Why the World Should Care About Language in Inner Mongolia

Yet another example of Chinese government repression and attempts at cultural genocide:

On August 26 China passed a law to sideline teaching in the Mongolian language in the region of Inner Mongolia (also referred to as Southern Mongolia). This measure, which sparked immediate protests, will create irreparable losses not just for ethnic Mongolians, but also for many cultures around the world.

What is at stake here is not just the spoken language, but an 800-year-old script with a multicultural lineage that emanated from the golden era of the Silk Route.

Mongolian, as a language, is still widely spoken in independent Mongolia, but the “Mongolian script” was largely lost after the Russians introduced Cyrillic in the 1940s, when Stalin sought to control the country as a buffer against China. This makes the Inner Mongolians, who are currently under Chinese rule, the last custodians of the script. For academics, historians, linguists, and cultural aficionados, the Mongolian script holds the key to historical links between cultures that were forged during the Silk Route era and earlier. Understanding this connection might help people realize that this is not Mongolia’s fight alone.

For decades, China’s ongoing efforts to assimilate its minorities had it cracking down harshly on the religions, and languages of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongolians. These are all largely nomadic cultures that were propagators of multicultural exchanges at the height of the Silk Route era.

Like the Tibetans and the Uyghurs, who have been struggling against Chinese hegemony, Mongolians have been protesting since August, but punitive measures taken by the Chinese government leave Mongolians with little choice but to concede.

“This is the final blow to our culture,” said Enghebatu Togochog, director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center.  “The world should know that it is not simply a language issue. This strikes at the very heart and existence of our national identity. If we lose our language we lose everything. We’ve already lost political autonomy, our nomadic way of life, and our environment. This is cultural genocide.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, in the independent state of the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR), a democratic revolution in 1990 pushed for a switch from Russian Cyrillic to the old Mongolian script. That idea, however, received little interest and gained no traction. Parents saw it as a hindrance to their children’s future prospects at the time. But the recent protests in the Inner Mongolian region have made Mongolians in the MPR realize what they failed to in 1990. The significance and threat to their cultural, intellectual, and literary heritage is now being viewed through a new lens.

“Public opinion in MPR has changed drastically since China’s crackdown on Inner Mongolia,” said Otgonsuren Jargaliin, an outer Mongolian teacher, linguist, and environmental activist. “Mongolians now see the urgent need to preserve and protect this ancient script and not take it for granted. They now appreciate that 80 years of Cyrillic is not on par with 800 years of a writing that is our lineage and ancestry.”

She pointed out that as recently as last week MPR National Television was now carrying subtitles not only in Cyrillic, but also in the old Mongolian script, which was a new development.

The Mongolian Script

The story of the Mongolian script starts with Genghis Khan. In 1204 he appointed the Uyghur scholar Tatatunga to develop a unifying script after he established his empire. The new Mongolian script was adapted from an old Uyghur script.

The Uyghurs today are Turkic-speaking Muslims, descended from the Uyghur Khaganate, a nomadic kingdom in Mongolia, which was predominantly Manichaean and then later Buddhist. It lasted from 744 to 840 CE. It was while they were Manicheans that the Uyghurs adopted their script from the Sogdians. By the 16 century, however, the Uyghurs had transitioned to the Arabic script and were no longer using their own.

The Sogdians, meanwhile, were the remnant traders of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire, who capitalized on economic opportunities along the Silk Route from the fourth to ninth centuries. Like many Silk Route traders, they exported not just material goods but fashion, culture, religion, arts, and language. Their script had its roots in Aramaic.

The Uyghurs replaced the Sogdians as custodians of the script from the eighth to the beginning of the 13th century, when Genghis Khan introduced it to his new empire, the largest contiguous one the world had ever seen. As the lingua franca of the Mongolian Empire, the script was used widely connecting east with west, the Pacific to the Mediterranean.

The history of the script, therefore, offers a well documented evolution of a writing that originated from the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, and traveled across time and cultures through the Silk Route. The script’s history tells us how people from vast geographical backgrounds were connected, often not out of choice, but nevertheless linked through trade and travel. It shows us how our ancestries and heritages are all interlinked and interconnected.

The indigenous nomadic tribes from different cultures, along with traders from different regions and countries, brought a broader understanding of a socio-cultural world through their free movement along the Silk Route. Unlike China’s nationalistic ideology, they were not confined to a specific religion, nationality, ethnicity, language, or geographical boundary. This was what promoted cultural connectivity and created an era of great cultural exchange.

Today China is trying to recreate its idea of a Silk Route through its “One Belt, One Road” foreign policy and economic strategy, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative. But what China fails to recognize is that the success of the original Silk Route was due to its recognition and acceptance of the many cultures it spanned and encountered. Cultural legacies were embraced and valued rather than wiped out along the way in the name of uniformity. The Belt and Road Initiative can’t replicate the success of the Silk Route if it persecutes the very people and cultures, like the Mongolians, that made the original routes last for centuries.

The irony is that, in trying to recreate the Silk Road through its nationalistic lens, China may once again end up with something that is just another “Made in China” imitation.

Source: Why the World Should Care About Language in Inner Mongolia

Mason: It’s time to kick the Confucius Institute out of Canada

Hard to disagree:

In its 2019 annual report, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians documented an array of efforts by foreign powers to exert a corrosive influence over other countries, including this one.

To little surprise, the People’s Republic of China was identified as one of the worst offenders.

The report drew particular attention to a PRC law that directs all Chinese entities and individuals to contribute to state security and co-operate with intelligence services. The edict, the document noted, extends to Chinese groups and individuals operating outside the country.

It’s an all-encompassing doctrine fundamental to the country’s approach to statecraft, one rooted in the belief that there are two ways to gain power and influence over others: weapons, and language and culture.

Which brings us to the Confucius Institute.

This week, The Globe and Mail published yet another disturbing story about how Beijing is using these Chinese-backed educational operations for potentially nefarious means. E-mails and other documents obtained by The Globe verify what has long been suspected: There is far more going on at these operations than simply teaching Mandarin.

The records show that Beijing-based Confucius Institute administrators demand reports from those running their operations abroad on “external affairs,” including local political activities. It documented the control that the Communist Party exerts over the curriculum. The Globe watched a video of children at an institute in the Metro Vancouver city of Coquitlam standing in their classroom, pumping their fists and chanting: “I am proud! I am Chinese!” It could have been any classroom in Shenzhen.

Administrators in this same school district have come under fire in the past, for taking all-expenses-paid junkets to Beijing and other cities courtesy of the Chinese government. Students have also made these trips, which are intended to allow these folks an opportunity to witness firsthand all of the wonderful and joyous things the Chinese government is doing for its people.

It’s doubtful that any recent tours have included stops at the prisons where Canadian hostages Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are being kept. Or the detention camps where the Chinese government has rounded up innocent Muslim Uyghurs. But I digress.

But not everyone sees the Confucius Institutes as innocently as school administrators in Coquitlam and elsewhere do. Several school districts, including in Toronto, have long since terminated their relationships with the organization, as have a few Canadian universities; New Brunswick plans to do the same by 2022. This has become a trend in the United States as well, where a number of colleges have said farewell to Confucius operations on their campuses.

