China’s urbancide in Tibet

China’s urbancide in Tibet
March 20, 2017

By Rinzin Dorjee

The Diplomat, March 17, 2017 – The State Council of China unveiled the National New Type Urbanization Plan (NUP) in 2014 to increase the percentage of urban residents in the total population of China from 52.6 percent in 2012 to 60 percent by 2020. The ratio of citizens with urban hukou (resident permit) will increase 35.3 percent to approximately 45 percent. After many decades of deliberations and halt in reforms to the strict urban hukou system, the Chinese government has finally loosened procedures for rural migrants to transfer their household registrations to urban areas.

This policy has a unique impact on Tibet, where urbanization has become a major burden. Ethnically Chinese migrants coming from China’s densely populated coastal provinces have started moving to Tibet and the reformed hukou system has made it easier to transfer their household registration in Tibet.

By “urbancide,” I refer to the extinguishing of Tibetan culture and identity through an influx of millions of Chinese migrants in Tibet. At the same time, Tibetans in rural regions are made landless through expropriation of their land. As suggested by Emily T. Yeh in her book, Taming Tibet, this is part of China’s state territorialization of Tibet.

The policy is already taking effect, as seen in the growth of Tibetan cities. As of 2016, Lhasa, Shigatse, Lhoka, Nyingtri, Tsoshar, Siling, and Chamdo were recognized as prefecture-level cities in Tibet. According to recent reports from China, two more will soon join that list: Nagchu and Ngari are to be upgraded from county-level cities to prefecture-level cities.

Hukou Reform in Tibet: An Influx of Migrants

Apart from government officials and military personnel who are transferred to Tibet, there has been a huge influx of ethnically Chinese migrants due to highly subsidized aid and investment in infrastructural development in Tibet. Chinese migrants, many of whom are facing a lack of employment opportunities in their home regions, are attracted to jobs and opportunities to start a business in Tibet. The population transfer from China to Tibet is following the same policy implemented in China-occupied Mongolia (today’s Inner Mongolia) during the Qing Dynasty, where Mongolians were already a minority in the end of the 19th century. The agrarian focus of such policies meant that Chinese migrants settled in the countryside and they became dominant in rural as well as urban populations. The policy has continued through modern times: the number of cities in Inner Mongolia has increased from 193 in 1979 to 668 in 1997.

The Western Region Development (WRD) Office of the State Council has suggested that no government authorities should collect urban population surcharge fees or similar fees from people moving their hukous to the Western Region. This suggestion has further incentivized Chinese migrants to settle in Tibetan cities. In the coming decades, Tibet could witness a population growth of millions of Chinese migrants in various cities.

Rural Tibetans’ (Forced) Migration to Cities and Towns

Urbanization in Tibet has also encouraged many Tibetans living in rural areas to take up non-agricultural professions in Tibetan cities. Their ancestral lands are sold to land developers to build industries to attract migrants entering Tibet. As Straits Times reported recently, “Out of China’s 31 provinces, regions, and municipalities, only the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) still maintains a distinction between rural and urban residents.” Because of the rural/urban classification scheme, Chinese migrants coming from outside Tibet are particularly encouraged to resettle in Tibetan cities, where they will have access to social welfare schemes.

In addition to natural migration patterns, a greater number of Tibetans from rural areas are being moved to towns through the government’s forced resettlement policy. Pastoral Tibetans who live scattered with their herds in mountains and valleys are moved into compact and fenced towns. This allows the government to control the movement of these rural residents in the name of social stability. As Sophie Richardson, China director at the Human Rights Watch, pointed out, “Tibetans have no say in the design of [relocation] policies that are radically altering their way of life, and – in an already highly repressive context – no ways to challenge them.” Human rights violations during this process range from lack of consultation to failure to provide adequate compensation. Both are required under international law for evictions to be legitimate. After the move, the sudden shift from nomadic life to cities has increased unemployment in Tibet.

