Tibetan Information Office (TIO) is based in Canberra.

Illegal in Tibet: Middle Way, Mother Tongue, Welfare Groups

Chinese military march in front of the traditional residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Photo/Bernado De Niz

A recent report and an official circular issued earlier this year labelled any expressions that support Middle Way, protect Tibetan’s mother tongue or engagements of Kyidug (Tibetan Welfare Group) as “underground forces” and “illegal”. The Chinese authorities in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) issued a circular earlier in February that ordered Tibetans to spy on each other and report on “underground forces”.

Targeting crackdown on Tibetans amid Beijing’s campaign in January to crack down on “Organised Crime and Eliminating Vice”, the circular labelled support for Middle Way, protection of mother tongue, and speaking on behalf of “masses” as “underground forces” that must be “resolutely combated”. The decree further ordered any “cases of violations or crimes by underground forces” should be informed to the Public Security Bureau.

In its recently released report titled “Illegal Organisations”: China’s Crackdown on Tibetan Social Groups,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) gave details of the activities Beijing listed as “illegal,” including support for the middle way, protection of mother tongue, and social grouping.

The report underlined that the Chinese campaign aimed to attack “organized crime” and “mafia-like gangs” is used “to target suspected political dissidents and to suppress civil society initiatives” by the authorities in Tibet.

According to the HRW report, the restrictions and guidelines are “intended to increase the authority of the CCP at the grassroots level, by destroying any remaining influence of lamas and traditional leaders within Tibetan communities”, which clearly shows that the guidelines are designed to target Tibetans.

CTA’s spokesperson Sonam Norbu Dagpo termed the recent development as one of the regular moves by the Chinese authorities. He also said that the criminalisation of Tibetans who are involved in organisations or engages with local groups aimed towards advancing Tibetan culture, protecting Tibetan natural environment, and expressing devotion to religious heads and teachings, have often been reported in past years. “However this particular move vividly reflects the extent to which the Chinese authorities can further increase suppression and crackdown on Tibetans under the guise of a campaign against ‘organised crimes’,” said Sonam Norbu Dagpo.

Report filed by UN & Human Rights Desk, DIIR.