2015 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) - Tibet

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
April 13, 2016

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The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAPs) and counties in other provinces to be a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Central Committee oversees Tibet policies. As in other predominantly minority areas of the PRC, ethnic Han CCP members held almost all top party, government, police, and military positions in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Central Committee Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its seven-member Standing Committee in Beijing. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The government’s respect for, and protection of, human rights in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained poor. Under the professed objectives of controlling border areas, maintaining social stability, and combating separatism, the government engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement. The government routinely vilified the Dalai Lama and blamed the “Dalai [Lama] Clique” and “other outside forces” for instigating instability.

Other serious human rights abuses included extrajudicial detentions, disappearances, and torture. There was a perception among many Tibetans that authorities systemically targeted them for political repression, economic marginalization, and cultural assimilation, as well as educational and employment discrimination. The presence of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and other security forces remained at high levels in many communities on the Tibetan Plateau, particularly in the TAR. Repression was severe throughout the year but increased in the periods before and during politically and religiously sensitive anniversaries and events. Authorities detained individuals in Tibetan areas after they reportedly protested against government or business actions, or expressed their support for the Dalai Lama.

The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and some Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine fully the scope of human rights problems. The Chinese government severely restricted travel by foreign journalists to Tibetan areas. Additionally, the Chinese government harassed or detained Tibetans who spoke to foreign reporters, attempted to provide information to persons abroad, or communicated information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent through cell phones, e-mail, or the internet. With the exception of a few highly controlled trips, the Chinese government also denied multiple requests by foreign diplomats for permission to visit the TAR. Because of these restrictions, many of the incidents and cases mentioned in this report could not be verified independently.

Disciplinary procedures were opaque, and there was no publicly available information to indicate that security personnel or other authorities were punished for behavior defined under Chinese laws and regulations as abuses of power and authority.

Tibetan Self-Immolations

Seven Tibetans reportedly self-immolated during the year, including laypersons and Tibetan Buddhist clergy, fewer than the 11 self-immolations reported in 2014 and significantly fewer than the 83 self-immolations reported in 2012. Non-Chinese media reports stated the declining number of reported self-immolations was due to tightened security by authorities and the collective punishment of self‑immolators’ associates.

Self-immolators reportedly viewed their acts as protests against the government’s political and religious oppression. The Chinese government implemented policies that punished friends, relatives, and associates of self‑immolators. The Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Ministry of Public Security’s joint 2012 “Opinion on Handling Cases of Self-Immolation in Tibetan Areas According to Law” criminalizes various activities associated with self‑immolation, including “organizing, plotting, inciting, compelling, luring, instigating, or helping others to commit self-immolation,” each of which may be prosecuted as “intentional homicide.”

According to the opinion, the motive of self-immolators was “generally to split the country,” and the act constituted criminal behavior, since it posed a threat to public safety and public order. The opinion stated that “ringleaders” would be targeted for “major punishment.” In addition Chinese government officials in some Tibetan areas withheld public benefits from the family members of self-immolators and ordered friends and monastic personnel to refrain from participating in religious burial rites or mourning activities for self-immolators.

According to an August 2014 report by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), since 2012 at least 11 Tibetans were sentenced to prison terms or death on charges of “intentional homicide” for allegedly “aiding” or “inciting” others to self-immolate. The report also listed 98 Tibetans punished since 2010 due to alleged association with a self-immolation.

Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. There were no reports that officials investigated or punished those responsible for such killings. In November 2014, CCP officials detained Bachen Gyewa (Ngawang Monlam), head of Buzhung village in Driru (Biru) county in the TAR. Shortly thereafter, public security officials allegedly beat him to death. Bachen Gyewa was a former monk at Pekar Monastery where protests against government restrictions on religion had occurred in recent years.

Tibetan exiles and other observers believed Chinese authorities released Tibetan political prisoners in poor health to avoid deaths in custody. Lobsang Yeshi, a former village leader, died in a Lhasa hospital after enduring torture, mistreatment, and negligence at the hands of prison authorities, according to a July report by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Authorities detained Lobsang Yeshi in 2014 after he protested against mining operations near his hometown.


Authorities in Tibetan areas continued to detain Tibetans arbitrarily for indefinite periods. In October police detained Lobsang Jamyang, a 15-year-old monk at Ngaba’s Kirti monastery in Sichuan Province, for staging a protest and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). His whereabouts remained unknown.

