(This section of the report on China has been prepared pursuant to Section 536
(b) of Public Law 103-236. The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous
Region--hereinafter referred to as "Tibet"--to be part of the People's Republic
of China. Preservation and development of Tibet's unique religious, cultural
and linguistic heritage and protection of its people's fundamental human rights
continue to be of concern.)
Because the Chinese Government strictly controls access to and information
about Tibet, the scope of human rights abuses cannot be precisely determined.
However, according to credible reports, during 1996 Chinese government
authorities continued to commit widespread human rights abuses in Tibet,
including instances of death in detention, torture, arbitrary arrest, detention
without public trial, long detention of Tibetan nationalists for peacefully
expressing their religious and political views, and intensified controls on
religion and on freedom of speech and the press, particularly for ethnic
The authorities permit many traditional religious practices. Those seen as a
vehicle for political dissent, howeverl are not tolerated and are promptly and
forcibly suppressed. Individuals accused of political activism faced increased
persecution during the year, as the Government moved to limit the power of
religious persons and secular leaders who openly sympathized with the Dalai
Lama. In February the Government issued orders to close all politically active
monasteries, and during the year authorities increased repression,
imprisonment, and abuse or torture of monks and nuns accused of political
activism. According to authoritative Chinese press reports, in May Beijing
launched a campaign to "limit criminal activity in the guise of religious
practice." The crackdown appears to have three goals: To stop acts of defiance,
to break the political power wielded by lamas, and to remove officials loyal to
the Dalai Lama.
There have been reports of bomb blasts in Lhasa. There is no
information about casualties. Chinese officials claim Tibetan separatist
groups are responsible for the bombing, which they characterize as "terrorist
acts." However, no group has claimed responsibility.
During 1996 small-scale protests occurred at the Ganden, Sera, Drepung,
Jokhang, and Tashilhunpo monasteries, resulting in swift detention for many
participants. In April the Government banned photographs of the Dalai Lama in
monasteries and private homes, extending and widening a 1994 prohibition on the
sale of the Dalai Lama's photograph in shops and on officials displaying his
photograph in their homes or offices. Police reportedly conducted
house-to-house searches to enforce the ban. This ban prompted some of the
protests in monasteries. In May and June, approximately 90 monks openly
sympathetic to the Dalai Lama protested and were detained at Lhasa's Ganden
monastery. During a May incident at Canden, security personnel reportedly shot
three monks. One of the monks, 40-year-old Kelsang Nyendrak, reportedly died
of a bullet wound. According to press reports, a Chinese official admitted
that monks were arrested but denied the murder.
Legal safeguards for ethnic Tibetans detained or imprisoned mirror those in the
rest of China and are inadequate in design and implementation. Lack of
independent outside access to prisoners or prisons makes it difficult to assess
the extent and severity of abuses and the number of Tibetan prisoners.
International human rights organizations reported that a 49-year-old Tibetan
monk, Kelsang Thutob, died in July at Drapchi prison in Lhasa. He was
reportedly imprisoned in 1989 and sentenced to 18 years for forming a
prodemocracy group and distributing antigovernment material that included a
Tibetan translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The monk
reportedly suffered from high blood pressure and other ailments but received no
medical care. Tibetan exile sources reported that a 19-year-old monk, Sangye
Tenphel, also died in Drapchi as a result of beatings by prison guards. In
September Tenchok Tenphel, a 27-year-old monk, died in Sakya detention center,
2 weeks after being detained during a ritual dance performance, according to an
NGO report. Chinese officials claimed the death was suicide, but, according to
local sources, he died of abuse while in detention. His body reportedly was
cremated before the family could view it, and no autopsy was performed.
Yongdrung, a 27-year-old artist who specialized in painting portraits of the
Dalai Lama was found in shock in Lhasa in October after having been released
from 58 days in a detention center, where he was reportedly tortured. In July
Ngawang Sandrol, who has been in jail since she was 15, reportedly had her
sentence doubled for protesting a political reeducation campaign aimed at monks
There were credible reports that Chinese authorities also detained foreigners
visiting Tibet, searched them, and confiscated materials deemed politically
sensitive. Ngawang Choephel, a 29-year-old Tibetan ethnomusicologist and
former Fulbright scholar, was held in incommunicado detention in Tibet
throughout 1996. He is believed to have been detained in Shigatse in August
1995 while making a film documentary about Tibetan performing arts. In
December Ngawang Choephel was sentenced to 18 years in prison for "espionage"
under the State Security Law. A New Zealand tourist was detained,
interrogated, and forced to make a confession after sending a fax to New
Zealand that included a reference to what he thought might be a bomb explosion
The Government does not tolerate religious manifestations that advocate Tibetan
independence. The Government condemns the Dalai Lama's political
activities and his leadership of a "government in exile." The official press
intensified the rhetoric against him and repeatedly described him as a
"criminal" determined to "split" China. The Government sought to limit the
Dalai Lama's international influence by threatening leaders of Britain,
Germany, Australia, and other nations with serious diplomatic and economic
consequences if they met with him during his visits to those countries.
