The Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, pictured after a snowfall on January 9. Photo: Xinhua

Communist cadres in Tibet punished for helping Dalai Lama

Party discipline investigators claim unidentified cadres had joined independence groups and participated in activities that harmed national security


Fifteen Communist Party officials in Tibet joined underground independence organisations, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama and his supporters or participated in activities deemed harmful to China’s security, a party agency said on Wednesday.

The publicising of party officials supporting Tibetan separatism was highly unusual and suggested continuing unrest in the Himalayan region, which has had a heavy security presence since a wave of rioting and protests against Chinese rule in 2008.

The wrongdoing was uncovered last year during an investigation into a small group of party officials, according to a statement posted the website of the Discipline Inspection Commission of Tibet. Fifteen of the officials received unspecified punishment for violating party and political discipline, the commission added.

It was not immediately clear why the cases were announced this week. The commission’s announcement gave no details of the groups that the party members allegedly joined, the intelligence they provided or other activities that would have harmed national security. Calls to party spokespeople in Tibet were not answered, and the discipline commission’s phone number was not publicly available.

Journalists’ access to Tibet is tightly restricted and all information from the region is extremely difficult to confirm. While details such as the name of the officials punished were not provided, it is likely that they were ethnic Tibetans who traditionally practice a form Buddhism of which the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader.

Ethnic minorities, including Tibetans and Muslim Uygurs from the neighbouring Xinjiang region, make up about 6 per cent of the Communist Party’s 86 million members. They are recruited to fill posts at various levels as a key component of the party’s united front policy, although the top party official in provinces and regions such as Tibet is always a member of China’s overwhelming majority Han ethnic group.