'Anything But Humane' Tibetan Exposes China from the Inside

A high-ranking Communist Party official has written a book exposing the crimes of the Chinese against Tibetans. His fellow party members still don't suspect that he has defected to the opposition.


A Tibetan who once believed in the Chinese Communist Party and carved out a career within the Beijing bureaucracy has now decided to publish a damning report of China's policies in his country. To protect his anonymity, the official, who is known nationwide, met secretly with SPIEGEL at a restaurant in a Chinese provincial city. He hopes that what he has written about the oppression of his people will be published as a book in the West, thereby exerting pressure on leaders in Beijing.

Dorjee Rinchen got up very early on Oct. 23, 2012, the last day of his life. The 58-year-old turned the Buddhist prayer wheels at the Labrang Monastery, then returned to his hut, cleaned up and went back to the monastery.

Near the police station on the main street of Xiahe, a town in China's Gansu Province, the Tibetan farmer poured gasoline over his body and lit himself on fire. Images taken with mobile phones show the man, engulfed in flames, running down the street until he falls to the ground.

Police and soldiers immediately appeared on the scene, jostling with bystanders trying to take Dorjee's charred body to his house, according to Tibetan custom. The officers eventually relented.

Dorjee is one of more than 100 Tibetans who have turned to self-immolation since March 2011 in protest of Chinese rule in Tibet. Another man, who also took his life a few days later, left behind a letter that sums up the sentiments of these unfortunate people: "There is no freedom in Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not allowed to return home. The Panchen Lama is in prison."

The mood is desperate in the region known as the "Roof of the World." Never before have so many Tibetans sacrificed their lives in this manner to draw the world's attention to their fate. But not everyone believes this is the right approach. A few hundred kilometers from the Labrang Monastery, a high-ranking Communist Party official is shaking his head in disapproval. The self-immolations, he says, are an "overreaction, an excessively radical act. Buddhism forbids suicide."

And yet he can understand the motives, he says. Conditions are dramatic in his native Tibet. "The economic situation, the standard of living, culture and education have greatly improved in Tibet, he says. But the government exacts too high a price from Tibetans in return for this development, he adds, noting that Beijing is trying to discipline them with violence. "There is substantial surveillance and limited freedom."

The man is a senior official in the Communist Party. He is well known, not only in Tibet but also throughout China, and no one suspects him of being a member of the opposition. He is one of the privileged, someone who long believed in the promised goal of a socialist China, one in which not only the Han Chinese, but also Tibetans and all other ethnic groups would lead a better life.

But now he intends to make a stand. "I am a Tibetan, and I work in the government. I have the authority to describe what is really going on," he says.

'Far Worse Than the West Suspects'

He has served the Chinese government since youth. Like many Tibetans, he had who come to terms with the fact that Beijing has ruled their country since the Chinese army invaded in 1950. These individuals include party officials, police officers, propagandists, journalists and engineers, all of whom behave like people who want to live in peace under foreign rule. They assimilate, parrot the party slogans and enjoy their growing affluence, though they often feel miserable in the end.

This helps to explain why this contemporary witness sat down and penned an account of the more recent history of Tibet, as seen through his eyes. He focuses on what the propagandists and chroniclers working for the system suppress or sugarcoat, writing: "Everything was and still is far worse than people in the West suspect."

He is determined to remain anonymous for as long as possible. "I don't want to mention my name, I don't want you to mention my profession, and you can only describe the place where I live in general terms," he says.

He aims to have the book published abroad, which is his only option, of course. If it emerged that he, a respected official, were in fact a Tibetan dissident who compares the "fate of the Tibetans" with that of the Jews under the Nazis, his comfortable existence would quickly come to an end. He could face a prison term and possibly even the death penalty.

The book is written in Mandarin, the language of the rulers in Beijing. The author wants as many people as possible to understand his people, who, as he says, have been "plunged into pools of blood and purgatorial fire" in exchange for a foreign utopia.

Ironically, some Tibetans were initially pleased to see the Chinese invade Tibet, because the new masters brought the promise of modernity and prosperity. They believed that the Communists, led by Mao Zedong, would help them liberate themselves from a brutal dictatorship of monks. The Tibetan people lived a harsh life under the thumb of monasteries and the aristocracy, who oppressed their subjects, treated them like serfs and whipped them into submission.

But the mood changed when the Chinese government, under Mao, did not keep its promise to allow the Tibetans to maintain their traditions and religion. The collectivization of agriculture proved to be especially devastating. Tibetan nomads were forced to settle in so-called people's communes, destroying their traditional way of life. By the 1950s, there was growing unrest.

