An anti-crime campaign launched by China in 2018 officially aimed at combating drug dealing, gambling, and other gang-related crimes is also targeting political dissidents, critics of corruption, and activists promoting use of the Tibetan language, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Friday.
Tibetan supporters of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is viewed by Beijing as a dangerous separatist, are also being targeted by the police, HRW said.
HRW said in its report, “China: Tibet Anti-Crime Campaign Silences Dissent” that courts in Tibetan areas of China have used “gang crime” charges to sentence at least 51 Tibetans up to 9 years in prison for peacefully petitioning or protesting issues related to religion, environmental protection, land rights, and official corruption.
Recent reports in Chinese state media meanwhile reveal that local authorities have now been ordered to use the anti-crime drive to crush support for greater freedom in Tibet, especially if critics of Chinese government policy in Tibet “can be seen as a group, as spokespeople, or as supporting the Dalai Lama”, HRW said.
A directive issued by the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Public Security Bureau also now bans Tibetan religious figures or other “locally respected figures” from mediating local disputes, an activity not previously considered by authorities to be illegal, HRW said.
Also targeted by the campaign are attempts by Tibetan activists to protect Tibet’s environment from damage caused by Chinese mining or other infrastructure projects, efforts described by officials as an “illegal occupation [by the protesters]of land.”
China’s anti-crime campaign in Tibet “is just another way to prevent Tibetans from exercising their internationally guaranteed rights,” HRW’s China Director Sophie Richardson told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“The Chinese government has long sought to criminalize any criticism raised [against it], particularly by Tibetans,” Richardson said.
A coordinated, global response to Beijing is now needed to change the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s behaviour toward Tibetans, Uyghurs, and human rights defenders in China, Richardson said, adding that “China is now also flexing its muscles within the UN system in ways that threaten UN human rights mechanisms.”
“Therefore, governments around the world need to [launch]a coordinated campaign now to make pushback a priority,” Richardson said.
“This campaign goes beyond the CCP’s regular guidelines and gives additional authority to Chinese local officials, police, and [political]leaders to detain and harass Tibetans accused of suspicious activity,” added Wangden Kyap, a senior researcher at London-based Tibet Watch.
“It’s just an excuse to crack down on Tibetans,” Kyap said, adding that the campaign has traumatized Tibetan communities and sown mistrust among Tibetans afraid of being reported by informers to the Chinese authorities. (Source: RFA)