Rights Group Speaks Out Against Surveillance in Tibet

As a long wave of protest by self-immolation in Tibet rages on, Beijing has been taking special measures to crackdown in the region. In addition to detaining Tibetans accused of “inciting self-immolation,” plans to upgrade state surveillance in Tibetan regions of China were announced in February, much to the chagrin of international advocacy group Human Rights Watch. Radio Free Asia reports:

A bid by Beijing to expand a new surveillance and security system across Tibet significantly increases the monitoring particularly of ex-prisoners and exile returnees and raises tensions in a region already gripped by resentment against Chinese rule, a human rights organization said Thursday.

Official documents described the new system, created as a “grid” of community-based information-gathering units, as designed to improve public access to basic services.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the system is part of an effort to expand even further a longstanding practice of carrying out security policies more restrictively in Tibet than in most of the rest of China.

Expansion of the grid system “means that surveillance is now a pervasive part of life across the region,” HRW said.

A Human Rights Watch report details the “grid,” and explains the organization’s concerns with the system:

Official documents describe the new system, known as “grid” (Tib.: drwa ba, Ch.: wangge) management, as designed to improve public access to basic services. But the system also significantly increases surveillance and monitoring, particularly of “special groups” in the region – former prisoners and those who have returned from the exile community in India, among others. Expansion of the grid system, alongside the construction across Tibet of over 600 “convenience police-posts” with high-tech equipment to monitor daily life, and increasingly active volunteer security groups known as “Red Armband Patrols” (Tib.: dpung rtag dmar po) in 2012, means that surveillance is now a pervasive part of life across the region.

“Chinese authorities should dismantle this Orwellian ‘grid’ system, which has been imposed while the government continues to avoid addressing popular grievances,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “Its purpose appears to be surveillance and control, and it encroaches on Tibetans’ rights to freedom of expression, belief, and association.”

[…]The new grid system grows out of the nationwide “social stability maintenance” (Ch.: weiwen) policy drive, and establishes a new sub-local layer to the administrative system in urban and rural areas across China. According to one Chinese scholar, the grid system is designed to ensure that “information is proactively gathered about people, events, and things so as to build up a database of urban components and events … through which relevant departments and work units can proactively uncover problems in a timely manner.”

Also see prior CDT coverage of protest in Tibet, self-immolation and surveillance.


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