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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Background
UPDATED: April 25, 2008 NO.10, 1998
New Progress in Human Rights In the Tibet Autonomous Region
Information Office of the State Council Of the People's Republic of China February 1998, Beijing

The Chinese government attaches great importance to learning, using and developing the Tibetan language in the Tibet Autonomous Region and has taken concrete measures to guarantee the freedom of the Tibetan people to use and develop both the spoken and written Tibetan language, which is a main course of study at all schools in Tibet as well as in special Tibetan classes and schools in other parts of the country. Tibetan students are required to read and write the Tibetan language proficiently upon graduation from middle schools. Tibet has finished the editing and translation of 500 kinds of primary and middle school teaching materials for the compulsory education stage. The editing, translating into Tibetan and publishing of a catalogue of technical materials has started, as has the work on the collection and collation of technical materials in the Tibetan language.In order to promote the normalization, standardization and modernization of information processing in Tibetan,the Region has been working on drawing up international standards for Tibetan character coding using information technology since 1994, which has received strong support from related departments of the state. The research project was approved at the conference of international standards verification for multi-language coding held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1996. This has laid a good foundation for Tibetan-language access to modem information processing and network exchange.In 1995 a committee for the standardization of Tibetan terminology was set up to standardize the Tibetan language and normalize social terms.

Great importance has been continuously attached to traditional Tibetan medicine and pharmacology. There are 14 Tibetan medicine institutions in the region, and Tibetan medicine is available in over 60 hospitals at the county level. At present, Tibetan medicine establish- ments at all levels throughout Tibet give over 500,000 out-patient consultations annually. A total of 100,000 kg in over 350 varieties of finished Tibetan pharmaceuticals are produced each year. Some one dozen valuable Tibetan herbs have won national gold or silver medals or prizes at international conferences on traditional medicine.

The work to systematically investigate, collect,record, collate, study, compile and publish the traditional cultural heritage of Tibet on a large scale is continuing apace. With over 800,000 words and some 300 pictures, the Chinese Drama: Tibetan Volume was published in December 1993. The 1.37-million-word Collections of Chinese Folk Songs: Tibetan Volume was published in 1995. A 10-volume collection of Tibetan folk and religious arts is to be published one volume at a time. The popular of King Gesar, the oral epic of the Tibetan people handed down for generations by ballad singers, has been included in the region's key research projects, with a special institute founded to take charge of collecting more than 5,000 cassettes and several hundred video tapes dealing with the epic. In addition, over 40 million words have been collated, and more than 1,000 research papers and over 30 books on the King Gesar have been published. This long-scattered oral literature is becoming a systematic, monumental literary work for the first time. Many Tibetan scholars and people in Tibetan religious circles have acclaimed it as "realizing the ardent wish of the Tibetan people of all generations." The Tibetan Ancient Books Publishing House was set up in the region with state funds to take charge of collecting, editing and publishing Tibetan ancient books. A large number of Tibetan ancient books,inscribed wooden slips and inscriptions on bronzes and stone tablets--including the only existing copy of the Dewu's History of Buddhism (about the history of the Tibetan people), Selected Tibetan Laws and Regulations of All Periods, Selected Books and Records on Tibetan Handicrafts, Selected Works on Medicine, and Selected Tibetan Historical Relics, as well as others, have been put under state protection.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the general survey of cultural relics in the Tibet Autonomous Region is almost finished, with cultural relics found in 1,768 places.Large numbers of rare cultural relics have been put under full protection. Since the 1960s the State Council has put 18 key historical sites in Tibet under state protection and determined 67 key historical sites under regional protection. The famous Potala Palace was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1994. The Tibet Autonomous Region Archives is one of the best establishments for keeping local archives in China. The Tibetan Museum, funded by the state to the tune of more than 90 million yuan and with a total floor space of 22,500 square meters, was opened in October 1997.

The people of the Tibet Autonomous Region have full rights to create and enjoy culture. There are 35 multi-purpose people's art and cultural centers and more than 380 rural cultural centers and clubs. A film projection and releasing network covers both urban and rural areas, including 650 local units, giving free film shows to people in agricultural and pastoral areas. In 1996 a total of 25 films in over 500 copies were dubbed in Tibetan. Since the beginning of the 1990s a total of more than 630 films in upwards of 8,500 copies have been dubbed in Tibetan. Meanwhile, Tibet has four book and audio-visual publishing houses, among them the Tibetan People's Publishing House has published 76.94 million copies of books of 6,589 titles. There are 23 Tibetan-language newspapers and magazines in public circulation.By 1996 Tibet had two radio stations, two TV stations.35 radio broadcasting, relaying and transmitting stations, 240 television transponder stations and over 700 ground satellite receiving stations. The Tibet Autonomous Regional Library, set up at a cost of nearly 100 million yuan, was opened in June 1996. It has a collection of 590,000 books, including more than 100.000 well-collated and well-preserved Tibetan ancient books.

