of Tibetans

The latest Policy of Chinese repression comes in the most subtle manner of taxation. The Tibetans, irrespective of their economic position are all subjected to various form of taxation some of which are totally ludicrous. Though the taxation policy was implemented in Tibet since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, but in recent times harsher form of taxing imposed causes difficulties and threatens the very survival of the Tibetan people. The worst effected by such a policy are the poor peasants and the nomads who are left with hardly any money to run their family. The farmers and the nomads in Tibet have to struggle hard to eke out their livelihood. As a result of which, their children are also deprived of the opportunity to go to school because they simply can not afford it.

As enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, article 1(2) expressly prohibit the deprivation of people’s own means of subsistence. It further provides people to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. However, in Tibet today basic means of subsistence is at stake.

In this case of “reform” policy, the heavy price Tibetans have to pay becomes an alarming issue inciting many of them to flee Tibet. “This issue coincides with the recent report that the official Xinhua news agency on ìThe Tibetan Tax system brought into line with China”s. What is not being considered is the fact that the economic status of people of Tibet and China is not same at all. Especially in comparison to those of the people from the countryside.

According to the Beijing-based Xinhua news agency, on 9 September, “The Tibet Autonomous Region” in south-west China has made substantial progress in its tax reform and as a result, its tax system is on par with the nation’s. The local tax income topped 380 yuan in 1996, compared with 140m in 1992, with annual growth of over 20 percent. The figure is expected to further increase to 450m yuan this year. Since the reforms began in 1993, a number of new taxable categories were added and some outdated ones droppedî. The source also said that Tibet’s tax system was formed in the 1950’s and 1960’s and was different from the national system. Since the reforms began in 193, a number of new taxable categories were added and some outdated were ones dropped. The source also said that Tibet’s ax system was formed in the 1950’s and 1960’s and was different from the national system. Since the reforms began in 1993, there has been many changes with addition of some new categories and some outdated ones dropped.

However, what makes it difficult for any research analysis on this issue is the fact that the nature of taxation is not uniform in all parts of “Tibet Autonomous Region” and Tibetan areas incorporated into Chinese provinces. Ironical to this taxation reform policy, the Chinese official policy clearly outlines the criteria that exempts the “ethnic groups and minorities” from paying any kind of tax. The present reform policy seem to the bare the prime intentions of the Chinese. The nature of taxation is intensively harsh that people who are unable to pay has to bear more severe consequences of equally high fine.

This also brings to light the promise made by the Chinese premier Jiang Zemin during the 53rd UN Commission on Human Rights that by the end of this year China will sign the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, there is no consistency with the economic policy that is being implemented in Tibet today.

The urgency with how those people effected by the policy spoke to us incites us to bring out this special edition.

29-year-old Phuntsok Namgyal, from Horshe shang in Golok Serta county of Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (now incorporated in Chinese province of Sichuan) spoke to TCHRD about the tax policy imposed in his area.

“I come from a nine-member family, and own 5000 mu of pasture land (one mu is equivalent to 67 square metres). It is compulsory to fence one’s pasture land and the cost of fencing range from 8000 to 9000 yuan. In case people fail to do so they are liable to be fined 2000 yuan. Through such imposition of taxes, Chinese authorities actually intent to suppress and intensify its hold over Tibet. Chinese authorities also aim to degrade Tibetans to such a miserable state that they are not able to raise their voice against the Chinese authorities.

Grazing land tax: “1 000 yuan as tax is levied annually on my family. This tax is imposed depending on the size of the pasture-land. The tax is collected in the month of August every month.”

Meat Tax: “My family is required to pay 2000 gyama of meat annually out of which 2 to 3 yuan per gyama is returned. However, if we sell it in the market we would receive 9 to 10 yuan per gyarna. The meat tax is collected in the month of August and September, since the animals put on maximum fat during this season.”

