Tibet is a Tibetan autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Since it was officially incorporated into the domain of China's Yuan Dynasty in the mid-13th century, Tibet has been under the jurisdiction of China's Central Government as an inalienable part of Chinese territory. Throughout history the diligent and honest Tibetan people -- a member of the big multi-ethnic family of China -- has made important contributions to the development of the splendid Chinese civilization as well as to the unity and unification of the motherland.
For long periods before 1959, however, Tibet had been a society of feudal serfdom characterized by the merging of politics and religion and the dictatorship of the clergy and nobility. The serfs and slaves, who accounted for over 95 percent of the total population in Tibet, had no personal freedom and were deprived of their basic human rights. The Democratic Reform carried out in Tibet in 1959 ended the history of a feudal serf system which merged religion with politics, and gave the more than one million serfs and slaves in Tibet, accounting for more than 95 percent of the total population, the right to be their own masters. Following the Democratic Reform, Tibet entered a new era of social development and progress in human rights.
In September 1992 the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China issued a white paper titled Tibet -- Its Ownership and Human Rights Situation. Drawing on a rich store of facts, the white paper introduced and expounded on the historical relations between Tibet and the big family of the motherland in a comprehensive way, as well as the progress in human rights in modern Tibet.
In recent years, thanks to the care and support of the Central Government, the unstinted assistance from other parts of China and the efforts of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, the Region's economic and social development has been remarkably speeded up, thus further promoting the development of the cause of human rights there. The development of the cause of human rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region is an important component of the new progress being made in human rights in China as a whole.
To understand and judge the human rights situation in Tibet, it is necessary to ascertain the relevant facts. Accordingly, we hereby present the facts about the new progress made in human rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region since 1992.
I. Ethnic Regional Autonomy System and the People's Political Rights
Tibet is an area where the Tibetans live in compact communities, with people of the Tibetan ethnic group making up 95 percent of the total population of 2.44 million in the autonomous region, and the people of the Han and other ethnic groups accounting for only five percent. According to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the state practices the ethnic regional autonomy system in Tibet, which has been established as the Tibet Autonomous Region, and safeguards, according to law, the political rights of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet to participate in administration of state and local affairs on an equal basis, especially the Tibetan people's autonomous right to independently administer local and ethnic affairs. Practicing ethnic regional autonomy in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in compact communities is a major political system of China and a basic policy of the Chinese Government for solving problems relating to ethnic affairs.
In April 1956, the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up in accordance with the Central Government's decision. The Tibet Autonomous Region was formally founded in 1965, with Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme as the first chairman of the Region. As the organs of self-government, the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and the Regional People's Government exercise the power of autonomy according to law. In accordance with the Chinese Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, all areas entitled to ethnic regional autonomy enjoy the extensive rights of autonomy, involving legislation, the use of local spoken and written languages, the administration of personnel, the economy, finance, education and culture, the management and development of natural resources, and other aspects.
The Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and its Standing Committee -- the local organs of state power in Tibet -- fully exercise the power of autonomy bestowed by the Constitution and law, and have actively formulated laws and regulations appropriate to local ethnic and regional characteristics. Between 1965 and 1992 more than 60 local laws and regulations were worked out, such as the Rules of Procedure of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Regulations on the Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language in the Tibet Autonomous Region (for trial implementation). In recent years the Region has formulated 23 local laws and regulations, made 21 legal decisions, and cleared up or revised 23 laws and regulations involving politics, the economy, culture, education, environmental protection and other fields, including the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on Environmental Protection, the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Work of Town and Township People's Congresses and the Regulations on Enhancing the Examination and Supervision of the Implementation of the Laws and Regulations. In addition, rules for the implementation of 14 national laws and regulations conforming to the local features of Tibet have been drawn up. The legislative and administrative organs of the Tibet Autonomous Region have designated the Tibetan New Year, the Sholton and other traditional festivals of the Tibetan ethnic group as the Region's holidays, in addition to the official national holidays. In accordance with the special natural and geographical conditions of Tibet, the autonomous region has decreed a work week of no more than 35 hours, five hours less than the official national work week for workers and staff. According to statistics, the number of laws and regulations worked out since 1992 by the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and its Standing Committee to safeguard the interests of the Tibetan people in light of the actual conditions in
Tibet exceeds the total formulated during the 12 years preceding 1992.
The chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region are both citizens of the Tibetan ethnic group. Both the Chinese Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy specify that the chairmen or vice-chairmen of the standing committees of the people's congresses of ethnic autonomous areas shall be citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The chairman of an autonomous region, the governor of an autonomous prefecture and the head of an autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. Since the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region all the four chairmen of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and five chairmen of the Region have been Tibetan citizens. According to statistics, members of the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities now account for 71.4 percent of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region; for 80 percent of the members of the Standing Committee of the Autonomous Regional People's Congress; and for 77.8 percent of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Tibet Autonomous Region. After the election of members to succeeding governments at the township (town), county, prefectural (city) and autonomous regional levels in 1993, members of the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities accounted for 93.2 percent of the component members of the organs of state power at these four levels, respectively for 99.8 percent and 98.6 percent of the township (town) and county heads elected, and respectively 96 percent and 89 percent of the presidents of the people's courts and the procurators of the people's procuratorates at the autonomous regional, prefectural (city) and county levels.
Further progress has been made in the training and selection of cadres of Tibetan and other ethnic minorities in Tibet since 1992. According to 1996 statistics the number of cadres belonging to the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities in Tibet had increased by 18.22 percent over the 1992 figure, making up 73.88 percent of the total and showing an increase of 4.48 percentage points over the figure for 1992.
Guaranteeing the study and use of the Tibetan language is an important aspect of safeguarding the Tibetan people's right to autonomy and exercising their right to participate in the administration of state and local affairs. The Chinese Constitution specifies that all ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. China's Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy stipulates that in performing their functions, the organs of self-government of every ethnic autonomous area, in accordance with the regulations on the exercise of autonomy in those areas, employ the spoken and written languages or languages in common use in the locality.
Accordingly, the Regulations on the Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language (for trial implementation) adopted by the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress clearly specifies that both Tibetan and Chinese should be used in the Tibet Autonomous Region, with precedence given to the Tibetan language. The Tibetan language is the common language for the whole autonomous region. The resolutions, laws, regulations and decrees adopted by the people's congresses, and official documents and proclamations issued by governments at all levels in the Region are in both Tibetan and Chinese. In court cases involving Tibetans, the Tibetan language must be used in hearing cases, and legal documents must be written in the Tibetan language. Newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations also use both Tibetan and Chinese languages. All signs and marks of government institutions, streets, roads and public facilities are in both Tibetan and Chinese scripts. Tibetan academic, cultural and art workers have the right to write and publish their academic or artistic works in their own language.
The implementation of the ethnic regional autonomy system has further guaranteed the political rights of the Tibetan people, which is in marked contrast to the situation in old Tibet.
Before the Democratic Reform of 1959 Tibet had long been a society languishing under a system of feudal serfdom which intertwined politics with religion, a society which was even darker than the European society of the Middle Ages. The serfs and slaves, making up 95 percent of the total population of Tibet, were completely deprived of personal freedom and political rights. The serf owners considered serfs and slaves as their private property, so they could trade and transfer them, present them as gifts, make them mortgages for debts and exchange them. It was not until 1959 that the 13-Article Code and 16-Article Code, which had been practiced for several hundred years in old Tibet, were abolished, by which codes the Tibetan people were divided, in explicit terms, into three classes and nine ranks and put on an unequal footing in legal status. The codes specified that the lives of people of the highest rank of the upper class, such as a prince, were literally worth their weight in gold, whereas the lives of people of the lowest rank of the lower class, such as women, butchers, hunters and craftsmen, were worth no more than the price of a straw rope. The serf owners safeguarded the feudal serfdom with savage punishments; they would frequently punish serfs and slaves by gouging out their eyes, cutting off their ears, arms or legs, drowning them or inflicting other terrible penalties.
Since the Democratic Reform abolished the feudal serf system, the Tibetan people, like the people of all other ethnic groups throughout the country, have become the masters of their state and society, and won the political rights enjoyed by all citizens as stipulated in the Chinese Constitution and law.