The alarms down south have been sounded both by academics and top security officials. FBI director Christopher Wray testified before Congress in July, 2019, that the institutes offer the Chinese government a platform to disseminate “Communist Party propaganda, encourage censorship and to restrict academic freedom.”

This spring, meanwhile, Sweden became the first European country to shut down all CI operations in that country. While the government there had the same concerns about the institutes being mere propaganda arms of the Chinese government, it was also unquestionably influenced by the unjust detention of Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who was sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese jail for selling texts that were critical of President Xi Jinping.

It’s appalling that we, in Canada, allow Confucius Institutes to operate under the present circumstances. We have no laws or protections to force organizations acting in the interest of foreign powers to be registered and accountable. The United States, for instance, recently demanded that any Confucius Institutes that remain in the country register as a foreign mission. This means they must submit reports about their funding, personnel, curriculum and other activities. The Chinese government was furious.

In 2018, Australia passed the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act, which forces foreign-controlled entities to be much more accountable about their activities. It’s a law we should be bringing in here to thwart the unfettered access foreign governments seem to have in this country.

I fully support teaching the Chinese language and Chinese history in our schools. But we should fully control that curriculum, at any level. It should not be provided by others, especially by agents of a corrupt, oppressive regime that has kidnapped two of our countrymen in a subversive act of hostage diplomacy.

Under the present circumstances, there is no shame in saying that the Confucius Institute is not welcome here. The shame is that it still is.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-its-time-to-kick-the-confucius-institute-out-of-canada/

Businesses mark 50th anniversary with calls for Canada to end Meng Wanzhou case, broaden trade

Silence is complicity. Shameful:

Members of the Canada-China business establishment in Beijing applauded a senior Chinese official who demanded the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and held Ottawa solely responsible for problems between the two countries.

Loud clapping rang out in a ballroom at the Four Seasons hotel in the Chinese capital on Tuesday when vice-minister of commerce Wang Shouwen called for Ms. Meng to “come back to her homeland as soon as possible.” He was speaking at a dinner for the Canada-China Business Council annual general meeting.

The room remained quiet when the Canadian government asked for equal treatment. Silence followed when Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, called for the release of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who are being held in spartan Chinese detention centres, and requested clemency for Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian sentenced to death on drug charges. It was silent, too, when Canadian ambassador Dominic Barton called for the same.

Nearly two years after the arrest of Ms. Meng in the Vancouver airport at the request of U.S. authorities, a gulf is widening between Canadians who want little to do with Beijing and those with financial interests in China who see acquiescence to Beijing’s demands as the simplest way out of the impasse.

“That this issue has been dragging is frustrating,” said Olivier Desmarais, the scion of one of Canada’s most influential corporate families who is senior vice-president of Power Corp. and chairs the business council.

Members of the group “very much want to see these legal cases resolved,” Mr. Desmarais said in a videotaped address to the dinner on Tuesday night, in a reference to Ms. Meng and the two Canadians.

The scallop and strip-loin dinner sponsored by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and several Canadian firms was the closest the two countries came to a commemorative event on Tuesday for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Leaders in Ottawa and Beijing did not have a phone call to mark the date, which in the past has been feted as a moment Canada helped spark broad Western recognition of Communist-run China. This year, it comes amid an intractable dispute.

Montreal-headquartered Power Corp. has long held a position of unique influence between the two countries, and Mr. Desmarais’s comments express a sentiment that has grown among a business establishment that sees China as a place of long-term growth and an immediate salve to the pain of the pandemic. While Canada’s worldwide exports fell 16.7 per cent in the first seven months of the year, they were up 2.2 per cent to China.

“The Chinese market is incredibly important to Canadian jobs,” with salaries that “depend on a strong continued relationship,” Mr. Desmarais said.

A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that Canadian public opinion toward China has plunged to levels never before recorded, with 73 per cent now holding unfavourable views of the country.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, too, has adopted a more skeptical posture to China, saying that much of the agenda between the two countries, including talks toward a free-trade agreement, has been placed on hold or halted.

Canadian businesses, however, continue to press for greater ties – and the Chinese government is renewing its push for a trade deal. A “free-trade agreement is in line with our interests,” Mr. Wang, the vice-minister, said on Tuesday, adding that liberalized trade could expand flows of capital and talent and “bring more dividends to people on both sides.”

“China is opening its door wider and wider,” he said. “Canada could open its door wider and wider to China as well.” He assigned Ottawa full blame for problems between the two countries. “The source of those difficulties and responsibility for them does not lie with the Chinese side,” he said.

Canadian corporations have sought to ignore political frictions.

Canadian-built brands such as Tim Hortons, Lululemon, Canada Goose and Arc’teryx have been expanding their Chinese business. Arc’teryx, now owned by Chinese sporting goods conglomerate Anta Sports, recently opened its largest corporate flagship in Shanghai and more than doubled its National Day holiday sales in China compared with 2019, said Samuel Tsui, general manager of Arc’teryx Greater China.

“Business is incredible,” he said.

Huawei increased its research and development spending in Canada by 30 per cent this year. Huawei has kept “our commitment to the country,” said Yan Lida, a board member of the Chinese technology giant.

“There’s a lot of noise out there, a lot of ripples on the surface, a lot of posturing,” said Bob Kwauk, an emeritus partner with Blake Cassels Graydon LLP, who led the firm’s Beijing office. “But business, trade will get done.”

Mr. Barton noted that China’s retail sales market is now nearly equal in size to that of the United States.

“China is here to stay. It’s going to be and is already a superpower in what they’re doing, and we have to figure out how to work together over the next 50 years,” he said. Ottawa has made a priority of “getting our relationship right,” he said, and wants “to deepen our understanding of China. Deepen our China capabilities, with the ambition of having the best China desk in the G7.”

Mr. Desmarais pointed to ways China and Canada can meet each others’ needs in innovation, health care and environmental technologies.

“Honestly, we could do so much together,” he said.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-canada-china-mark-50-years-of-diplomatic-ties/

Beijing used influence over B.C. schools to push its agenda and keep tabs on Canadian politics, documents show

One really has to wonder what district officials were thinking or, perhaps more correctly, what they weren’t thinking:

The Confucius Institute, a controversial Chinese-backed educational organization, has taken a direct role in supporting Mandarin classes in some British Columbia schools while also asking local officials to report back on political developments, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.

For years, School District No. 43 in Coquitlam, B.C., has dismissed critics of its Confucius Institute programming, which primarily delivers extracurricular Mandarin instruction and cultural programming that is backed and partly funded by the Chinese government.

The school district has argued students pay their own fees and that it maintains autonomy in hiring teachers for the program. Meanwhile, the Confucius Institute has emphasized that it operates after-school programs, leaving regular school-day instruction untouched.

But the institute has taken a more expansive role, providing resources for core courses as well, according to internal documents obtained by The Globe through an access to information request. The documents include e-mails, a board meeting agenda, the full text of agreements signed with Confucius headquarters, detailed event programs and an internal overview of Confucius teaching activities in the district.

Activities listed in the overview document include not only after-school programs but bilingual programs at Walton Elementary School, Scott Creek Middle School and five local high schools. In 2017, more than 3,500 children attended Confucius courses in Coquitlam.

Coquitlam began Mandarin instruction for elementary school students in 2010, two years after the creation of the Confucius Institute. The Confucius Institute helped to fund the bilingual programs, sending $7,000 to Walton for the purchase of supplies and a laptop to each teacher in the school’s Mandarin program, Ken Hoff, a spokesperson for School District No. 43, said in a detailed e-mail response to questions. Scott Creek Middle School received $4,000 for supplies, while the other schools were given $2,000. 

“This Mandarin language immersion program was instituted with the support of the Confucius Institute,” Coquitlam superintendent Patricia Gartland wrote in a 2017 e-mail.

Individual schools “chose how to spend the money provided and supplies were purchased locally,” Mr. Hoff said. The Confucius Institute “does not provide instructors for the bilingual programs,” he said.

Concern about Chinese government influence has prompted other Canadian school districts to abandon Confucius offerings, including the Toronto District School Board in 2014. Last year, New Brunswick said it would boot all Confucius Institutes by 2022.

Confucius Institute defenders say it is interested only in enhancing international mutual understanding and friendship, while equipping students in Canada with communication skills in Mandarin. But critics see it as a source of pro-China messages.

At the 10th anniversary of the Coquitlam Confucius Institutes, according to video posted to YouTube, a group of children pumped fists as they recited in unison “I am proud, I am Chinese,” a poem written by Wang Huairang, a patriotic writer. The poem praises the “five-star red flag” and the “Yan’an spirit,” a reference to the Communist revolution.

Most of the Coquitlam schools use Chinese Made Easy, a textbook written by a Hong Kong educator but distributed by a Chinese state-owned publisher, according to an internal Confucius overview document. Walton, according to the documents, has used Happy Chinese, which is published by China’s People’s Education Press and contains maps that show Taiwan as a province of China, while also depicting Tiananmen Square as a cheery destination in lessons to practice speaking directions. The textbook is commonly used by Confucius Institutes. Walton no longer uses Happy Chinese, Mr. Hoff said. The Confucius Institute has, however, provided language testing to students in public-school Mandarin programs.

“The School District is in charge of the curriculum offered, supervises what is taught and there has never been an attempt from anyone in China to influence curricular decisions,” Mr. Hoff said.

But the Coquitlam documents suggest an interest by the institute beyond linguistic concerns. In a list of required elements for a detailed Confucius Institute assessment, the program’s administrators in China requested reports on the “external environment” — including politics and diplomacy — as well as attitudes toward the Institute among local government and community leaders. They also ask for information on the participation of Chinese-funded companies in building the Confucius Institute. The Coquitlam Institute denied using the self-assessment. The institute “has not used the reporting template you have described,” Mr. Hoff said. In internal e-mails from 2017, however, Ms. Gartland thanks in advance the institute’s China director, May Sun, “for submitting the self-assessment by the deadline.”

The internal assessment document could be seen as “simple good management of the programme being run by the Chinese,” said former CSIS head Ward Elcock. But he has long seen Confucius Institutes as “the thin edge of the wedge of foreign influence activities carried out by the Chinese state.” Increasingly assertive Chinese government actions overseas have made the institutes “very problematic,” he said. The “exhaustive” internal assessment requirements further buttresses that concern, he said.

Others are critical of the overall agreement. “I just believe that this arrangement is actually morally bankrupt,” said Brad West, the mayor of Coquitlam. He noted that the same Chinese government that has funded the local Confucius program is also responsible for the mass detention of Muslim Uyghurs and the incarceration of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, he said.

Under the Coquitlam school district’s agreement with Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, the Chinese government is obligated to pay airfares and salaries for teachers involved in its own programs, deliver thousands of volumes of books and other materials, provide $150,000 in cash startup funds and provide annual funding – $352,219 for the current school year.

In agreeing to establish the Confucius Institute, the school district signed off on terms that give Beijing wide latitude to evaluate instruction, demand respect for Chinese “cultural custom” – and terminate its outpouring of money if Coquitlam damages the image of the program. The institute’s after-school courses charge fees of $200 to $220 per semester. This year, that is expected to add up to $220,000, less than 40 per cent of the institute’s funding. The remainder comes from Beijing.

As the Coquitlam district has embraced Confucius, it has seen considerable revenue from international students, who pay high tuition fees. In 2019, nearly 10 per cent of its revenue came from tuition payments, roughly double the provincial average. Coquitlam has previously said that more than half of its foreign students come from China.

Meanwhile, the Confucius agreement with Coquitlam gives Beijing control over choosing instructors, as well, although Mr. Hoff said “teachers in the CI in Coquitlam are not sent by CI headquarters and are hired here in Coquitlam.” Confucius headquarters has not sent staff to assess instructors in Coquitlam, he said.

But LinkedIn records show that at least two instructors worked as teachers in mainland China shortly before beginning work for the Coquitlam institute, which says it only uses local staff. And last year, a five-member group from Confucius headquarters came to Port Coquitlam for a meeting to discuss current work and a vision for future development. Two representatives from the Chinese consulate also attended.

The school district says it has not considered re-evaluating the program. “To date,” Mr. Hoff said, “there has been no discussion around the closure of the Confucius Institute in Coquitlam.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-beijing-used-influence-over-bc-schools-to-push-its-agenda-and-keep/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2020-10-15_6&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20Beijing%20uses%20B.C.%20schools%20to%20push%20agenda,%20keep%20tabs%20on%20Canadian%20politics:%20documents&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

McCuaig-Johnston: Fifty years of Canada-China relations are nothing to celebrate until our citizens are home

Good commentary by McCuaig-Johnston:

Today marks 50 years since the Canadian government formally recognized the government of the People’s Republic of China, but many Canadians feel that there is nothing to celebrate while China is holding innocent Canadians in prison. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou for possible extradition to the U.S. Beijing made clear that Canada had to “look first to its own mistake” and send Meng home.

When Meng lost her double criminality challenge in B.C. court, the Michaels were formally charged with unspecified national security allegations. In addition, four Canadians have now been given sentences of execution for drug offences. Robert Schellenberg and Fan Wei were sentenced after Meng’s arrest.  Xu Weihong and Ye Jianhui were sentenced two days apart, less than two weeks before one of Meng’s court hearings. Asked if the cases were connected, a Chinese official said “the Canadian side knows the root cause” of difficulties in Canada-China relations.

During the more than 670 days of Kovrig and Spavor’s incarceration, the Canadian government has worked closely with other liberal democracies that have experienced China’s medieval hostage-taking as retaliation for perceived offences. They, too, have spoken against the detention of our Canadians, both publicly and privately in meetings with Chinese ministers and officials. We know that Beijing does not like this because they have instructed us to stop.

But as recently as Oct. 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked President Donald Trump for the ongoing support of the United States in seeking the immediate release of the Canadians. The U.S. is the one nation Beijing refrains from criticizing, knowing the risks it might incur. Instead it targets small and middle powers like Canada.

On the same day as the Trudeau-Trump discussion, Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced Canada’s intention to join the Support Group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, led by Spain. This group of 23 countries is working to persuade other nations, including China, to refrain from sentencing people to death.  No doubt the minister had the fate of our four Canadians at the forefront in mind.

During the more than 670 days of Kovrig and Spavor’s incarceration, the Canadian government has worked closely with other liberal democracies that have experienced China’s medieval hostage-taking as retaliation for perceived offences. They, too, have spoken against the detention of our Canadians, both publicly and privately in meetings with Chinese ministers and officials. We know that Beijing does not like this because they have instructed us to stop.

But as recently as Oct. 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked President Donald Trump for the ongoing support of the United States in seeking the immediate release of the Canadians. The U.S. is the one nation Beijing refrains from criticizing, knowing the risks it might incur. Instead it targets small and middle powers like Canada.

On the same day as the Trudeau-Trump discussion, Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced Canada’s intention to join the Support Group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, led by Spain. This group of 23 countries is working to persuade other nations, including China, to refrain from sentencing people to death.  No doubt the minister had the fate of our four Canadians at the forefront in mind.

Champagne has also noted that he is working with like-minded countries on collectively developing an approach to deal with China’s arbitrary detention of foreign citizens. Canada is also discussing with other nations the possibility of “Magnitsky” sanctions against China for restricting the rights of Hong Kongers as well as the besieged Uyghurs in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China. That would be an excellent initiative – but in the first instance, Canada should impose Magnitsky sanctions on those responsible for incarcerating our citizens.

In addition, the government’s new China Framework being developed under Champagne’s direction should take into account the more aggressive China that Canada and other nations are now seeing. It should diversify away from China to other nations in the Indo-Pacific in trade, investment, population health, cultural exchange, education and security.  We should pass foreign interference laws, revisit our Foreign Investment Protection Agreement with China, review Chinese collaborations in our universities, and ban Chinese companies from our telecommunications infrastructure. The softly-softly strategy clearly has not worked.

According to recent polls, Canadians have lost patience with China. A May 2020 Angus Reid pollshowed that only 14 per cent of Canadians have a positive view of China, and according to a Pew Research Centre survey this month, 73 per cent have an unfavourable view of China, up from 45 per cent in 2018, before our Canadians were detained. This view is shared by the citizens of many other countries, with Australians having an 81 per cent negative view, and negative views increasing by double digits in the past year in the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the U.S., South Korea and Spain.

It is time for Canada to take stronger action. We should work with other democracies to confront China’s detention of innocent citizens to use as pawns in its geopolitical agenda. Without stronger action, democratic governments themselves are complicit in China’s behaviour.

In the meantime, no Canadian politician, official or business executive should attend a celebration of the 50th, even virtually. There is nothing to celebrate until our citizens come home.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston is a retired federal Assistant Deputy Minister and is now a Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and Senior Fellow at the China Institute, University of Alberta. She is also Senior Fellow of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa.

Source: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/mccuaig-johnston-fifty-years-of-canada-china-relations-are-nothing-to-celebrate-until-our-citizens-are-home

Chinese families shun Western universities as coronavirus, strained ties are ‘scaring middle-class families’

Will have major impact on universities who have counted on this revenue source:

After being inundated with news about the worsening coronavirus pandemic and rising tensions between China and the West for months, Beijinger Joe Gao was compelled to make a difficult decision regarding his six-year-old daughter’s future education.

Rather than pay 300,000 yuan (US$44,000) in annual tuition for her, as he does for her nine-year-old brother who is studying at an international school in the capital, Gao has had to change his plans and is now looking to send his daughter to a public school in mainland China.

“Until this summer, I had been working hard with the aim of earning enough to send both of them abroad for secondary school. But things change so fast, and so we must, too,” he said. “I’m not that rich like a tycoon with strong anti-risk capabilities. I think the economic uncertainty, the pandemic and the growing negative perception of China are actually scaring many middle-class families of my kind.”

Gao, who runs an investment and services start-up, said he is still going to send his son abroad for schooling, but now prefers that be in an Asian country such as Singapore, instead of the United States or Australia, in case China’s relations with the West continue to deteriorate in the coming years.China’s overseas graduates return in record numbers to already crowded domestic job market21 Sep 2020

“If China and the West face a long-term confrontation into the future, trade between China and the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] will increase, and studying in developed Asian areas would be safer for, and more friendly to, Chinese,” he said.

Gao is not alone in his rationalisation. A large and growing number of Chinese parents are cancelling or at least suspending plans to send their children to study abroad – a strong signal that wealthy and middle-class Chinese families are becoming less interested in sending their kids to study overseas.

About 81 per cent of affluent Chinese families whose children study foreign curriculums and take foreign examinations have decided to postpone plans to send them abroad for undergraduate or graduate studies, according to a survey released last month by Babazhenbang, an education start-up with a database of more than 400 schools preparing Chinese students for overseas high schools and colleges.

Among 838 respondents, the survey found that worries about the pandemic (82.6 per cent) and possible discrimination due to political tensions (60.9 per cent) were the top reasons for the postponements, followed by personal financial difficulties (43.5 per cent) and the fading advantages for overseas-trained talent in the domestic job market (21.7 per cent).

When all is said and done, the pandemic and increasingly rigorous visa checks could end China’s overseas schooling boom end much earlier than expected, according to Cao Huiying, founder of Babazhenbang.

“A lot of parents, especially among those middle-class families in second- and third-tier cities in China, have reconsidered and put their children back into the domestic education system,” she said.

Liu Shengjun, head of the China Financial Reform Institute, a Shanghai-based research firm, also pointed to the combination of factors leading to a rethink about overseas education options for Chinese families.

“Under the impact of the epidemic and the deterioration of Sino-US relations, which may last for years, there is expected to be a decline in both the number of Chinese students studying overseas and Chinese shopping abroad,” Liu said. “But the size of the decline cannot be predicted at this time.

“I think this trend will contribute to China’s domestic education market, but not sufficiently enough to offset weak domestic spending.”

According to a 2017 report by Union Pay International, Chinese students abroad spent more than 380 billion yuan (US$55.7 billion) annually — 80 per cent of which was on tuition and daily expenses.

Public concern among wealthy and middle-class mainland Chinese increased after the US confirmed last month that it had revoked more than 1,000 visas held by Chinese graduate students and research scholars. Escalating tensions between China and Australia have also fuelled concerns.

The two countries had been among the top overseas schooling destinations for Chinese students until recently.

“Last year, more than 90 per cent of our graduates applied only to American universities, while all graduates this year applied to more universities outside of the United States than American ones,” said Lion Deng, a counsellor with the international department of the Affiliated High School of Guangzhou University.

“All parents think the current conflict between China and the US is a direct and intense head-on collision that cannot be resolved in the short-term. Risks such as visa checks, as well as political and diplomatic uncertainties, are very likely to affect [students’] lives in college. It will definitely have a big impact on curbing their desire to educate their children in the United States,” Deng added.