Mu:A measure of land area 67 sq. mtrs.
Gyama: 500 grams
Sang: 10 Sang makes one Gyama
Mosey: 10 Mosey makes one Yuan
Phing: 10 Phing makes one Mosey
Yuan: Chinese Currency

Milk: “We submit 1,000 gyama of milk in the month of May every year as a tax to the Chinese authorities out of which only 1 yuan for each gyama is returned.

Butter: “500 gymna of butter every year, from which 4 to 5 yuan per gyama is returned whereas in the open market, business would be much better. We would receive 1 5 to 16 yuan per gyama. This is being collected in the month of August every year. In cases of delay, 10 yuan is fined on every gyama.

“Except milk, other taxable product has to be personally delivered at the township. In my area, every individual in the family is required to kill 20 rats and guinea pigs per month. If we fail to meet that quota, we were fined 20 yuan for each animal that amount to total of 6400 yuan. As a Buddhiist this goes against our belief. However, we are left with no choice but to adhere as the monetary aspect becomes almost impossible. The Tibetans are also forced to kill foxes, but no quota has been fixed with regard to the number as yet. The Chinese authorities aim to deepen the hardship that already exists in the daily life of the Tibetan people. Due to this policy, put of desperation the nomads in my area has to find themselves other means of livelihood such as construction work.”

25-year-old Ogen Tso is from Machen township in Davoe County which is in Tsongon (Chinese: Qinghai). He was a nomad in Tibet and comes from a family comprising of his mother, sister and himself. He had never been to school He arrived in Dharamsala on 919197.

Yartsa Gunbhu: (medical plant) “Every individual in my family has to compulsorily pay 1.2 sang of Yartsa Gunbhu, if you don”t remit that prescribed quota, we are fined 1500 yuan per individual and total of 4500 yuan from my family.

Meat: “My family has to give three yak as a tax to the Chinese authorities, If we don”t they would take more than what is prescribed. This collection is conducted in the month of October.”

“They also levy tax on yak’s fur but I don”t know the exact quantity.

“We are also required to compulsorily fence the pasture-land. To do that we have to request the Chinese authorities and can not do it on our own. If we did, it would be destroyed and they would fence it themselves. In the end we would be charged 5000 yuan for the work from the family.

“Yartsa Gunbhu (the medicinal plant) and Gold is abundantly found in Sha-doe and Machen Gang-ri. For that purpose some 100 to 200 Chinese come to collect and mine in my area.”

22-year old Tsoduk is from Labrang township in Ganjang County in Gansu province. She was from a nomadic family in Tibet and arrived in Dharamsala in mid-September 1997 along with a group of people from Amdo. She escaped to India via Ngari region in the west of Tibet. She fled from her homeland unable to bear the miserable living condition caused by heavy taxing policy implemented in the region. Tax is heavily levied upon the natural products of the nomads and farmers. In most part of the Amdo region, the people are harassed by such a policy to such an extend that they find themselves plunged into the state of sheer hardships with respect to living conditions of the Tibetan people.

“My family has livestocks that comprises of 40 bigger animals such as Yak, Dri and 500 sheep. The taxes are being levied according to the strength of the family member.”

Meat: “My family has to pay 10,300 gyama of meat annually. This tax is collected in the month f September of every year. Tax officials make house calls to collect the taxes. In case, one fail to submit the tax in due time officials would either takeaway the animals or the people would be dragged in to the prison. Out of 10,300 gyama, the authorities return 5 mosey per gyama but the market price is about 12 yuan per gyama.”

Milk: “For twelve-member family a total of 1 8,000 gyama of milk is imposed as a tax that is, for every individual 1,500 gyama. This is collected in the month of June, in return they pay only one yuan and 7 mosey per individual.”

Butter: “15 gyama of butter as tax is levied for my family hich is normally levied either in Autumn or in Spring season. In return we get back one yuan for each gyama. But in the market one will receive about 17 yuan for each gyama.”

