|Sun Chunlan in Lhasa|
If nothing unexpected occur in China in the next few weeks, the meeting should be held soon.
Less than two months ago, I mentioned an article, which appeared in the official Chinese press, it was titled: “Guess what? 6th Tibet Work Conference may be convened this year, netizens say.”
The announcement of the holding of a Sixth Conference (or Forum) on Tibet Work by ‘netizens’ was clearly a propaganda gimmick, but the Forum is no doubt forthcoming.
The previous Forum was held in Beijing in January 2010.
Before that, four Tibet Work Conferences were organized in 1980, 1984, 1994 and 2001.
What is a Work Forum on Tibet?
It is the conference during which a new Tibet policy is decided.
It is attended by several hundreds of officials, including all the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. The article on the Chinese website affirmed: “Now people are eagerly anticipating the Sixth Tibet Work Conference.”
What are the ingredients for the new Tibet Work Forum?
From time to time, I have mentioned few of them on this blog:
- 50th Anniversary of the TAR
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
- Li Keqiang’s Work Report at the NPC
On March 5, during the Third Session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang affirmed that the celebrations should be organized for the 50th anniversary in the government work report and that it is important to preserve the still clean environment of the plateau.
Beijing will probably offer a 'gift' to Tibet for the 50 years. It is ominous.
- Important visits to Tibet
To prepare the ground for a new Forum, at the time, the NPC was seating in March, the State media explained that from November 2014 to March 2015, “many in the central leadership as well as various government departments went to Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces to conduct research and make inspections, including: Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Du Qinglin, Vice Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, and Sun Chunlan, minister of the United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee as well as leaders of the Ministry of Education, the State Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Water Conservancy and Ministry of Agriculture.”
Note that the Tibetan-inhabited areas were covered by the ‘inspection tours’.
- White Paper of the Development Path in Tibet
Then, the State Council Information Office (China’s Cabinet) released a White Paper, ‘on the development path of Tibet’.
One of the characteristics of the new White Paper was a violent attack against the Dalai Lama, at a time when many in China realise that the Tibetan leader is undoubtedly the best bet if Beijing wants to find a solution to the Tibetan issue.
But for Beijing: “The wheels of history roll forward and the tides of the times are irresistible. …Any person or force that attempts to resist the tide will simply be cast aside by history and by the people.” The WP asks the Dalai Lama to ‘put aside his illusions’ about talks on Tibet’s future status. For Beijing, the Dalai Lama has little understanding of modern Tibet, but keeps ‘a sentimental attachment to the old theocratic feudal serfdom’.
- The United Front Work Conference
A Conference of the United Front Work Department (UFW) of the CPC Central Committee was held from May 18 to 20 in Beijing. Addressing the UFW delegates, President Xi Jinping asked the authorities to befriend and recruit more non-CPC intellectuals and representatives. According to Xinhua, Xi vowed to “develop the widest patriotic united front” to support ‘the great Chinese renaissance’. He concluded by exhorting the cadres to be “sincere, modest and clean so that they can gain respect from non-CPC members and help them work together with the party.”
Xi Jinping during the UFW conference spoke of the “the positive influence that religious people and believers have on social and economic development.”He pleaded with the UFW officials to make ‘active efforts’ to incorporate religions in socialist society, adding that ‘religions in China must be Chinese’.
Even the Tibetan religion should be ‘Chinese’!
- Sun Chunlan's comments
At the time of the UFW conference, Madam Sun Chunlan, head of the UFW Department (and member of the Central Committee’s Politburo) met with some Tibetan Buddhist monks, who had just graduated as Geshe Lharampa. China Tibet Online reported that the awards ceremony was held at Tibetan Buddhism College of China in Beijing on May 20, 2015. Sun said that this Tibetan Buddhist advanced academic degree system is “an important measure in fostering Tibetan Buddhist religious believers to love their country and religion, as well as adapting religion to socialist society.”
In other words, training geshes with ‘socialist and Chinese characteristics’! Madam Sun believed that the new geshes “would cherish and honor their award, help religious people, promote social development and the fine Tibetan Buddhism tradition of loving their country and religion,” and of course “observe and uphold the law, protect the country and its people, promote economic development and social and religious harmony.”
A bit frightening!
- A White Paper on Human Rights
In its introduction to a new White Paper on Human Rights, the State Council says:"It has been a long-cherished ideal of mankind to enjoy human rights in the full sense of the term. Since this great term -- human rights -- was coined centuries ago, people of all nations have achieved great results in their unremitting struggle for human rights. However, on a global scale, modern society has fallen far short of the lofty goal of securing the full range of human rights for people the world over. And this is why numerous people with lofty ideals are still working determinedly for this cause.”
