Study: China Has Forced 500,000 Tibetans into Labor Camps This Year

Tibetans living in exile wait to take part in an event to mark the 61st anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day that commemorates the 1959 Tibetan uprising, in McLeod Ganj on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP) (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

China allegedly pushed over half a million rural Tibetans into forced labor camps in the first seven months of 2020, mirroring its concentration camps for Uyghurs in western Xinjiang.

A new study published on Tuesday by the Jamestown Foundation details how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forced over 500,000 Tibetans into military-style camps designed to train “rural surplus laborers” into industrial workers in the first half of this year. After completing their so-called “vocational training,” which includes political indoctrination, the Tibetans were transferred to work in factories across China, according to government quotas.

Chinese officials regularly use the term “vocational training” to refer to concentration camps, particularly those in Xinjiang where Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities face indoctrination, torture, and slavery. Estimates by the U.S. government suggest China has imprisoned as many as three million people in over 1,000 Xinjiang concentration camps in the past three years.

Reuters said on Tuesday that it reviewed “over a hundred state media reports, policy documents from government bureaus in Tibet and procurement requests released between 2016-2020” corroborating the study’s findings.

An official notice posted to the website of Tibet’s regional government in August reveals that, of the 500,000 Tibetans pushed into the training camps in the first half of this year, “50,000 have been transferred into jobs within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China.”

China has occupied Tibet since 1950, when Chinese troops seized control of the region in what Beijing described as a “peaceful liberation.” Tibet has since become one of China’s most restricted regions.

The CCP’s training camp model has been previously used in its western Xinjiang territory to detain an estimated one million Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities native to the region. In a similar system, Uyghurs are also forced to undergo “vocational training” and political indoctrination before they are transferred to work in factories in Xinjiang and other parts of China.

According to the Tibetan study’s researchers, the two systems are conspicuously linked by “the former Tibet Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who took over the same post in Xinjiang in 2016 and spearheaded the development of Xinjiang’s camp system.” Chen remains the current Communist Party Secretary in Xinjiang.

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