The glossary below provides examples of the most frequent and disturbing tifa used in the official media in Tibet to refer to these new security policies. It includes approximate definitions by Human Rights Watch for these terms, although their meanings are rarely clear and have to be derived largely from the contexts in which they are found. There is frequent overlap between terms. The glossary also gives the standard Chinese and Tibetan versions of these terms, indicates their first known occurrence in the official media in their current sense, and gives examples of their usage in the media in Tibetan areas.
Policies relating to security and political control since 2011 are grouped together under the umbrella term “stability maintenance” (Tibetan: brtan lhing srung skyong བརྟན་ལྷིང་སྲུང་སྐྱོང་། Chinese: weiwen 维稳), which refers to the security measures instituted across the country from 2007 onwards to counter unrest and dissent. Since around 2013, these policies have also often been grouped under a second umbrella term, “social management,” which also refers to measures designed to achieve “stability” but implies the inclusion of measures providing services to the population.
Tibetan: spyi tshogs do dam སྤྱི་ཚོགས་དོ་དམ།
Chinese: shèhuì guǎnlǐ 社会管理
Definition: “Social management” refers to a system of policies, methods, institutions, and attitudes designed to prevent social unrest by improving government provision of social services while at the same time improving government capacity to suppress dissent. It refers particularly to improving the capacity of Party and government organizations both to deliver services and to eliminate dissent, especially in rural townships and villages. These services include poverty relief, employment, and skills training, the mediation of disputes and “social contradictions,” and management of the “floating” or (migrant) population. All branches of government are required to perform social management functions, including those in charge of workplace safety, food safety, emergency management, and so forth.
Tibetan: spyi tshogs bcos skyongs སྤྱི་ཚོགས་བཅོས་སྐྱོངས།
Chinese: shèhuì zhìlǐ 社会治理
Definition: The Chinese term shehui zhili is normally translated into English as “social governance.” The term highlights the government’s role in providing services and welfare to citizens as well as controlling them, and its cooperation with other stakeholders in society such as nongovernmental organizations and social organizations.
Comprehensive Rectification (Chinese Equivalent: Comprehensive Management)
Tibetan: phyogs bsdus bcos skyong ཕྱོགས་བསྡུས་བཅོས་སྐྱོང་།
Chinese: zònghé zhìlǐ 综合治理
Definition: The Chinese term zonghe zhili is usually translated as “comprehensive management,” but, as with “social rectification,” the Tibetan equivalent has the stronger meaning of “ongoing correction,” and so we have rendered it as “comprehensive rectification.” It usually refers to police operations designed to impose or restore order in a community or locality. These operations include police raids, investigations, detentions, prosecutions, closures, or reeducation drives. They can be in response to a particular incident or situation, or because that locality is subject to routine attention in any case. The term is often used to describe stability maintenance work in general.
Tibetan: sngon ’gog tshod ’dzin སྔོན་འགོག་ཚོད་འཛིན།
Chinese: shèhuì zhì’ān fángkòng 社会治安防控
Definition: The full form of this phrase is “preventive control of social stability.” It refers to the construction and development of policing networks to detect and deal with threats to stability before they lead to actual incidents. Usually refers to the grid management system (meaning offices established within each “grid unit” of a town or village) and to “public convenience police posts,” which were set up at road junctions in many Tibetan towns after 2011. It also includes organizing ordinary people to carry out security work by recruiting security teams and organizing citizen patrols in villages, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.
Three-dimensional [Social Stability] Preventive Control System
Tibetan: langs gzugs can gyi sngon ’gog tshod ’dzin ma lag ལངས་གཟུགས་ཅན་གྱི་སྔོན་འགོག་ཚོད་འཛིན་མ་ལག
Chinese: lìtǐ huà shèhuì zhì’ān fáng kòng tǐxì 立体化社会治安防控体系
Definition: Refers to a policing system or monitoring network that includes digital surveillance; monitoring at the grassroots level carried out by cadres based in monasteries, villages, and local neighborhoods; and policing done by officials in grid management offices and by appointed representatives in “double-linked household” units. The term emphasizes the integration of multiple information systems.
