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) Central Committee oversees Tibet policies in the PRC. Chen Quanguo, an ethnic Han from Henan Province, became the TAR party secretary in 2011. Ethnic Han were party secretaries in eight of the 10 TAPs, which are located in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. Two TAPs in Qinghai Province had ethnic Tibetan party secretaries. 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 of the security forces. Security forces committed human rights abuses.
During the year the government’s respect for and protection of human rights in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained poor. Under the banner of 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 ethnic Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement. The government routinely vilified the Dalai Lama and blamed the “Dalai clique” and “other outside forces” for instigating instability and the at least 26 self-immolations by Tibetan laypersons, monks, and nuns that reportedly occurred during the year.
Other serious human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial detentions, and house arrests. There was a perception among 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 across the Tibetan Plateau. Repression was severe throughout the year but increased in the periods before and during politically and religiously sensitive anniversaries and events. Students, monks, laypersons, and others in many Tibetan areas were detained after reportedly demanding freedom and human rights, and expressing their support for the Dalai Lama.
The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses. The Chinese government severely restricted travel by foreign journalists to Tibetan areas. Additionally, the Chinese government subjected 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 to harassment or detention. The Chinese government also denied multiple requests by U.S. and other foreign diplomats for permission to visit the TAR, and repeatedly prevented foreign diplomatic personnel from visiting Tibetan areas outside the TAR for which permission was not officially required. Because of these restrictions, many of the incidents and cases mentioned in this report could not be independently verified.
Disciplinary procedures were opaque, and it was not clear that security or other authorities were punished for behavior defined under Chinese laws and regulations as abuses of power and authority. Impunity appeared to be a problem.
At least 26 Tibetans reportedly self-immolated during the year, including laypersons and Tibetan Buddhist clergy, which was significantly fewer than the 83 self-immolations reported in 2012. The majority of self-immolators were laypersons, as opposed to current or former Buddhist monks or nuns. The vast majority of these incidents resulted in death.
Prior to March 2012 all of the reported self-immolators were current or former monks or nuns. However, as highlighted in the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) August 2012 report Tibetan Self-Immolation – Rising Frequency, Wider Spread, Greater Diversity, self-immolation by laypersons grew markedly during the latter half of 2012. By the end of 2012 laypersons represented more than half of the self-immolations committed that year. That trend continued with only 10 of the 26 self-immolators being monks or nuns.
Self-immolators reportedly continued to see their act as a protest against political and religious oppression. For example, according to media reports, Lobsang Namgyal, formerly a monk at the Kirti Monastery and the 100th Tibetan to self-immolate in China since March 2009, called for the long life of the Dalai Lama while in the act of self-immolating. The Chinese government implemented policies that punish friends, relatives, and associates of self-immolators. In March 2012 the head of the Aba (Ngaba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (T&QAP) government, Wu Zegang, asserted that Tibetans who committed self-immolation were being “used by separatists to create chaos.” Alleging that the self-immolators had been in communication with the Tibetan exile community, Wu stated, “the Dalai Lama clique and overseas splittist forces are viciously leading Tibetan Buddhism onto the track of extremism. By touting self-immolators as so-called heroes and performing religious rituals to make amends for the sins of the dead, they support and inspire self-immolations. They instigate people to emulate and will not hesitate to use the terroristic behavior of sacrificing people’s lives to reach their separatist objective.”
According to various overseas rights groups, in November 2012 the government of Huangnan (Malho) TAP, Qinghai Province, issued a notice to local party members and government officials ordering them to discipline bereaved family members of self-immolators by withholding public benefits, including disaster relief. The notice also called for the punishment of laypersons, monastic personnel, family members, and officials who organized or participated in burial or mourning activities. Authorities subjected villages where self-immolations took place to the cancellation of publicly funded development and disaster relief projects, and subjected monasteries found to have participated in or organized fundraising activities or prayer ceremonies for self-immolators or their families to cancellation of public funding or even closure.
A December 2012 editorial in the Gansu Daily, an online news site, noted that the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Ministry of Public Security had jointly issued the “Opinion on Handling Cases of Self-Immolation in Tibetan Areas According to Law,” which 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.”
Not long after the announcement of the “Opinion on Handling Cases of Self-Immolation in Tibetan Areas According to Law,” government officials began detaining, arresting, trying, and sentencing a number of friends, relatives, and associates of self-immolators across the Tibetan Plateau, a trend that continued throughout the year. In February official media reported nearly 90 formal arrests of individuals in Qinghai and Gansu provinces linked to self-immolators. In January the Intermediate People’s Court of Aba (Ngaba) T&QAP, Sichuan Province, sentenced Kirti Monastery monk Lobsang Konchok to death with a two-year reprieve after convicting him of “intentional homicide” for “inciting and coercing eight people to self-immolate, resulting in three deaths.” Authorities sentenced his nephew, Lobsang Tsering, to 10 years in prison on the same charges. In August the same court sentenced Dolma Kyab (also known as Droma Gyap) to death. Authorities accused Dolma Kyab of strangling his wife to death and then lighting her body on fire, but Phayul (a news website maintained by Tibetan exiles) and other sources claimed that his wife died after setting herself on fire in protest against Chinese rule.