IN an effort to regain a firm hold on Tibet, China is intensively ``reeducating'' officials who advocate independence for the Himalayan region, a Chinese official says. The campaign uses the same methods of thought control as does the nationwide effort to reshape the views of cadres and other Chinese who supported the quelled struggle for liberal reform.
Tibetan officials will be required to study central documents of Beijing's policy on the region and to declare their support for this policy. And they will be expected to enunciate their own beliefs until these parallel those of the Communist Party.
The indoctrination in Tibet is part of the attempt by Beijing to crush opposition to its rule there. This followed a protest in Lhasa last March that flared into the worst unrest there in 30 years, says Ren Yinong, an official from the State Nationalities Affairs Commission.
China has enforced martial law in the Tibetan capital since March 7, soon after troops provoked a riot by firing on unarmed protesters for Tibetan independence. Beijing claims 16 people died in the disturbance. Tibetan sources say the number of fatalities is far higher.
In an unusual sign of conflict within in Communist Party ranks, party members in Tibet joined the protesters or provided them with indirect support, according to official press accounts. Such activists make up less than 10 percent of the state officials and party members in Tibet, says Mr. Ren, deputy director of the commission's culture and publicity department.
The ``reeducation'' seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the Tibetan government in exile. Officials claim that China is the rightful ruler of the former Buddhist theocracy and assert that without Beijing's tutelage, Tibet would revert to feudalism, Ren says.
The effort to compel the cadres to renounce support for Tibetan independence indicates that Beijing has resisted the call by some officials last spring for a purge of government organs in the region.
``The small number of state officials and party members who have separatist ideas has not yet been purged because our main goal is to educate them,'' Ren said in an interview on Monday.
The ``careful treatment'' of officials and party members in Tibet mirrors the moderate handling of cadres in Beijing who supported the spring rallies for liberal political reform, according to Ren.
In a rare official interview with a foreign reporter on the situation in Tibet, Ren said there are other similarities in the suppression of the separatist movement in Tibet and the liberal struggle throughout China. For instance, he says foreign human-rights organizations have wrongly criticized China for torture, wanton capital punishment, and other human rights abuses in Tibet as they did in their condemnation of the June 3-4 military assault on pro-democracy activists in Beijing.
``The accusation of some international human-rights organizations against China is completely groundless. It is just like the accusations made during the quelling of the `counterrevolutionary rebellion' in Beijing,'' Ren says, using the official buzzwords for peaceful liberal protests.
However, a leading Tibetan official recently said that police abused the human rights of Lhasa residents while putting down the March protests.
``During the riots some armed policemen failed to obey discipline and prior instructions and opened fire on innocent people,'' Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme told a meeting in Lhasa, according to the Aug. 27 issue of the official newspaper Tibet Daily, just released in Beijing.
The statement by Mr. Ngapoi, vice chairman of the standing committee of China's nominal legislature, is the first official acknowledgment that police used unnecessary force.