A drive last year by China to enroll ethnic Tibetans in the ruling Chinese Communist Party has added at least 16,000 Tibetans to Party rolls, bringing the total Tibetan membership number to 398,000, Chinese state media said at the beginning of July.
Around 8,000 new members are Tibetan nomads and farmers, the online China's Tibet website said on July 1.
Considered a requirement for social advancement, Party membership is becoming more and more a gateway to work for young Tibetans, who have been increasingly restricted in job opportunities because of a lack of fluency in Chinese or perceived disloyalty to China, which marched into the formerly independent Tibet in 1950 and has ruled it ever since.
The rules of Party membership are targeted primarily at destroying Tibetan national and cultural identity, though, Tibetan researchers and experts living in exile told RFA's Tibetan Service this week.
"One requirement for enrolling in the Party is that Tibetans must renounce their religious beliefs," Shidey Dawa-a researcher at the Dharamsala, India-based Tibet Policy Institute-said in an interview, calling the membership drive a "showcase" aimed at convincing the world outside Tibet that Tibetans are happy with Beijing's rule.
"Any belief in religion is taken as a threat and a challenge to the Communist Party. So this is a long-term communist government strategy to gradually win Tibetans' loyalty by making them lose their core identity," Dawa said.
"Through this campaign, the communist government is trying to win the hearts of the Tibetan people and eliminate any traces of dissent," agreed TPI research Karma Tenzin, adding, "This growth in CCP membership among Tibetans will have a negative impact on the minds of the Tibetan people and will destroy Tibetans' identity as a unique race."
Also speaking to RFA, a former Tibetan government official now living in the West called membership in the ruling Chinese Communist Party a "prerequisite for any promotion or leadership position in the CCP government."
"However, once you join, a fee is deducted from your salary once every three months, and I have no idea for what purpose those fees are used," the former official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
What would have induced Tibetan nomads or other pastoralists to join the Party in the numbers reported by China is also unclear, the official said, adding, "Ordinary Tibetan people like farmers have no reason to join the CCP."
Reported by Lobsang Gelek and Dorjee Damdul for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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