Political Pressure On Tibetans Rises
China's government appears to be stepping up a political-education campaign directed at Tibetans, a policy that may have sparked a new outburst of violence in the already tense situation in western China.
China's ruling Communist Party has issued a circular in recent days to party members and government officials in Tibetan areas instructing them 'to play an active role in maintaining social stability with more loyalty,' the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday. On Saturday, authorities vowed through state media outlets to step up such efforts.
Overseas Tibetan groups said the campaign also involved requiring Buddhist monks to renounce their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and relinquish photos of him that many of them possess -- a push that may have sparked a new clash with authorities last week. The violence, which occurred Thursday in the southwestern province of Sichuan, was one of the biggest and most violent since the Lhasa riots began March 14 -- although the government and Tibetan groups offer differing accounts on what happened.
In their account of last Thursday's clash, overseas Tibetan and human-rights groups said as many as eight ethnic Tibetans, including one monk, were shot and killed near the Tongkhor monastery in Sichuan province's Ganzi county, following protests at authorities' efforts to step up 'patriotic education' that required monks to denounce the Dalai Lama. News of a riot in Ganzi -- but not those deaths -- was reported by Xinhua, which said the police fired warning shots and that a government official was among those injured.
Neither account could be independently verified as telephones in the area, known as Garze in Tibetan, were either cut off or went unanswered.
China's political-education campaigns tend to emphasize the supremacy of Communist Party doctrine over religious beliefs like the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism. For many Tibetan Buddhists, the government's emphasis on political thought above religious and philosophical beliefs, and its forced denunciations of the Dalai Lama, are the core reason they distrust Beijing's overall intentions, and why they play down the value of such factors as increased central-government investment in Tibet.
Now, as it often does in the wake of challenges to its authority, Beijing appears to be reinvigorating its political-education efforts in Tibet and surrounding areas. In recent years, economic incentives have generally been the government's key tool for building Chinese national loyalty throughout Tibetan areas.
In a written statement Sunday, the Dalai Lama reiterated his appeal to Tibetans to avoid violence and said they shouldn't disrupt the coming Olympic Games.
The Dalai Lama also noted how Tibetans are often Communist Party members by referring to 'Tibetan government employees and Communist Party cadres who have, without losing their Tibetan identity, shown grit and sense of what is right during the present crisis.' He requested that in the future they report 'the real sentiments of the Tibetan people to their superiors in the Party.'