Wool: “320 gyama of wool is taxed for my family. They collect this tax every June. We would get back 2 yuan per gyama but in the open market we will receive 12 yuan per gyama.”

Grazing land Tax: “500 yuan is taxed for the grazing land, collected according to the size of the land.”

27-year-old Tsegye Phuntsok is from Podrang township in Kyithang county in Ngari region under TAR. His family is a six-member family. He joined the school at the early age of seven, studied in a primary school for three years and five years in a middle school. In total he spent 8 years in school. He describes the taxing policy in his region of Podrang in the western region of Tibet People of Podrang region are farmers and they depend on barley farming.

Barley Tax: “My family owns 20 mu of land. All taxing policy is based on the number of mu one possesses. We have to pay a tax of 1 800 gyama of barley annually. In return they would give us 7 mosey per gyama from what we have paid. However, in the market we would receive one yuan and 5 mosey per gyama.”

Compulsory work: “All Tibetans in this region have to avail themselves with compulsory work for 20 days to work in various field without receiving any payment from the officials.”

Circum-ambulation Tax: “In recent times the Chinese authorities have imposed the newest kind of tax which was unheard of before by the Tibetan people in this region. That is, each individual is levied 3 yuan as a tax to acquire the right to circum-ambulate the holy mount Kailash.”

20-year-old Tenzin-Tsundue is from Jigo townshipin Machen County in Tso-Ngon province (Chinese-Qinghai). He was a nomad in Tibet and he belonged to a family of six members. His family possess 300 livestocks, and has 2900 mu of grazing land. Here the taxes are imposed according to the strength of the family members.

Meat: “My family has to pay 750 gyama of meat annually, out of which 2 yuan per gyama is returned to us. However, to sell it in the open market we would receive 8 yuan per gyama. This meat tax is collected in the month of September of every year.”

Grazing land Tax: “Grazing tax is imposed upon Tibetan according to the number of the family members. Therefore we are levied 1900 yuan per year.”

Wool: 200 gyama tax on wool is levied, depending on the size of the ~g land. From 200 gyama collected we are returned 1 yuan and 5 mosey but the market rate die we would incur is 5 yuan for each gyama.”

Butter: “15 gyama is taxed on butter. In return we receive one yuan per gyama from the Chinese authorities, where as the market price will be from 13 to 17 yuan per gyama.”

Yak”s fur: “Our family to pay 180 gyama of yak’s fur as tax. We get back 5 yuan per gyama, where as in the open market we will receive 14 yuan.”

Yartsa Gunbhu: “In this area, the Tibetans are taxed on this medicinal plant too. We have to pay 1 gyama 80 sang (10 sang is equal to one Gyama) and from that we will receive 1500 yuan per gyama, whereas the market price is 3000 to 4000 yuan per gyama. We are also levied tax on Shi-thang (another medicinal plant) but I am not sure of the amount. These plants can be collected only in the month of April and May every year. So we are required to fill the stipulated quota of tax within that time.

Social security: “In this area, taxes are levied on every family as per amount of land they possess. So, in my family we have to pay 600 yuan as tax to the Chinese authorities as ‘social security’.”

Leasing investment: “1700 yuan is levied as tax from my family. This is based on the tract of land we possess.”

Older people’s Home: “For the old people’s home, every individual from a family in my village from the age of 15 to 60 years is charged a tax of 40 yuan annually.”

Education: “Every family in my village has to pay education tax of one yak and two sheep per year. As compensation we will get 150 yuan for the yak and 40 yuan for the sheep. However, in the market we will receive 2000 – 3000 yuan, and for sheep the 300 yuan. This is regardless of whether one send their children to school or not.

“For those who send their children to school, the school fees is exhorbitant amounting up to 1100 yuan annually in the middle school. While, in the primary school 500 yuan is charge as fees per Year.

