DHARAMSHALA, July 16: A global rights group has said that restrictions on news, media, and communications in Tibet have been “stepped up” by Chinese authorities in the lead-up to the 18th Party Congress, due to take place in late 2012.
New York based Human Rights Watch in a report last week said the measures appear to be an effort to cut off Tibetans in China from news and also to prevent the views of the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama and his followers from reaching Tibetans inside China, particularly those living in rural areas.
Party Secretary Chen Quanguo of the so called Tibetan Autonomous Region has been quoted as saying in a June 27 interview that the new restrictions aim to “ensure the absolute security of Tibet’s ideological and cultural realm.”
The measures involve significantly increased controls, particularly in the TAR, on internet use, text messages, phone ownership, music publishing, and photocopying, as well as intensified government propaganda through new TV channels, village education sessions, film showings, distribution of books, and the provision of satellite television receivers with fixed reception to government channels.
“Under the guise of combating ‘separatism’ the Chinese government is blatantly violating Tibetans’ rights to the freedom of expression, religion, culture, and movement,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The authorities have a responsibility to uphold public order, but that cannot be used as a blanket justification for the kinds of measures to limit communications that the Chinese authorities are imposing in Tibet.”
Last month Chen urged officials in Tibet to “make sure that the Central Party’s voices and images can be heard across 120 thousand square kilometers,” and that “no voices and images of enemy forces and Dalai clique can be heard and seen.”
HRW said the scope of the new restrictions reflect a “sharp change” in official views about Tibetan unrest, which officials previously stated was caused by “a small number” or “a handful” of Tibetans, who were considered to have been influenced by the Dalai Lama or by exile groups.
“But following protests across the Tibetan plateau in 2008, leaders there have now acknowledged, at least in the domestic press, that the influence of the Dalai Lama is widespread among Tibetans, including in rural areas, where some 85% percent of Tibetans live,” the report noted.
The rights group noted that these newly announced measures are part of a Tibet-specific policy called “the Four Stabilities” that was announced by China’s leader Hu Jintao in an internal speech in early March 2012.
“They are being carried out in the name of the slogan “stability overrides all” (wending yadao yiqie) in order to “keep a tight hand on the struggle against separatism,” the report said.
The goals include achieving “the overall coverage of internet management in towns and in the rural areas” (Xizang Ribao, March 19, 2012) and “strengthening the management of new media” (Xizang Ribao, March 18, 2012). On May 30, 2012,
HRW said that controls on travel from inland provinces into the TAR have also been tightened significantly since March 2012, with new limitations on travel into the TAR. Additional restrictions on travel by foreigners to the TAR were introduced in May 2012 and again in early June.
“The Chinese government refuses to even acknowledge the serious grievances of Tibetans,” said Richardson. “Trying to seal the region off will only lead to further frustration and greater international concern.”