“The number of students from our school applying for admission to high schools in the United States this year has dropped by 75 per cent compared with last year.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/JXH-zllz-Q0

Jade Zheng, who owns several flats in Shenzhen and runs a cafe, originally planned to send her seven-year-old son to Canada for school next year or the year after, and she had hoped he would adapt to the Western environment at an early age.

“In March, we decided to keep him in Shenzhen to study until at least high school, and currently we are going to delay the plan until he is an undergraduate,” she said. “The news is getting worse and worse, and we are feeling increasingly insecure, and [we feel] that things are getting out of control with regard to investing and living outside of China.”

Zheng’s brother and his wife sold their only apartment in 2018 and raised 5 million yuan (US$733,400) to send their son to high school and college in the US. “They were very happy back then but now are very worried about the safety of the 16-year-old boy,” Zheng said. “Additionally, the apartment they sold is now worth 8 million yuan.”

“Even if my son studies abroad, I hope he will return to Shenzhen to live in the future, because in the next 10 or 20 years, Shenzhen will definitely have more vitality and better prospects than any other areas, in terms of economic development,” Zheng added. “Maybe it would be a good idea to just go to college in Shenzhen in the future.”

Similar sentiment was echoed by Alice Chen, whose 18-year-old daughter started this autumn at a US Ivy League university but is studying remotely from Beijing due to the coronavirus.

“Our children born after 2000 are very different from us,” Chen said. “They feel that New York and London are not much different than Beijing and Shanghai. And they are satisfied with China’s economic development with a strong Chinese national identity.”

For many rich Chinese families and their children who have no plans to stay in the US or to visit for an extended period in the future, negative sentiment in the US about China is no longer important to them, Chen said.

“Their generation believes that China’s economy and society are better than most other countries,” she said. “When a company or a country becomes very strong, it will definitely be contained by competitors.”

Source: https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3103722/chinese-shun-western-universities-coronavirus-strained-ties

Alan Freeman: Boycotting the 2022 Winter Games should be one way Canada sticks it to China

Extremely hard on the athletes but valid approach if done in concert with other countries:

The Pew Research Center this week came out with some shocking, yet unsurprising, numbers. China’s reputation is in free fall around the world.

According to Pew, a majority of respondents in every one of 14 nations surveyed had a negative view of China. In nine of the countries, including Canada, negative views are at the highest point since the respected research institute began polling on the question more than a decade ago.

In Canada, 73 per cent of respondents had a negative view of China in 2020, compared with only 27 per cent back in 2007.

China’s human-rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other minorities, its attack on democracy in Hong Kong, and its assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea have had an impact.

For Canadians, these bully tactics have a particular edge after the kidnapping and imprisonment on trumped-up charges of our fellow citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

What to do? We all know there’s a crowd of well-connected China-appeasers here who want to start hostage talks with Beijing, and are willing to trade away not just Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, but our self-respect, in the naive hope that the two Michaels will be freed. Thankfully, the Trudeau government has kiboshed that idea.

Furthermore, we’re now seeing more signs that our government realizes Canadians are paying attention and don’t want to roll over in the face of China’s aggressiveness. According to the Globe and Mail, Canada has quietly begun accepting pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong as “Convention refugees,” individuals with a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinion.

Beijing won’t be happy.

That follows Canada’s earlier suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, a ban on exports of sensitive goods to Hong Kong, and a suggestion it could soon boost immigration from the beleaguered former British colony. It’s clearly not enough.

What else can we do? Well, look at the calendar. In just 16 months’ time, Beijing is due to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, another opportunity for China to strut itself as a superpower, the way it used the 2008 Summer Games to make a big splash.

How can we even contemplate sending the cream of our athletes, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looking on, and watching them gleefully enter Beijing’s Olympic Stadium for glitzy opening ceremonies while Canadians remain behind bars in a Chinese prison?

There is an alternative. This week, the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, suggested that if evidence continues to mount that the rights of Uyghur Muslims are being trampled, the U.K. will consider boycotting the Games. “Generally speaking, my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics, but there comes a point when this is not possible,” Raab told a parliamentary committee.

In Australia, where anti-China sentiments are even more ingrained than in Canada, Parliament will soon be asked to support a boycott of the Games. “The time has come for the freedom-loving countries to say to Beijing: ‘Enough is enough,’ ” according to an Australian Liberal senator, Eric Abetz. He also wondered why individual Australian athletes would want to lend their credibility to such a regime.

Easy for the U.K. and Australia to say no to Beijing 2022, you might say. They’re hardly a presence at the Winter Games, winning only a few medals apiece in a good year. Canada, on the other hand, is a Winter Olympics powerhouse, earning the No. 3 spot in the medal take in 2018 in South Korea.

All the more reason for us to boycott. The Winter Olympics is one place where we can make a difference. If Canada could convince Norway, Germany, the U.S., Netherlands and South Korea to pull out of the Games (the top six performers in Korea), China would be stuck with a shell of an Olympic Games. It means we have a chance to make a real difference.

I reached out to Guy St-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, and asked him for his views. “It is now impossible to remain ambivalent on China, knowing what they are doing in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, etc., and the way they have punished Canada for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou,” he told me.

St-Jacques said Canada should adopt a concerted approach with our allies, and threaten an Olympic boycott “if they don’t allow a UN delegation to go to Xinjiang to investigate the situation of the Uyghurs, repeal the National Security Law (in Hong Kong), or suspend its application and free the two Michaels.”

China needs to be reminded that if it wants to play a larger role on the world stage, it has to abide by international laws and treaties and stop acting the bully, including by engaging in hostage diplomacy, he said.

For those who argue that the Games are above politics, that’s clearly hogwash. The Olympics have been subject to political machinations since the beginning, and authoritarian regimes going back to Hitler’s Germany in 1936 have used them to legitimize their unsavoury policies.

Boycotts have been done before. In 1980, Canada joined a stream of Western countries and boycotted the Games in Moscow. And the 1976 Montreal Games was hit by a walkout of African nations in protest of apartheid in South Africa.

Standing up to a bully exacts a price. Not watching Team Canada play for gold in hockey or curling at Beijing in February 2022 should be a price Canadians are willing to pay.

Source: Boycotting the 2022 Winter Games should be one way Canada sticks it to China

Shame on the Globe and Mail for running Chinese government propaganda

DiManno nails it. For a paper that justifiably calls out conflicts of interest by politicians and others, some deep self-reflection in order:

This is when the Globe and Mail got it right. From the paper’s July 30 lead editorial, headlined: “The continued imprisonment of the two Michaels is an act of pointless cruelty.”

“We keep hearing that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are suffering in conditions ‘akin’ to torture, but there is no such thing. Their false arrest and unjustified incarceration amount to torture, period.”

This is when the Globe and Mail got it wrong. The double-truck spread, smack in the middle of the glorified Report on Business section, on Sept. 19 — last Saturday.

Headlines include: “Tree fellers turn into tree lovers.” “University’s admissions offer out of this world.” “A chain of celestial lights to celebrate inclusiveness.”

