China’s Genocide Against Tibetans Is a Warning to Us All

August 23, 2021 Updated: August 23, 2021


An Aug. 19 speech in Tibet by Wang Yang, a member of China’s powerful politburo standing committee, illustrates the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) continued strategy of genocide against Tibetans, including those who adhere to Tibetan Buddhism.

The CCP’s assimilationist practices in Tibet, which were mirrored in Xinjiang, meet the U.N. and U.S. legal definitions of genocide, and should be considered more seriously by the international community. Until the international community takes relatively well-recognized genocides in Tibet, Xinjiang, and against the Falun Gong more seriously, the CCP will read our relative inaction as an allowance to extend its policies of “ethnic unity” and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and perhaps in the future to our own homes and territories.

Wang’s most recent speech provides significant evidence of state direction and intent, a key element of the legal definition of genocide. He reveals the CCP’s religious persecution in the “autonomous” region of Tibet as part of a broader project to sinicize and remove religion from the ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse population of China.

Wang delivered his speech to commemorate 70 years since the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet by the People’s Liberation Army. In fact, the 1950 invasion and subsequent subjugation of Tibet by the CCP was anything but peaceful, and led to the fall of Tibet’s ancient form of government, and the 1959 flight of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s religious leader, among 100,000 of his followers, to India.

According to Tibetan exiles in India and elsewhere, over 1.2 million Tibetans were killed, 100,000 imprisoned, and more than 6,000 monasteries destroyed. The CCP subjected much of the original Tibetan population of approximately six million to torture, forced labor, concentration camps, and rape.

Wang, who sits on China’s powerful poltiburo standing committee, attempted to whitewash this repressive history through his recent speech, but he instead provided contemporary evidence of state intent to commit genocide. The speech should solidify for international jurists an understanding of that intent as totalitarian and genocidal, in its project to cohere CCP power within the expanding borders of China. The CCP executes this intent through the linking and deployment of the ideas of sinicization and Chinese socialism against religious and ethnic minorities in the process of CCP extension of control through the conquest of territory and imposition of forced obedience on previously foreign populations.

Wang delivered his speech under an imposing four-story portrait of Xi Jinping before the Potala Palace in Lhasa, which is centuries old and sacred to Tibet’s Buddhist leaders. Ten thousand people attended.

Wang gave a similar speech in 2018, in which he called for “advancing anti-separatism efforts.” In Tibet, these efforts are primarily directed against the followers of Tibetan Buddhism, who are highly unlikely to achieve secession from China. The idea of Tibetan separatism, like that of Uyghur terrorism, is thus primarily a false justification used by the CCP to repress indigenous forms of religion.

Divide-and-conquer tactics are also used against religion. Stalin developed this model in Russia, as a praxis of communism that is now followed in contemporary China. The method is to recognize some elements of a religion but not others, then ultimately to try and destroy all religious elements. The CCP uses this against Tibetans by allowing some Tibetan Buddhists, but not all, to practice. Like the rest of China, though, there is increasing pressure not to practice religion. Even CCP members are essentially forbidden from religious observances on pain of expulsion from the Party.

Yet, approximately 85 percent of China’s population persists in practicing some form of spirituality, considering not only the CCP-recognized religions of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Taoism, but widespread spiritual practices that at times go beyond these religious forms, including praying, burning incense on festival days, worshipping images of deities, sweeping ancestor tombs during the Qing Ming Festival, sacred pilgrimages, meditation, and consultation of Feng Shui masters. Some of this is just traditional custom, rather than religion, but these customs have an element of spirituality to them and thus could at some point be targeted by the CCP. According to sociologist Richard Madsen, “Even about one-half of the self-identified atheists [in China] hold some religious beliefs, such as believing in supernatural forces, heaven, hell, or reincarnation.”

As the CCP’s campaign against religion progresses, no spiritual belief is safe, because widespread spiritual practice poses a threat to the CCP’s own ideology against religion. And for some in China, the practice of spirituality must be a conscious form of rebellion against the CCP. Spiritual practice in China is thus a weakness for the CCP in its attempt to present itself as an all-encompassing and perfect form of thought and action.

The CCP, therefore, seeks to remove religion from the areas under its control, while paying lip service to religious freedom and support for ethnic diversity. Don’t be fooled. The CCP’s policies against religion fit U.N. and U.S. definitions of genocide, which include attacks meant to wipe out religion, not just ethnicities. In 2020, Dr. Ellen Kennedy at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law called the persecution of Tibetans a “genocide” and “pattern” for the later genocide against Uyghurs.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese leader Xi Jinping (R) speaks with the Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Wang Yang (L) during the opening of the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on March 5, 2019. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The latest evidence of CCP genocide comes in Wang’s Aug. 19 claim that “We should see that religions in China are Chinese in orientation and guide Tibetan Buddhism in adapting itself to socialist society.” Wang said, “Only by following the CPC [CCP] leadership and pursuing the path of socialism, can Tibet achieve development and prosperity.”

While Wang attempted to claim CCP support for ethnic diversity and religious freedom in Tibet, he did so in the same breath as supporting a distinctively “Chinese” persecution of minority religion. “We have followed a sound policy with distinctive Chinese features of addressing ethnic issues,” he told the crowd. “We have ended ethnic discrimination and estrangement prevalent in the old society, crushed separatist and sabotage activities committed by the Dalai group and hostile external forces, and promoted common development and prosperity of all ethnic groups through joint efforts.”

Wang’s claims of ethnic diversity and religious freedom are typical of communist lies used in the persecution of religion. But, they fly in the face of the CCP’s persecution in Tibet.

The human rights magazine Bitter Winter published a report in February of systematic torture and rape of Buddhist nuns and girls in Tibet’s concentration camps, euphemistically called “reeducation camps,” that hold hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. Reportedly, China’s state security forces purposefully rape nuns, knowing that their monasteries will reject them after being so victimized.

