The main Chinese leader in Tibet praised his country’s progress in the region’s development, touting a campaign of ethnic assimilation that has fueled international accusations of human rights violations.

“More and more believers have been formed from the pursuit of a good afterlife to a good life in this life, and religion is more and more compatible with a socialist society,” said Wu Yingjie, chief. of the Communist Party of Tibet, during a press briefing in Beijing on Saturday.

Wu also listed a wide range of ways the ruling party has transformed the region where most people are Buddhists – from building schools and cobblestone roads to improving health care – as China celebrates. Sunday the 70th anniversary of an agreement giving him control of the region. .

The event puts a renewed emphasis on Tibet as China faces widespread criticism of its policies in Xinjiang, where several Western countries say Beijing is committing genocide. Tibet and Xinjiang have long undergone intense social, security and religious controls, as China strives to suppress what it calls terrorist and separatist elements while providing economic opportunities.

In September last year, prominent Xinjiang researcher Adrian Zenz released a report alleging that Beijing was instituting a system of mass labor in Tibet similar to the one that trapped Muslim Uyghurs. The governor of Tibet, Qi Zhala, said at the time that this forced labor transfer “does not exist” as the maintenance of the local government is focused on vocational training.

“Equitable education”

On Saturday, Qi and Wu focused on the Chinese government’s efforts to provide education for Tibetans.

“Almost all of the best buildings are schools,” Wu said. “Fair and equitable education is taken very seriously by government at all levels. There is a lot of funding and contribution. “

Wu said that “Chinese culture as a whole has always provided a sentimental bond and a sense of belonging to all ethnic groups” in the western region he leads.

“Tibetan Buddhism is an important part of Chinese culture, and Tibetan cultures are important parts of Chinese culture,” he said.

Wu Yingjie, leader of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet | REUTERS

The People’s Republic of China asserted its sovereignty over Tibet in 1951 as part of a broader effort by Mao Zedong’s communists to consolidate control of the territory historically claimed by China before decades of colonialism, war and conflict. internal. The Dalai Lama fled to India with help from the Central Intelligence Agency to escape government crackdown in 1959, and a Tibetan independence movement has continued ever since.

Riots broke out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 2008 over allegations of religious oppression, killing at least a dozen people. A wave of self-immolations by ethnic Tibetans followed a few years later.

Beijing has blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating the unrest, and this sentiment continues to be expressed by Chinese officials who see religion as the root cause of some of Tibet’s greatest challenges. The Chinese Communist Party is officially an atheist.

Deadly skirmishes

The continued presence of the Dalai Lama in India complicates China’s relations with the South Asian nation. China and India have at times fought deadly skirmishes along their disputed 3,488-kilometer border last year and early 2021, though tensions have eased in recent months

Earlier in May, Foreign Policy reported that China was building villages inside Bhutan, the Buddhist kingdom with which it also shares a border. The magazine concluded that it was part of a campaign led by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to “fortify the Tibetan borders”.

Neither Wu nor Qi answered questions from Bloomberg News at the briefing, one of several held by Communist Party officials as President Xi prepares to celebrate the ruling party’s 100th anniversary in July.

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