A field study conducted by Tibetan researcher Gongbo Tashi (aka Gonpo Tashi) and Marc Foggin in 2009 shows the empirical impact of ecological resettlement in Lhoko prefecture. The researchers interviewed more than 300 individuals in this survey. They found that forced resettlement deprived the residents of Dekyi village of their livestock, which was the main source of their livelihood. The new town where the villagers were resettled provided insufficient space to rear livestock. New farm training is supposed to be given to the resettled Tibetans to help them begin their new lives but most of the families complain about not receiving any of the training promised by the government before resettlement. As a result, the size of their livestock decreased dramatically, thereby making previously self-sufficient rural Tibetans heavily dependent on government subsidies. The table below indicates the shrinking size of livestock populations in Dekyi village after the resettlement.

Another experience of residents in two resettlements in Qinghai province from 2005-2009 could be taken as a case study. Residents were interviewed by a Chinese researcher, Xu Jun, with a group of other researchers. The group spent one month in each year in Yushul and Na-Gormo prefecture in Amdo. In his study of these prefectures, where resettlement took place, Xu concluded that resettled nomads faced an intense sense of displacement: “We saw firsthand their struggle to make a new life as they resettle in a new place, puzzling over their future. Some are disappointed. Some are shameful, as they talked about their lives and having to rely on their relatives who remained in grassland. Some have to return to grassland to do some odd job to earn a living for their children.” This five-year investigation showed that most of those resettled in or near cities during the period of the San Jiang Yun protection and rebuilding program have not been able to make a living without access to grassland resources. On the other hand, no clear data exists to prove that such immigration had been helpful to the grassland ecosystem, which is the stated motive behind the relocations.

Urbanization and Social Stability

In cities, unlike in remote areas of Tibet, people’s movements and contacts can be monitored through a grid system. China carried out its first urban grid management experiment in Dongcheng district in Beijing in October 2004. Down the road, if China remains devoid of real democratic checks and balances, there is little doubt that the continued development of grid management will only lead to a model for a modern police state in Tibet. This in part lends confidence to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang’s urbanization plan.

Human Rights Watch released a comprehensive report in 2013 on how the urban grid management system in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, has proven to be efficient in monitoring the movement of residents. In this new grassroots-level of urban administration, each “neighborhood” or “community” in towns will be divided into three or more grid units. At least eight pilot units were set up in Lhasa in April 2012, and in September they were declared to have “achieved notable results.” In October of the same year, the regional party secretary stated that because “the Lhasa practice has fully proved the effectiveness of implementing grid management to strengthen and innovate social management [i.e., controlling mass protests],” the system should be made universal in “the towns, rural areas, and temples” of the TAR.

Land Expropriation

Nearby towns and remote villages in Tibet are now connected to extended cities. Land originally used for cultivation is increasingly seeing construction of vast infrastructure projects as well as residential and commercial buildings. According to the World Bank, rural land requisition and conversion for industrial use in China has been particularly inefficient because the decisions have been largely driven by administrative decisions rather than market demand.

China’s urbanization has consumed significant land resources as urban boundaries are continuously expanding outward and the territorial jurisdictions of cities are increasing, primarily through the expropriation of surrounding rural land and its integration into urban areas. As indicated in the graph below, the demand for urban requisition of land has soared over the past few years in China due to the urbanization project.

Tibetan urban land graph

Between 2001 and 2011, the amount of land in China classified as urban construction land had increased by 17,600 square kilometers (sq km), reaching a total area of 41,805 sq km in 2011, an increase of 58 percent over a decade. About 90 percent of demand for urban land was met through the expropriation of rural land, while only 10 percent was supplied from the existing stock of undeveloped urban construction land. Following this trend, as Tibetan cities grow, a sizable amount of rural land in Tibet will be expropriated by the Chinese government.

The government and, to an extent, the academic community in China, have largely overlooked the implication of rapid urbanization for millions of farmers or villagers who have been made landless (legally or illegally) over the years. According to an official statistic, three million people become landless farmers every year in China. The total number is expected to double in 2020 because of the current pace of urbanization.

The growth of cities has another consequence. In her book Taming Tibet, Emily T. Yeh stated that according to China’s Law of Regional National Autonomy (LRNA), when regions, prefectures, and counties are upgraded to cities, the autonomous status of these areas will be lost. Uradyn Bulag, an anthropologist who researches Inner Mongolia, advanced the argument that the benefits of an administrative promotion from county to city, particularly for local leaders, “checkmates ethnic sensitivity” about the loss of ethnic autonomous status.

