Western report distorts Tibetan employment service as coercive
Long-existing vocational schools free for herdsmen to attend: official
Published: Sep 23, 2020 09:53 PM

A herdswoman prepares to milk cows on Hequ Grassland in Henan County, Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Sept. 10, 2020.Photo:Xinhua

Tibetan residents, officials and experts have pointed out the many flaws in accusations of a "mass labor program in Tibet" fabricated by the notorious Adrian Zenz, a self-proclaimed Tibet and Xinjiang researcher, and Western media. These include grafting Tibetan government official reports and transplanting them to other usages, and twisting the truth about vocation training schools for herdsmen.

Tibetan officials and experts brushed off Zenz's statement that those vocational training schools are "coercive," and pointed out that these schools aim to raise living standards for herdsmen and farmers, as they can voluntarily choose the type of employment as they prefer. 

Zenz in his report, as well as another report by Reuters, cited Tibet's government document, which was published in August, saying that in the first seven months of this year, more than half a million local nomads and farmers had been forced into "military-style training centers, and several thousand were sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low-paid work, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture."

Zenz, called a "leading expert on China" by Western media, has been exposed as a far-right fundamentalist Christian "led by God" against China.

The report serves as ammunition for Western media to accuse China of using Tibetan herdsmen and farmers as "coerced labor." 

The official document states clearly that 543,000 people were transferred to be employed in the first seven months. But this figure was twisted by Zenz as they were forced into "military-style training centers."

China has a nationwide policy of transferring surplus laborers from rural areas to employment in other places on their own volition, and the policy is not only limited to Tibet or Xinjiang. It covers all Chinese mainland provinces and regions. This year, in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, the number of transfers reached more than 13.25 million, increasing by 1 million compared with last year. The figure was 26.5 times more than that of Tibet.

Those training schools have long existed in Tibet to help nomads and farmers, who used to live in mountain regions, be employed in urban areas and elevate their living standards, Zhu Weiqun, former head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Zhu said that the vocational schools in Tibet are open to herdsmen and farmers, who can choose freely what course they are interested in and attend it voluntarily. "It's mainly for improving their skills, in order to be employed."

Hyping Tibet's employment with such twisted materials shows that the Western "expert" and media are ignorant, and they have an evil intention of smearing Tibet, said Zhu. 

The Global Times learned from a local official in Qamdo that it is impossible to have "compulsory" vocational training for Tibetan rural laborers.

In his report, Zenz also used photos taken by the China News Service, featuring military uniform-wearing people in vocational training in the Qamdo region, Tibet, to justify claims that those centers have adopted military-style management. 

"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," he claimed.

Jiang Feibo, a journalist with the China News Service, who took one of the photos misused by Zenz, told the Global Times that his photo has nothing to do with the so-called military-training camp for rural laborers that Zenz has claimed exist. The place he visited and took photos of in 2017 is a normal skills training center in the Karuo district of Qamdo.

Jiang said that the photo was taken when he was visiting a class for training security guards, which explained why those people were seen wearing uniforms. On that day, there were also other training courses - including cooking and mechanical maintenance - for which students wore other kinds of uniforms, rather than military uniforms. 

Zhu said that as Tibet is a border region, and has adopted a militia system, many residents prefer to wear military uniforms they obtained from the troops, which made them feel close to the soldiers and gave them a sense of pride. 

"Hyping the uniform-wearing pictures shows those Western media and researchers' ignorance toward this region," said Zhu. 

Zhu noted that the government has been devoted for decades to helping Tibetan herdsmen and farmers who live in alpine regions to shake off poverty and become employed. 

Global Times reporters have visited Tibet multiple times recently and conducted in-depth interviews with local residents, government officials, Buddhists, and businesspeople. 

In some places where the environment is not suitable for living, the government conducted "relocation programs" and provided support for residents to get better homes and secure jobs with a stable environment. A Tibetan local in a small town in Qamdo told the Global Times that he and another person he knows like the relocation program. 

"Many herdsmen and farmers are very grateful for the government policy, thanks to which their living standards have greatly improved," said Zhu, joking that using this policy to smear Tibet shows that some people and media in the West really need to work harder on honing their slandering skills.

Besides, the general wage for locals working in factories is generous - even higher than many other Chinese cities - which is in sharp contrast to accusations that local Tibetans are paid low wages. The Global Times interviewed several workers and found they can make about 5,000 yuan ($737) a month with free accommodation.

Wujin Dunzhu, who returned to Qamdo upon graduation from a college in Wuhan in 2018, told the Global Times on Wednesday that as far as he knows, there is no so-called forced labor transfer or centralized "military-style" vocational training for Tibetan laborers.

The fact is that in his hometown - Dajiang county, Qamdo - most people choose to stay there and not many choose to work outside.

"There is no case of people being forced to abandon their land to work in cities," he told the Global Times.

According to Wujin Dunzhu, most Tibetan college graduates like him now prefer to return to Tibet after graduation because the region offers preferential employment policies and great support for them if they want to start businesses.