It continues thus: “Under long years of oppression by the ‘three big mountains’ -- imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism -- people in old China did not have any human rights to speak of. Suffering bitterly from this, the Chinese people fought for more than a century, defying death and personal sacrifices and advancing wave upon wave, in an arduous struggle to overthrow the ‘three big mountains’ and gain their human rights.”
No comment is required.
- Appeal to the Diaspora
A few days after the UFW Conference, China Tibet Online asked a pertinent question (for Beijing at least) : “do overseas Tibetans count among the ‘three types of people’?” mentioned by Xi during the UFW Conference.
The Party seems now open to the return of the Diaspora to their 'motherland': “all patriots belong to one family …patriotism can be shown at any time”. These ‘patriotic Chinese’ should be given “the freedom to come and go, letting bygones be bygones” adding that “expatriate Tibetans are welcome to come home.”
It sounded like an open invitation to the refugees to return, ‘let the bygones, be bygones’.
How many will take the ‘socialist’ bite in the present repressive atmosphere is another question.
- The Chinese Panchen Lama briefed by Xi Jinping
Xinhua reported that Xi Jinping gave ‘an audience’ to the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu at Zhongnanhai in Beijing on June 10. The meeting was ‘very appropriate’ says Xinhua, because it showed that the Party “has consistently given a high level of attention to Tibet.” It also indicated, says the news agency, “the great importance that the Central Committee attaches to the religious work,” affirming that Xi Jinping has “set an example for the rest of the Party members by taking the lead in uniting the religious figures.
If one looks at the picture published by Xinhua, apart from Xi, three other members of the Politburo were in attendance (Yu Zhengsheng of the Standing Committee, Sun Chunlan, the UFW head and Li Zhanshu, director of the General Office of the Party); also present was Jampa Phuntsok (the senior-most Tibetan in the Communist Party).
Why such a rare lineup?
Apparently Gyaltsen Norbu needed to be briefed.
In Beijing’s game plan, Gyaltsen Norbu is destined to play a central role. He has been especially selected by Beijing from a family of faithful Communist cadres from Nagchu prefecture, while the boy selected by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, has for the past 20 years been languishing under house arrest.
Is Gyaltsen Norbu not fully convinced? it is certainly a possibility.
- Visit Madam Sun Chunlan in Tibet
China Tibet Online reported that Sun Chunlan, member of the Political Bureau and boss of the UFW Department conducted an inspection tour in the Tibet Autonomous Region from June 15 to 18. During her visit, she pointed out that “in order to continue on a development path with both Chinese characteristics taking account of the Tibetan local features, Tibet should develop industries with comparative advantages, strengthen its environmental protection, value education and employment, improve the social security system across urban and rural areas, and improve production and livelihoods for people of all nationalities. Tibet should also respect the religious beliefs and customs of people of all nationalities and continue to strengthen people’s affinity with the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the Communist Party, and the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
This is probably the agenda for the forthcoming 6th Tibet Work Forum.
During her stay in Tibet, Sun visited the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse and Dram (Zhangmu) at the Nepal border, where the recent earthquake left of lot of destruction.
Sun mentioned that Xi Jinping had ‘warmly’ received the Panchen Lama, which reflected, according to her, the ‘growing importance’ of the Panchen Lama for Beijing as well as ‘the expectations he [Xi] has for Tibetan Buddhism.'
- After the Brief
Gyaltsen Norbu after his ‘successful briefing’ by Xi and his colleagues of the Politburo stated: "We should have strict management and education systems in monasteries, and it is especially important to strictly deal with social chaos in religious circle according to the law." He was speaking at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th National CPPCC on June 16.
According to China Tibet Online, a website affiliated to Xinhua, the Chinese Panchen Lama’ made four proposals:
First, the departments of religious affairs should investigate the phenomenon of false religious people who illegally hold religious activities, should unblock channels for reporting [denouncing?], and establish a mechanism that will be effective over the long term.
Second, public security forces deal with those who undergo illegal activities that already constitute crimes according to the law.
Third, religious groups should advocate the prohibition of religious people from using religion to accumulate wealth and to prohibit non-religious people from posing as clergy and cheating others.
Fourth, the law protects the rights and interests of religious groups, holy sites, and normal educational and religious activities.