The Tibetan people enjoy a cultural life which is becoming more and more prosperous and full of Tibetan characteristics. Now Tibet boasts a contingent of more than 10,000 literary and art workers, with Tibetans as the mainstay, 10 professional art and dance ensembles. 15 small professional performance teams, and over 160 amateur art ensembles and Tibetan opera troupes. People in rural areas can often enjoy free performances given by these professional troupes. In addition, there are another 11 special folk art education and study institutes and literature and art organizations. In 1996 professional Tibetan literature and art works and performances won one international prize and 10 national prizes. During major traditional Tibetan festivals and celebrations, such as the Tibetan New Year, the Shoton (Sour Milk Drinking) Festival, the Butter Lamp Festival and the Ongkou (Bumper Harvest) Festival, varied and colorful folk song and dance performances can be seen all over Tibet. Since the early 1990s more than 30 Tibetan song and dance troupes, art ensembles and academic delegations have visited, given performances, engaged in academic exchanges, and held exhibitions on Tibetan historical relics, books, arts, costume and handicrafts in more than 30 countries and regions, including the United States, Germany, France, England, Italy and Austria.

The central government and Tibetan governments at all levels are greatly concerned about the health of the Tibetan people. After many years of effort, a basic medical and public health network now covers the whole of the Tibet Autonomous Region. By the end of 1997 Tibet had 1,324 medical and health establishments, 127 more than in 1991; 6,246 hospital beds, 1,169 beds more than in 1991, averaging some 2.5 beds per 1,000 people:10,929 medical and health personnel, 1,189 more than in 1991; 1.84 doctors and 0.7 nurse per 1,000 people: and 4,402 rural medical and health personnel, a 24.46 percent increase. Old Tibet, under the feudal serfdom, had only three officially operated, small traditional Tibetan medical establishments, with only crude medical equipment, and a few private clinics, employing fewer than 100 medical practitioners. Even including folk doctors of traditional Tibetan medicine, the number totalled only about 400.

In Tibet a preferential medical policy is being carried out. Medical treatment is free in farming and pastoral areas, and is financed jointly by personal medical insurance and the state in cities and towns. From 1992 to 1997 the central government and governments at different levels in Tibet disbursed 964.61 million yuan in expenditures for public medical services.

Much attention has also been devoted to the medical and health care of women and children in Tibet. By the end of 1996 a total of 34 maternity and child care centers and eight baby-friendly hospitals had been set up. In addition, 108 hospitals at and above the county level now have departments of gynecology and obstetrics, and 110 key townships have maternity and child care departments which have monitored the development of more than 250,000 children and given general surveys and treatments of common and frequently-occurring diseases among them. Since 1986 about 85 percent of the children in Tibet have received BCG vaccine inoculations or drugs and inoculations against poliomyelitis,pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus and measles. Now 51.25 percent of children in the region below the age of seven benefit from the local health care system specially for children. Besides, modem delivery methods are available for 50.8 percent of child-bearing women in Tibet,and the rate reaches 100 percent in Lhasa. In the region's counties where children's health projects have been carried out, the infant mortality rate has decreased from 91.8 per thousand in 1989 to 55.21 per thousand now.

The sanitation and health conditions of today's Tibet and those of the old Tibet cannot be mentioned in the same breath. Smallpox was eradicated early in the 1960s, and some other dangerous infectious and endemic diseases have also been effectively controlled or wiped out. In 1996 the overall incidence of and the mortality resulting from 14 infectious diseases, such as typhoid fever, hepatitis, epidemic encephalitis and influenza, dropped by 45.52 and 67.16 percent, respectively, compared with the 1991 figures. By 1995 poliomyelitis had been totally eliminated. The government of the Tibet Autonomous Region is determined to keep in step with the other areas of China and stamp out diseases caused by iodine deficiency by the year 2000.In the old Tibet deadly infectious diseases such as smallpox and the plague were endemic. It is recorded that during the 150 years before Tibet was peacefully liberated there were four pandemic outbreaks of smallpox, one of which, in 1925, killed 7,000 people in the Lhasa area alone. Outbreaks of typhoid fever in 1934 and 1937 carried off a total of some 5,000 people in Lhasa.

