Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for greater efforts to fight “anti-separatist” activities in Tibet as preparations are being made for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way Approach’ was also denounced. Reports from Tibet indicate increased security measures prior to the anniversary on 1 September.
President Xi made his remarks at the Sixth Work Forum on Tibet (pictured right), held in Beijing on 24 – 25 August. The Forum, attended by the Chinese Communist Party’s senior leadership, discussed the future development of Tibet and was only the sixth such conference since China took control of Tibet in 1950. The timing of the Sixth Forum was particularly significant as 1 September 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of China’s establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
The importance the Chinese Communist Party places on control over Tibetan regions was clearly demonstrated when the President said during the Forum, “The key to governing a country lies in governing border regions; for that, we need Tibet’s stability first.” Xi called for “an unswerving anti-separatism battle” to “fight against separatist activities by the Dalai group.”
Specifically, Xi demanded an increase in efforts to promote “patriotism among the Tibetan Buddhist circle and effectively manage monasteries in the long run, encouraging interpretations of religious doctrines that are compatible with a socialist society.” He also called for more campaigns and policies in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces to increase a sense of identity with “the motherland, Chinese nationality, Chinese culture, the CPC and socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
During the Forum, the United Front Work Department, which deals with Tibetan matters including the previous talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, published a commentary stating the Chinese government would never accept the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way Approach’, saying it is “in essence a splittist political demand”.
The ‘Middle Way Approach’, first proposed to China by the Dalai Lama in 1979 and currently advocated by the Tibetan government in exile, seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet within the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China.
Latest crackdown in Tibet already underway
Chinese authorities in Tibet began preparations earlier this month for the upcoming anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region with the implementation of new surveillance measures, referred to as the ‘Clean Sweep and Strike’ campaign.
According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), part of the ‘Clean Sweep and Strike’ campaign is the interception and searching of all postal exchanges between the TAR and Beijing for a period of several weeks around the anniversary. The campaign is also understood to involve increased monitoring of political publications and internet communications.
Major troop movements in Tibet have been reported during July and August, with large convoys including tanks witnessed in Lhasa, Shigatse (TAR) and Rebkong (Qinghai province) (pictured right). The purpose of the movements is not known, but according to International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) it “is likely to be a combination of conveying propaganda, overt intimidation and involvement in major military exercises.”
Increased restrictions on travel for Tibetans have been reported, as well as for foreigners, with visa applications apparently being rejected for visits to Tibet during September.
The Chinese government has placed great importance on celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the TAR. Cui Yuying, Deputy Minister of China’s Propaganda Department and member of the anniversary organising committee said, “We should carry out a sophisticated, systematic, free-flowing publicity campaigns that will create an image of a harmonious and stable Tibet within the country and abroad.”