In its coverage of Wang’s speech, the Guardian pointed out that “In Tibet, authorities have jailed and allegedly beaten monks and nuns, subjected villages to political education sessions, jailed people who promoted local languages, enacted mass surveillance, restrictions on daily life and education, and labour programmes. Authorities have promoted Mandarin in Tibet in what critics say is an attempt to erase culture. Mandarin is used in most Tibetan schools while the Tibetan language is taught as a subject.”

According to a 2019 Human Rights Watch report, former government employees in Tibet are forbidden from practicing Tibetan Buddhist religious activities.

Wang’s speech illustrates the continuing demands for sinicization, socialism, and obedience from all of China to Xi Jinping’s totalitarian rule. “We should unswervingly follow Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as our guide, strengthen our consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core and keep in alignment, enhance confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and uphold General Secretary Xi Jinping’s core position in both the Party Central Committee and the Party as a whole as well as the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,” Wang said in the speech.

Wang justified the CCP’s genocidal actions by claiming teleologically that the CCP was the end or “choice” of history, which impossibly personifies what is actually the determination of billions of people over millions of years. “We should keep in mind the extraordinary 100-year journey of the CPC [CCP] and keenly appreciate the fact that the CPC leadership is the choice of history and of the people,” he said.

The core of Wang’s speech deserves quotation in full as it illustrates the continuing CCP goal of state-building, assimilation of culture and religion, and crushing of dissent in Tibet.

“We should enhance harmony and stability in Tibet and ensure national security and stability in the border areas. Tibet now enjoys continued social stability: this is an achievement which has not come easily and must be all the more cherished. We should have a keen appreciation of the distinctive features of Tibet-related work at this stage, strengthen social governance and explore new ways of conducting it, and mobilize officials and the general public of all ethnic groups to forge an ironclad defense against separatist activities. We should see that religions in China are Chinese in orientation and guide Tibetan Buddhism in adapting itself to socialist society. And we should rally religious figures and believers around us in a joint effort to safeguard national security and social harmony. Tibet’s development over the past seven decades demonstrates that unity and stability is a blessing, whereas separatist activities and chaos can only lead to disaster. No one outside China has the right to point fingers at us when it comes to Tibetan affairs. Any attempt or maneuver designed to separate Tibet from China is doomed to fail.

“We should foster a strong sense of the Chinese nation as one community and advance ethnic unity and progress. The Chinese nation is one big family; harmony in this big family of ours brings prosperity. Only when we foster a strong sense of community of the Chinese nation and when all ethnic groups work together in unison with the same purpose in mind, can we create a mighty force to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Efforts to raise public awareness of ethnic unity and progress should go hand in hand with efforts to raise awareness of core socialist values, of patriotism, of struggle against separatist activities, of contrast between old and new Tibet, and of the Marxist views of country, history, ethnicity, culture and religion. Such efforts will enable people of all ethnic groups to strengthen their faith in our great motherland, the Chinese nation, the Chinese culture, the CPC [CCP] and socialism with Chinese characteristics, thus solidifying the cultural foundation for ethnic unity. A shared cultural identity underpins ethnic unity. The Chinese culture has always been a bond that fosters a sense of togetherness and belonging among people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. All-round efforts should continue to be made to teach standard spoken and written Chinese language. We should foster and share Chinese cultural symbols and images of the Chinese nation among all ethnic groups, and thus create a source of inspiration for the entire Chinese nation.”

The CCP’s continued goal of assimilation in Tibet yet again reveals to the world a dangerous and genocidal pattern of communist expansionism that emanates from Beijing. The CCP thus makes a massive and self-defeating mistake in its quest for power. Such mistakes continue today because one man, Xi Jinping, is leading the country with little apparent tolerance for diversity, and few guidelines other than an authoritarian reading of Confucianism and communist dogma from Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.

Epoch Times Photo
Protesters led by Tibetan Buddhist monks shout slogans and carry the Tibetan national flag after being blocked by riot police at a protest near the historic Labrang Monastery, which is second only to the Potala Palace in Lhasa in size, in the town of Xiahe, Gansu Province, on March 14, 2008. The protests coincided with a week of protests against Chinese rule inside Tibet, which began with demonstrations marking the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising by Tibetans. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)

Xi’s crackdown on his internal adversaries, including through religious and political persecution under the banners of unity and anti-corruption, has led those who remain around him to be yes-men who tell Xi what he wants to hear. The CCP’s yes-men problem was even recognized by George Soros, writing in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 13.

What Xi apparently wants to hear is that he is the greatest man in China since Mao Zedong, and that China has to get tough, “crush” internal “enemies,” including China’s own indigenous religions, and eventually rule the world through authoritarian socialism’s supposedly superior ethics, science, and efficiency. Xi, like many of his communist predecessors, apparently wants to replace all competing systems of belief, including religion, with his personal version of communism.

The revelation of these goals of assimilation and genocide, through their implementation against Tibetans, Uyghurs, and the Falun Gong, is a mistake for the CCP beyond the obvious ethical problem, because they warn the world of what the CCP might impose upon all of us in the future. The goal of eradicating religion must also take a terrible ethical toll on those CCP members caught up in the hierarchy, but who do not support genocidal goals and means. This creates opportunities for internal, albeit usually hidden, dissent within the CCP.

Unfortunately, many around the world are not paying attention, or believe the CCP story of mere assimilation. This encourages the expansion of atrocities from Tibet and Xinjiang, to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and perhaps further afield. To understand the CCP’s genocidal goals and means, along with its growing power, and not to take greater defensive action, is unfortunately a form of slow suicide for the rest of the world’s wonderfully diverse cultures.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”