Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Olympic crackdown: China's secret plot to tame Tibet

July 14, 2008

The Sunday Times
July 13, 2008

Beijing is putting on a show of moderation but internal party papers
reveal a sinister crackdown

Michael Sheridan in Hong Kong
The Sunday Times
July 13, 2008

Internal Communist party documents have revealed that China is planning
a programme of harsh political repression in Tibet despite a public show
of moderation to win over world opinion before the Olympic Games next month.

A campaign of “re-education” has been outlined in confidential speeches
to meetings of Communist party members by Zhang Qingli, the hardline
party secretary of Tibet.

Verbatim texts of the speeches have been kept out of the Chinese media
but were printed in the April and May editions of the Xigang Tongxun
(Tibet Communications) — a classified publication restricted to party
officials. Translations were handed to The Sunday Times in Hong Kong.

Zhang has admitted behind closed doors that the Chinese authorities in
Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, face “a tide of encirclement” and that
anti-Chinese violence in March “destroyed social stability”. He has
warned that “final victory” is far off.

Rioting broke out in Lhasa on March 14 after days of peaceful protests
by Buddhist monks, which had been broken up by the security forces.

The violence was fuelled by ethnic hatred for Chinese migrants who owned
shops and homes. China said 18 people died, some beaten to death and
several burnt alive.

Disorder spread across the Himalayan region “liberated” by the People’s
Liberation Army in 1950. Monks and civilians confronted Chinese security
forces in towns and villages, some hurling stones and wielding primitive

The internal publication stated that 242 soldiers and police were killed
or wounded but did not break down the figures. It said 120 homes and 908
businesses in Lhasa were destroyed.

There are no independently verified numbers for Tibetan casualties but
the Tibetan government in exile has spoken of about 200 dead.

Zhang has now outlined a Mao-era system of “administrative committees”
to control the monasteries, revived officious “street committees” to
watch over the city and co-ordinated an intensive military operation.

China agreed to talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s
exiled spiritual leader, to defuse international criticism over its
reaction to the uprising, which led to demonstrations in many countries.
Protests in support of Tibet had plagued the Olympic torch relay in
London, Paris and Greece, home of the Games.

Amid calls for a boycott of the Games, foreign governments and the
International Olympic Committee (IOC) welcomed China’s decision to meet
the Tibetan exiles as a sign of dialogue.

However, Zhang’s words make it plain the talks are a diplomatic mask to
conceal China’s actual policy. His speeches, which are remarkably frank,
show the government’s chosen response is a classic Marxist-Leninist
propaganda and re-education campaign backed up by armed force.

The Tibet party leader retains the backing of China’s President Hu
Jintao who crushed a Tibetan revolt in 1988 during his tenure as party
secretary in Lhasa. He also has heavyweight support on the politburo in
Beijing in the shape of his mentor Wang Lequan, a 64-year-old lifetime
Communist functionary believed to be directing policy in both Tibet and
the neighbouring region of Xinjiang. Wang has described himself as the
number one terrorist target in China.

Some Chinese analysts believe there is disquiet among other leaders,
which may come into the open after their façade of harmony for the
Olympics is dropped.

In one speech Zhang admitted that the March 14 incident had “seriously
destroyed social stability”.

“Afterwards, people were very scared. They even stopped going to the
monasteries to spin prayer wheels and chant sutras, a fact that tells us
that the Dalai Lama is the real criminal who is destroying Tibetan Buddhism.

“We must learn lessons from this issue and organise our masses to build
up an impregnable fortress against the tide of encirclement to beat our

Zhang has since proclaimed that conditions for schools, businesses and
offices in Lhasa are “normal”.

“But we are far from final victory because the Dalai Lama group, which
was exploited by western enemy forces, is making a new plan for
separatism,” he said. “So you, the leaders of work units, must guard
your gates and manage your people well. Let leaders of street committees
be vigilant and keep watch on all outsiders.

“Propaganda and education are our party’s greatest advantages. These are
the most useful weapons with which to defend ourselves against the Dalai
Lama group. So let the propaganda department work more actively to
expose its plots.”

The internal publication noted that the police, the government’s
religious bureau and all party branches should earnestly implement
Zhang’s instructions.

“Each department should make full use of those religious people who love
the motherland and love religion, in order to make the administrative
committees work with vigour.”

The “administrative committees” reproduce a standard Communist party
method of installing trusted cadres who will ensure obedience to its
policies inside any institution.

The head of propaganda in Tibet, Lie Que, was even more explicit in
remarks published by the official Tibet Daily on June 2.

“We must clean out the monasteries and strengthen the administrative
committees,” he said, “After that we will absolutely control them.”

China preserves the façade of an autonomous regional government in Lhasa
and has paraded ethnic Tibetan figureheads in front of foreign journalists.

In reality, Tibet is governed by the party and the army. The outskirts
of Lhasa are ringed by barracks. Every road in is blocked by
checkpoints. Real power rests with Zhang and the military commander of
Tibet, General Tong Guishan.

Zhang originally attracted international attention by characterising the
Dalai Lama as “a wolf in monk’s clothes, a devil with a human face”. He
rose up the hierarchy in Xinjiang, another remote and resource-rich
region troubled by separatism. As a reward for his loyalty, he was
transferred to the top job in Lhasa in 2005.

Since then he has accelerated campaigns against Tibetan culture and
religion, brought in more settlers on the world’s highest railway and
stepped up the exploitation of Tibet’s huge reserves of raw materials.

“The central government has used the whole country’s resources to help
Tibet since its peaceful liberation and has allowed Tibet to achieve
thousands of years of progress in just a few decades,” Zhang told a
group of cadres.

He appears immune to embarrassment. Welcoming the Olympic torch on its
heavily guarded tour through Lhasa on June 21, Zhang promised that he
would “totally smash” the Dalai Lama “clique”.

The IOC regretted that “political statements” had been made at the
event. But with top-level protection, Zhang appears supremely confident
of his authority to run a campaign that sounds to many Chinese like an
echo from history.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank