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I. Ethnic Regional Autonomy System and the People's Political Rights

Tibet is an area where the Tibetans live in compact communities, with people of the Tibetan ethnic group making up 95 percent of the total population of 2.44 million in the autonomous region, and the people of the Han and other ethnic groups accounting for only five percent. According to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the state practices the ethnic regional autonomy system in Tibet, which has been established as the Tibet Autonomous Region, and safeguards, according to law, the political rights of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet to participate in administration of state and local affairs on an equal basis, especially the Tibetan people's autonomous right to independently administer local and ethnic affairs. Practicing ethnic regional autonomy in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in compact communities is a major political system of China and a basic policy of the Chinese Government for solving problems relating to ethnic affairs.

In April 1956, the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up in accordance with the Central Government's decision. The Tibet Autonomous Region was formally founded in 1965, with Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme as the first chairman of the Region. As the organs of self-government, the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and the Regional People's Government exercise the power of autonomy according to law. In accordance with the Chinese Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, all areas entitled to ethnic regional autonomy enjoy the extensive rights of autonomy, involving legislation, the use of local spoken and written languages, the administration of personnel, the economy, finance, education and culture, the management and development of natural resources, and other aspects.

The Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and its Standing Committee -- the local organs of state power in Tibet -- fully exercise the power of autonomy bestowed by the Constitution and law, and have actively formulated laws and regulations appropriate to local ethnic and regional characteristics. Between 1965 and 1992 more than 60 local laws and regulations were worked out, such as the Rules of Procedure of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Regulations on the Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language in the Tibet Autonomous Region (for trial implementation). In recent years the Region has formulated 23 local laws and regulations, made 21 legal decisions, and cleared up or revised 23 laws and regulations involving politics, the economy, culture, education, environmental protection and other fields, including the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on Environmental Protection, the Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Work of Town and Township People's Congresses and the Regulations on Enhancing the Examination and Supervision of the Implementation of the Laws and Regulations. In addition, rules for the implementation of 14 national laws and regulations conforming to the local features of Tibet have been drawn up. The legislative and administrative organs of the Tibet Autonomous Region have designated the Tibetan New Year, the Sholton and other traditional festivals of the Tibetan ethnic group as the Region's holidays, in addition to the official national holidays. In accordance with the special natural and geographical conditions of Tibet, the autonomous region has decreed a work week of no more than 35 hours, five hours less than the official national work week for workers and staff. According to statistics, the number of laws and regulations worked out since 1992 by the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and its Standing Committee to safeguard the interests of the Tibetan people in light of the actual conditions in Tibet exceeds the total formulated during the 12 years preceding 1992.

The chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region are both citizens of the Tibetan ethnic group. Both the Chinese Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy specify that the chairmen or vice-chairmen of the standing committees of the people's congresses of ethnic autonomous areas shall be citizens of the ethnic group or groups exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The chairman of an autonomous region, the governor of an autonomous prefecture and the head of an autonomous county shall be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. Since the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region all the four chairmen of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and five chairmen of the Region have been Tibetan citizens. According to statistics, members of the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities now account for 71.4 percent of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region; for 80 percent of the members of the Standing Committee of the Autonomous Regional People's Congress; and for 77.8 percent of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Tibet Autonomous Region. After the election of members to succeeding governments at the township (town), county, prefectural (city) and autonomous regional levels in 1993, members of the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities accounted for 93.2 percent of the component members of the organs of state power at these four levels, respectively for 99.8 percent and 98.6 percent of the township (town) and county heads elected, and respectively 96 percent and 89 percent of the presidents of the people's courts and the procurators of the people's procuratorates at the autonomous regional, prefectural (city) and county levels. Further progress has been made in the training and selection of cadres of Tibetan and other ethnic minorities in Tibet since 1992. According to 1996 statistics the number of cadres belonging to the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities in Tibet had increased by 18.22 percent over the 1992 figure, making up 73.88 percent of the total and showing an increase of 4.48 percentage points over the figure for 1992.

Guaranteeing the study and use of the Tibetan language is an important aspect of safeguarding the Tibetan people's right to autonomy and exercising their right to participate in the administration of state and local affairs. The Chinese Constitution specifies that all ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. China's Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy stipulates that in performing their functions, the organs of self-government of every ethnic autonomous area, in accordance with the regulations on the exercise of autonomy in those areas, employ the spoken and written languages or languages in common use in the locality. Accordingly, the Regulations on the Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language (for trial implementation) adopted by the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress clearly specifies that both Tibetan and Chinese should be used in the Tibet Autonomous Region, with precedence given to the Tibetan language. The Tibetan language is the common language for the whole autonomous region. The resolutions, laws, regulations and decrees adopted by the people's congresses, and official documents and proclamations issued by governments at all levels in the Region are in both Tibetan and Chinese. In court cases involving Tibetans, the Tibetan language must be used in hearing cases, and legal documents must be written in the Tibetan language. Newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations also use both Tibetan and Chinese languages. All signs and marks of government institutions, streets, roads and public facilities are in both Tibetan and Chinese scripts. Tibetan academic, cultural and art workers have the right to write and publish their academic or artistic works in their own language.

The implementation of the ethnic regional autonomy system has further guaranteed the political rights of the Tibetan people, which is in marked contrast to the situation in old Tibet.

