(Author is a senior journalist, veteran Tibet-China watcher and Chairman, Centre for

Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement, N.Delhi)

Recent news of two Tibetans committing self-immolation within a month against China’s rule over Tibet, indicate that things are not as rosy in Tibet as China’s ‘God King’ President Xi Jinping wants the world to believe. One of these self-immolators was a 25 year old popular singer of capital Lhasa and the other was an 81 year old man of Ngaba in the Amdo province of Tibet which China has incorporated in its Sichuan province. Last year in July when Xi suddenly arrived in Tibet on a 3-day whirlwind visit without any prior public announcement, he simply exposed his fears of facing similar protests from unhappy Tibetans who have refused to be tamed even after 70 years of colonial control and communist indoctrination.

Once in Lhasa, Xi had called upon the Chinese administrators of Tibet and the communist cadres to work tirelessly in the direction of establishing “Tibetan Buddhism with Chinese Socialist Characteristics”. This call was nothing short of an admission of President Xi about China’s failure in winning the hearts of Tibetan people despite all claims of Beijing about ‘liberation’ of Tibet from the ‘feudal’ rule of Dalai Lama and ushering Tibet into a new era of ‘economic development.’ However, the most ridiculous, if not hilarious, claim of President Xi is his oft repeated claim that the right to search, certify and enthrone the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama belongs exclusively to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and none else – not even the Dalai Lama himself who traditionally decides where to be born in his next incarnation.  While making such claims Xi has simply put Chairman Mao’s most pronounced dictum that religion is the ‘poison of the masses’.

Last month on April 26 the Dharamshala based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) released its annual report on the human rights situation inside China ruled Tibet. The report presents details of how President Xi and his communist machinery in Tibet is bent upon cleansing Tibet of its traditional religious, cultural and social identity by assimilating its population into present day’s China’s communist Han identity. As per China’s own official statistics the total size of 55 ‘ethnic nationalities’ – all put together – is a little less than 8 percent while the Hans stand for 92 percent of China’s population today. The report talks of a ‘widespread crackdown on the right of freedom of expression and information’ inside Chinese occupied Tibet. TCHRD refers to about 160 known cases of self-immolations by ordinary Tibetans since 2009 when the Chinese government adopted a stringent clampdown on the freedom of movement and collective expression.

Since past many decades even keeping a photo of the Dalai Lama, the deposed ruler of Tibet who has been living in exile in India since 1959 following his daring escape from Tibet, was considered an ‘unpatriotic’ crime and a ‘splitist’ act. So strict has been this law that if found in possession of a photo of Dalai Lama on one’s person or in the family altar, one could face jail up to seven years. But in recent years this ban has been extended to personal mobile phones too. “One of the key pieces of evidence is the clampdown on Tibetans for their communication online, especially with the rising number of detention for merely keeping photos of their spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama in one’s mobile phone,” said Ms. Tsering Tsomo, the Director of TCHRD as he released this report.

In the last week of April this year China’s Ministry of Education published a fresh set of regulations which govern the admission of senior Tibetan school children who intend to take admission into any university in Tibet or China. One of the rules makes it obligatory for every young Tibetan student to formally give an undertaking about his or her “political attitude and ideological morality”. In its latest report on Tibet ‘Bitter Winter,’ an Italian magazine which is focused on religious liberty and human rights and specializes in monitoring situation inside China, Tibet and Xinjiang has published details of these new Chinese regulations. It says that the Section-12 of these regulations, which deals with ‘Ideological and political morality assessment’ of Tibetan students who are seeking admission in a university, need to pass one of the tests in which the school makes a comprehensive appraisal of his or her political attitude and ‘ideological morality’. This test works as a filter to stop any such Tibetan student getting into a college or university who has a history of participating in anti-China or pro-Tibetan independence activities or religious rituals.

However, under the new campaign, initiated on the personal initiative of President Xi Jinping, the communist rulers of Tibet have started a new system which, if implemented successfully, will eliminate even need of such screening of students for higher studies. In the past few months the Chinese communist administrators of all Tibetan counties have made it compulsory for all schools to teach the Tibetan students only in Chinese Mandarin language. All such schools which were run by some local Tibetan communities or by some enthusiastic individuals to teach Tibetan children Tibetan language, have been closed and also demolished in many cases. Under President Xi’s idea of ‘catch them young’ a new chain of hundreds of special residential schools have come up all over Tibet where Tibetan families are forced to send their children. Kept in total insulation from their families and local communities, these children, many of them as young as five year olds, are forced to live in Han Chinese environment and undergo communist indoctrination.

In a recent international seminar Ms. Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute spoke in details of such schools. “In the name of education these little kids are being subjected to communist brainwashing and loyalty to the CCP. The number of such children in these schools has now gone beyond 800 thousand which is about 80 percent population of Tibetan children in that age group,” she said. If President Xi’s new campaign succeeds then his goal of creating “Tibetan Buddhism with Chinese Socialist Characteristics” is rather going to achieve a much higher goal of ‘Tibetan bodies with Chinese communist minds.’

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