Conclusion

China’s urbanization in Tibet (and across the country) is aimed as a solution to China’s slowing economy. The policy is intended to bring millions of Chinese migrant workers to settle and do business in Tibet. As part of this process, Tibet’s cities have gone through demographic shifts, resulting in the strong influence of Chinese culture. The projected rate of 30 percent urbanization in Tibet in the coming few decades would mean that all cities in Tibet will be dominated by ethnic Chinese. As a result, Tibetans lose the language rights associated with autonomous status. Meanwhile, mobility and communication for urban residents is monitored strictly whenever the government deems it necessary.

To feed the growth of cities, land, which is the only asset that many rural Tibetans inherit from their ancestors, is bought by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and foreign companies. Tibetans from rural areas who lose their land must look for unskilled, usually temporary work. If the current rate of urban land requisition by the Chinese government continues, the ownership of land in many areas in Tibet will be transferred to Chinese migrants, businesses, and the state.

In response to these changes, Tibetan resistance will grow stronger. Urbanization in Tibet, with the resulting damage to traditional ways of life, cannot win the hearts of Tibetans as explicitly called for by Xi Jinping at the last Work Forum held in Tibet. It has only created more resentment among Tibetans.

Dr. Rinzin Dorjee is a Research Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, a think tank affiliated with the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala, India.

Young farmer stages first Tibetan self-immolation of 2017

Young farmer stages first Tibetan self-immolation of 2017
March 20, 2017

Radio Free Asia, March 19, 2017 – A 24-year-old Tibetan man set himself on fire Saturday in a protest against Chinese rule in the Himalayan region, the first reported self-immolation of 2017, sources told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Pema Gyaltsen, from Nyagrong (in Chinese, Xinlong) county in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, set himself on fire around 4 p.m., and police swiftly removed his charred body from the scene, Tibetan sources told RFA.

Two sources from the Tibetan exile community said Gyaltsen, an unmarried farmer, was taken to a hospital in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. One source said the man later died, but the other said his contacts in the region believed he was still alive in hospital.

In a one-minute video clip that was circulating on Tibetan social media, Chinese police are seen dispersing Tibetan onlookers from a scene of commotion, with women crying. Sources told RFA that authorities blocked the popular smartphone application WeChat following the self-immolation.

“In the evening around ten close relatives of Pema Gyaltsen from Nyagrong went to Kardze county police station to see self-immolator Pema Gyaltsen. But the Chinese beat them severely and detained them for the entire night, and forced them to stand up the whole night,” a Tibetan exile source with contacts in the town told RFA.

“Today some of them could barely walk from the beating, but they were released under the guarantee of a Nyagrong official,” the source added.

“He called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and said there is no freedom in Tibet at the time of self-immolation,” another source told RFA.

Gyaltsen was the eldest of five children of his father Wangyal and mother Yullha, and “the main breadwinner of his family and had not attended any school,” the second source added.

The Kardze police station did not answer repeated calls by RFA seeking details of the incident.

Saturday’s protest brings to 147 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009. The previous known self-immolation was on Dec. 8, when Tashi Rabten, 33, a husband and father of three, set himself on fire and died in Gansu province.

Gyaltsen’s protest was the second case of self-immolation in Nyagrong, following the death of 18-year-old Kalsang Wangdu in March 2016.

Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Reported by Lobsang Choephel, Sangyal Dorjee, Dawa Dolma and Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

China warns India over invite to Dalai Lama to Buddhist meet

China warns India over invite to Dalai Lama to Buddhist meet
March 20, 2017

Times of India, March 20, 2017 – China on Monday warned India not to go against its “core concerns” to avoid “disruption” in bilateral ties after New Delhi invited the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to an international Buddhist seminar in Bihar.

“In recent days the Indian side, in total disregard of China’s stern representation and strong opposition, insisted on inviting the 14th Dalai Lama to attend the international conference on Buddhism held by the Indian government,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters here.

“China is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposed to it,” she said.

“We urge the Indian side to clearly see the anti-China splittist nature of the Dalai group and honour its commitment on Tibet and related questions, respect China’s core concerns and avoid China-India relations from being further disrupted and undermined,” she said.

The 81-year-old Dalai Lama inaugurated an international seminar on Buddhism on March 17 in Rajgir in Bihar’s Nalanda district, about 100 km from the capital Patna.

