Free Tibet condemns China coercing 500,000 Tibetans into forced labour

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Free Tibet is disturbed by the latest, detailed evidence of an extensive forced labour programme in Tibet, designed to further rip apart the occupied country’s social fabric and way of life.

According to CCP documents, since January this year, over 500,000 rural Tibetans have been torn from their homes and lands and forced into this programme, where they have reportedly been detained, harassed, threatened and forced to undergo re-education.

The report compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Jamestown Foundation, entitled “Xinjiang’s Militarized Vocational Training System Comes to Tibet”, also found that thousands of those pushed into forced labour have since been relocated to locations across the People’s Republic of China, far from home, and where they are required to carry out low-skilled, underpaid jobs.

Tibet is often referred to as the world’s largest prison, due to the tight restrictions and surveillance China imposes on its people. While we have been able to verify numerous cases of forced population transfers and coercive labour in Tibet, these latest reports, drawing on hundreds of government procurement documents, state media reports and policy documents, indicate that these policies are taking place on a massive, shocking scale that demands a firm and immediate response.

As its title suggests, the report also draws links between the treatment of Tibetans and that of the Uyghur people, of which well over a million are detained in huge internment camps. One common link stands out in particular; that of Chen Quanguo. Chen is currently Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, but between 2011 and 2015 was Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, where he introduced tight surveillance, rigid social controls and heavy security on an unprecedented scale. Such parallels serve as a reminder that the struggles of the Uyghur and Tibetan peoples are intertwined; both peoples face a ruthless government that is determined to eradicate their distinct cultures and enforce a brutal conformity. 

Free Tibet backs the calls of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China: that sanctions be imposed on those responsible for this programme; that businesses must investigate any sign Tibetan forced labour in their supply chains and eliminate it; that governments call for reciprocal access to Tibet; and the United Nations installs a Special Rapporteur to investigate forced labour and ethnic persecution in the People’s Republic of China.

However, we also go further: there is no long—term solution for Chinese repression in Tibet that does not involve freedom for the Tibetan people. Governments around the world currently recognise Tibet as part of China, a historical misunderstanding that flies in face of the wishes of the Tibetan people. Tibetans must be allowed to determine their own future, and it is up to the governments of the world to confront the Chinese Communist Party with this reality. To avoid this challenge is to invite further repression and destruction upon Tibet.