“Often we have so-called vets coming to our village and for just inserting a thermometer in the mouth of the animals they charge 5 yuan for each animal. This way they make extra money at the cost of our daily bread.

22-year old Kalsang is from Shamey township in Rorkhe County which is in Aba Tibetan Autonomous prefecture (Chinese: Sichuan).

“In my family there are eight members. We have a total of 80 yaks and Dri, and 300 sheep. As yet, the distribution of land for animal grazing and thereafter the fencing is yet to be introduced. As part of the meat tax we are required to give one yak to the Chinese authorities. This is to be paid in the month of August and September every year. In return we receive amount ranging from 1 500 to 2000 yuan and we have to personally go and submit the same to the authorities.”

Meat: “In a year we are required to pay one yak as meat tax to the Chinese authorities. This is to be paid in the month of August and September every year. In return we receive amount ranging from 1500 to 2000 yuan and personally have to go and submit the same to the authorities.

Milk: “Each individual has to pay 200 gyama of milk as a tax. From my family we have to pay 1600 yuan in total. This tax has to be paid in the month of June every year. During the time the officials would stay for about a month to satisfy the said quota.”

Grazing land Tax: “Annually my family has to pay 200 yuan. This is collected in the month of April and May every year. Butter: Each individual has to pay 50 to 60 gyama of butter tax that means a total of 400 gyama has to be paid to the Chinese officials.”

Cheese: “With regard to cheese tax, every individual is needed to pay 20 – 30 gyarna of tax, totalling up to 160 gyama. In case if we fail to remit the prescribed tax in time, we would be fined 1 00 yuan after every passing month. It was made mandatory for the Tibetan to pay tax.”

Dunbhu Shethang (Medicinal plant): “Huge quantity of this medicinal plants has been plucked from this area. This medicinal plant is available for plucking only from May to July every year. During these season 200 to 300 Chinese would be engaged in the work.”

19-year-old Kyadhe is from Khang Ched township in Gabde county in Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province. There are six members in his family, and they own livestock of 110 Sog (Yak and Dri) and 40 sheep.

Meat Tax: “In a year my family has to forbear two yak and three sheep as a meat tax. From that we were returned 2 yuan per gyama where as if we sell it in the market we would receive 4 yuan and 5 mosey.

“For sheep we will receive 2 yuan per gyama, and in the open market we will receive 6 to 7 yuan per gyama.”

Droma (sweet clove): “Four to five gyama has to be paid as a tax annually, that is collected in autumn and spring season.”

Butter: “My family has to remit 2 gyama and 5 sang of butter from each Dri (female-yak). Nothing is returned from the authorities.”

Cheese: “Annually has to pay 20 gyama from their family.”

Wool: “The wool tax is levied as per the number of sheep one possess. In return they would receive 3 to 3.5 yuan per gyama. But if we sell it by ourselves we would receive 5 yuan per gyama.”

Yak’s fur (Tsipa): “This is also tax according to the number of yak one possess, for each gyama we get only 2 yuan but if we sell it in the market we would receive 3 yuan.”

Yak’s fur (Khullu): “It is also a yak’s fur which grows in the rib part. For each gyama we receive 7 gyarna, however if we sell it in the market we would receive 17 to 18 yuan per gyama.”

Yartsa Gunbhu: “We need to give in one sang and six sho (10 sho is equal to one sang). In total my family has to pay 9 sang and six sho) annually. We are returned 1 500 yuan per gyarna where as if we sell it in the market we would retrieve 2500 to 3000 yuan per gyama. This medicinal plant can be collected only in April and May of every year.”

In the nomadic area where Yartsa Gunbhu is found abundantly, the Chinese authorities allow other people to collect the medicinal plant charge them 600 yuan. This proves threatening for the nomads who are given no compensation by the Chinese authorities for exhausting their land of the plant that is a means of livelihood for the nomad themselves.

