The 2023 Xizang Development Forum, organized by the Chinese government, is currently underway in Beijing. This high-level international forum reportedly aims to "shed light on the development situation in Tibet and enhance global understanding of the region". The forum, ironically themed "New Era, New Xizang, New Journey: New Chapter in Xizang's High-quality Development and Human Rights Protection," is hosted by the State Council Information Office and the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region. China is trying to highlight Tibet's "development" and "human rights protection" to the world, while it continues to hide its grave human rights violations in the region it has unlawfully occupied.
The forum is nothing more than a farce, serving as a propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to showcase its version of development in Tibet. The CCP's narrative suggests that Tibet was previously underdeveloped and impoverished until the party brought progress to the region. Such claims have been refuted, as they overlook the exploitation of Tibet's resources under the guise of development.
Concerns regarding human rights violations in Tibet persist alongside the Xizang Development Forum. Numerous international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented cases of arbitrary arrests, religious suppression, cultural assimilation, and restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly in Tibet. These violations directly contradict the image of progress that the forum attempts to project.
Furthermore, the usage of the term "Xizang" instead of "Tibet" is also problematic. "Xizang" is the Mandarin Chinese term for Tibet and is an attempt to assert Chinese control over the region and downplay its distinct cultural and historical identity.
23 May also marks the 72nd anniversary of the controversial 17-point agreement between Tibet and China. This controversial document was forced upon an unwilling but helpless Tibetan government. China claims that the agreement "paved the way to Tobet's progress". That the forum is being held on this date could be a deliberate attempt to aid China's narrative.
In a "congratulatory letter" sent to the forum on the development of Tibet. Chinese President Xi Jinping said that "Tibet has achieved a moderately prosperous society in all respects along with the rest of the country". Continuing CCP's failed development propaganda, he added that "the problem of extreme poverty that had plagued the region for centuries" has been resolved.
Chinese-sponsored news portals and social media handles have been aggressively pushing content highlighting CCP's development propaganda for the last few days. Photos of a team of ambassadors and journalists from several foreign countries watching Tibetan opera at the Norbulingka in Lhasa and traveling in bullet trains have been doing rounds, pushing its narrative. We can't not laugh at the irony here given that China has imposed a tight information lockdown on occupied Tibet and access is denied to civil society and foreign journalists. Those who are allowed are taken on pre-orchestrated tours which showcase only those things China wishes them to see.
The Forum is a calculated move by the Chinese government to divert attention from the ongoing human rights abuses and occupation of Tibet. By presenting a distorted image of development, the Chinese authorities aim to mislead the international community and gain support for their actions. Inside Tibet, repression and violence are employed to silence the movement for Tibet's freedom, while outside of China, propaganda serves as a means to manipulate perceptions.
China's development propaganda in Tibet aims to divert attention from the ongoing human rights violations and lack of autonomy in the region. Tibetans continue to face arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and restrictions on their freedom of expression.
This forum should be seen as an attempt to whitewash the alleged crimes in occupied Tibet, and it is important for the global community not to be deceived by such efforts. As the event continues, global scrutiny should persist, holding the Chinese government accountable for its actions in Tibet. The world must not turn a blind eye to the alleged crimes and human rights violations, and it is essential to maintain pressure on China to respect the rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people.
Edited and collated by Team TRC