With monks and nuns perceived to be the ‘trouble makers’ of the CCP cadres, the seventh Tibet Work Forum held in Beijing recently focused on religion. ‘Re-education’ and ‘patriotism’ drives directed at them have been ongoing in Tibet for a few years now.
The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has witnessed substantial high-level activity this year, culminating in the Seventh Tibet Work Forum held in Beijing on 28-29 August 2020. This platform heralds a new and tougher age for Tibetans, concentrating on ‘patriotic education,’ adapting Tibetan Buddhism to ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ and combating ‘separatism’ and ‘Dalai clique.’
The infiltration of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into every village and hamlet in the TAR will be accelerated. Efforts to improve national unity would see the primacy of Mandarin over Tibetan in classrooms. This has already started in the Tibetan areas surrounding the TAR, stirring discontent among the local population.
After a five-year period, almost 300 senior CCP cadres, including the entire Politburo Standing Committee, participated in the forum. Tibet Work Forums are relevant as they decide on the long-term security and economic strategy for the TAR and Tibetan regions within China.
Interestingly, the Chinese-appointed XI Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, did not attend the forum and was away from TAR Medog from 29 to 31 August. Official Chinese TV and print media have released a few images of the platform. The state-owned CCTV broadcast did not show any Tibetan Buddhist religious figures present at the forum.
As expected, the speech by CCP Secretary-General and Chinese President Xi Jinping, outlining Beijing’s plans for Tibet, was hailed as ‘significant.’ Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang described it as “a leading document on Tibet-related work in a new age.”
In his speech outlining Beijing’s strategy for Tibet, Xi Jinping gave priority to safeguarding national unity and improving ethnic solidarity. He called for an intensified emphasis on educating and directing the public to unite them in the battle against separatist activities and forge an ‘ironclad shield’ to safeguard peace. Xi Jinping emphasized that ‘patriotism’ should be implemented in all schools and at all levels of education. It must call for “continuous efforts to enhance the appreciation of the great motherland, the Chinese nation, the Chinese community, the CCP and Chinese socialism by people of all ethnic groups.”
With monks and nuns were known to be the ‘trouble makers’ of the CCP cadres, specific emphasis was on faith. ‘Re-education’ and ‘patriotism’ drives directed at them have been ongoing in Tibet for a few years now. Pointing to the need to rapidly dilute the continuing impact of the Dalai Lama on Tibetan Buddhism and religious figures, Xi Jinping said, “Tibetan Buddhism should be driven by adaptation to socialist society and should be established in the Chinese context.”
Within days of the end of the Tibet Work Forum, Wang Yang, Chairman of the CPPCC and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, traveled to Qinghai province, while Zhao Kezhi, Minister of Public Security, visited Gansu and Qinghai. Zhao Kezhi stressed that “it is important to fully understand the magnitude and scope of the fight against separatism,” to prepare “to deal with acute and complex struggles, and to resolutely guard against and overcome significant risks and challenges.”
He instructed the security cadres to pay close attention to the fight against separatism and the preservation of peace, to improve intelligence research, to improve the governance of religious affairs, and to “grasp the initiative in the fight against separatism.” Zhang Yijiong, the Executive Vice-Minister of the United Front W of the Group, was bluntly reinforced in a People’s Daily article on September 28.
Likewise, TAR Party Secretary Wu Yingjie convened a meeting in Lhasa to spread the ‘spirit’ of Xi Jinping’s speech. Senior TAR cadres fanned around TAR and held identical meetings in cities and prefectures. Relevant, however, was the distinction made between the Dalai Lama and the ‘Dalai Clique’ by Danke, head of the Tibet United Front Labor Department, while briefing the cadres. It indicates that Beijing wants to keep open the lines of communication with the Dalai Lama.
These meetings were followed by a crackdown on ‘splittism.’ At least one 50-member public security team visited 48 locations in the Ngari (Ali) TAR Prefecture between 7 and 10 September. Separately, nine Tibetans have been accused this year of inciting ‘splittism’ by the Wholi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan Province.
It is clear that ‘patriotic education’ and party allegiance will be stepped up in Tibet, along with increased party surveillance. In particular, religion and religious figures will be more strictly controlled and greater efforts will be made to safeguard the boundaries of Tibet.