Buddhist monks and scholars from various countries participated in the seminar ‘Buddhism in 21st Century’.

Earlier this month, China had objected+ to India permitting+ the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh which it regards as Southern Tibet.

China is strongly opposed to the Dalai Lama visiting disputed areas, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang had said.

“China’s position on eastern section of China-India border dispute is consistent and clear. The Dalai clique has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and its record on the border question is not that good,” he had said.

Internet blocked in parts of Tibet in run-up to national uprising anniversary

Internet blocked in parts of Tibet in run-up to national uprising anniversary
March 13, 2017

Radio Free Asia, March 10, 2017 – Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province are blocking internet access in a Tibetan prefecture in the run-up to a sensitive political anniversary, fearing Tibetan residents may organize protests inspired by exiles living outside the country, sources say.

The move blocks service in 10 counties of the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and remains in effect through March 17, according to a document issued by prefecture authorities and obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Now, because of the March 10 anniversary of National Uprising Day, the authorities are concerned that residents of Tibetan areas could create problems under the influence of activities organized outside the country,” one resident of the area told RFA.

“The authorities have therefore blocked internet service so that Tibetans cannot see, hear, or read about protests or other activities organized by Tibetans [living in exile],” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Counties affected by the ban include Dartsedo (in Chinese, Kangding), Tawu (Daofu), Draggo (Luhuo), Kardze (Ganzi), Sershul (Shiqu), Dege (Dege), Palyul (Baiyu), Nyagrong (Xinlong), Lithang (Litang), and Bathang (Batang), according to the order, titled Document 24 of 2017.

Other, unspecified areas will also have service blocked, the order says.

“Based on past experience, the Ngaba [Aba] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture will also be affected,” a second Tibetan source told RFA.

Military parade held

Meanwhile, government employees in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are being assigned in rotation to guard their offices around the clock, “and security is probably being heightened in [the TAR capital city] Lhasa,” the source said.

On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest of Beijing’s tightening political and military control of the formerly independent Tibetan region, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed.

Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in the midst of the uprising, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.

On March 3 this year, Chinese troops staged a military parade in Lhasa that appeared “intended to discourage public protests or expressions of dissent,” New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a March 9 statement.

In addition, foreign travel to Lhasa has been closed for all of March, with the entire region placed on a security alert, HRW said.

“Chinese authorities are once again shutting off travel and holding military parades to bully the Tibetan population into silence,” HRW China director Sophie Richardson said.

“Progress on human rights is only going to happen if the Chinese government replaces its intimidation tactics with a more open approach to information, expression, and peaceful dissent,” Richardson said.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

On Tibet uprising anniversary, China vows to strike against separatism

On Tibet uprising anniversary, China vows to strike against separatism
March 13, 2017

Reuters, March 10, 2017 – China said it would “resolutely strike” against the “Dalai Lama clique’s separatist activities” as protesters planned demonstrations in major world cities on Friday to mark the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The sensitive anniversary coincided with the yearly news conference of Tibet’s delegation to China’s annual meeting of parliament, under way in Beijing.

Che Dalha, Tibet’s governor, said the government would “hold a clear-cut stand against separatism, resolutely strike against the Dalai clique’s damaging and separatist activities”.

“The most important task is to protect our motherland’s frontier regions, build up our homes, absolutely not allow any groups to separate even one inch of our land from the motherland,” said Tashi Yangjen, a representative of the tiny Lhoba ethnic minority of southeast Tibet.

Chinese troops marched in and took control of Tibet in 1950 in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation”.

China views the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader who fled into exile in India after the failed uprising, as a dangerous separatist. The Nobel Peace laureate denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.

International human rights groups and exiles routinely condemn what they call China’s oppressive rule in Tibetan areas. They say pervasive surveillance and displays of military force are being used to intimidate and quell dissent, which has included Tibetan Buddhist monks self-immolating in protest at lack of religious freedom.

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said Chinese authorities were again shutting off travel and holding military parades “to bully the Tibetan population into silence”.

“Progress on human rights is only going to happen if the Chinese government replaces its intimidation tactics with a more open approach to information, expression and peaceful dissent,” she said.

Foreign journalists are not allowed to travel to Tibet without government approval, while all foreigners have been barred during sensitive periods.

