Unemployed Tibetans risk arrest to protest corruption and economic discrimination

Monday, 15 April 2013

Unemployed Tibetan graduates in eastern Tibet have risked detention, beating and imprisonment to stage a public protest over their failure to find jobs. During the very visible demonstration (pictures available [1]) outside government buildings in Machu County (2), they distributed leaflets explaining how Tibetans are disadvantaged in employment by language discrimination and abuse of power by local officials.

Appealing to “the broad mass in the area” to provide “comprehensive support”, the demonstrators wrote that they were disadvantaged by:

1. Not being assigned positions suitable to their professional qualifications;
2. Officials “using official power and prestige for private use” and allocating jobs to people from outside their area;
3. Examinations for public servants being conducted in Chinese rather than Tibetan, disadvantaging Tibetans who have been educated in their native language.

The protesters “specifically noted that their protest was “not political” (full translation and images of original document available [3]).

Machu County is within a “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (TAP) in the Chinese province of Gansu. As is typical in TAPs and the larger Tibetan Autonous Region in western Tibet, the language of business and higher education is Mandarin, making it easier for Chinese immigrants to take the best jobs and forcing Tibetans to adopt the language of the occupying power in an attempt to overcome economic disadvantages.

Graduate unemployment is a problem throughout China, with graduates in their early twenties four times as likely to be unemployed as those with only a school education (4). Officials may therefore abuse their positions to appoint graduates from outside the area to government jobs, in exchange for bribery or other advantages.

Free Tibet spokesperson Alistair Currie said:

“Tibetans endure threats to their liberty and their lives on a daily basis under Chinese occupation. As this protest makes very clear, they also face corruption, economic discrimination and marginalisation, generating a deep and enduring sense of grievance. China’s investments throughout Tibet have been to the advantage of Chinese immigrants, not Tibetans.

“Privileging Han Chinese over Tibetans in the job market may act as a political pressure valve for Beijing in the short term but it increases anger and misery in Tibet. China can and must end the repression immediately, but until Tibetans have control over their own affairs, their social and economic grievances will continue to fuel resentment and protest.”


(1) See ) See http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/8652032848/in/photostream and http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/8650934067/in/photostream>
(2) Location: Machu County, eastern Tibet (Chinese: Gannan TAP, Gansu)
(3) Contact Free Tibet.
(4) New York Times, Jan 24 2013

Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.

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