Chinese leader tells senior Communist Party officials that Beijing must plant ‘seeds of loving China’ among Tibetans.
China must build an “impregnable fortress” to maintain stability in Tibet, protect national unity and educate the masses in the struggle against “splittism”, President Xi Jinping told senior leaders, according to state media.
China seized control over Tibet in 1950 in what it describes as a “peaceful liberation” that helped the remote Himalayan region throw off its “feudalist” past. But critics, led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, say Beijing’s rule amounts to “cultural genocide”.
At a senior Communist Party meeting on Tibet’s future governance, Xi lauded achievements made and praised front-line officials but said more efforts were needed to enrich, rejuvenate and strengthen unity in the region.
Political and ideological education needed to be strengthened in Tibet’s schools in order to “plant the seeds of loving China in the depths of the hearts of every youth”, Xi said in remarks published by state news agency Xinhua on Saturday.
Pledging to build a “united, prosperous, civilised, harmonious and beautiful new, modern, socialist Tibet”, Xi said China needed to strengthen the role of the Communist Party in the territory and better integrate its ethnic groups.
Tibetan Buddhism also needed to adapt to socialism and Chinese conditions, he added.
Advocacy group the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said Xi’s remarks showed Chinese rule still needed to be imposed with an “iron fist”.
In emailed comments, its president, Matteo Mecacci, said, “If Tibetans really benefitted as much from Chinese leadership as Xi and other officials claim, then China wouldn’t have to fear separatism and wouldn’t need to subject Tibetans to political re-education.”
China’s policies towards Tibet have come under the spotlight again this year amid worsening ties with the United States.
In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would restrict visas for some Chinese officials involved in blocking diplomatic access to Tibet and engaging in “human rights abuses”, adding that Washington supported “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet.
China accuses US of ‘inciting confrontation’ after Washington rejected expansive claims in disputed sea for first time.
The United States on Monday rejected China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, drawing an angry response from Beijing, which claimed Washington was trying to inflame tensions in the disputed waters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the there was no legal basis for China’s claims on the sea and it accused Beijing of using intimindatory tactics against other claimant states.
The relationship between the US and China has become icreasingly tense in recent months not only over the coronavirus – where the US is now the world’s worst-affected country – but over China’s actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
China stakes its claim to the South China Sea on the basis of its so-called “nine-dash line” under which virtually the whole area would belong to China. Countries around the sea including the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia also claim parts of the area, as does Taiwan.
UN-backed arbitration Previously, US policy had been to urge the dispute to be resolved peacefully through UN-backed arbitration, but the statement suggests a hardening of the US position.
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”
Although the US will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement suggests the administration is in effect siding with the littoral states, all of which oppose Chinese assertions of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding contested islands, reefs and shoals.
“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.
The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that rejected China’s maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.
China has refused to recognise that decision, dismissed it as a “sham”, and refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to defy the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into regular disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.
The US said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.
Words vs action In addition to reiterating support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, the US said it would regard any Chinese harassment of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.
Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it had no immediate comment to make on the US statement.
China has sought to shore up its claim to the sea by building military bases on coral atolls, and while the US has no claims itself to the waters but has deployed warships and aircraft for decades to patrol and promote freedom of navigation and overflight in the busy waterway.
Regional analysts say it is crucial to see whether other countries follow the US stance and what Washington will do to support its more assertive stance.
“This is basically the first time we have called it illegitimate.” Chris Johnson, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC told news agency. “It’s fine to put out a statement, but what are you going to do about it?”
Last week, China angrily complained about the US flexing its military muscle in the disputed sea by conducting joint exercises with two US aircraft carrier groups.
The US Navy said the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan, along with their accompanying vessels and aircraft, conducted exercises “designed to maximize air defence capabilities, and extend the reach of long-range precision maritime strikes from carrier-based aircraft in a rapidly evolving area of operations”.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea under its self-proclaimed nine-dash line, which gives it about nine tenths of the 3.5 million square kilometre sea.
Five other governments claim all or part of the sea, through which approximately five trillion dollars in goods are shipped every year.
China and the US are better off cooperating to end the pandemic for the sake of reviving the economy and rebooting industrial production, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday.
Zhao said this at a media briefing while commenting on US President Donald Trump’s warning that bilateral ties might be halted over Beijing’s alleged responsibility for unleashing the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Trump said in an interview that the US might cut all ties with China in light of Beijing’s coronavirus-related policies.
“The stable development of US-Chinese relations is in the fundamental interest of people from both countries and is also favourable for global peace and stability.
“China and the United States should now strengthen cooperation in combating the COVID-19 epidemic in order to defeat the coronavirus as soon as possible, cure patients, resume production, and develop the economy,” the spokesman said.
Trump has repeatedly claimed, although with no evidence provided, that the virus that caused deaths, lockdowns, and economic standstill all around the world had in fact been developed in a lab in Wuhan, a Chinese city in the Hubei province from where the first reports of an abnormal respiratory disease came last December.
The US president has threatened China with consequences if its responsibility for unleashing the virus gets proven.
Asked by the host on Thursday to comment on a statement by one of the U.S. senators that the U.S. could stop issuing visas to Chinese students in retaliation, Trump said that his country could possibly go as far as cutting all bilateral ties altogether.
China has so far consistently denied the accusations, stressing that its policies were transparent throughout the outbreak.