Tibet’s most senior Communist Party official, Wu Yingjie, said foreign reporters were welcome as long as “they objectively and accurately report the changes in Tibet, the blissful lives of the masses, Tibet’s ethnic unity and religious harmony”.

INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS

In Sydney, 200 protesters marched to the Chinese consulate to protest against the lack of human rights in Tibet, with larger demonstrations planned later on Friday in cities including Taipei and London.

The protesters, many dressed in traditional Tibetan chupas, waved flags and shouted, “Human rights for Tibet,” as they made their way past shoppers and office workers.

“We hope this kind of movement might bring the message to the world that we are still under Chinese suppression,” third generation Tibetan Tashi Gyatso said.

Chinese university student Nancy Cao, from Shijiazhuang, the capital of the northern province of Hebei, said she was confused about the protest.

“Tibet is always a part of China in our history,” said Cao, adding that the Chinese government had helped Tibet develop.

In an interview with comedian John Oliver which aired this week, the Dalai Lama said Chinese hardliners had parts of their brain missing and suggested he might be the last Dalai Lama, prompting China to brand him a “deceptive actor”.

In self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own, about 100 people gathered for a candlelight walk in Liberty Square in Taipei, the capital.

“Tibet’s situation is quite similar to Taiwan’s,” said Chen Jing, 25, a Taipei rally participant in previous years. “If you support Taiwan independence, you would also support Tibet independence.

“I think it’s very important to hold these rallies because a lot of people who watch are curious about Tibet, and if you haven’t been exposed you might not know why it’s fighting for itself, since in the past it has been described in teaching materials as part of China.”

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in wanting to be ruled by autocratic China.

In the Indian capital of New Delhi, hundreds of Tibetans, waving flags and shouting anti-China slogans, marched towards the Chinese embassy, only to be halted by police.

“Tibet is not part of China,” said Tenzin Metok, a protester. “We want freedom.”

(Reporting by Philip Wen in BEIJING, Benjamin Weir and Aaron Bunch in SYDNEY and Jess Macy Yu in TAIPEI; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez)

Macau gallery cancels Tibetan artist event after Chinese pressure

Macau gallery cancels Tibetan artist event after Chinese pressure
March 6, 2017

Radio Free Asia, March 1, 2017 – A gallery in Macau has cancelled a performance by a Tibetan painter after authorities in Beijing threatened to arrest and deport him if he tried to enter the Chinese-administered region, according to the artist.

Tashi Norbu, a Tibetan artist based in the Netherlands, was scheduled to hold a live-painting performance at Macau’s Lilau Square as part of the opening of the iAOHiN Amber Gallery on March 5, but was contacted in Hong Kong by a gallery official and told to leave the city for his own safety.

“A ranking Chinese military officer informed the gallery director that I was on a blacklist and my entry to Macau is forbidden,” Norbu told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday, a day after fleeing Hong Kong, where he had recently exhibited his work, for Dharamsala, India—the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.

“The Chinese official reasoned that whatever I display [at the gallery] will be against the Chinese government, so he warned that … if I go, then I would be [arrested and] deported.”

Norbu said the gallery director felt it was better to heed the warning because of his experience with “previous instances” in which artists had been targeted by Chinese authorities in Macau, a former Portuguese colony that was returned to China’s rule in 1999.

“The art gallery also advised me to leave [Hong Kong], because they could not bear responsibility if anything happened to me,” he said, adding that the conversation “really frightened me” and led him to purchase an airline ticket to India the same day.

Norbu describes his work as a modern take on traditional Tibetan themes and frequently includes images of the Buddha in the pieces.

He claims that his art is not political in nature, though he has painted scenes depicting exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—who Beijing accuses of stoking tension in the Tibetan region—and yellow umbrellas—a symbol of Hong Kong’s 2014 democracy protests.

Norbu was briefly detained by authorities while entering and leaving Macau in April last year for a show of his work that received considerable media attention.

iAOHiN Amber Gallery asked him to perform at its March opening exhibition, which the artist said promised to be “significantly higher profile … as the organizers have invited dignitaries and ambassadors to the show.”

Under scrutiny

Officials at iAOHiN repeatedly cautioned Norbu that his work at the event would be scrutinized by Beijing and three months ago informed him that he would not be permitted to exhibit anything related to the Buddha.

“Additionally, I was told that I could not wear anything identifying me as a Tibetan [while performing],” he said.

“When I work I wear a white outfit to highlight the art, rather than to draw attention to my dress. But for the Chinese, this becomes something politically symbolic, as white represents peace and they see it as a statement [against Chinese rule in Tibet]. So I was not allowed to wear that.”

As the date for the exhibit drew closer, Norbu said iAOHiN greenlighted a theme of the fire rooster—a zodiac symbol for Losar, the Tibetan New Year, which is observed from Feb. 27 to March 1 this year.

“Two months ago, they informed me that [the fire rooster] is not related to politics and therefore should be ok,” he said.

“But [on Feb. 26] while I was in Hong Kong, they told me that the [shape of a] rooster resembles China’s map. So since I am a Tibetan, I couldn’t draw that.”

Hong Kong Free Press said in a report that iAOHiN received more than 1 million Macau Pataca (U.S. $125,000) last year in a subsidy from the government’s Cultural Industries Fund, which could be threatened if the gallery went ahead with Norbu’s event, citing a source in the Macau art industry.

In a press release, iAOHiN curator Simon Lam expressed disappointment that China’s authorities see the arts “as a threat … banning what is nothing else than pure art performance” and said he would do his best to ensure that the public was informed about Norbu’s ordeal.

Reported by Ngawang Chophel for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Tibet and Xinjiang becoming tax havens for China’s wealthy March 6, 2017

Tibet and Xinjiang becoming tax havens for China’s wealthy
March 6, 2017

South China Morning Post, March 1, 2017 – Tibet and Xinjiang have become China’s answer to the British Virgin Islands, as celebrities such as Zhao Wei and Fan Bingbing as well as tycoons scramble to set up companies in areas with preferential tax terms.

The practise has come under the spotlight after actress Zhao Wei raised eyebrows with her 3 billion yuan (US$440 million) bid for a Shanghai-listed animation company. The venture involved in the later-abandoned takeover, called Longwei Culture & Media, was based in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.

Renowned as the spiritual centre at the foot of Himalayas, Lhasa, however, is seen as one of the lowest-income places in China with its economy heavily dependent on agriculture. For decades, few of the country’s affluent would consider investing in the remote inland city isolated from China’s cosmopolitan centre on the east coast.

But as Beijing struggles to lift Tibet and Xinjiang, two inner areas occasionally troubled by acts of ethnic violence, out of poverty, the regions have been assigned preferential tax policies in an effort to entice affluent investors.

In Tibet, religious freedom comes with Chinese characteristics

“They have virtually become China’s version of British Virgin Islands,” said Shen Meng, executive director with boutique investment bank Chanson & Co. in Beijing, referring to the Caribbean tax haven.

Thanks to a package of tax breaks, companies registered in Tibet are subject to a corporate tax rate of 15 per cent, well below the national standard rate of 25 per cent. The overall tax rate can drop to as low as 9 per cent as a result of other incentives granted by local governments.

Liu Yonghao, China’s 36th richest man who controls agricultural group New Hope Group, has a number of business based in Tibet, including Southern Hoper Industry Co and Tibet Hengye Feng Industrial Co that hold stakes in Hong Kong-listed Hua Xia Healthcare and TVB.

“Today, you can easily find an agent making money out of helping people register companies in Tibet or Xinjiang. The approval process does not take long,” Shen said.

Most recently, the Chinese border town Khorgos city in Xinjiang has drawn attention from celebrities such as Fan Bingbin.

Chinese dominate list of people and firms hiding money in tax havens, Panama Papers reveal

The northwestern city, at the doorstep to Kazakhstan, is home to the production companies behind top-grossing blockbusters Chongqing Hotpot and Buddies in India. Both films were backed by Khorgos Youth Enlight Pictures Co, a unit of Chinese media giant Beijing Enlight Pictures.

In August, actress Fan Bingbing set up her own media vehicle Khorgos Ai-mei-shen Film & TV Cultural in the city. Others launching Khorgos vehicles include actress Yang Mi, company registration records showed.

Khorgos offers an even more favourable raft of polices and sweeteners than Lhasa, making it the most favourable territory in terms of preferential taxes, according to industry experts.

Khorgos, which is designated a “National Special Economic Development Zone,” can provide companies income tax-free waivers for the first five years following registration, in addition to concessions on employee income tax and VAT bills.