In March, state security agents detained Druklo (pen name: Shokjang), a Tibetan writer, in Tongren (Rebkong) county in Qinghai province. At the end of the year Druklo’s whereabouts remained unknown, and authorities had provided no information to his family.

The whereabouts of the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibetan Buddhism’s second-most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama, remained unknown. In September a Chinese government official publicly claimed that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was “living a normal life, growing up healthily and does not wish to be disturbed.”

Torture and Other Cruel and Degrading Treatment

Police and prison authorities employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. There were reports during the year that Chinese officials severely beat, even to the point of death, some Tibetans who were incarcerated or otherwise in custody. In December 2014 prison authorities released Tenzin Choedrag (Tenchoe), an environmental NGO worker, into his family’s care and he died two days later. He was vomiting blood and suffered brain damage reportedly sustained from torture.

In February the ICT released a report that documented the torture and mistreatment of Tibetan prisoners while in custody by Chinese authorities. The report detailed 14 deaths from torture between 2009 and 2014.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The number of prisoners in the TAR and Tibetan areas was unknown. There were reports of recently released prisoners permanently disabled or in extremely poor health because of the harsh treatment they endured in prison. Former prisoners reported being isolated in small cells for months at a time and deprived of sleep, sunlight, and adequate food. According to sources, prisoners rarely received medical care except in cases of serious illness. There were cases of detained and imprisoned persons being denied visitors. As elsewhere in the PRC, authorities did not permit independent monitoring of prisons.

Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

Arbitrary arrest and detention was a problem in Tibetan areas. With a detention warrant, police may legally detain persons for up to 37 days without formally arresting or charging them. Police must notify the relatives or employer of a detained person within 24 hours of the detention. Following the 37-day period, police must either formally arrest or release the detainee. Police frequently violated these requirements. It was unclear how many Tibetan detainees authorities held under forms of detention not subject to judicial review.

In March authorities in the TAR’s Suo (Sog) County detained Lobsang Dawa, a local monk. Authorities did not give any reason for his detention, according to an RFA report.

Denial of Fair Public Trial

Legal safeguards for detained or imprisoned Tibetans were inadequate in both design and implementation. Prisoners in China have the right to request a meeting with a government-appointed attorney, but many Tibetan defendants, particularly political defendants, did not have access to legal representation.

Trial Procedures

In cases that authorities claimed involved “endangering state security” or “separatism,” trials often were cursory and closed. In its annual work report, the TAR High People’s Court stated it firmly fought against separatism and protected social stability by, among other things, sentencing those who instigated protests. According to an August report in the government-controlled Tibet Daily, only 15 percent of the cadres (government and party officials) working for courts in the TAR had passed the National Legal Qualification Exam with a C grade certificate or higher. The report concluded that judges in the TAR were “strong politically, but weak professionally.” Security forces routinely subjected detainees and prisoners to “political re‑education” sessions.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

An unknown number of Tibetans were detained, arrested, and sentenced because of their political or religious activity. Authorities held many prisoners in extrajudicial detention centers and never allowed them to appear in public court.

Based on information available from the political prisoner database of the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC), as of September 1, 646 Tibetan political prisoners were detained or imprisoned, most of them in Tibetan areas. Observers believed the actual number of Tibetan political prisoners and detainees to be much higher, but the lack of access to prisoners and prisons, as well as the dearth of reliable official statistics, made a precise determination difficult. An unknown number of persons continued to be held in detention centers, rather than prisons. Of the 646 Tibetan political prisoners tracked by the CECC, 635 were detained on or after March 10, 2008, and 11 were detained prior to March 2008. Of the 635 Tibetan political prisoners who were detained on or after March 10, 2008, 258 were believed or presumed to be detained or imprisoned in Sichuan Province, 208 in the TAR, 96 in Qinghai Province, 71 in Gansu Province, and one each in the Beijing Municipality and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. There were 164 persons serving known sentences, which ranged from 18 months to life imprisonment. The average sentence length was eight years and six months. Of the 164 persons serving known sentences, 70 were monks, nuns, or Tibetan Buddhist teachers.

Sentencing information was available for eight of the 11 Tibetan political prisoners detained prior to March 10, 2008, and believed imprisoned as of September 1. Their sentences ranged from nine years to life imprisonment. The average fixed-term sentence was 11 years and nine months.