International leaders generally ignored China's threats and welcomed meetings
with the Tibetan Buddhist religious leader and Nobel laureate.
Tibetan Buddhism and proindependence activism are closely associated in Tibet,
and already tense relations between Buddhists and secular authorities worsened
during the year in some areas, although nonpolitical forms of worship were
tolerated. In May the Government reportedly began a campaign to "register" and
"reeducate" dissident monks at Tibet's three main monasteries, Drepung, Sera,
and Ganden. Hundreds of officials participated in the campaign, during which
monks were forced to attend sessions on law, patriotism, and support for
national unity and were coerced to sign statements criticizing the Dalai Lama.
According to reports, some monks fled their places of worship and feigned
illness to avoid attending the sessions, but the management committees of the
involved monasteries imposed deadlines for participation forcing monks to
cooperate or be stricken from the roles of the monastery.
Chinese officials claim that some 46,000 Buddhist monks and nuns live in
approximately 1,400 Tibetan monasteries, and some travelers to Tibet have
reported seeing increased numbers of monks and nuns. The Government, however,
has moved to curb the proliferation of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, which are
seen as a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by
the Tibetan exile community. In March 1995, the Government acknowledged that
it strictly enforces limits on the number of monks in major monasteries. In
April the Tibetan press reported that the Tibet Autonomous Region Religious
Affairs Bureau had issued regulations that restricted leadership of management
committees of temples to "patriotic and devoted monks and nuns." To bolster
loyalty to the party, the Government stepped up efforts to ensure that party
cadres in Tibet, over 70 percent of whom are ethnic Tibetans, adhere to
the party's code of atheism.
In November the official Tibet Daily newspaper called for "large-scale" reform
of religious policy. "Buddhism must conform to socialism, not socialism to
Buddhism...Some people are seeking to expand the role and influence of
religion, without recognizing its negative influence." The article published
statistics that it said provided indications of the negative influence of
religion on Tibet's economic development: There were 1,787 temples in Tibet at
the beginning of 1996, "exceeding the number of towns and cities," 46,000 monks
and nuns "outnumbered middle school students." Temples compete for scarce
resources hurting other areas, the article claimed. "We must adopt an
offensive strategy to protect the paramount interests of the state...."
The Government continues to oversee the daily operations of monasteries.
Although the Government generally only contributes a small percentage of the
monasteries' operational funds, it retains management control of the
monasteries through the goverriment-controlled democratic management committees
and the local religious affairs bureaus.
The Government continued to insist that a boy it selected and enthroned in 1995
is the Panchen Lama's eleventh reincarnation. The boy appeared publicly on at
least two occasions, including Chinese National Day inOctober. At all
other times, he was held incommunicado by Chinese authorities. Meanwhile, the
Government also detained the boy selected bythe Dalai Lama as the
Panchen Lamals reincarnation. The boy's family was also detained. The
Government refused to provide access by unofficial observers to either of the
boys or their families, whose exact locations were unknown. Tibetan monks have
claimed that they were forced to sign statements pledging allegiance to the boy
selected as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama by the Government.
Buddhist sites, many of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution,
continue to be restored. Despite government attempts to curb their
proliferation, the monasteries continue to house and train young monks, making
substantial increase in the non-Tibetan Population (including China's Muslim
Hui minority as well as Han Chinese) in Lhasa and other urban areas.
Most of these migrants profess to be temporary residents, but small businesses
run by ethnic Han and Hui peoples (mostly restaurants and retail shops) are
becoming more numerous in or near some Tibetan towns and cities. In Lhasa
roughly one-third of the population is Han Chinese; elsewhere, the Han
percentage of the population is significantly lower. Chinese officials assert
that 95 percent ofTibet's officially registered population is Tibetan,
with Han and other ethnic groups making up the remainder. Ongoing economic
development raises the prospect of the temporary or permanent transfer to Tibet
of increased numbers of non-Tibetan technical personnel. Since 1994, 50 major
investment projects have been completed at a cost of $400 million. An
increased number of immigrants from China's large transient population is
seeking to take advantage of new economic opportunities.
Economic development, fueled by central government subsidies, is modernizing
parts of Tibetan society and changing traditional Tibetan ways of life. While
the Government has made efforts in recent years to restore some of the physical
structures and other aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture damaged or
destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, repressive social and political
controls continue to limit the fundamental freedoms of ethnic Tibetans.
understanding tibetan buddhism .
ascending the roof of the world .
china in tibet .
viewer discussion .
press reaction .
tapes & transcripts
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation