China texts Tibetans: “no change in Dalai Lama policy”

Monday, 1 July 2013

On Friday 28 June, Chinese authorities in Qinghai Province sent a text message to Tibetan residents with mobile phones to say that the regime’s policy towards the Dalai Lama and the display of his image has not changed. The message follows discussion and reports in social and other media which have suggested that the prohibition on display of the Dalai Lama’s image and other forms of control over Tibetan religious practice could be relaxed.

Free Tibet has seen the text message (photographs available, 1), sent by the Chinese Communist Party Propaganda Committee of Qinghai Province, containing a statement by the spokesperson of the Nationality and Religious Affair Committee of Qinghai Province (full text available, 2).

The statement said “[w]e clearly announce that there is no change in the policy of the CCP and Government toward the 14th Dalai [sic]” and that rumours of change were “only exaggeration”, spread by those who “intend to ruin the development and security of the Tibetan area”.

The statement was distributed by an SMS text message system used by the Propaganda Committee to text phones registered in the province. It is not clear how many residents of the area received the message, which was sent eight days before the Dalai Lama’s birthday on 6 July.

Reports of a change in policy in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces have been widely circulated in recent days but Free Tibet has been unable to independently corroborate these reports. On Thursday, Free Tibet reported that monks in Gaden (Ganden) monastery in Lhasa (in the Tibet Autonomous Region, outside Qinghai) had been informed that they could openly display pictures of the Dalai Lama for the first time in 17 years (3). However, Free Tibet noted that it had no confirmation that this report indicated a change in official policy for the area or any other area in Tibet. On Friday, Chinese authorities also issued statements to Western media denying any change in policy (4).

Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, Director of Free Tibet said:

“Like the recent speculation about a change in policy, this statement by the Chinese authorities must be treated with caution. Tibet is a police state, in which the government is neither accountable nor transparent. Policy decisions are made behind closed doors and can be changed or denied at any time. Although we currently lack any independent corroboration or documentary evidence, it appears that some members of religious institutions believe that the policy has been or will soon be relaxed. For the present, the regional government believes it is necessary to deny any such change in policy but this does not preclude the possibility that a change may be introduced later.”

-ends-

Notes

1. Pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157634430043266/
2. Full text of message (translation by Free Tibet):

Statement by the spokesman from the Nationality and Religious Affair Committee of Qinghai Province.
“In the recent days, some people have spread rumours online, by SMS and on Wechat saying a new policy has been introduced in the Tibetan Area [Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures of Qinghai and other Tibetan areas within the province]. We clearly announce that there is no change in the policy of CCP and Government toward the 14th Dalai. The policy is consistent and steady. So the rumours spread by some people are only exaggeration. It is their purpose to distort what they see and disturb the minds of the people. They intend to ruin development and security in the Tibetan area. Relying on the care and help given by Central Government for many years, economy and society in Tibetan areas of our province have been comprehensively improved. The life of farmers and nomads is conspicuously improved. The people are enjoying protection of freedom of faith and of the regular activities of religious practice.
“We should cherish this good state which is rare to achieve. We should not make rumours, should not believe rumours, and should not spread rumours but should develop the economy of Tibetan area in our province and should spontaneously try our best to guard the social security of Tibetan area.”
The SMS is sent to you by Qinghai Mobile Phone SMS Express for free charge.
Our contact phone number is: 0971-8456492

3. Free Tibet 27 June 2013 http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/after-17-year-ban-across-tibet-monks-lhasa-monastery-permitted-display-pictures-dala-0
4. China denies lifting ban on Dalai Lama worship, 28 June 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-23094994

For further information or comment, contact Free Tibet campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie:
E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605