Sunday, July 7, 2019

How many Tibetans in the Liberation Army? A difficult guess!

Chairman Xi meeting a young Tibetan Officer at a NPC meet
In an interview to The Week, the Dalai Lama recently said that “the Tibetan issue is no longer a struggle for political independence”. He asserted that there is a need to focus on preservation of Tibet's cultural, religious and linguistic identity.
The Tibetan leader added that “Political independence is mainly meant for the happiness of the people, but does it alone guarantee happiness.”
This can’t be argued that Independence alone does not provide happiness.
The Dalai Lama also stated that “There is a growing feeling among the top leaders in China that their policies have not been able to solve the Tibet issue in the last 70 years. So they should follow a more realistic approach. Even though Tibet was an independent country, politically China occupies Tibet today.”
It is not certain that the top leadership in China believe that Beijing’s Tibet policies have not solved the Tibetan issue for good.
Looking at some current development, it seems the opposite.
The Dalai Lama concluded: “Under the given circumstances, I have been saying for some time now that there is a need to focus on preservation of Tibetan culture, religion and identity. It is no longer a struggle for political independence."
That is an aspect of the problem.

Tibetans in the Communist Party
Another issue should be worrying for India (if not the Tibetans): if the Tibetans become ‘Chinese nationals’ what will happen to the ‘Sino-Tibet’ border? Can we envisage Tibetans fighting Indians soldiers in the Himalaya one day?
A few days ago, The Tibet Daily in Lhasa published a Statistical Communiqué issued by the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) branch of the Communist Party of China.
On December 31, 2018, the total number of party members in the Autonomous Region was 382,000, a net increase of 18,000 from the previous year.
Further the Party has 21,000 grassroots organizations, an increase of 6.2% compared to 2017. Among them, there are 2,200 grassroots Communist Party’s Committees.

About Party members
•    Out of 382,000, there are 111,000 female party members, accounting for 28.8% of the total number of party members.
•    There are 312,000 minority party members, meaning Tibetans, which make 81.7% of the Communist card holders are local Tibetans. This represents more than 10% of the entire population of the TAR. It is consequent amount of the population who, for whatever reasons, are ‘Communists’ and working for China’s present ethos.
Some 113,000 party members aged 30 and below
71,000 party members aged 31 to 35
51,000 party members aged 36 to 40
39,000 party members aged 41 to 45
34,000 party members aged 46 to 50
24,000 members are between 51 to 55
18,000 party members aged 56 to 60,
and 32,000 party members aged 61 and over.
It shows that a lot of young Tibetans have joined the Communist Party.

•    Job Repartition
There are 13,000 workers (and technicians)
189,000 farmers and herdsmen
47,000 professional and technical personnel in enterprises, institutions and social organizations,
15,000 enterprises and institutions, social organization management personnel,
and 77,000 working in government organs.
Few others are students, professional staff and retired people.
A lot more statistics are given which is not useful to repeat here.

By the end of 2018, there were 77,000 applicants for party membership.
• There are 81 local Communist Party Committees at all levels of the party. Among them, there are 1 Party Committee for the TAR, 6 Municipal Committees (prefecture/city level) and 74 County (dzong) Committees.
• Cities, townships, neighborhood committees and villages have also Party Committees.
• 12 cities, 685 townships, 217 neighborhoods and 5261 recognized villages are covered by Party’s Committees.
• All the 44,000 government agencies in the region have established a Party organization.
• Some 2 million of institutions in the TAR are covered at 99.3% by Party organs; so are the public enterprises at 99.7%.
All this, of course, does not automatically bring happiness.
How the Dalai Lama’s scheme of ‘genuine autonomy’ fits into this scenario is not clear.

More worrying
But the most worrying aspect is the large presence of ethnic Tibetans in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP).
There are no reliable figures, as the Party obviously does not want the people to know how successful the integration of the Tibetan population into the PLA/PAP has been.
This should however cause genuine concerns in India.

How to find out?
For the PLA/PAP, one way to guess is to look at the composition of the local institutions which is in China often based on representative percentages.
If one takes as an example the composition of the 11th TAR People's Congress and the size of the PLA & PAP delegation in it; The Congress has 53 defense delegates (mostly middle level officers with a few senior officers). There are 31 are Han Chinese, 20 Tibetans, one Manchu and one Hui.
Of course, the Tibetan representation in the PLA/PAP is very far from this percentage, but it could indicate, future projections for the Party.
Today, the ‘ethnic’ representation in the PLA/PAP could be at the most 10% of troops serving on the plateau. But the above figures of the Regional Congress’ representation could suggest that in the future the Chinese aim to have a have a pool of junior officers in the TAR reaching 25-30% of the total PLA/PAP personnel posted in Tibet.
It will of course take a long time, as trust of the ‘ethnic minority’ is still lacking today.
This is a serious matter, which needs to be looked into by the Tibetans and India as it has serious implications for the future of the borders.
Incidentally, it is worth looking at the PLA delegation at the National People’s Congress (NPC). There are 269 members in the PLA/PAP delegation, out of 2980 members (75% are new faces).
In the PLA/PAP delegation are represented:
•    The Commanders of the Five Services
•    The Directors of the 15 Departments and Commissions
•    The Commanders of the Five Theater Commands (including Gen Zhao Zongqi for the Western Theater Command)
•    The Commandants of Military academies like the PLA National Defence University
•    and ‘Unknown’ soldiers/officers
Before the NPC gathering in March, it was announced that the current structure of the PLA delegation “has been optimized and fully demonstrated the Universality, Advancement and Representation. All the deputies are outstanding members drawn from all fronts.”
There are three relatively junior Tibetan officers in the Delegation:
Name: Yuk Bak Chu (?)
Delegation: PLA & PAP (1st Lt)
Ethnicity: Tibetan from Kangding, Sichuan
Date of birth: March 1989
Current position: deputy to the NPC
Name:  Tsering Tashi (?)
Delegation: PLA & PAP (Lt)
Ethnicity: Tibetan from Shannan
Date of birth: June 1990
Current position: deputy to the NPC
Name: Yang Chu Geshe (?)
Delegation: PLA & PAP (Sergeant)
Ethnicity: Tibetan from Aba, Sichuan
Date of birth: July  1990
Current position: deputy to the NPC
It is a fact that the leadership in Beijing does not fully trust the Tibetans, but there is nevertheless a clear will to bring more junior and middle-level Tibetans on board. Once again, it will become a challenge for India in the future, especially in the context of a post-Dalai Lama scenario.
Happiness is still a far away dream for the Tibetans; the Indian population bordering Tibet/China too, may suffer about the 'ethnic' changes in China's defense forces.

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