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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Background
UPDATED: April 23, 2008  
New Progress in Human Rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region


All citizens in Tibet who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic group, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence. They elect their own deputies and exercise the power to administer state and local affairs through the people's congresses elected by them. According to statistics, in 1993 when the succeeding township, county, prefectural (city) and autonomous regional people's congresses were elected, Tibet had 1,311,085 voters, making up 98.6 percent of all citizens at or above 18 years of age, 91.6 percent of whom participated in the elections. In some places 100 percent of the voters took part in the elections.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Constitution and Electoral Law clearly specify that the National People's Congress, the highest organ of state power, should include an appropriate number of ethnic minority deputies. The Electoral Law contains special regulations to promote the election of deputies from among ethnic minorities. For example, it stipulates that where the total population of an ethnic minority in an area where that ethnic minority lives in concentrated communities exceeds 30 percent of the total local population, the number of people represented by each deputy of that ethnic minority shall be equal to the number of people represented by each of the other deputies to the local people's congress; and that where the total population of an ethnic minority in such an area is less than 15 percent of the total local population, the number of people represented by each deputy of that ethnic minority may appropriately be less than the number of people represented by each of the other deputies to the local people's congress. The ethnic minorities, who make up 8 percent of the total population in China, now account for well over 14 percent of the total number of deputies to the National People's Congress. At present, Tibet has 20 deputies to the Ninth National People's Congress, 80 percent of whom are from the Tibetan or other ethnic minorities. Though the Moinba, Lhoba and other ethnic minorities in Tibet have small populations, each of them has its own deputies to the National People's Congress as well as to the people's congresses at all levels in Tibet. The Living Buddha Phabala Geleg Namgyal is vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People's Congress.

Personages of all strata and all circles in Tibet also participate in the administration and discussion of state affairs, and exercise their democratic rights through attending the political consultative conferences at all levels. Now a number of personages of ethnic minorities origin and religious figures from Tibet are members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) or its Standing Committee, with Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme serving as vice-chairman of the CPPCC National Committee. Since its founding in 1959, the CPPCC Tibetan Committee has recruited large numbers of people of the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities, as well as religious figures. Now several hundred ethnic-minority people and religious figures are members of the CPPCC Tibet Committee. Even some people who were nobles of the old Tibetan government, such as Lhalu Tsewang Dorje and Domed Konchok Palmo, are currently vice-chairmen of the Tibet Autonomous Region's Political Consultative Conference. The legal codes of old Tibet stipulated: "Women are not to be granted the right to discuss state affairs." This situation is now no longer to be found in new Tibet. In 1996 female deputies to the Tibet Autonomous Region People's Congress made up 20 percent of the total. Now Tibet has 573 women cadres at or above the county level, and some Tibetan female judges, procurators, police officers and lawyers for the first time in Tibetan history.

Most staff members of the judiciary of the Tibet Autonomous Region are Tibetans or members of local ethnic minorities. Strictly in accordance with the Constitution and laws, the judicial departments of the Tibet Autonomous Region protect the basic rights and freedoms, and other legal rights and interests of the citizens of all ethnic groups in Tibet. They also protect public property and the lawful private property of the citizens, punish those law-breakers who endanger society, and maintain social order according to law. Both the crime and imprisonment rates of the Tibet Autonomous Region are lower than the nation's average. The legal rights of criminals are protected by law, and those who belong to ethnic minorities or religious sects are not discriminated against, but due consideration is given to their lifestyles and customs. The government guarantees the provision of food, clothing, shelter and articles of daily use for prison inmates. Each prison in Tibet has separate dining facilities and diets for inmates of different ethnic groups and provides for them zanba (roasted highland barley flour), buttered tea, sweet tea, etc. every month. Each prison has a clinic, and the number of prison doctors is higher than the nation's average. Criminals enjoy rest days, holidays and traditional ethnic festivals, in accordance with the state's unified regulations. Prisoners may see visitors every month, may win a reduction of penalty or be released on parole, and may be given various awards according to law.

