China steps up repression in Xinjiang and Tibet, rights group says — Radio Free Asia

In 2021, China increased its repression of ethnic minorities in Tibet and the northwestern region of Xinjiang, greatly curtailing religious freedom and pursuing forced assimilation policies aimed at creating a single national identity, a rights group said Thursday.

State measures taken in Xinjiang in particular constituted “crimes against humanity”, with atrocities including mass imprisonment and forced disappearances, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its 2022 world report.

Chinese officials also committed torture, mass surveillance, cultural and religious persecution, forced labor and family segregation, the rights group said, adding that information flows from the region had largely been blocked during the year.

“The authorities maintained strict control over information, [and] access to the region that was already blocked was further restricted due to COVID-19 movement restrictions, “said HRW.

Some Uighurs detained by police, however, were confirmed to have been jailed, “including prominent academic Rahile Dawut, though her alleged crime, length of sentence and location of the jail remained unclear.”

“There were also reports of Uighurs who died in detention, including biotech researcher Mihriay Erkin, 31, businessman Yaqub Haji, 45, and poet and publisher Haji Mirzahid Kerimi, 82,” HRW said.

Chinese authorities in Tibetan territories meanwhile continue to restrict freedom of religion, expression, movement and assembly, the rights group said. “They also fail to address the popular concerns about mining and land grabbing by local officials, which often involve the intimidation and illicit use of force by security forces.”

Tighter control over online communication during the year led to an increasing number of detentions in 2021. Tibetans caught communicating with people outside China were severely punished “regardless of the content of their communication.”

Forced assimilation policies also continued during the year, with Chinese teaching made compulsory in schools in ethnic minority areas by 2021, and even kindergartens being ordered to use Chinese as a teaching aid, Human Rights Watch said.

“At least eight Tibetan prisoners or suspects were released due to ill health, some due to torture, four of whom died shortly after, although the true number is unknown due to extreme information control in Tibet,” the rights group added.

Freedom of movement, freedom of speech suppressed

In a speech to RFA, Sophie Richardson – China director at Human Rights Watch – said it has become increasingly difficult for the rights group to get reliable information out of Tibetan territory.

“The Chinese government has used [COVID-19] pandemic to suppress both freedom of movement and freedom of expression across the country, ”she said.

“We have seen repeated lockdowns and it has become more difficult for journalists, diplomats and independent activists to move around the country and report freely.”

“If the Chinese government has nothing to hide across the Tibetan plateau, then it should allow the free flow of information, not the lack of it,” Richardson said.

The cynicization of Tibetan religion and language is now the Chinese government’s main priority in Tibetan territories, said Tenzin Dorjee, a former commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“Now with the appointment of a US Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, we urge the US Coordinator and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom to take a stronger stance on China’s restrictions on religious freedom with regard to Tibetan Buddhists in Tibet,” Dorjee said.

Written in English by Richard Finney, with reporting by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service.

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