The steady improvement of health care and living standards has raised the average life expectancy of Tibetans from 36 years in the old Tibet to the present 65 years. At the same time, the population of Tibet has increased rapidly and the protracted stagnation of population growth in the old days has changed completely.According to a thoroughgoing census carried out in Tibet during the period 1734-1736 by the central government of the Qing Dynasty (1644--1911) the population at that time was 941,200. About two hundred years later, in 1953, the local government of Tibet declared its population to be 1 million. That is to say, the population of Tibet was almost at a standstill for some two hundred years, only slightly rising by 58,000 people. But in the 40 years from 1953 to 1993, after Tibet was peacefully liberated, the population grew from 1 million to well over 2.3 million, of which the population of Tibetans increased by 1.16 million, or a more than two-fold increase in 40 years. By the end of 1996 the population of Tibet had reached 2.44 million, 95 percent of whom were Tibetans. This lays bare the lie that "the population of Tibet is decreasing," refutes the bluster about "Tibetans suffering from genocide" emanating from the 14th Dalai Lama and some Western sources, and illuminates, from one aspect, the human rights situations in the new and old Tibet.

IV. The Right to Freedom of Religious Belief

The Chinese government respects and protects its citizens' right to freedom of religious belief in accordance with the law. The Chinese Constitution stipulates that freedom of religious belief is one of the fundamental rights of citizens. Specific provisions on the protection of citizens' right to freedom of religious belief are also given in the Law on National Regional Autonomy, the Criminal Law, the General Rules of the Civil Law, the Education Law, the Labor Law and the Electoral Law Governing the People's Congresses. These laws are strictly observed in Tibet. At present, there are 1,787 sites for Tibetan Buddhist activities in the region, and there are 46,380 Buddhist monks and nuns living in monasteries. The Tibetan Autonomous Region and the seven prefectures or cities under its jurisdiction all have their own Buddhist associations, and the Tibet Autonomous Regional Buddhist Association has its own journal and establishment for printing Tibetan scriptures.

Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet the Chinese government has accorded consistent respect and protection to the Tibetan people's right to freedom of religious belief. In 1951 the central government and the local government of Tibet headed by the 14th Dalai Lama. signed the 17-article Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, which explicitly stipulated, "In Tibet a policy ensuring the people freedom of religious belief will be carried out, the religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people will be respected, and the Lamaist monasteries will be properly protected. The central government will allow no change in the revenues of monasteries." In 1959, the Democratic Reform started in Tibet. The feudal privileges of the three major categories of feudal lords, including senior monks, as well as the system of exploitation, were abolished, and religion was separated from government. At the same time,the central government reaffirmed its stand for "respecting the freedom of religious belief and the customs and habits of the Tibetan people," and that the monasteries should be managed independently and in a democratic way by people of religious persuasion. In addition, the central government and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have ranked some famous religious sites, such as the Potala Palace and Jokhang,Tashilhunpo, Zhaibung, Sagya and Sera monasteries,among the key historical sites under state or regional protection. Since the early 1980s the state has allocated special funds as well as gold and silver every year for the maintenance, restoration and protection of monasteries in Tibet, to the sum of over 300 million yuan-worth.

The state and the autonomous region have financed the maintenance and restoration of a number of famous monasteries, including the Jokhang, Palkor,Tselayungdrung, Mindrol, Samye (built in the eighth century), Tashilhunpo, Zhaibung, Sera and Gandain (the latter four being the four main monasteries of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism), Qambaling in Qamdo,Razheng, Sagya of the Sagya Sect, Curpu and Garmadainsa of the Garma Gagya Sect, Zhigungti of the Zhigung Sect, Meru and Rala Yungdrung Ling of the Bon religion, and Shalu of the Shalu Sect. The state allocated a special fund of more than 55 million yuan for the five-odd-year renovation of the Potala Palace involving a total floor space of 33,900 square meters. Another special fund of 6.7 million yuan, together with 111 kg of gold and over 2,000 kg of silver and a large amount of gems, has been provided to finance the restoration of the funerary stupas and sacrificial halls of the fifth to the ninth Panchen Lamas. In addition, the state has allocated 66.2 million yuan and 650 kg of gold for the construction of the funerary stupa and sacrificial hall of the 10th Panchen Lama. In 1994 an additional appropriation of 20 million yuan was made to further renovate the Ganden Monastery.

Much importance has always been attached in Tibet to collecting, editing, publishing and studying ancient religious books and records. Religious books edited and published in the 1990s include the Tibetan-language China Tripitaka--Dangyur (collated edition), A TibetanChinese General Catalogue of the Tibetan Tripitaka, A Commentary on Tshad-ma sde-bdun, Five Treatises by the Family of Mercy, Annotations on Pramanavarttika Karika--the Solemn Snowland and the Collected Works of Mani. More than 1,490 copies of the Dangyur of the Tripitaka, and a large number of pamphlets on Tibetan Buddhist practices, biographies of famous monks and treatises on Tibetan Buddhism have been printed to meet the needs of the various monsteries and the Buddhist monks, nuns and lay believers. Treatises on Buddhism written and published by religious research institutions,eminent monks and scholars include Collation and Studies of the Pattra Sutra, Compilation of the Sanskrit Pattra Sutra Extant in Lhasa, Studies of the Origin and Development of Religions and Religious Sects in Tibet,The Reincarnation System of Living Buddhas, History of Buddhism by Guta, Records of the Monasteries of the Tibetan Bon Religion, Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in China and The Fresco Art of Tibet's Buddhist Monasteries.

