500,000 Tibetans forced into military-style labour camps in just 7 months of 2020, China calls it ‘vocational training’

500,000 Tibetans forced into labour camps in 2020 alone (Image: The Sunday Morning Harald)

Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist and Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Jamestown Foundation, has stated in a report that China is pushing over half a million Tibetans into forced labour camps. It is somewhat on the similar lines of the program they have followed in the case of Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region but less coercive. The research has been corrobrated by Reuters.

The Chinese government is calling it a mandatory “vocational training” program. More than 500,000 rural labourers have already been pushed in military-style training centres in the first seven months of 2020.


As per the evidence collected by Zenz, the labour camps are under intrusive surveillance. Those who fail to meet labour transfer quotas have to face harsh punishment. The documents collected during the investigation suggest that the labour transfer policy makes it mandatory for the farmers and pastoralists to get “military-style” vocational training. As per the Chinese government, the training aims to “reform backward thinking” and teach them “work discipline.”

Program progress since its establishment in 2005

According to a report by Zenz, the Chinese government started a “recruitment program” in the Tibet Autonomous Region intending to provide labour training and employment to the surplus manpower. By 2015, the number of surplus labourers to be trained under the program was increased to 65,000. By 2016, 45 such training camps had been established by the Chamdo government.

In March 2019, TAR issued the 2019-2020 Farmer and Pastoralist Training and Labor Transfer Action Plan under which “vigorous promotion of military-style training” was made mandatory, as per reports. The plan aimed to teach labourers to work discipline, Chinese language and work ethics. Zenz wrote that the Chinese government said it would “enhance labourers’ sense of discipline to comply with national laws and regulations and work unit rules and regulations.”

Labour transfer to other provinces

As per the reports, the Communist regime introduced a region-wide labour transfer policy that allows the transfer of labours in other provinces across Tibet and China in 2020. As per the report, 543,000 rural surplus labourers got training in these camps in the first seven months of 2020. Out of these, 49,900 were transferred to other provinces of Tibet and 3,109 in other parts of China.

Global pressure to shift Winter Olympics 2020 from China

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the founder of a global coalition of MPs, has urged the International Olympic Committee to shift the 2022 Winter Games from China. The politician around the world has shown concerns over the human rights record of China. It is believed that this move will help in forming an alliance between the human rights groups, conservation, and progressive politicians to boycott the Games. The IOC is already under financial pressure amid Covid-19 challenges as it is trying to keep Tokyo Olympics on track for 2021.

Former Australian soccer captain Craig Foster said IOC would be responsible for whitewashing broad-scale abuse of Human Rights in China if it allows the 2022 Games to happen there. He said, “It is near impossible to see how China can stage a mega-sporting event in accordance with these basic human rights since many are antithetical to governmental principles themselves.”

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia