China Institutes Mass Labor Program In A ‘Targeted Attack On Traditional Tibetan Livelihoods’

Tibetan buildings are photographed against a mountainous backdrop.
Fierté De Cactus / Unsplash

Reports from China are claiming that the communist nation has begun to displace a growing number of rural Tibetan laborers into “military-style training centers” with the goal of creating a new pool of factory workers, according to Reuters. International policy experts have voiced their worries that the move closely mirrors the regime’s actions in the Xinjiang region, where thousands of the Muslim Uighur population have claimed to be trapped in forced labor.

According to a notice posted on the Tibetan regional government’s website, more than half a million Tibetans were put into the training sessions over the course of 2020. This total amounts to more than 15 percent of the region’s population.

Since completing the program, 50,000 people have begun working at jobs within Tibet. These jobs are low-paid work in areas such as “textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.” Others have been sent to other parts of China.

The new training program comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced in August that officials would instill a number of new policies to quell separatist sentiment in the region, which has lingered since the Middle Kingdom gained control of the area in 1950. These regulations, known as “stability maintenance,” include restricting residents’ access to travel and clamping down on religious activities.

“This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution” explained Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher. “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labor.”

Protestors carry signs during a demonstration outside of the Chinese consulate to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising.
  Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Experts have noted the similarities in the new camps with those in Xinjiang. In an interesting twist, the man who spearheaded the development of the Uighur facilities, Chen Quanguo, is also the former Tibet Communist Press Secretary.

“In Tibet, he was doing a slightly lower level, under the radar, version of what was implemented in Xinjiang,” said Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Government Department.

One particular similarity is the emphasis on ideological training, including a patriotic curriculum that centers on the Mandarin language. Another example was outlined in a document that stated a mission for workers to “gradually realize the transition from ‘I must work’ to ‘I want to work.'”

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has hit back at the recent accusations, both in Tibet and elsewhere in the country.

“What these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labor’ simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies,” read a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This is not the first time in recent days that the Asian nation has been the target of headlines. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit at both China and Pope Francis for potentially signing a joint agreement. In addition, recent leaked documents showed that Chinese companies are helping North Korea launder money through U.S. banks, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.