21-year-old Lobsang Phulchung is from Chideshol town-ship in Lhoka County. He was a monk in Phadhampa monastery. He joined the monastery at 18 years of age. There are six members in his family and each individual were distributed with two and a half mu of land.

Barley: “Every individual has to pay 12 khel (a load on the yak equivalent to 28 gyama). Therefore a total of 72 khel has to be paid to the Chinese authorities. If a family does not meet the required quota even after giving away all the produce the family has to cover it by making payment in cash.”

Fertilizer: “The farmers are compulsorily made to buy fertilizers from the Chinese authorities. The farmers in our region not use chemical fertilizers that are manufactured in the factory. Instead we normally use manure. They provide us with two types of fertilizer, one red and the other white. Everyone has to either take the red sack which costs 50 yuan or the white which costs 40 yuan.

“Therefore the Tibetan farmers has to indulge in other means of livelihood to ease the financial constraint due to the taxes. Such as, weaving garments, working in Chinese enterprises to meet their basic necessities.

23-year-old Rinzin Choephel is from, Gyochu township in Tsawa Pashoe county in Chamdo region of “Tibet Autonomous Region”. He is from a family of six. They own 35 mu of farming land. In their area farmers cultivate crops twice a year. In August-September they cultivate barley and harvest in the month of April. Then from April they cultivate maize and harvest in July.

“Barley tax is levied according to the size of the farming land that one possess. I do not know the exact quantity of barley tax that my family has to part with. The Chinese authorities will return accounting per gyama one mosey and 5 ping (10 ping is equivalent to 1 mosey), whew as if we sell it in the market we wig be receiving 10 yuan per gyama.”

Butter Tax: “For every single animal two gyama of butter is charged. This is charged without even sparing the non-milk-producing animals. This results in having no milk to consume for ourselves.

Grass tax: “Grass tax is levied depending on the number of mu. For each mu big bundle of grass measuring about 5 meters in length and 4 meters in height has to be reverted to the authorities.”

Besides the taxable area of nomads and the peasants, of late commoners who are of other profession find themselves having to pay much of what they have earned. Many feel they are being totally squeezed of their sustenance.

A recent arrival from Tibet who owned a private vehicle, 5 tonne truck (Chinese: Tung Fung), found it hard to keep on working as a driver that he was compelled to leave Tibet.

He expressed his concern over the fact that other people of the same profession undergo similar hardships. The vehicle he owns is a goods carrier and if he is caught with few people in it, he is liable to be fined up to 100 yuan per person and his vehicle kept in police custody for two days.

It cost him 55000 when he bought it second hand from a road construction department. It was an exorbitant amount for him when he had literally no money at all. So, he took loan from a bank with no backings from his family. When he started off initially with his business, he was confident that it would be good business for him and soon he would have cleared his debts. However, when he started to pay the taxes that were imposed on him, he realised it was incomprehensible and that way he could never be able to return his debt to the bank.

Every month he has to take care of the road tax which was 325 yuan, then his vehicle being a good’s carrier he has to pay 115 yuan as part of the transportation tax. He has to pay another sum of almost 700 yuan for which he has to go to Shigatse. This 700 yuan he has no idea what it is for. Finally every year all private vehicles are checked for any repair work. And whether a vehicle needs any repairing or not one has to pay 7000 yuan after which we are given a card. This is compulsory.

All these expenditures are without considering the cost of fuel. Furthermore, they are told that the taxes will increase because the money incurred will he used for the renovation of road. This indicates a more stiffled livelihood. He could turn to his brother and sister as they had made it clear to him when he bought the vehicle in the first place. He sold the vehicle at a much lesser price and was left with no choice but leave Tibet.

