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Truth, Compassion, Resistance and Solidarity: speech for the 64th anniversary of the Tibet Uprising

Today marks the 64th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising. CCP’s invasion and occupation of Tibet have brought much suffering to the Tibetan people. These include not only suppression of civil and political rights, religious freedom and cultural genocide, but also the economic exploitation of millions of Tibetans. Today I want to highlight this economic exploitation on three levels: land seizure, the plundering of resources, and labour exploitation. I hope that the discussion of these issues may provide new perspectives for finding a way out for the Tibetan people.

Since the occupation of Tibet, the CCP carried out two rounds of looting of Tibetan land and resources. The first round was from the 1950s to the early1980s, the second round is from 2000 to the present. In the 1950s, in the name of ‘land reform’, the CCP confiscated the land traditionally used by Tibetans for farming and grazing, forcing farmers and nomads to join communes. The command economy led to long-term poverty and famine among Tibetan farmers and nomads. The Tibetan land was used by the CCP as a strategic foundation to build military bases, third-line factories, forest farms and agricultural farms to exploit resources in Tibet.

The second round of land seizure in Tibet started around 2000 and is still ongoing. The implementation is in the name of ‘relocation and resettlement’, ‘national parks’, ‘border villages’, ‘poverty alleviation’ and so on. The land-grabbing goes hand in hand with the plundering of natural resources including grasslands, forests, minerals and water resources. Industrialisation and urbanization have not benefited the Tibetan people but turned Tibet into a vital source for the supply chains of the world factory that China has presented itself to be. Many companies and politicians in the West have been complicit in this process.

Over the past 20 years or so, the CCP has driven more than two million Tibetan farmers and herders out of their land. Some of them have become unemployed, while others have become ‘cheap labour’ in the gig economy. Since Tibetans are forced to use Chinese in both education and work, not only are they at a disadvantage in finding a job, but even Tibetans with the same or higher skill levels are paid only one-third of the wages of the Han Chinese. This is one of the reasons why the proportion of Tibetans living in poverty is much higher than that of the Chinese.

Workers in the gig economy are inevitably subjected to further exploitation due to their scattered and disorganized status. Only by developing independent labour organizations can Tibetan workers protect their rights. Under CCP’s tight control, it is very difficult for Tibetans in Tibet to form independent trade unions, and this is where Tibetan exiles can play an important role. There is a lot we can learn from the experiences of workers’ organizations in other countries including the UK and Ireland, to build a broader alliance with the international labour movement.

Last November, the White Paper movement erupted in China. A number of Tibetan students and workers, especially women, had been actively involved. From what we know so far, Tibetan students and workers who are still in detention are all women, including Tsering Lhamo, Zamkar, Dechen, Kalsang Dolma and Delha. This is similar to the situation of Chinese participants. Most of those arrested were also women. Women are leading this new round of movement. The White Paper movement including class, nationalities and gender issues, has provided an opportunity for Tibetans and Chinese to fight together against the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party and to fight for our freedoms shoulder to shoulder. 



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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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