China Intensifies Legal Education Campaign in Rural Tibetan Area

(Photo source: Kham TV)
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Following China’s fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee in late October that declared rule of law or rule by law and legal reforms in China, the authorities in Tibetan areas in Sichuan Province have intensified “legal awareness” campaign in the Tibetan monasteries and villages.

Kham TV shows the authorities travel in rural villages in Ganze Prefecture with a Tibetan pony carrying China’s national emblem on its back and displaying written regulations on pray-flag-like-papers.

Critic however say that the campaign focuses only on what people are not allowed to do and avoids teaching people their constitutional rights.

Bapa Kalsang Gyaltsen, a senior China expert in Dharamsala, says what the campaign is really about, under the banner of legal education, is to make Tibetans follow the party and government orders.

Experts says that having to follow party’s order is the main problem in the new Chinese legal reform that was written during the 4th plenary meeting because it has no intention to separate the power of the Chinese legal system from the party.

Donald Clarke, a Chinese legal expert at George Washington University, sees many of legal reforms discussed during the fourth plenary meeting positive and that they could help improve China’s legal system, but he says the party still remains above the law.

“In the fourth plenum decision, we don’t see any hint of a desire to establish a system which would have any genuine separation of powers, which would have any institutions in government, which would truly independent from the party,” Clarke tells VOA Tibetan Service. This is the main reason that many international Chinese legal experts translated Chinese word Fazhi as “Rule by Law” although initially Xinhua translated it as “rule of law.”

Wall Street Journal reported on October 20th that the rule by law is nothing like rule of law. In the WSJ article, Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese language at the University of Pennsylvania, gave the example of rule by law as Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, the law that allowed Nazi party carry on anti-Semitism.

Tibetan experts like Mr. Bapa feels that in the context of Tibetans, Chinese legal system is also designed to crackdown on Tibetan freedom activists. “When the Tibetans legally raise their concerns and show their disapproval of Chinese government policies, China makes it illegal activity and calls them ‘Foreign separatists force’,” Mr. Bapa says, talking to VOA Tibetan Service. “So, they make the law to control the Tibetans and prevent their protests.”

China often claims that the religious and cultural rights of Tibetan people are protected in its constitution and that Tibetans are enjoying those rights. However, many Tibetans show their discontent in the Chinese legal system through different forms of protests. Since 2009, over a 130 Tibetans have self-immolated asking for Tibetan freedom, and return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.