A similar cast of taxation to truck operators is a man from Khartse village. He too owns a 5 tonne truck (China: Tung Fung) which he bought along with another friend. They paid 70000 yuan when they bought it brand new. They normally operate between Gyantse to Drarn, Gyantse to Shigatse, Gyantse to Lhasa. Sometimes even to Yalung to fetch timber. The taxes they have to pay vary from the previous case in amount and nature. As a part of road tax they have to pay 500 yuan per month. Taxation office fees is 35 yuan per month. Insurance per year costs them 2000 yuan in the initial stage then 40 yuan per year. As permit fee for functioning his truck as a good”s carrier every they are liable to pay 15 yuan per month.

Tax for non-resident:

According to a recent informant, a Tibetan who is a non-resident of Lhasa area, i.e. a Tibetan resident from other places in Tibet, has to pay a tax of 29 yuan per month per person for stay in Lhasa. After the payment, identity cards are being is sued to the person concerned for stay in Lhasa which is valid for one month only. This system of issuing ID-card started in the beginning of this year. If a person fails to renew the card after expiry, a fine of 2 yuans per day is charged.

Thupton Woeser is a 17 year old from Amdo Golok Gabde shen, Khoche shang. He hails from a nomadic family of 6 members. They have 100 dzo 100 sheep and 6 horses.

Meat tax: “My family has to pay 1200 gyama of meat every year which is collected in the month of september. We get back 1 yuan per gyama whereas the market price will be 10- 2 yuan per gyarna.”

Land tax: “As part of land tax we have to pay 1000 yuan every year. This is calculated according to the size of land we own.”

Wool: “Every June wool tax of 600 gyama is collected from us. We would get back 2-3 yuan per gyama but if sold in the market we will get 12 yuan per gyama at least.”

Butter: “20 gyama of butter has to he given at the price of 1 yuan for each gyama. The market rate is 16-17 yuan per gyama.”

Cheese: “30 gyama of cheese is collected every year.”

Yak’s fur (Tibetan Tsipa): “15 gyama of yak’s fur is collected for which we are given 2 yuan per gyama. However, the market rate will be 3-4 yuan per gyama.”

“My family also fenced the boundary of the grazing land for the animals and that cost us a fortune of 10100 yuan.

“However, no sooner had we finished it we were told by Chinese officials to demolish the entire fence and have a new one built. A new one cost our family an additional expense of 20100 yuan.”

Tsundue Songjoe is a 16 year old ex-monk of Rong Goenchen Monastery in Nyanthok township in Dhaloe County which is in Amdo (Chinese: Qinghai). His family”s means of livelihood is farming. There are six members in his family and they own 9 mu of farming land.

Land tax: “Last year we had to pay 7000 for this expanse of land but this year the amount has been increased to 1 0,000. Besides the other taxes that we have to pay normally, this year each individual had to pay 7 yuan in every family. When we asked the reason behind this unusual collection of money we were told that it was to cover the expenses of the Hongkong hand over. It is still ambigious as to where this money will go to but we know for sure that it is extremely stifling.”

“The school in my village is established and funded by our local Tibetan inhabitants. Salary of the teacher and other school expenses are being borne by our village folk, says Tsingdrol Lhamo, a 15 year old girl who recently escaped from Tibet.

Taxation: “We are nine member family and my family owns 30 mu (one mu is equivalent to one acre). Generally the tax is levied according to the strength of the family and number of the acres one owns. Each individual member has to pay six boe of barley.” ( boe is a unit of measurement, a boe is wooden container paid to the Chinese authorities.

Human tax: “In my village tax is levied even on person which is collected in the name of human tax. Per individual 160 yuan is imposed as tax, therefore my family has to pay sum of 1440 yuan to the Chinese authorities. As far as I know the villagers pay this tax since 1 was 12 years of my age. If we don”t pay this tax in due time we were fined up to 300 yuan. Due to various form of tax imposed on us, we are faced with lots of problems. In case if we complain about heavy taxes, they threatened us of confiscating the land. The tax were collected in the September month of every year. We do have to go the Shang by ourselves to remit this taxes and not the other way round.”

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