High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on March 12, 2013 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on April 6, 2013.
The post highlights the vast and extensive measures taken in the Tibet Autonomous Region in the name of “preserving stability”. At around the same time as Woeser’s blogpost, Human Rights Watch also published information about increased surveillance and security in TAR.
“The Huge and Costly Troops for the Preservation of Stability”
Last year, the “People’s Congress” was held in Beijing, that was when the Southern Weekend interviewed the Chairman of the TAR People’s Congress, Jampa Phuntsok, and the former chairman of the TAR, Padma Choling; when asked about the relationship between village-level work groups and the preservation of stability, Jampa Phuntsok said: “In 2012, the over 5000 village administrations all established work groups on their villages (…) officials in charge would be changed once a year, within a three year period, the entire region would have over 20,000 cadres stationed in villages.” Of course, he also added: “This is not just about preserving stability, it is more about helping those areas develop their economy.”
Saying that “It is not just about preserving stability” is a lie. The concluding report from October 2012 stated: “All the work groups stationed in all administrative levels of the TAR must make the preservation of stability their most important task”, and for this they established various different “stability mechanisms, such as communication mechanisms, security mechanisms, and dispute mediation mechanisms on a county, township, village, group and family level”; by “turning villages into forts with people serving as sentinel, the system can be protected and maintained.”
Concretely, since October 2010, all village administrations were covered with 5453 work groups consisting of people sent out from all sorts of different work units. Additionally, work groups were stationed at Tibet Autonomous Region’s 1700 monasteries. Simply in Nagchu Prefecture, Nyaenrong County, a pasture area home to just about 30,000 residents, 86 village work groups, 6 monastery work groups and 10 county work groups were established. In December last year, when the second village work group was raising the red flag and beating drums on the Potala Palace square, Tibetan and Chinese Party officials issued instructions to them reminding them to continue their work of preserving stability.
In order to understand the “stability preservation” that is carried out by the village work groups, it is necessary to quote from the concluding report issued by the local authorities. For example, the the work groups stationed in Lhokha prefecture, TAR, “organised 3866 meetings to criticise the Dalai clique, employed 1856 important supporting mentors, and held 1886 thorough discussions with monasteries and monks and nuns;” also, they “established 1080 ‘village protection groups’, implemented 3346 projects for the preservation of stability, and weaved a tight control web”. The village work group stationed in Kham prefecture, TAR, “organised 7107 meetings to criticise the Dalai clique (…), held 8369 meetings with important mentors, had 5608 thorough discussions with nuns and monks, penetrating 3234 religious entities, carried out 10971 projects assisting villagers to improve key areas and control personnel, resolved 1279 cases of people filing petitions to the higher authorities and 1321 other incidents with people”. These extremely high figures are clearly frightening.
Apart from different work units sending out personnel to be stationed in village work groups or monastery work groups in “six areas and one city” (Lhokha prefecture, Shigatse prefecture, Nyingtri prefecture, Chamdo prefecture, Nagchu prefecture, Ngari prefecture and Lhasa City), the Public Security Bureau’s border defence troops, Tibet armed police forces, the Tibetan police, fire brigade and other Tibetan military units also sent in work groups stationed in villages and monasteries; all of them would join forces to work towards the common goal of preserving stability. Apart from convening meetings to criticise, holding discussions with monks and nuns, a more important task has been to introduce the so-called “People’s Sentiment Files”; every household, every person, every monastery, every monk was recorded in these files; this was the realisation of what the local authorities had called the “Three Withouts”, namely establishing a Tibet “without blind spots, without cracks, without empty spaces”. In other words, it is possible to rely on the country’s system to monitor every single village and every single monastery in the whole of Tibet.
The costs of such penetrating and persistent stability preservation is impossible to estimate. Amongst other things, all personnel working in the work groups stationed in villages or in monasteries not only receive salary, welfare and financial subsidies, they also receive awards and subsidies from their work units. In order to guarantee that these people can actually bear staying in such remote and desolate places, they not only give them tremendous amounts of money, they are also promised promotion later on, to the extent that some Tibetans joke that “after being stationed in a village for a year one can afford a house and a car”, “maintaining stability is just a slogan for being stationed in a village, the real reason is money”. Even though for those personnel, policies come from above and countermeasures come from below, after the introduction of the “People’s Sentiment Files”, reading files and newspapers is the only work that occupies them, the remaining time they have to somehow overcome their boredom. For the residents, nuns and monks of the villages, however, the presence of these people represents a huge and traumatic disturbance.
The person who introduced these preserving stability schemes in 2011 was Chen Quanguo, the former governor of Hebei Province who had been transferred to become the Party Secretary of the TAR; he had previously been responsible for implementing a 15,000 person “movement to send officials to the countryside”, the purpose of this was mainly also the preservation of stability. The media person, Beifeng, commented on Twitter: “Hebei sending officials to be stationed in villages is the manifestation of the stability preservation policies, it also shows that the domination and transformation has entered into the final stage of competition over resources. If these policies of political stability maintenance are becoming just a little bit more extreme, all that is left will be military control…”
March 12, 2013