Which, inclusivity, doesn’t include the ethnic minority Uighurs, a million interned since 2017 in at least 87 camps surrounded by watch towers and barbed wire fences within Xinjiang region — camps the Chinese government denied existed until satellite imagery put the lie to those claims.

I won’t go into details about the content of the cheerful stories published in the Globe’s prime real estate pages — I’m not the one being paid to shill — under the “CHINA WATCH” banner. Suffice to say that “CHINA WATCH” is the international propaganda arm of state-run English-language newspaper China Daily.

Only in tiny letters at the bottom of each page does it state: Content produced by China Daily and distributed in the Globe and Mail.

I’m not in the habit of calling out other newspapers, particularly since the Star has a policy of not calling out our own selves when we deserve to be boxed about the ears. But the Globe brands itself “Canada’s National Newspaper” and fancies itself the paper of record.

Now, everybody knows these are trying times for the newspaper industry. But of all the papers in Canada, the Globe and Mail is least threatened by economic hardship, owned by the Thomson family — its chairman, David Thomson, wealthiest Canadian, as per Forbes, with a net worth of $32.5 billion, as of last year. If the Globe splashes around in the red, the Thomson clan can just sell off one of its Group of Seven paintings. Not that it would ever come to that.

Further, the Globe was the first signatory in this country to The Trust Project, a global coalition of media organizations with the intent of promoting truthful, accurate, fair and transparent journalism — because journalism is under siege everywhere, lacerated as purveyors of fake news.

China Daily is fake news. China Watch is fake news. At the very least, the Globe should have made that clearer. I put the matter to the Globe brain-trust in emailed queries.

“As you point out in your questions, the China Daily pages are indeed paid advertisements,” acknowledged Phillip Crawley, Globe publisher and CEO, in his emailed response. “The content is visually distinct and had been labelled as produced by a third party (China Daily). However, we believe the pages should have been more clearly marked to reflect that it was a paid advertisement for our readers. We will explore how to make this more clear in the future.”

Crawley added: “We have run these ads occasionally for years and like all advertising, they have no impact on our editorial coverage. You can see this in our daily reporting of China, our editorials” — he cited an opinion piece regarding the arrest of Jimmy Lai — “and the excellent investigative work put out by our Asia correspondent, Nathan VanderKlippe, who is based in Beijing.”

(Lai is a long-time champion of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.)

Indisputably, excellent coverage of China — the Globe was the first Western newspaper to open a bureau in what was then called Peking, more than six decades ago.

But readers won’t learn the truth about Tiananmen Square in the China Daily (or China Watch), won’t be told about the horrors inflicted and ethnic cleaning inflicted on the mostly Muslim Uighurs, won’t be enlightening on the regime’s crackdown throttling of Hong Kong and certainly won’t be provided with an accurate representation of why the two Michaels were thrown in prison.

That was the China version of tit-for-tat — the regime’s ham-fisted response two years ago, scooping up the Canadian businessmen shortly after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou on a warrant from the United States. America accuses Meng, chief financial officer of Huawei, of fraud, alleging she misled the bank HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran. Meng is under house arrest in Vancouver, fighting extradition to the U.S.

On Tuesday, China again urged Canada to immediately release Meng and let her return home so as to “safely bring bilateral relations back to the right track,” according to Chinese media reports. At the daily news briefing, a government spokesperson asserted: “Under the pretext of ‘at the request of the United States,’ Canada arbitrarily took compulsory measures on a Chinese citizen, which severely violated her legitimate rights and interests.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been able to do nothing — that we know of — to secure the release of the two Michaels, after nearly two years of detention. In June, Kovrig and Spavor were charged with espionage-related offences, which is bollocks.

A whole bunch of boldface Canadians have since signed a letter urging this country to knock off the extradition proceedings against Meng, so that the Michaels can be sprung. This is hostage diplomacy — a prisoner swap, the stuff of despots and unethical governments.

And we won’t even get into the further strong-arm squabbling between China and the U.S. over China-owned TikTok and China’s pressuring of Canada to integrate Huawei technology into our 5G network.

China has invested colossally and with sophistication in propaganda supplements that have appeared in respected publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as opening scores of state TV satellite bureaus around the world — all pegged to “reporting the news from a Chinese perspective.” Which means gerrymandered and self-serving. All while literally ripping out international coverage within China: foreign magazines censored, the BBC flickering to black when carrying stories on such sensitive topics as Taiwan and Tibet and foreign correspondents booted out of the country.

Because the Red Dragon can. The Globe and Mail has, under the rubric of provided content, become a party to that.

China is a bully and the Globe, alas, is a pimp.

Night Images Reveal Many New Detention Sites in China’s Xinjiang Region

Seems like every week if not more, new details regarding Chinese government repression emerge:

As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

Rather than being released, many detainees were likely being sent to prisons and perhaps other facilities, the investigation found, citing satellite images of new and expanded incarceration sites.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher who led the project at the institute, also called ASPI, said the findings undercut Chinese officials’ claims that inmates from the camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — had “graduated.”

“Evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang’s vast ‘re-education’ network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons,” Mr. Ruser wrote in the report.

The Chinese government has created formidable barriers to investigating conditions in Xinjiang. Officials tail and harass foreign journalists, making it impossible to safely conduct interviews. Access to camps is limited to selected visitors, who are taken on choreographed tours where inmates are shown singing and dancing.

The researchers for the new report overcame those barriers with long-distance sleuthing. They pored over satellite images of Xinjiang at night to find telltale clusters of new lights, especially in barely habited areas, which often proved to be new detention sites. A closer examination of such images sometimes revealed hulking buildings, surrounded by high walls, watchtowers and barbed-wire internal fencing — features that distinguished detention facilities from other large public compounds like schools or hospitals.

“I don’t believe this timing is merely coincidental,” Timothy Grose, an associate professor of China studies at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the ASPI project, said of the accumulating evidence of expanding incarceration sites.

“In my opinion, we are witnessing a new stage in the crisis,” he said. “Some detainees have been released, others have been placed in factories, while others still have been sentenced.”

China has repeatedly refused to disclose the number of detention sites and detainees in Xinjiang and elsewhere. The ASPI researchers found and examined some 380 suspected detention sites in Xinjiang. At least 61 of them had expanded in area between July 2019 and July of this year, and of those, 14 were still growing, according to the latest-available satellite images.

The researchers divided the sites into four security levels, and they said that about half of the expanding sites were higher-security facilities.

The researchers found signs that some re-education camps were being rolled back, partially confirming government claims of a shift. At least 70 sites had seen the removal of security infrastructure such as internal fencing or perimeter walls, and eight camps appeared to be undergoing decommissioning, they wrote. The facilities apparently being scaled back were largely lower-security camps, they said.

Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, the authorities have carried out a sweeping crackdown in Xinjiang, with as many as one million or more people incarcerated in recent years, according to scholars’ estimates. The ASPI report was issued one day after the sixth anniversary of a key moment in the increasingly harsh campaign, the sentencing of Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur scholar, to life in prison.