“A different company address can save you millions of dollars,” Shen said.

However, it remains a question how the economies in Tibet and Xinjiang will benefit from their special tax regime, as companies in labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing are reluctant to relocate due to transportation costs.

“You can set up a firm there, but you don’t have to hire people there,”Shen said. “So the influx of such companies is not likely to improve local employment,” Shen said.

India to host Dalai Lama in disputed territory, defying China

India to host Dalai Lama in disputed territory, defying China
March 6, 2017

By Sanjeev Maglani and Tommy Wilkes
Reuters, March 4, 2017 – Indian federal government representatives will meet the Dalai Lama when he visits a sensitive border region controlled by India but claimed by China, officials said, despite a warning from Beijing that it would damage ties.

India says the Tibetan spiritual leader will make a religious trip to Arunachal Pradesh next month, and as a secular democracy it would not stop him from travelling to any part of the country.

China claims the state in the eastern Himalayas as “South Tibet”, and has denounced foreign and even Indian leaders’ visits to the region as attempts to bolster New Delhi’s territorial claims.

A trip by the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese regard as a dangerous separatist, would ratchet up tensions at a time when New Delhi is at odds with China on strategic and security issues and unnerved by Beijing’s growing ties with arch-rival Pakistan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is raising its public engagement with the Tibetan leader, a change from earlier governments’ reluctance to anger Beijing by sharing a public platform with him.

“It’s a behavioural change you are seeing. India is more assertive,” junior home minister Kiren Rijiju told Reuters in an interview.

Rijiju, who is from Arunachal and is Modi’s point man on Tibetan issues, said he would meet the Dalai Lama, who is visiting the Buddhist Tawang monastery after an eight-year interval.

“He is going there as a religious leader, there is no reason to stop him. His devotees are demanding he should come, what harm can he do? He is a lama.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday the Dalai Lama’s trip would cause serious damage to India-China ties, and warned New Delhi not to provide him a platform for anti-China activities.

“The Dalai clique has for a long time carried out anti-China separatist activities and on the issue of the China-India border has a history of disgraceful performances,” spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

Visits of the Dalai Lama are initiated months, if not years in advance, and approval for the April 4-13 trip predates recent disagreements between the neighbours.

But the decision to go ahead at a time of strained relations signals Modi’s readiness to use diplomatic tools at a time when China’s economic and political clout across South Asia is growing.

China is helping to fund a new trade corridor across India’s neighbour and arch-foe Pakistan, and has also invested in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, raising fears of strategic encirclement.

Last month a Taiwanese parliamentary delegation visited Delhi, angering Beijing, which regards Taiwan as an integral part of China.

In December, President Pranab Mukherjee hosted the Dalai Lama at his official residence with other Nobel prize winners, the first public meeting with an Indian head of state in 60 years.

Some officials said India’s approach to the Tibetan issue remained cautious, reflecting a gradual evolution in policy rather than a sudden shift, and Modi appears reluctant to go too far for fear of upsetting its large northern neighbour.

India’s foreign secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, was in Beijing last week on a visit that analysts said was aimed at stabilising relations between the world’s most populous countries.

That said, Modi’s desire to pursue a more assertive foreign policy since his election in 2014 was quickly felt in contacts with China.

At one bilateral meeting early in his tenure, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj asked her Chinese counterpart whether Beijing had a “one India” policy, according to a source familiar with India-China talks, a pointed reference to Beijing’s demand that countries recognise its “one China” policy.

“One India” would imply that China recognise India’s claims to Kashmir, contested by Pakistan, as well as border regions like Arunachal Pradesh.

India’s hosting of the Dalai Lama since he fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule has long irritated Beijing. But government ministers often shied away from regular public meetings with the Buddhist monk.

“These meetings were happening before. Now it is public,” Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in the Indian town of Dharamsala, said in an interview.

“I notice a tangible shift. With all the Chinese investments in all the neighbouring countries, that has generated debate within India,” he said.

The chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, a member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, met the Dalai Lama in New Delhi in October and officially invited him to visit the state.

On the Dalai Lama’s last visit in 2009, the state’s chief minister met him. This time he will be joined by federal minister Rijiju, a move the Chinese may see as giving the trip an official imprimatur.

