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New Achievements in Tibet’s Human Rights Cause

By Qiu Ping Source: Updated: 2023-08-31

Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, Tibet has secured all-around progress and historic achievements in its human rights and given shape to a development paradigm defined by political and social stability, a growing economy, ethnic unity, religious harmony, consolidated border-area security, and contentment in people's work and life.

Historic achievements have been made in ensuring people's rights to subsistence and development

Absolute poverty has been eliminated once and for all in Tibet. Before liberation, the people here endured extreme poverty and unspeakable hardship. By 2019, however, absolute poverty had been eliminated in the region as a whole, with all 74 poverty-stricken counties (districts) and 628,000 registered poor people escaping impoverishment. In 2022, the average per capita income of people lifted from poverty reached 13,800 yuan, representing an annual growth rate higher than that of the per capita disposable income of rural residents as a whole. This progress has helped further consolidate our achievements in poverty alleviation.

People's living standards have been raised by a significant margin. In the past, the vast majority of people in Tibet were serfs who lacked food and warm clothing. By 2022, however, overall economic output in the region had reached 216.5 billion yuan, up from 174 million yuan in 1959, and grain output had increased to 1.07 million tons, up from 182,900 tons in 1959. Per capita disposable income among urban and rural residents rose to 48,753 yuan and 18,209 yuan, respectively—increases of about 8% and 10%, respectively, compared with 2021.

People's right to life and health has also been effectively guaranteed. Before liberation, Tibet was sparsely populated and had an average life expectancy of just 35.5 years. In 2021, the region's population reached 3.6481 million, rising from just 1.228 million in 1959. People from the Tibetan ethnic group make up 86.01% of the total regional population, and their average life expectancy has risen to 72.19 years.

An overarching improvement has been made in the protection of economic, social, and cultural rights

We have effectively implemented an employment-first strategy. Our region has carried out Covid-19 response and promoted economic and social development in a coordinated way, and we have implemented a raft of policies and measures to ease burdens, ensure employment, and expand employment. In 2022, 51,000 new urban jobs were added, and the college graduate employment rate rose to 95.6%. In each of the last five years, over 600,000 farmers and herders have transferred to non-agricultural employment.

The development of education has been made a governance priority. Indeed, Tibet was the first place in the country to implement a free 15-year education program, and we have continued to improve our policy system for subsidizing students with financial difficulties, ensuring coverage all the way from preschool to higher education. The number of schools across all levels and categories in our region stands at 3,339, and the enrolled students from both inside and outside the region is 922,000, accounting for one-quarter of the total population. The average length of education among new workforce entrants has increased to 13.1 years.

Remarkable progress has also been made in the development of medical and health care. There are 5.37 hospital beds and 6.94 health professionals per 1,000 people in the region. The number of basic public health service categories has been increased to 28, and public health service subsidies have risen to 110 yuan per person. The number of traditional Tibetan medicine institutions and health professionals has also grown exponentially, with traditional Tibetan medicine services covering all townships.

Social security benefits have been steadily improved. We have fully established a social security system covering all urban and rural residents with five main areas—old-age, medical care, unemployment, workers' compensation, and maternity insurance. The number of individual accounts for various types of social insurance has reached 3.2038 million. We have continued to improve the social assistance system, and an average of over 240,000 people receive subsistence allowances and nearly 14,000 people in extreme difficulty are granted assistance on an annual basis.

All-around progress has been made in promoting public cultural services. We have carried out innovative cultural public-interest initiatives and refined a five-level public cultural service system. All 5,492 administrative villages and communities in Tibet are served by cultural performance teams, which engage over 100,000 full- and part-time performers.

Political and civil rights have been fully guaranteed and advanced throughout the governance process

The people's right to run their own affairs has been truly realized. In Tibet, people of all ethnicities fully exercise their right to administer national and local affairs as stipulated by the Constitution and laws of China. Tibet has 24 representatives in the 14th National People's Congress, 16 of whom are from the Tibetan and other ethnic minority groups, accounting for 66.7% of the total. Tibetans and people from other ethnic minority groups also make up 89.2% of the 42,153 delegates among the four levels of people's congresses in our region. The position of chairperson of the people's government of Tibet has always been filled by a member of the Tibetan ethnic group, and steady efforts have been made to improve the appointment and training of officials from ethnic minority groups. As a result, officials and talented individuals from various ethnic minority groups, predominantly the Tibetan ethnic group, have come to serve as integral members of Tibet's team of officials and the mainstay of its various industries.