Late last year, Shohrat Zakir, the chairman of the Xinjiang government, told reporters in Beijing that the re-education sites were now housing only people who were there voluntarily, and that others who had been in the facilities had “graduated.” Where to, he did not say.

The ASPI report builds on previous investigations that also pointed to explosive growth in the prison population in Xinjiang over recent years, even as the building of indoctrination camps appeared to peak.

Last month, BuzzFeed News found 268 detention compounds in Xinjiang built since 2017. The news organization identified the compounds with the help of spots blanked out of the online mapping service from Baidu, the Chinese technology company.

An investigation by The New York Times last year found that courts in Xinjiang — where Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities make up more than half of the population of 25 million — sentenced 230,000 people to prison or other punishments in 2017 and 2018, far more than in any other period on record for the region.

Official sentencing statistics for 2019 have not been released. But a report released by the authorities in Xinjiang early this year said that prosecutors indicted 96,596 people for criminal trial in 2019, suggesting that the flow of trials — which almost always lead to convictions — was lower than in the previous two years, but still much higher than in the years before the crackdown took off.

“Even though the internment camps are obviously the most headline-grabbing aspect of what’s happening, there’s been a much broader effort from the beginning that has also included significant incarceration” in prisons, said Sean R. Roberts, an associate professor at George Washington University and author of “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Campaign Against Xinjiang’s Muslims.” (Uyghur is another spelling for Uighur.)

Uighurs who have left China often struggle to find out what has happened to family members who were detained, and possibly tried and imprisoned.

Still, growing numbers of Uighurs abroad report having learned of relatives being sentenced to prison terms of five, 10 or even 15 years on sweeping charges like “separatism,” said Elise Anderson, a senior program officer for research and advocacy with the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a group based in Washington, who is involved in an unfinished study of incarceration in Xinjiang.

“In some cases, people don’t even know what’s happened and have to guess,” Ms. Anderson said.

Sayyara Arkin, a Uighur woman living in the United States, said she waited years for news of her brother, Hursan Hasan, a well-known actor in Xinjiang who was taken into a re-education camp in 2018. Earlier this month, her family in Xinjiang told her that Mr. Hasan had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of separatism, Ms. Arkin said by telephone.

“I felt shocked,” Ms. Arkin said. “He’s an actor who focused on his work, an intellectual who had the acceptance of the government, and I never imagined this would happen.”

The United States has begun to take a more confrontational stance toward China over the repression in Xinjiang. This year, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on officials responsible for policy in the region, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which is both a farm conglomerate and a quasi-military security institution. It has also imposed restrictions on imports of clothing, hair products and technological goods from Xinjiang, but stopped short of banning all cotton and tomatoes, two of the region’s key exports.

This week, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would bar any imports from Xinjiang unless they were proven not to have been produced using forced labor.

The Chinese government initially denied reports of mass detention in Xinjiang, and later defended the indoctrination camps, describing them as benign places that provide job training and counter religious extremism and terrorism. In a white paper released last week, Beijing defended its labor policies in the region, saying that it observed international labor and human rights standards and that its work was a successful example of governance in “underdeveloped areas with large populations of ethnic minorities.”

The Chinese authorities have also sharply criticized the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called its earlier report on forced labora “fabricated and biased accusation.” Mr. Zhao also attacked the institute’s backers, which include the State Department. ASPI says that its research is independent and not influenced by its funding sources.

Some Uighur exiles have argued that the Chinese government’s crackdown in their homeland amounts to genocide. Earlier this month, a group of watchdog groups and experts issued a joint letter that said China’s policies in Xinjiang “meet the threshold of acts constitutive of genocide,” a crime brought into international law after World War II, as well as other possible crimes against humanity.

The Chinese government has angrily rejected such claims. And the continued growth of detention sites across Xinjiang suggests that the authorities are determined to transform and subdue Uighur society for generations to come.

“The Chinese government potentially could keep up this regime of intense repression for a significant amount of time,” said Professor Roberts of George Washington University. “It could essentially destroy the Uighur identity as we know it inside China.”

Source: nytimes.com/2020/09/24/wor…

China sharply expands mass labour program in Tibet

Yet again:

China is pushing growing numbers of Tibetan rural labourers off the land and into recently built military-style training centres where they are turned into factory workers, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labour.

Beijing has set quotas for the mass transfer of rural labourers within Tibet and to other parts of China, according to over a hundred state media reports, policy documents from government bureaus in Tibet and procurement requests released between 2016-2020 and reviewed by Reuters. The quota effort marks a rapid expansion of an initiative designed to provide loyal workers for Chinese industry.

A notice posted to the website of Tibet’s regional government website last month said over half a million people were trained as part of the project in the first seven months of 2020 – around 15 per cent of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred into jobs within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low paid work, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.

“This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1976, said Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher, who compiled the core findings about the program. These are detailed in a report released this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based institute that focuses on policy issues of strategic importance to the U.S. “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labour.”

Reuters corroborated Zenz’s findings and found additional policy documents, company reports, procurement filings and state media reports that describe the program.

In a statement to Reuters, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied the involvement of forced labour, and said China is a country with rule of law and that workers are voluntary and properly compensated.

“What these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labour’ simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies,” it said.

Moving surplus rural labour into industry is a key part of China’s drive to boost the economy and reduce poverty. But in areas like Xinjiang and Tibet, with large ethnic populations and a history of unrest, rights groups say the programs include an outsized emphasis on ideological training. And the government quotas and military-style management, they say, suggest the transfers have coercive elements.

China seized control of Tibet after Chinese troops entered the region in 1950, in what Beijing calls a “peaceful liberation.” Tibet has since become one of the most restricted and sensitive areas in the country.

The Tibetan program is expanding as international pressure is growing over similar projects in Xinjiang, some of which have been linked to mass detention centres. A United Nations report has estimated that around one million people in Xinjiang, mostly ethnic Uyghurs, were detained in camps and subjected to ideological education. China initially denied the existence of the camps, but has since said they are vocational and education centres, and that all the people have “graduated.”

Reuters was unable to ascertain the conditions of the transferred Tibetan workers. Foreign journalists are not permitted to enter the region, and other foreign citizens are only permitted on government-approved tours.

In recent years, Xinjiang and Tibet have been the target of harsh policies in pursuit of what Chinese authorities call “stability maintenance.” These policies are broadly aimed at quelling dissent, unrest or separatism and include restricting the travel of ethnic citizens to other parts of China and abroad, and tightening control over religious activities.

In August, President Xi Jinping said China will again step up efforts against separatism in Tibet, where ethnic Tibetans make up around 90 per cent of the population, according to census data. Critics, spearheaded by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, accuse the Chinese authorities of carrying out “cultural genocide” in the region. The 85-year-old Nobel Laureate has been based in Dharamsala, India, since he fled China in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese authorities.

ELIMINATE ‘LAZY PEOPLE’

While there has been some evidence of military-style training and labour transfers in Tibet in the past, this new, enlarged program represents the first on a mass scale and the first to openly set quotas for transfers outside the region.

A key element, described in multiple regional policy documents, involves sending officials into villages and townships to gather data on rural labourers and conduct education activities, aimed at building loyalty.

