In February 2018, China’s Public Security Bureau in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) issued a notice that urged the public to inform on “underworld forces” and declared a range of traditional or informal social activities among Tibetans to be illegal. These included local initiatives for environmental protection, language preservation, and dispute mediation, some of which the notice claimed secretly encourage support for the exiled Dalai Lama or for Tibetan independence.
The police notice also described any expression of support for the Dalai Lama’s proposal for increased autonomy in Tibet as a form of organized crime. To our knowledge, this is the first time such activities and opinions have been officially listed as crimes by a provincial-level body in Tibet.
Environmental groups and other community initiatives are still allowed in some eastern Tibetan areas, but the publication of the police notice indicates high-level endorsement for officials in the TAR, the western half of the Tibetan plateau, to restrict informal initiatives to protect the environment, defend Tibetan culture, or provide social welfare. These restrictions undermine traditional social practices in Tibetan society, disrupt normal forms of community life, and curtail the rights of Tibetans in China to assemble and form informal social associations—rights guaranteed under China’s constitution and international law.