Prominent Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in prison in the summer of 2015 while serving a life sentence for allegedly setting off explosions and inciting separation of the state, according to CNN. According to media reports, he was denied access to adequate medical care. Authorities denied requests from his family to return the body so traditional Tibetan Buddhist funeral rites could be conducted. Authorities allowed relatives and religious leaders to witness the cremation of his body but later forced family members to return his ashes, according to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report.

Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

In November, TAR Party Secretary Chen Quanguo said the CCP should punish Communist Party members that follow the Dalai Lama, secretly harbor religious beliefs, make pilgrimages to India, and send their children to study with Tibetans in exile. Authorities continued to monitor private correspondence and to search some private homes and businesses for photographs of the Dalai Lama and other politically forbidden items. Police examined the cell phones of TAR residents to search for “reactionary music” from India and photographs of the Dalai Lama. Authorities also questioned and detained some individuals that disseminated writings and photos over the internet

According to an October report from Phayul, a news website maintained by Tibetan exiles, Samdrub Gyatso, a Tibetan political prisoner released earlier in May was arrested again for alleged possession of materials containing texts regarding the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.

Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Tibetans who spoke to foreign reporters, attempted to provide information to persons outside the country, or communicated information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent through cell phones, e‑mail, or the internet were subject to harassment or detention. During the year authorities in the TAR and many other Tibetan areas sought to strengthen control over electronic media further and to punish individuals for the “creating and spreading of rumors.” For example, according to an official media report, police in the TAR’s Mozhu Gongka (Maldro Gongkar) County arrested four persons in August on charges of electronically spreading rumors accusing the China Railway No.2 Construction Bureau, a government-owned enterprise, of polluting rivers and grasslands. In November, a court sentenced 18-year-old Gendun Phuntsok and 19-year-old Lobsang Kalsang, two Tibetan monks from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba Prefecture in Sichuan province (Kham), to four years and three-and-a-half-years in prison respectively. The teenage monks were arrested in March for carrying out two solo protests in the main street of the Ngaba town calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibetans.

Press and Media Freedoms: The government severely restricted travel by foreign journalists. Foreign journalists may visit the TAR only after obtaining a special travel permit from the government, and permission was rarely granted. Reporting from “Tibet proper remains off-limits to foreign journalists,” according to an annual report by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China. According to the same report, many foreign journalists were told also that reporting in Tibetan areas outside the TAR was “restricted or prohibited.”

Authorities tightly controlled journalists who worked for the domestic press, and could hire and fire them on the basis of political reliability. For example, in March the TAR Bureau for Press, Radio, and Television released a job announcement seeking a number of media employees. One of the listed job requirements was to “be united with the regional Party Committee in political ideology and fighting against separatism.”

Violence and Harassment: In June the International Campaign for Tibet released a report that documented the cases of 11 Tibetan writers and intellectuals and 10 Tibetan singers who have faced imprisonment and repression. Authorities detained the Tibetan writer Lomik in April on unknown charges after he wrote and spoke about political repression and social problems on the Tibetan Plateau.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Domestic journalists did not report on repression in Tibetan areas. Authorities promptly censored the postings of bloggers who did so, and the authors sometimes faced punishment. In August authorities shut down a website called Choemei, which shared news, music, and literature in the Tibetan language. According to an RFA report, authorities ordered the owner of the website to register the website with the Department of Communications.

The government continued to jam radio broadcasts of Voice of America and RFA’s Tibetan- and Chinese-language services in some Tibetan areas, as well as the Voice of Tibet, an independent radio station based in Norway. According to a June RFA report, authorities in Qinghai Province confiscated or destroyed “illegal” satellite dishes.

National Security: In July China enacted a new National Security Law that includes provisions regarding the management of ethnic minorities and religion. China frequently blamed “hostile foreign forces” for creating instability in Tibetan areas and cited the need to protect “national security” and “fight against separatism” as justifications for its policies, including censorship policies, in Tibetan areas.

The central government’s emphasis on security and stability in Tibetan areas was reflected in the policy decisions made in the Sixth Tibet Work Forum in August, as reported by official media. A statement following a July 30 Politburo meeting held that “China must uphold the Party’s guidelines for governing Tibet, focusing on safeguarding national unification and ethnic unity [and that] China must unswervingly struggle against splittism.”