State media described one such operation in villages near the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Officials carried out over a thousand anti-separatism education sessions, according to the state media report, “allowing the people of all ethnic groups to feel the care and concern of the Party Central Committee,” referring to China’s ruling Communist Party.

The report said the sessions included songs, dances and sketches in “easy to understand language.” Such “education” work took place prior to the rollout of the wider transfers this year.

The model is similar to Xinjiang, and researchers say a key link between the two is the former Tibet Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who took over the same post in Xinjiang in 2016 and spearheaded the development of Xinjiang’s camp system. The Xinjiang government, where Chen remains Party boss, did not respond to a request for comment.

“In Tibet, he was doing a slightly lower level, under the radar, version of what was implemented in Xinjiang,” said Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in Cornell University’s Government Department.

Around 70 per cent of Tibet’s population is classified as rural, according to 2018 figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. This includes a large proportion of subsistence farmers, posing a challenge for China’s poverty alleviation program, which measures its success on levels of basic income. China has pledged to eradicate rural poverty in the country by the end of 2020.

“In order to cope with the increasing downward economic pressure on the employment income of rural workers, we will now increase the intensity of precision skills training … and carry out organized and large-scale transfer of employment across provinces, regions and cities,” said a working plan released by Tibet’s Human Resources and Social Security Department in July. The plan included 2020 quotas for the program in different areas.

Some of the policy documents and state media reports reviewed by Reuters make reference to unspecified punishments for officials who fail to meet their quotas. One prefecture level implementation plan called for “strict reward and punishment measures” for officials.

As in Xinjiang, private intermediaries, such as agents and companies, that organize transfers can receive subsidies set at 500 yuan ($74) for each labourer moved out of the region and 300 yuan ($44) for those placed within Tibet, according to regional and prefecture level notices.

Officials have previously said that labour transfer programs in other parts of China are voluntary, and many of the Tibetan government documents also mention mechanisms to ensure labourers’ rights, but they don’t provide details. Advocates, rights groups and researchers say it’s unlikely labourers are able to decline work placements, though they acknowledge that some may be voluntary.

“These recent announcements dramatically and dangerously expand these programs, including ‘thought training’ with the government’s co-ordination, and represent a dangerous escalation,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of U.S. based advocacy group, the International Campaign for Tibet.

The government documents reviewed by Reuters put a strong emphasis on ideological education to correct the “thinking concepts” of labourers. “There is the assertion that minorities are low in discipline, that their minds must be changed, that they must be convinced to participate,” said Zenz, the Tibet-Xinjiang researcher based in Minnesota.

One policy document, posted on the website of the Nagqu City government in Tibet’s east in December 2018, reveals early goals for the plan and sheds light on the approach. It describes how officials visited villages to collect data on 57,800 labourers. Their aim was to tackle “can’t do, don’t want to do and don’t dare to do” attitudes toward work, the document says. It calls for unspecified measures to “effectively eliminate ‘lazy people.’”

A report released in January by the Tibetan arm of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a high-profile advisory body to the government, describes internal discussions on strategies to tackle the “mental poverty” of rural labourers, including sending teams of officials into villages to carry out education and “guide the masses to create a happy life with their hard-working hands.”

MILITARY DRILLS AND UNIFORMS

Rural workers who are moved into vocational training centres receive ideological education – what China calls “military-style” training – according to multiple Tibetan regional and district-level policy documents describing the program in late 2019 and 2020. The training emphasizes strict discipline, and participants are required to perform military drills and dress in uniforms.

It is not clear what proportion of participants in the labour transfer program undergo such military-style training. But policy documents from Ngari, Xigatze and Shannan, three districts which account for around a third of Tibet’s population, call for the “vigorous promotion of military-style training.” Regionwide policy notices also make reference to this training method.

Small-scale versions of similar military-style training initiatives have existed in the region for over a decade, but construction of new facilities increased sharply in 2016, and recent policy documents call for more investment in such sites. A review of satellite imagery and documents relating to over a dozen facilities in different districts in Tibet shows that some are built near to or within existing vocational centres.

The policy documents describe a teaching program that combines skills education, legal education and “gratitude education,” designed to boost loyalty to the Party.

James Leibold, professor at Australia’s La Trobe University who specializes in Tibet and Xinjiang, says there are different levels of military-style training, with some less restrictive than others, but that there is a focus on conformity.

“Tibetans are seen as lazy, backward, slow or dirty, and so what they want to do is to get them marching to the same beat … That’s a big part of this type of military-style education.”

In eastern Tibet’s Chamdo district, where some of the earliest military-style training programs emerged, state media images from 2016 show labourers lining up in drill formation in military fatigues. In images published by state media in July this year, waitresses in military clothing are seen training at a vocational facility in the same district. Pictures posted online from the “Chamdo Golden Sunshine Vocational Training School” show rows of basic white shed-like accommodation with blue roofs. In one image, banners hanging on the wall behind a row of graduates say the labour transfer project is overseen by the local Human Resources and Social Security Department.

The vocational skills learned by trainees include textiles, construction, agriculture and ethnic handicrafts. One vocational centre describes elements of training including “Mandarin language, legal training and political education.” A separate regional policy document says the goal is to “gradually realize the transition from ‘I must work’ to ‘I want to work.’”

Regional and prefecture level policy documents place an emphasis on training batches of workers for specific companies or projects. Rights groups say this on-demand approach increases the likelihood that the programs are coercive.

SUPPLY CHAIN

Workers transferred under the programs can be difficult to trace, particularly those sent to other parts of China. In similar mass transfers of Uyghur people from Xinjiang, workers were discovered in the supply chains of 83 global brands, according to a report released by the The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

Researchers and rights groups say transfers from these regions pose a challenge because without access they can’t assess whether the practice constitutes forced labour, and transferred workers often work alongside non-transferred counterparts.

Tibetan state media reports in July say that in 2020 some of the workers transferred outside of Tibet were sent to construction projects in Qinghai and Sichuan. Others transferred within Tibet were trained in textiles, security and agricultural production work.

Regional Tibetan government policy notices and prefecture implementation plans provide local government offices with quotas for 2020, including for Tibetan workers sent to other parts of China. Larger districts are expected to supply more workers to other areas of the country – 1,000 from the Tibetan capital Lhasa, 1,400 from Xigaze, and 800 from Shannan.

Reuters reviewed policy notices put out by Tibet and a dozen other provinces that have accepted Tibetan labourers. These documents reveal that workers are often moved in groups and stay in collective accommodation.

Local government documents inside Tibet and in three other provinces say workers remain in centralized accommodation after they are transferred, separated from other workers and under supervision. One state media document, describing a transfer within the region, referred to it as a “point to point ‘nanny’ service.”

The Tibetan Human Resources and Social Security Department noted in July that people are grouped into teams of 10 to 30. They travel with team leaders and are managed by “employment liaison services.” The department said the groups are tightly managed, especially when moving outside Tibet, where the liaison officers are responsible for carrying out “further education activities and reducing homesickness complexes.” It said the government is responsible for caring for “left-behind women, children and the elderly.”