We have kept alive and further developed the best elements of traditional culture. The learning and use of the Tibetan language are protected by law, and the Tibetan language and script are widely used. Tibetan classics have been effectively protected and put to use. We have effectively carried forward, protected, and developed various intangible cultural heritage projects, and further improved the four-level intangible heritage protection system covering the national, autonomous region, prefecture, and county levels. Tibetan opera, the Epic of King Gesar, and traditional Tibetan medicinal bathing have been inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The traditional customs of all ethnic groups are fully respected, and freedom of religious belief is guaranteed by law. In Tibet, all religions and denominations are equal, and all people, whether religious believers or not, are treated the same. The region is home to more than 1,700 places of worship and over 1,700 religious and folk events, fully meeting believers' legitimate religious needs. All monks and nuns registered in the autonomous region have been included in the social security net, with full coverage of medical insurance, old-age insurance, subsistence allowances, and personal accident insurance.

Equality and unity among all ethnic groups have been further enhanced. Focusing on the main task of forging a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation, we have carried out extensive activities to promote ethnic unity and progress. The economic and cultural ties between people in Tibet and the rest of the country have become closer, with the emergence of more mixed communities and stronger emotional bonds. All this has given rise to a vibrant dynamic in which all ethnic groups are working together for prosperity and development and the Chinese nation is united as one family striving in unity to make the Chinese dream a reality.

Protection of environmental rights has been further enhanced

We have made new strides in consolidating environmental governance achievements. Fifty percent of the region's land area is now protected by ecological conservation red lines. In 2022, 100% of all source areas for centralized urban drinking water met the required quality standards, water and soil erosion were curbed on 746 square kilometers of land, and more than 291,000 hectares of degraded grasslands were restored, ensuring that Tibet remains a national leader in terms of environmental quality.

We have generated fresh momentum for promoting green and low-carbon development. We have carried out a baseline assessment for peaking carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, drawn up a carbon-peaking implementation plan, and launched pollution and carbon reduction initiatives in several key sectors, including energy, industry, transportation, and construction. The “1+N” policy framework for peaking carbon has also largely been instituted.

We have achieved fresh success in ecological protection. By 2022, forest coverage in Tibet reached 12.31%, total vegetation coverage on natural grasslands rose to 48.02%, and wetland areas were extended to cover 6.529 million hectares. The proportion of days with excellent air quality in key towns and cities exceeded 99%, and the water quality of major rivers and lakes was at or above Grade III quality standards.

The rights of specific groups have been ensured with special safeguards

We have effectively protected the rights and interests of women and children. In 2022, maternal and infant mortality rates in Tibet dropped to 45.8 per 100,000 population and 7 per 1,000 population, respectively. The student retention rate for nine-year compulsory education and the female gross enrollment ratio for senior secondary education reached 96.94% and 90.2%, respectively. There are 156 legal aid agencies in Tibet, as well as 31 collegial panels for safeguarding the rights of women and children.

We have continued to improve the mechanisms for protecting the rights and interests of elderly people. We have established an eldercare service network that coordinates home, community, and facility care to satisfy different medical and health care needs. Our region currently has a total of 145 eldercare service institutions and facilities, which are equipped with 13,000 bed spaces. We have improved the schemes for elderly care service subsidies, nursing care subsidies for functionally impaired seniors, and subsidies for functionally impaired seniors of advanced age who are experiencing financial difficulties. Close to 67,000 elderly people have benefited from these schemes.

Notable progress has been made in protecting the rights and interests of people with disabilities. We have steadily expanded and raised standards for living allowances for people with disabilities who are experiencing financial difficulties and for nursing subsidies for people with severe disabilities, with payments for these two schemes reaching 100 yuan and 200 yuan, respectively. Since 2012, total subsidy payments for these two schemes have amounted to almost 1 billion yuan and benefited over 800,000 recipients with disabilities. At present, 15,789 people with certified disabilities within the working age range of 16-59 are in employment, and 97.15% of school-age children and teenagers with disabilities are enrolled in compulsory education.