A total of 3,270 monks in Tibet have studied the Buddhist classics in classes run by monasteries, and more than 50 Living Buddhas, Geshes (Buddhist doctors of divinity) and members of the democratic management bodies of Tibetan monasteries have, in the past few years, taken advanced refresher courses at the China Senior Buddhist Institute of Tibetan Language in Beijing, half of whom have graduated.

The state holds in great esteem the system of reincarnation of Living Buddhas, which is characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism and an important succession method of the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism, and has profound respect for the religious practices and historical conventions of Tibet's main religion. In 1992 the Religious Affairs Bureau of the State Council approved the succession of the 17th Garmapa Living Buddha, in accordance with Tibet's religious practices. In 1995, a great event in the Buddhist world came to pass when the rite of drawing lots from a golden urn was carried out, and the boy who in Buddhist belief was the reincarnation of the deceased 10th Panchen Erdeni was identified, confirmed, given the title, enthroned and ordained as the llth Panchen Erdeni in accordance with the religious practices and historical conventions and with the approval of the State Council.

Government departments at all levels treat all religions and religious sects, as well as all people, whether religious believers or not, in Tibet, equally and without any discrimination. They respect and protect all religious activities in accordance with the law. Religious and non-religious people, and the different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, in harmonious coexistence, also have mutual respect for each other. The internal affairs of temples and monasteries are independently handled by the management bodies formed through democratic elections. Buddhist monks and nuns, on their own initiative, study and debate the scriptures, attend lectures given by eminent monks, perform Abhiseka (consecration by pouring water on the head) and ordination, disseminate Esoteric doctrines, perform Buddhist ceremonies, chant scriptures in the presence of believers,release the souls of the dead and pray for blessings by touching the heads. Religious people have the freedom to make pilgrimages to temples and monasteries, and holy mountains and lakes, including circumambulation around holy mountains and spinning prayer wheels.They are also free to offer sacrifices, give food or alms to Buddhist monks and nuns, burn incense and chant scriptures. Prayer banners, cairns of stones with scripture texts painted or carved on them and religious people devoutly prostrating themselves on the ground, spinning prayer wheels or on pilgrimages can be seen everywhere in Tibet; and prayer niches and shrines to Buddha can be found in the houses of almost all religious people. It is estimated that more than one million religious believers go to Jokhang Temple in Lhasa to pay homage and burn incense to Buddha each year.

Concluding Remarks

A host of facts show clearly that human rights in Tibet are making unceasing progress. The Central Government and the local governments at all levels in the Tibet Autonomous Region have made great efforts to safeguard and promote the progress of human rights in Tibet. The situation as regards human rights in old Tibet bears no comparison with the situation in Tibet today.The fact that human rights in Tibet have improved is beyond all dispute. All people, Chinese and foreign, who have been to Tibet and are acquainted with Tibet's history will draw such a fair conclusion. The Dalai Lama vilifies the present human rights situation in Tibet. But,ironically, under his rule in old Tibet human rights were wantonly trampled on in wide areas--a crime stemming from the dark, savage and cruel system of merging politics with religion and the feudal serfdom. Making no mention whatsoever of the situation where trampling the people's basic human rights was commonplace in old Tibet, the exiled Dalai Lama has tried by every means to cover it up and vilify and attack the development and progress in new Tibet. He also fabricates sensational lies to befuddle world opinion. One of the fundamental commandments of Buddhism forbids the spreading of falsehoods. The Dalai Lama's wanton fabrication of lies and his violation and trampling of this commandment serve only to expose him in all his true colors: He is waving the banner of religion to conduct activities aimed at splitting the motherland.

People of all ethnic groups in Tibet are constructing the new Tibet with one heart and one mind. But since Tibet's economic and social development, which started at a very low level, is hampered by unfavorable natural conditions, such as its exceptional elevation, frigid weather and lack of oxygen, Tibet remains economically and socially underdeveloped. As a result, the human rights enjoyed by the Tibetan people have yet to be further improved. But the Central Government and Tibet's local governments at all levels will continue to make painstaking efforts to promote Tibet's economic and social development, consistently improve the people's lives and further promote the progress of human rights in Tibet.

(This article appears in the 12th page, 10, 1998)

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