Jan 26, 2016

Tibet: HRW Reports on Intensive Chinese Surveillance Program

The Central Tibetan Administration and Human Rights Watch report that the Chinese Government is keeping Tibet under strict surveillance in order to prevent possible civil protests. The surveillance program across the Tibet Autonomous Region, officially launched in 2011, has been extended several times, covering more villages, in order to ‘re-educate’ villagers and to detect Dalai Lama supporters. 

Below is an article published by Tibet.net:

Chinese authorities have indefinitely extended an intensive surveillance program in villages across the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) that was due to end in 2014, Human Rights Watch said today. There are indications that the “village-based cadre teams” (zhucun gongzuodui) scheme, which is unprecedented in China, will become permanent, it added.

The extension of the surveillance program, which was deployed in 2011, is seen as Chinese authorities’ intention to suppress any signs of dissent or criticism among Tibetans including questioning them about their political and religious views, subjecting thousands to political indoctrination, establishing partisan security units to monitor behaviour, and collecting information that could lead to detention or other punishment.

“The Chinese government’s decision to extend its Tibet surveillance program indefinitely is nothing less than a continuous human rights violation,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The new normal is one of permanent surveillance of Tibetans.”

“China’s surveillance scheme openly and massively infringes upon the basic rights of Tibetans protected under Chinese and international law,” she added, urging China’s central and regional authorities to end the repressive aspects of this scheme immediately.

In 2011, the central government, in an effort to prevent a recurrence of the protests that spread across the Tibetan plateau in 2008, launched an Orwellian campaign known as “Benefit the Masses.” The campaign involved sending some 21,000 Communist Party cadres from townships and urban areas to live in teams of four or more in each of the 5,000 villages in the TAR. The scheme, which cost more than 25 percent of the regional government’s budget, was supposed to last for three years. It 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 below the level of the township.

The purpose of the village-based cadre teams was initially described as improving services and material conditions in the villages, but, according to the Party leader of the TAR in 2011, their primary requirement was to turn each village into “a fortress” in “the struggle against separatism,” a reference to support for Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama. This was done by setting up new Communist Party organizations in each village, establishing local security schemes, gathering information about villagers, and other measures. The teams were also required to carry out re-education with villagers on “Feeling the Party’s kindness” and other topics.

The village-based cadre teams are composed of 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.