II. Economic Development and the People's Rights to Existence and Development

Speeding up Tibet's economic construction, continuously improving the life of the Tibetan people, and ensuring that they fully enjoy the rights to existence and development are the Central Government's primary goals for its work in Tibet. They are also the most important tasks of governments at all levels in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Outstanding achievements have been made in this regard through the unstinted efforts of the Central Government and the governments at all levels in the Region.

Since 1992 the Tibetan economy has increased rapidly. In 1997 the GDP of Tibet amounted to about 7.35 billion yuan-worth, an increase of 96.6 percent compared to 1991 at constant prices or an average annual increase of 11.9 percent. Since 1987 Tibet has reaped bumper harvests for 10 years in succession. The total grain output was 820,000 tons in 1997, the highest output in Tibetan history and an increase of 41.4 percent compared to the 580,000 tons in 1991. The output of meat was 119,000 tons in 1997, an increase of 25.5 percent compared to 1991. Now the people of the Tibet Autonomous Region are working hard to attain the goal of getting rid of poverty throughout the Region and achieving comfortable lives for most of the people before the year 2000.

Since 1992 the building of the parts of the infrastructure closely related to people's everyday life and production, such as communications, energy and telecommunications, and the development of construction, building materials, foodstuffs, traditional handicrafts, textile and other light industries have been quickened. The Gonggar Airport in Lhasa has been extended, and the Bamda Airport in Qamdo has been rebuilt. Now there are scheduled flights to other cities in China from airports in Tibet every day and some weekly international flights. A comprehensive network of communications and transportation consisting of air routes and highways has been basically completed in Tibet. The volume of goods transported via highways in the Region increased 15.6 times in 1996 compared to 1965 and the number of highway passengers has increased by 28.9 times in the same period. The average number of passengers transported by airplanes is 100,000 each year. So transportation conditions have been greatly improved, in striking contrast to the old days when the region was very hard to reach and goods had to be carried in on the backs of animals or people. Satellite telecommunications stations have been built in seven prefectures or cities in Tibet, and program-controlled telephone systems are in use in 51 counties. Satellite transmission and program-controlled telephones are being used in about 98 percent of the counties in Tibet, which is now connected with the international and domestic long-distance telephone automatic exchange networks. Municipal construction has been speeded up in major cities and towns, such as Lhasa, Xigaze, Nagqu, Qamdo, Zetang and Shiquanhe. Since the 1980s more than 300,000 sq m of old residential houses have been rebuilt in Lhasa, and 5,226 households have moved to new dwellings. All this has improved the living environment and quality of life of both urban and rural residents.

Economic development in Tibet began on an exceedingly primitive and backward foundation. Its natural environment is unfavorable for economic development because of its 4,000-odd-meter altitude, severe cold weather and thin air. In addition, under the rule of the feudal serfdom in old Tibet the economy in the region was extremely backward and the living standards of the people there were low. In view of all this, the Central Government has always attached special importance to the development of Tibet by providing generous assistance in manpower, materials, financial resources and technologies. In addition, preferential policies have been adopted in line with the Region's actual conditions. No levies have been imposed on the peasants and herdsmen in Tibet since 1980 and there is no compulsory state purchase of grain there. The income that Tibetan peasants and herdsmen earn is entirely their own. In recent years the Central Government has allocated upwards of 1.2 billion yuan each year to Tibet as a financial subsidy, and other favorable measures have been adopted, such as lightening its financial burdens, preferential investment, investment in skill training and an aid-the-poor program. From the early 1950s to 1997 the Central Government allocated more than 40 billion yuan for Tibet, and from 1959 to 1996 allotted 6.74 million tons of materials. Among the latter were 1.1 million tons of commercial materials, 1.3 million tons of grain and 1.48 million tons of oil.

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