Internet Freedom

Authorities curtailed cell phone and internet service in the TAR and other Tibetan areas, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, during times of unrest and politically sensitive periods, such as the March anniversaries of the 1959 and 2008 protests, “Serf Emancipation Day,” and around the Dalai Lama’s birthday in July. Authorities closely monitored the internet throughout Tibetan areas. Reports of authorities searching cell phones they suspected of containing suspicious content were widespread. Many individuals in the TAR and other Tibetan areas reported receiving official warnings after using their cell phones to exchange what the government deemed to be sensitive information.

Throughout the year authorities blocked users in China from accessing foreign-based, Tibet-related websites critical of official policy in Tibetan areas. Well organized computer hacking attacks originating from China harassed Tibet activists and organizations outside China.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

Authorities in many Tibetan areas required professors and students at institutions of higher education to attend regular political education sessions, particularly during politically sensitive months, in an effort to prevent “separatist” political and religious activities on campus. Authorities frequently encouraged Tibetan academics to participate in government propaganda efforts, such as making public speeches supporting government policies. Academics who refused to cooperate with such efforts faced diminished prospects for promotion. Academics in the PRC who publicly criticized CCP policies on Tibetan affairs faced official reprisal. The government controlled curricula, texts, and other course materials, as well as the publication of historically or politically sensitive academic books. Authorities frequently denied Tibetan academics permission to travel overseas for conferences, and academic or cultural exchanges. Authorities in Tibetan areas regularly banned the sale and distribution of music they deemed to have sensitive political content.

In August senior officials of the TAR Academy of Social Science encouraged scholars to maintain “a correct political and academic direction” and held a conference to “improve” scholars’ “political ideology” and “fight against separatists.”

Policies promoting planned urban economic growth, rapid infrastructure development, the influx of non-Tibetans to traditionally Tibetan areas, expansion of the tourism industry, forced resettlement of nomads and farmers, and the weakening of both Tibetan-language education in public schools and religious education in monasteries continued to disrupt traditional living patterns and customs.

Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese are official languages in the TAR, and both languages appeared on some, but not all, public and commercial signs. Inside official buildings and businesses, including banks, post offices, and hospitals, signage in Tibetan was frequently lacking, and in many instances forms and documents were available only in Mandarin, which is widely spoken, is used for most official communications, and is the predominant language of instruction in public schools in many Tibetan areas. Private printing businesses in Chengdu needed special government approval to print in the Tibetan language.

In January officials in Yushu TAP in Qinghai Province shut down a workshop that a Buddhist monastery had held for local children for 24 years consecutively. Tibetan language was among the subjects of the workshop. In November 2014, students at the Tibetan Language Middle School in Ruo-ergai (Dzoege) county in Sichuan Province reportedly protested against a proposed change from Tibetan to Mandarin Chinese as the language of instruction.

China’s Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law states that “schools (classes and grades) and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the media of instruction.” Despite guarantees of cultural and linguistic rights, many primary, middle, and high school students had limited access to Tibetan-language instruction and textbooks.

China’s most prestigious universities provided no instruction in Tibetan or other ethnic minority languages, although classes teaching the Tibetan language were available at a small number of universities. “Nationalities” universities, established to serve ethnic minority students and ethnic Han students interested in ethnic minority subjects, offered Tibetan-language instruction only in courses focused on the study of the Tibetan language or culture. Mandarin was used in courses for jobs that required technical skills and qualifications.

Freedom of Assembly and Association

Even in areas officially designated as “autonomous,” Tibetans generally lacked the right to organize and play a meaningful role in the protection of their cultural heritage and unique natural environment. Tibetans often faced intimidation and arrest if they protested against policies or practices they found objectionable. A February RFA report stated that authorities in Qinghai Province’s Tongren (Rebkong) County circulated a list of unlawful activities. The list included “illegal associations formed in the name of the Tibetan language, the environment, and education.” In February police in Sichuan Province’s capital city of Chengdu quickly arrested a group of Tibetans peacefully protesting a government land seizure in Sichuan’s Ruo’ergai (Zoige) County outside a meeting of the Provincial People’s Congress.

Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

Freedom of Movement

Chinese law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government severely restricted travel and freedom of movement of Tibetans, however, particularly Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.

