A video showing China’s attempts to ideologically “educate” ethnic people in Tibet by brainwashing them into submission — a policy that extends to monks and nuns as well as lay Buddhists — went viral on social media and did not make for easy viewing.
The video has been taken offline and can no longer be found.
In the clip, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadre from Jinling Township in Bianba County in Changdu City of Tibet is shown talking to a forest keeper during the party member’s assessment of her “re-education.”
The cadre begins by explaining to the local Tibetan how fortunate she is to have received such care from the state, after having spent time at one of many “political re-education” classes Beijing has launched in this restive region.
“The village has offered you a very good education and now you are undergoing an examination to test what you have learned,” the cadre says.
He asks about the size of her family, the nature of her job, and other routine questions. Then he changes tack and asks her how much she received in state subsidies in 2017 and 2018.
The woman answers: “3,760 Chinese yuan (US$550) in 2017, 3,560 yuan last year.”
Having used this question as bait to hammer home his message, the man then says: “All of this has been given to you by the country to improve [your] life” … “it is all from the grace of China, a favor bestowed on you by the party.”
She nods and agrees. Afterwards, the forest keeper reels off a list of names: current and former presidents of the CCP; her village’s party secretary; and the party secretaries responsible for committees in Changdu, Bianba County, Jingling Township and the Tibet Autonomous Region,
She then makes a controversial and hard-to-swallow claim, presumably under duress — that Beijing’s measures to alleviate poverty have resulted in a region where no one is starving and no one is poor.
The woman wraps up her interview by reciting the Communist Party’s “Four Emphases and Four Loves,” part of China’s campaign to intensify loyalty to the regime.
The tenets, as codified in the speeches of Chinese President Xi Jinping, are as follows: Love the core by emphasizing the party’s kindness; love the motherland by emphasizing unity; love your home by emphasizing what you can contribute; love your life by emphasizing knowledge.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the first organization’s to report on the campaign, sees this as a thinly veiled movement to crush people’s rights while attempting to “pacify” Tibet by winning hearts and minds.
Framed in this way, the video can be quite disturbing to watch. Instead of a training test, it is clearly a brainwashing session.
According to reports, the CCP dispatched over 30,000 party members and cadres to villages in the Tibet Autonomous Region in 2017. The official reason was to alleviate poverty but the real target was, to coin a phrase, “thought control.”
The party previously focused its efforts on Tibetan schools, where thousands of Tibetan teenagers were sent to major cities in China to become “socialist successors.”
Such efforts were later refocused on religious organizations including monasteries and Buddhist nunneries to promote this so-called “patriotic education.”
Meanwhile, the CCP has also implanted the Chinese culture, language and ideology throughout Tibet while watering down the ethnic population by importing legions of Chinese immigrant workers as part of a process of cultural and social assimilation.
In fact, we could say the party is carrying out a strategy of “double brainwashing” in Tibet.
On the one hand, it is “communizing” the people, or forcing Tibetans to recognize the rule and legitimacy of the party as it moves to colonize the region; on the other hand, it is “Sinicizing” Tibet by weakening its traditional identity and sociocultural characteristics.
Another time-honored method of brainwashing in China depends on the use of bold rhetoric and the enforced shouting of such slogans as “The CCP is our savior”; “The party is the Bodhisattva”; “People are the masters and make their own decisions”; and “The Tibetan people stand up.”
But in nearly 60 years, few if any see this as anything but propaganda.
So the Chinese government ramped things up by launching its “brainwashing battlefield” on the foundation of the original system. This battlefield exists at a grassroots level in farming and rural regions in Tibet.
The government dispatches cadres to spread the word in villages throughout the province. Most are seeking promotion — or have just been promoted — and are keen to impress their party masters; others may have attracted unwanted attention and are desperate to prove their fealty to cover their own faults.
Some take their work to extreme levels: stationing themselves inside Tibetan people’s homes and eating together so they can press their ideologically educational messages more forcefully.
Such a brainwashing movement is not only unprecedented in scale — it is also unscrupulous and compulsory as the party ties the results with the cadres’ chances of being promoted and receiving other rewards.
As such they are highly motivated to “succeed,” making sure those villagers who comply enjoy better access to state welfare and relief aid; those who don’t are likely to suffer forms of administrative punishment.
Unsurprisingly, most Tibetans don’t take this kind of treatment lightly. The party knows it must tread carefully while conducting its campaign in a thorough way in order to avoid sparking an uprising, so the cadres dare not conduct their brainwashing activities in a sloppy manner — they increasingly try to act in secrecy.
The party’s ultimate goal is to have the Tibetans identify themselves as “Chinese” and recognize the colonial rule of the CCP while throwing their support behind the party.
But Beijing’s tactics have already engendered a considerable amount of ill will, not to mention all the negative coverage in the international press of the party’s so-called “political re-education camps.”
These operate mostly in Tibet and the neighboring region of Xinjiang the home to many ethnic-Turkic Muslims, over one million of whom have reportedly been detained in such camps over the last year.
Given the rapid development of China’s economy and education in recent decades, as well as the information available to the public courtesy of the Great Firewall-leaping virtual private networks, one wonders how long the Communist Party can make minority groups submit to its will via such coercive brainwashing.