Recently adopted regulations on “ethnic unity” in Tibet further erode Tibetans’ basic freedoms and violate their human rights, the International Campaign for Tibet says in a new briefing.
The new regulations were adopted on Jan. 11 by the third session of the 11th People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region to establish “model areas for national unity and progress” in the TAR. The TAR spans about half of Tibet, a historically independent country that China annexed in 1959 and continues to rule over with an iron fist.
The regulations give the Chinese government powers to enforce a Chinese-centric way of life in the TAR and to cultivate informants for the Chinese Communist Party.
For the first time, the regulations explicitly depart from the principle of preferential treatment for Tibetans, which was supposed to guarantee that Tibetans could maintain their culture and historic way of life under Chinese rule. While Tibetans have faced systematic discrimination even under the preferential treatment policy, the new regulations heighten fears that they will be forced to assimilate into Chinese culture even more rapidly.
The regulations articulate long-held policy goals that seek to reduce ethnic differences in the People’s Republic of China to achieve a stable, Chinese-centric society and consolidate the Communist Party’s grip on the border regions of Tibet and Xinjiang (known to Uyghurs as East Turkestan).
The regulations reflect the culmination of Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping’s focus on consolidating power in the party and eliminating threats, as well as the ideas of a new generation of ethnic policy thinkers who advocate for the dilution of ethnic difference. These thinkers seek to force the assimilation of Tibetans and therefore further undermine Tibetans’ inherent freedom to preserve their unique culture, religion and way of life.
The imposition of a dominant ethnic culture on all citizens violates international human rights standards, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which China ratified in 1981, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which China ratified in 1992. The regulations also violate the right of Tibetans to freely pursue social and cultural development, pursuant to Article 1 of the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which China ratified in 2001.
Certain provisions of the new regulations stand out, as they aim at indoctrinating even Tibetan preschool children with ideological propaganda and intervene in the protected spheres of family and privacy.
The international community should urge the Chinese government to review its laws on ethnic policies and streamline them so they are clear, legally consistent and conform with international human rights standards. In particular, the Chinese government should safeguard the principle of self-determination, particularly with regard to social and cultural development, ICT’s new briefing paper says.