In-country Movement: Freedom of movement for all Tibetans, but particularly for monks and nuns, remained severely restricted throughout the TAR, as well as in other Tibetan areas. The PAP and local Public Security Bureaus set up roadblocks and checkpoints on major roads, in cities, and on the outskirts of cities and monasteries, particularly around sensitive dates. Tibetans traveling in monastic attire were subject to extra scrutiny by police at roadside checkpoints and at airports.

Authorities sometimes banned Tibetans, particularly monks and nuns, from going outside the TAR and from traveling to the TAR without first obtaining special permission from multiple government offices. Many Tibetans reported encountering difficulties in obtaining the required permissions. This not only made it difficult for Tibetans to make pilgrimages to sacred religious sites in the TAR, but also obstructed land-based travel to India through Nepal. Tibetans from outside the TAR who traveled to Lhasa also reported that authorities there required them to surrender their national identification card, stay in designated hotels, and notify authorities of their plans on a daily basis. These requirements were not applied to Han Chinese visitors to the TAR.

Even outside the TAR, many Tibetan monks and nuns reported it remained difficult to travel beyond their home monasteries, with officials frequently denying permission for visiting monks to stay at a monastery for religious education. Implementation of this restriction was especially rigorous in the TAR.

Foreign Travel: Many Tibetans continued to report difficulties in obtaining new, or renewing existing, passports. A July report by Human Rights Watch found that Tibetans and other minorities must provide far more extensive documentation than other Chinese citizens when applying for a Chinese passport. For Tibetans the passport application process can take years and frequently ends in rejection. Some Tibetans reported they were able to obtain passports only after paying substantial bribes or promising not to travel to India. Tibetans continued to encounter substantial difficulties and obstacles in traveling to India for religious, educational, and other purposes. Contacts also reported instances of local authorities revoking the passports of individuals who had traveled to India.

Tight border controls sharply limited the number of persons crossing the border into Nepal and India. In 2015, 89 Tibetan refugees transited Nepal through the Tibetan Reception Center, run by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kathmandu, on route to permanent settlement in India. This compared to 80 in 2014, down from 171 in 2013 and 242 in 2012.

The government restricted the movement of Tibetans in the period before and during sensitive anniversaries and events and increased controls over border areas at these times. For example, in May, RFA reported that the Chengdu Municipal Tourism Office forbade travel agents to sell package overseas tours to Tibetans between May 20 and July 15, the period around the Dalai Lama’s July 6 birthday.

The government regulated travel by foreigners to the TAR, a restriction not applied to any other provincial-level entity in the PRC. In accordance with a 1989 regulation, foreign visitors must obtain an official confirmation letter issued by the TAR government before entering the TAR. Most tourists obtained such letters by booking tours through officially registered travel agencies. In the TAR, a government-designated tour guide must accompany foreign tourists at all times. It was rare for foreigners to obtain permission to enter the TAR by road.

In what has become an annual practice, authorities banned many foreign tourists from the TAR in the period before and during the March anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising. Foreign tourists sometimes also faced restrictions traveling to Tibetan areas outside the TAR, although the government never issued publicly available formal prohibitions on such travel. The decline in the number of foreign tourists to the TAR was more than offset by an increase in domestic ethnic Han visitors to the TAR. Unlike foreign tourists, ethnic Han tourists do not need special permits to visit the TAR.

Officials continued to tightly restrict the access of foreign diplomats and journalists to the TAR. Foreign officials were able to travel to the TAR only with the permission of the TAR Foreign Affairs Office, and even then only on closely chaperoned trips arranged by that office. With the exception of a few highly controlled trips, authorities repeatedly denied requests for international journalists to visit the TAR and other Tibetan areas (see section on Freedom of Speech and Press).

Freedom to Participate in the Political ProcessShare    

According to the law, Tibetans and other Chinese citizens have the right to vote in some local elections. In practice the Chinese government severely restricts its citizens’ ability to participate in any meaningful elections. For example, in January, the RFA reported that security forces in Kyangchu Village in Qinghai Province detained nearly 70 Tibetans who had protested against local officials’ insistence that villagers vote for the local government’s preferred candidate in a village election.

Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare    

The law provides criminal penalties for corrupt acts by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively in Tibetan areas, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption in Tibetan areas during the year. In June authorities detained Le Dake, deputy head of the TAR People’s Congress Standing Committee and former head of the TAR State Security Bureau, for a “serious violation of discipline and law,” a common euphemism for corruption.

Discrimination and Societal AbusesShare    


Rape and Domestic Violence: There was no confirmed information on the incidence of rape or domestic violence.

Reproductive Rights: Family planning policies permitted Tibetans and members of some other minority groups to have more children than ethnic Han. Some Tibetans who worked for the government reported pressure from their work units to have only one child.

Prostitution in Tibetan areas was not uncommon. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and health experts expressed serious concern about the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the TAR and other Tibetan areas.

Discrimination: There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. They were, however, underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of government. According to an official website, in 2012 female cadres (government and party officials) in the TAR accounted for more than 41 percent of the TAR’s total cadres.


Many rural Tibetan areas have implemented China’s nationwide “centralized education” policy, which has resulted in the closure of many village schools and the transfer of students, including elementary school students, to boarding schools in towns and cities. Reports indicated many of the boarding schools did not adequately care for and supervise their young students. This policy also resulted in diminished acquisition of the Tibetan language and culture by removing Tibetan children from their homes and communities where the Tibetan language is used.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Ethnic Minorities

Although the 2010 TAR census figures showed that Tibetans made up 90.5 percent of the TAR’s permanently registered population, official figures did not include a large number of long-, medium-, and short-term ethnic Han residents, such as cadres, skilled and unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their respective dependents. Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of those registered as permanent residents in rural areas, according to official census figures.

Migrants to the TAR and other parts of the Tibetan Plateau were overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas. Government policies to subsidize economic development often benefited ethnic Han more than Tibetans. In many predominantly Tibetan cities across the Tibetan Plateau, ethnic Han or Hui migrants owned and managed many of the small businesses, restaurants, and retail shops.

Observers continued to express concern that development projects and other central government policies disproportionately benefited non-Tibetans and resulted in a considerable influx of ethnic Han and Hui persons into the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Many major infrastructure projects across the Tibetan Plateau were engineered and implemented by large state-owned enterprises based in other provinces, and they were managed and staffed by professionals and low-wage temporary migrant workers from other provinces rather than by local residents.

Economic and social exclusion was a major source of discontent among a varied cross section of Tibetans. Some Tibetans continued to report discrimination in employment. Some Tibetans reported it was more difficult for Tibetans than ethnic Han to obtain permits and loans to open businesses. Restrictions on both local NGOs that received foreign funding and international NGOs that provided assistance to Tibetan communities increased during the year, resulting in a decrease of beneficial NGO programs in the TAR and other Tibetan areas.

The government continued its campaign to resettle Tibetan nomads into urban areas and newly created communities in rural areas across the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Despite a January 2014 Xinhua report that claimed the TAR’s eight-year nomad resettlement program was completed officially at the end of 2013, there were new reports of compulsory resettlement. Improving housing conditions, health care, and education for Tibet’s poorest were among the stated goals of resettlement, although there was a pattern of settling herders near townships and roads and away from monasteries, which were the traditional providers of community and social services. A requirement that herders bear a substantial part of the resettlement cost often forced resettled families into debt.

Although a September media report noted that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 70 percent of government employees in the TAR, the top CCP position of TAR party secretary continued to be held by an ethnic Han, and the corresponding positions in the vast majority of all TAR counties were also held by ethnic Han. Also within the TAR, ethnic Han continued to hold a disproportionate number of the top security, military, financial, economic, legal, judicial, and educational positions. Ethnic Han were party secretaries in seven of the nine TAPs, which are located in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. Two TAPs in Qinghai Province had Tibetan party secretaries, and one TAP in Yunnan Province had an ethnic Naxi party secretary. Authorities often prohibited Tibetans holding government and CCP positions from openly worshipping at monasteries or otherwise publicly practicing their religion.

Government propaganda against alleged Tibetan “pro-independence forces” contributed to Chinese societal discrimination against ordinary Tibetans. Many Tibetan monks and nuns chose to wear nonreligious garb to avoid harassment when traveling outside their monasteries and throughout China. Some Tibetans reported that taxi drivers throughout China refused to stop for them and hotels refused to give them rooms.

Societal Violence

Feuds among Tibetans and the resulting violence, in some cases including killings, was a serious problem.