China cracks down on Tibetan “separatists” as part of anti-crime drive, state media says

Zhu Weiqun. Credit: Xinhua News Agency/Rex Features
Zhu Weiqun. Credit: Xinhua News Agency/Rex Features
Zhu Weiqun. Credit: Xinhua News Agency/Rex Features
26th June 2019

Chinese state media reported that Beijing has targeted Tibetan “separatists” alongside criminal gangs in a crackdown this month

Beijing has cracked down on what it has called Tibetan “separatists” this month as part of a wider drive against gang crime in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and across China, official Chinese state media reported last week.

Gang crimes in Tibet are usually connected to ‘separatist forces’ and individuals who are part of the ‘Dalai Clique,’ state media outlet The Global Times reported on 18 June.

Chinese authorities and media outlets often use terms like ‘separatist and ‘Dalai clique’ to describe citizens who oppose the occupation of Tibet or want to see the Dalai Lama return to the country. 

In a statement released by the government in Lhasa last week, Zhu Weiqun, the leader of a Chinese inspection team sent to Tibet for the policy said the crackdown on gang crimes in the country has made progress and should be integrated with the fight against separatist forces.

He added, "We strongly oppose and resolutely crack down on any separatist force in the name of ethnicity or religion, which are mainly organised by the Dalai clique."

Zhu urged citizens to “mobilise further and improve procedures in cases related to gangs”… to deal with what he called “unregulated activities in different sectors.”

Authorities have published notices across Tibet calling for citizens to cooperate with the government to wipe out the targeted groups, Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch have said. 

In January 2018 China launched a three-year campaign against what it has labeled gang crimes and “underworld forces.” The recent crackdown which began this May and has run into June is considered to be the third made by Beijing since the policy began in 2018.

A Human Rights Watch watch report from July 2018 said the crackdown on gangs is “openly political. ” 

“Xi specifically listed ‘safeguarding political security’ as a major purpose of the campaign, and the official news agency Xinhua described it as ‘primarily aimed at consolidating the Chinese Communist Party ruling foundation’ and at ‘strengthening political power at the grassroots level,’” Human Rights Watch said. 

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In late April, Wangchen, a 20 year old from eastern Tibet, gathered with friends to commemorate the Panchen Lama’s 30th birthday. The group called for the release of the Panchen Lama, who was detained as a boy in 1995 and has been missing ever since. They also called for the Panchen Lama and the exiled Dalai Lama to one day be reunited in Tibet. For this peaceful act, Wangchen was arrested. When his aunt, Dolkar, shared the news of Wangchen’s arrest, she too was charged.