Tibetan college graduates looking for work in Tibet’s public sector are being forced by Chinese authorities to denounce exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama before they are given jobs, a Tibetan advocacy group said this week.

To be considered for employment, applicants must “expose and criticize the Dalai [Lama]” and display loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in an Oct. 16 statement, quoting from recruitment notices recently issued in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Applicants failing this loyalty test will be disqualified from work in public institutions, ICT said.

Regarded by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan region in 1950.

Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday and calls for his return have been harshly punished in the past.

In a statement on Wednesday, ICT president Matteo Mecacci said the new restrictions on employment in Tibet “symbolize the additional systematic discrimination imposed on Tibetans living under Chinese rule.”

“Being forced to denounce the Dalai Lama—a Nobel Peace Laureate who for Tibetans is a source of pride and great inspiration—to get a job, is an unnecessary humiliation and discrimination, which only hardens the Tibetan spirit of resistance, and certainly does not provide legitimacy to Chinese rule in Tibet.”

“Moreover, the requirements to reveal [or] denounce a certain political opinion violate the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as protected in Article 18 [of the U.N.] Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Mecacci said.

Many jobs out of reach

TAR authorities beginning in April announced a recruitment drive for a range of positions in Tibet’s civil service and education sectors, ICT said on Wednesday.

Party authorities “have always attached great importance to the employment of college graduates and adopted a number of measures to arrange employment for college graduates,” Tibet’s Autonomous Region College Graduates Employment and Entrepreneurship Leading Group Office said in a June 5 statement, quoted by ICT.

However, Tibetan college and university graduates still struggle to find work in Tibetan regions of China despite reports in state media of high rates of employment, Tibetan sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Employment for Tibetans in the coveted government sector has meanwhile been placed largely out of reach, with more Chinese university graduates coming in to Tibetan areas of China to compete for jobs.

And requirements for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese in testing and consideration for employment have further disadvantaged Tibetan students, as China seeks to promote the dominance of Chinese culture and language in Tibetan areas, sources say.

Language rights have become a focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations,” and teachers subject to detention and arrest.