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(Opening ceremony of the “2023 Forum on the Development of Xizang (Tibet), China.” Source: Xinhua)

China Attempts to Counter Critics with a mendacious Event on Tibet

China’s State Council Information Office and the regional government of Tibet hosted a one-day forum called “2023 Forum on the Development of Xizang, China” in Beijing on May 23, 2023.

Wang Junzheng, the Communist Party Secretary of Tibet, is quoted in Chinese media as having said  “After over 70 years of development, a new modern socialist Tibet featuring political and social stability, economic prosperity, ethnic unity, religious harmony, consolidation of border defense and people living and working in peace and contentment is now presented to the world” at the opening ceremony.

Wang Junzheng, also known as “Butcher of Xinjiang” became the Party Secretary of Tibet in October 2021. He was previously the head of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and was directly responsible for Uyghur forced labor and running several Chinese “re-education” camps for Uyghurs. He is listed on multiple Western sanction lists.

Wang repeated the usual Chinese government line of how “people of various ethnic groups in Tibet have enjoyed a greater sense of accomplishment, happiness and security, and moderately prosperous lives along with the rest of the Chinese people.” He claimed that absolute poverty had been eliminated in Tibet and infrastructure and living standards has “improved dramatically.

The People’s Daily posted a news story on May 29, 2023 where it reports that Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the event in which he “hopes that on the new journey of advancing Chinese modernization, Tibet can fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy on all fronts, step up efforts to promote high-quality development, and strive to build a prosperous, harmonious and beautiful new socialist Tibet underpinned by unity, civility and modernization so that the people of Tibet can enjoy better and more fulfilled lives.”

The one-day event brought together Chinese government officials, various domestic participants, and selected guests from abroad.

Tibetans and other external observers viewed the glitzy event as a Chinese government propaganda exercise and a response to international criticism on Chinese government policies in Tibet. The most recent instance of this was the concern over lack of human rights in Tibet expressed in the G7 communique in May 2023. They noted that legitimate concerns regarding human rights and how the current Chinese government policy of assimilation was endangering the entire culture and identity of the Tibetan people was missing from the forum agenda. The fact that the authorities selected Beijing and not a Tibetan location for the event was also viewed as telling.