New Delhi has been hurt by China’s refusal to let it join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the global cartel that controls nuclear commerce.

India has also criticised Beijing for stonewalling its request to add the head of a banned Pakistani militant group to a U.N. Security Council blacklist.

Rory Medcalf, Head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, said New Delhi appeared to have been surprised by China’s inflexibility since Modi came to power, fuelling distrust in the Indian security establishment.

“India does feel that the cards are stacked against it and that it should retain and play the cards that it does have,” he said. “The Dalai Lama and Tibetan exile community is clearly one of those cards.”

(Additional reporting by Abhishek Madhukar in DHARAMSALA and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

No access to justice for Tibetans, says new report on human rights in Tibet

No access to justice for Tibetans, says new report on human rights in Tibet
February 27, 2017

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy, February 23, 2017 – The party-state of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continued its egregious human rights violations and abuses in Tibet by criminalizing basic human rights and freedoms, and engaging in arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance, collective punishment and environmental destruction to name a few, according to the 2016 Annual Report on human rights situation in Tibet released by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). Repressive laws and regulations were introduced and intensified to enable widespread and systematic human rights violations. Despite the extremely deplorable situation in Tibet, the PRC made no effort to change its policy of repression, authoritarianism and state-sponsored violence.

The report highlights tightened controls over the right to freedom of expression, privacy, religion, and assembly. In addition, it focuses on the substantial barriers faced by Tibetans in accessing the Chinese justice system due to PRC’s politicized and emasculated judiciary. The fate and future of Tibet’s environment remains a pressing issue in light of PRC’s continued practice of using Tibetan land and resources primarily for resource extraction and economic exploitation while forcing local Tibetans to lead impoverished and wasted lives, dependent on government handouts, on the margins of the Chinese economic boom.

The PRC’s paramilitary troops engaged in brutal and ruthless attacks on Tibetans exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Chinese authorities used excessive force to suppress and detain Tibetans protesting against mining operations, land grab, environmental destruction, and arbitrary demolition drives. Tibetans continued to die in detention due to torture and inhumane treatment for merely exercising their human rights.

TCHRD’s Political Prisoners Desk has noted a decline in the number of average detention in the last two years (2015 and 2016) due to extreme communication clampdown and use of collective punishment against those sharing information or maintaining contacts with outsiders. But the number was still high at 70. The average monthly breakdown for 2015 was approximately nine per month and in 2016, the number stood at 3.27 persons per month.

Over the years, the PRC has introduced new policies and practices to censor and control information it wants to hide from the international community. In addition, its sheer avoidance of cooperation with international investigatory bodies, the stringent communication blockade, and the violation of privacy rights and censorship have made it harder to access complete information from inside Tibet. Accessing information from outside Tibet has become more difficult as well as ethically challenging due to the routine persecution and imprisonment of information sources in Tibet. Even if this report cannot fully represent the grave situation inside Tibet under Chinese occupation, it can surely be taken as an indicator of the great extent of human rights violations and repression faced by Tibetans inside Tibet.

UN experts call upon China to explain Larung Gar demolitions

UN experts call upon China to explain Larung Gar demolitions
February 27, 2017

Canada Tibet Committee, February 24, 2017 – In a joint inquiry to the Government of China, released this week during the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council, a group of six UN Special Rapporteurs have requested a formal response from China about “severe restrictions” on religious freedom in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The inquiry had been sent to Chinese authorities in November 2016.

The rapporteurs, who are independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council, represent mandates in the fields of cultural rights; the right to enjoy a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the right to adequate housing; the rights of minorities; and the right to freedom of religion or belief.

In their report, the UN Special Rapporteurs highlight the mass expulsion of religious practitioners from Larung Gar and Yachen Gar Buddhist centres. They also bring attention to the “cultural and environmental” impacts of mining activities at Gong-ngon Lari mountain in Amchok township, including the arbitrary arrest and detention of peaceful protesters.

As is standard UN procedure in such matters, the rapporteurs have requested additional information from China’s delegation in Geneva to clarify the legal grounds for the Larung Gar demolitions and evictions, and what efforts have been made by authorities to avoid negative environmental impacts of mining in Amchok township.

The full text of the rapporteurs’ letter of inquiry can be viewed here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=22816