China is forcing hundreds of thousands of people in Tibet into military-style training centers that experts say resemble labor camps, a study said.

The Jamestown Foundation report is based on state media reports, policy documents and satellite imagery confirmed by Reuters news agency.

The study also compares the situation with what has been documented among ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese authorities have not yet commented on the results.

The drive to retrain farm workers is closely tied to President Xi Jinping’s vow to eradicate poverty in China this year.

Remote and mainly Buddhist Tibet is ruled as an autonomous region of China, accused of suppressing cultural and religious freedom there.

Beijing says it is promoting progress and development in the Himalayan region.

Tibetan President-in-Exile Lobsang Sangay was one of those who previously claimed that Tibetans were being forced into labor camps and “education” training centers.

However, the scope of the program described in this study shows that it is much larger than previously thought.

What are the results of the study?

The report, written by Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher from Tibet and Xinjiang, said that 500,000 people, mostly subsistence farmers and shepherds, were trained in the first seven months of 2020, and the authorities had quotas for the mass transfer of these workers within and within Tibet have set in other parts of China.

According to the cited plans of the Chinese government, the training programs are to develop “work discipline, Chinese language and work ethics”.

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Tibet has followers all over the world

It adds that the aim is to change attitudes towards work that “cannot, do not want, and dare” while calling for “unspecified measures to effectively eliminate” lazy people “.

The study adds that the training programs result in most workers in low-paying jobs, including in textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.

“In the context of the increasingly assimilatory policies of Beijing’s ethnic minorities, these policies are likely to encourage long-term loss of linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage,” she warns.

What are the comparisons to Xinjiang?

The report says the program shares similarities with work programs in troubled Xinjiang Province, where Chinese authorities are accused of mass imprisonment of the mostly Muslim Uighur population.

“In both Xinjiang and Tibet, state-mandated poverty reduction consists of a top-down system that extends government social control deep into family units,” it says.

In Xinjiang, China is accused of arbitrarily arresting hundreds of thousands of Muslims – while Beijing says the camps are vocational schools needed to fight terrorism and religious extremism.

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China insists that its detention centers, like this one in Kashgar City, are for “vocational training.”

However, the Jamestown study emphasizes that the labor system in Tibet “may be less compulsory” as some Tibetans participate voluntarily, increasing their incomes.

Despite these differences with Xinjiang, the report concludes that “the systemic presence of clear indicators of coercion and indoctrination combined with a profound and possibly permanent change in livelihoods is extremely problematic”.


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