US News China: "The government imports into Tibet practices already tested in Xinjiang"
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Forced transfers, militarized training camps, displacement of populations : China is said to have set up a device in Tibet to force more than 500,000 rural workers out of poverty. These are the conclusions of an American study published on behalf of the Jamestown Foundation by German researcher Adrian Zenz, an expert on China, who was among the first to highlight the abuses perpetrated by the Chinese government against minorities in Xinjiang. Interview.
RFI: Why do you make the connection between the fate of the Uighurs in Xinjiang and that of the working poor in Tibet ?
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Adrian Zenz : The Chinese government imports into Tibet practices already tested in Xinjiang. In this case, it is a coercive program of training and professional relocation, extremely centralized and militarized. It consists of placing farmers and Tibetan nomads, who live below the poverty line, in training camps including military exercises, in order to organize their professional transfer. Since the beginning of 2020, the positions assigned to them are very often located outside the Tibet region.
The policy of the Chinese authorities also involves pushing these poor workers to give up their land and their cattle, which are transferred to state cooperatives, of which they become shareholders, before being employed as wage earners in Chinese factories.
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RFI: What are the similarities with the “ rehabilitation ” programs set up in Xinjiang?
There are very similar patterns, notably the raids of rural workers interned in militarized training buildings, as well as the forced placement devices put in place at the exit of these internment camps. In both cases, the focus is on questioning the traditional way of life of a minority "reluctant to change" and the ambition to erase their identity considered "backward" by the Chinese authorities.
RFI: What would be the objective of these practices in the particular case of Tibet ?
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The short-term political goal is to embrace the most emblematic promise of Chinese President Xi Jinping: the eradication of poverty. It turns out that poverty is measured by declared income, but the income of farmers and Tibetan nomads is very difficult to identify. They are very often self-sufficient and can live by bartering or trading in products from their land, which makes the measures complicated. The Chinese authorities cannot stand this uncertainty, and forcing these populations to take paid jobs makes it possible to claim that Tibetans have been lifted out of poverty.
The second objective is obviously social control. Tibetan farmers and nomads are notoriously difficult to control, they live independently, follow their own calendar and local customs, which has long been an affront to Beijing. These new devices will very quickly give the Chinese state considerable control over these populations.
► The study carried out by Adrian Zenz is available.
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