Before the Democratic Reform of 1959 Tibet had long been a society languishing under a system of feudal serfdom which intertwined politics with religion, a society which was even darker than the European society of the Middle Ages. The serfs and slaves, making up 95 percent of the total population of Tibet, were completely deprived of personal freedom and political rights. The serf owners considered serfs and slaves as their private property, so they could trade and transfer them, present them as gifts, make them mortgages for debts and exchange them. It was not until 1959 that the 13-Article Code and 16-Article Code, which had been practiced for several hundred years in old Tibet, were abolished, by which codes the Tibetan people were divided, in explicit terms, into three classes and nine ranks and put on an unequal footing in legal status. The codes specified that the lives of people of the highest rank of the upper class, such as a prince, were literally worth their weight in gold, whereas the lives of people of the lowest rank of the lower class, such as women, butchers, hunters and craftsmen, were worth no more than the price of a straw rope. Th serf owners safeguarded the feudal serfdom with savage punishments; they would frequently punish serfs and slaves by gouging out their eyes, cutting off their ears, arms or legs, drowning them or inflicting other terrible penalties.

Since the Democratic Reform abolished the feudal serf system, the Tibetan people, like the people of all other ethnic groups throughout the country, have become the masters of their state and society, and won the political rights enjoyed by all citizens as stipulated in the Chinese Constitution and law.

All citizens in Tibet who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic group, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence. They elect their own deputies and exercise the power to administer state and local affairs through the people's congresses elected by them. According to statistics, in 1993 when the succeeding township, county, prefectural (city) and autonomous regional people's congresses were elected, Tibet had 1,311,085 voters, making up 98.6 percent of all citizens at or above 18 years of age, 91.6 percent of whom participated in the elections. In some places 100 percent of the voters took part in the elections. Meanwhile, the Chinese Constitution and Electoral Law clearly specify that the National People's Congress, the highest organ of state power, should include an appropriate number of ethnic minority deputies. The Electoral Law contains special regulations to promote the election of deputies from among ethnic minorities. For example, it stipulates that where the total population of an ethnic minority in an area where that ethnic minority lives in concentrated communities exceeds 30 percent of the total local population, the number of people represented by each deputy of that ethnic minority shall be equal to the number of people represented by each of the other deputies to the local people's congress; and that where the total population of an ethnic minority in such an area is less than 15 percent of the total local population, the number of people represented by each deputy of that ethnic minority may appropriately be less than the number of people represented by each of the other deputies to the local people's congress. The ethnic minorities, who make up 8 percent of the total population in China, now account for well over 14 percent of the total number of deputies to the National People's Congress. At present, Tibet has 20 deputies to the Ninth National People's Congress, 80 percent of whom are from the Tibetan or other ethnic minorities. Though the Moinba, Lhoba and other ethnic minorities in Tibet have small populations, each of them has its own deputies to the National People's Congress as well as to the people's congresses at all levels in Tibet. The Living Buddha Phabala Geleg Namgyal is vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People's Congress.

Personages of all strata and all circles in Tibet also participate in the administration and discussion of state affairs, and exercise their democratic rights through attending the political consultative conferences at all levels. Now a number of personages of ethnic minorities origin and religious figures from Tibet are members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) or its Standing Committee, with Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme serving as vice-chairman of the CPPCC National Committee. Since its founding in 1959, the CPPCC Tibetan Committee has recruited large numbers of people of the Tibetan and other ethnic minorities, as well as religious figures. Now several hundred ethnic-minority people and religious figures are members of the CPPCC Tibet Committee. Even some people who were nobles of the old Tibetan government, such as Lhalu Tsewang Dorje and Domed Konchok Palmo, are currently vice-chairmen of the Tibet Autonomous Region's Political Consultative Conference. The legal codes of old Tibet stipulated: "Women are not to be granted the right to discuss state affairs." This situation is now no longer to be found in new Tibet. In 1996 female deputies to the Tibet Autonomous Region People's Congress made up 20 percent of the total. Now Tibet has 573 women cadres at or above the county level, and some Tibetan female judges, procurators, police officers and lawyers for the first time in Tibetan history.

Most staff members of the judiciary of the Tibet Autonomous Region are Tibetans or members of local ethnic minorities. Strictly in accordance with the Constitution and laws, the judicial departments of the Tibet Autonomous Region protect the basic rights and freedoms, and other legal rights and interests of the citizens of all ethnic groups in Tibet. They also protect public property and the lawful private property of the citizens, punish those law-breakers who endanger society, and maintain social order according to law. Both the crime and imprisonment rates of the Tibet Autonomous Region are lower than the nation's average. The legal rights of criminals are protected by law, and those who belong to ethnic minorities or religious sects are not discriminated against, but due consideration is given to their lifestyles and customs. The government guarantees the provision of food, clothing, shelter and articles of daily use for prison inmates. Each prison in Tibet has separate dining facilities and diets for inmates of different ethnic groups and provides for them zanba (roasted highland barley flour), buttered tea, sweet tea, etc. every month. Each prison has a clinic, and the number of prison doctors is higher than the nation's average. Criminals enjoy rest days, holidays and traditional ethnic festivals, in accordance with the state's unified regulations. Prisoners may see visitors every month, may win a reduction of penalty or be released on parole, and may be given various awards according to law.