Atrocities and Brutal Policies

In the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976), the Red Guards, including many Tibetans, attacked their supposedly "revisionist" and "imperialist" countrymen. Thousands of monks were beaten to death or put in camps, and ancient relics were destroyed. The Red Guards used their artillery to flatten hundreds of monasteries.

The Communist Party officials wanted to destroy the culture of their subjects. Tibetan women, for example, were made to wear the kinds of trousers worn by Han Chinese women, and helpers cut off their braids. Clan elders and abbots were sent to reeducation camps, where they were forced to study Mao's directives every day.

The Chinese military brutally crushed any rebellions. When monks killed a corporal in the People's Liberation Army in 1956, a Chinese cavalry regiment exacted its revenge in the town of Qiuji Nawa in Gansu Province with an attack on about "200 innocent women and children. They surrounded a tent, threw hand grenades inside and then fired at it."

The author quotes a former soldier who witnessed a similar massacre: "Some women were stabbed in the vagina with swords and their chests were split open. Some two- and three-year-old children were grabbed and thrown into the Yellow River."

In the early 1980s, the Communist Party had to admit that it had "seriously harmed the interests of the people" with its brutal policy. By then, Tibet had become a permanently restive region. As the Communist Party official writes, Beijing's claim that "millions of Tibetan farmers" had become "masters of their own house under the party's leadership" proved to be nothing but propaganda.

In his opinion, there are many reasons for the unrest and the rage of Tibetans. One is that the long-cherished hope that the Dalai Lama could one day return home from India, where the Tibetan government in exile has its headquarters, is beginning to fade. Beijing condemns him as a "traitor" and refuses to even consider talks.

It was an affront to Beijing when, in 1987, the Dalai Lama spoke to members of the United States Congress in Washington, where he presented his Five Point Peace Plan. He demanded, among other things, that Beijing put an end to the immigration of Han Chinese to Tibet and its use of the Tibetan Plateau as a nuclear waste dump. According to the Communist Party official, after the visit "a new spirit of opposition began to grow among young intellectuals and a few officials, as well as laborers, farmers and shepherds."


Discuss this issue with other readers!
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Inglenda2 07/16/2013
1. In the end, they are all the same.
Why does the western media so often turn to former communist countries for stories about breaches of human rights? The government members of these nations may be in many cases corrupt, brutal criminals, but are the pseudo democracies any better, not to mention those lands which suffer under religious domination. Sometimes, it would appear, that we Europeans are living in a dream world, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the horrible truth around us! We welcome new cultures within our midst, although the adherents of the same openly admit, they are not prepared to accept the local laws or customs. It is not just China which oppresses its own and other peoples, the Russians and most Muslim governments do the same. The abuse of power is not a question of politics, religion or ethnic heritage, it is the curse of human selfishness. While the leaders of Arab nations, China and White Russia have no false inferiority about sending armed forces to mow down dissidents in regions under their control, Israel and the western democracies prefer a more sophisticated approach. Adversaries or persons believed to be such, are quietly removed from the scene with the method of targeted killing, very frequently concealed under the camouflage of a contrived suicide. How much from that which is said about human rights can be believed, is to be perceived in the actions of those responsible for international trade agreements. The washing of hands in public, whether it be just be a question spying on friends, or the suppression of whole populations, unfortunately did not stop with the collapse of the Roman Empire. Will we ever wake up?
Frappuccino 07/16/2013
2. Black propaganda
Anonymously? or CIA agent with clever trick they play here?
spon-facebook-10000185504 07/17/2013
3. optional
Genocide is spread across the earth. No country has clean hands. What makes the situation in Tibet especially vivid is the spiritual commitment of the people and the culture. This makes the degradation of the sacred all the more poignant and offensive, even to the spiritual core of the Chinese people which is, after all, China’s best hope to realize its own greatness.
Manish Gupte, PhD 07/17/2013
4. china's currency manipulation is good!
china subsidized exports by buying dollars to keep it's currency low. Now, each time they did that, they had to buy even more dollars to maintain that rate. So..they wound up their currency. Boycott chinese products! That will push them down..it is likely they made a fake report about 7.5% growth and their efforts to manipulate currency are failing.. http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=USD&to=CNY&view=1Y
pcohen 07/17/2013
5. tibet
The tragedy is the Tibetans who suffered centuries under an often repressive and feudal theocracy found not much of a relief under Chinese rule.
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