Tibetan: yun ring bde ’khod ཡུན་རིང་བདེ་འཁོད།
Chinese: chángzhì jiǔ’ān 长治久安
Definition: “Long-term stability” describes the ultimate objective of stability maintenance and social management policies. All the other security and control policies are supposed to lead to this outcome. It sounds like a term that any government might use: the hope for a society free from conflict, violence and unrest. But in the Tibetan case, it has a more precise and more sinister meaning: it refers to the creation of a society in which there is no dissent. According to Chinese political thinking, in Tibet this extreme form of “long-term stability” will be achieved by eradicating dissident ideas, which are seen as the root causes of instability, rather than just the symptoms.
No Cracks, No Shadows, No Gaps Left
Tibetan: srubs kha | grib cha | stong cha bcas ma lus pa སྲུབས་ཁ། གྲིབ་ཆ། སྟོང་ཆ་མ་ལུས་པ།
Chinese: meiyou fèngxì, meiyou mángdiǎn hé meiyou kòngbái dian 没有缝子，没有盲点和没有空白点
Definition: The Chinese version of this slogan can be translated literally as “no cracks, no blind spots, no gaps unfilled.” It is an order or “guiding instruction” to police, Party officials, and others not to overlook or neglect even the most trivial location or aspect of a case when they are assessing, investigating or searching a village, home, monastery, or any other location. It instructs them to investigate a person even when there is only the slightest suspicion that they might pose a potential threat to “stability maintenance.” This instruction is repeated frequently to local officials in the TAR, ordering them to surveil all people who appear to present the slightest threat, no matter how minor or remote that threat might be.
Eliminate Unseen Threats
Tibetan: mi mngon pa’i rkyen ngan med pa bzo ba མི་མངོན་པའི་རྐྱེན་ངན་མེད་པ་བཟོ་བ།
Chinese: xiāochú yǐnhuàn 消除隐患
Definition: An overarching instruction for all “stability maintenance” work, requiring personnel to take preemptive action against any potential cause of instability, even if it does not yet appear to be a threat.
This instruction refers to the belief among Chinese officials that even an apparently minor issue or complaint can trigger underlying disaffection among the general population and lead to serious protests against the state, especially in Tibet.
Nets in the Sky, Traps on the Ground
Tibetan: gnam rgya sa rnyi གནམ་རྒྱ་ས་རྙི།
Chinese: tiānluó dìwǎng 天罗地网
Definition: This term refers to the pervasive systems of control and surveillance deployed to track, identify and capture criminals, dissidents, and fugitives. In the current Tibet context, it appears to refer to blocking foreign media broadcasts into Tibet, controlling cyberspace, and stopping Tibetans fleeing into exile or visiting India, where the Dalai Lama and the exile Tibetan government are based.
Copper Ramparts, Iron Walls
Tibetan: zangs gyang lcags rtsigs ཟངས་གྱང་ལྕགས་རྩིགས།
Chinese: tóngqiáng tiěbì 铜墙铁壁
Definition: The term refers to an impenetrable “public security defense network” (zhi’an lianfang wangluo) consisting of citizen patrols, border security posts, police checkposts, surveillance systems, internet controls, identity card monitoring, travel restrictions, management of “focus personnel,” grid unit offices, informant networks, and other mechanisms that aim to control or monitor movement of people and ideas into, out of, or within a region or society. It describes the ideal of “stability maintenance” work, where authorities have successfully sealed off a region or society from people or ideas they regard as threatening or problematic.
Tibetan: gtso gnad mi sna གཙོ་གནད་མི་སྣ།
Chinese: zhòngdiǎn rényuán kòngzhì 重点人员
Definition: The full version of this phrase in Chinese means “important persons to be controlled,” while the Tibetan version uses a shorter form meaning “focus personnel” or “key individuals.” This refers to individuals deemed to pose a potential threat to society, so that officials and police should monitor or “control” their movements and behavior especially closely; similar to profiling. A 2012 list of these “focus personnel” or “special categories of people” in Tibet included, (1) those released from detention; (2) those returning from abroad (huiliu renyuan), such as Tibetans who have been unofficially to India; (3) “mobile” monks and nuns, meaning those who are not officially affiliated to and residing in a monastery; (4) people who were monks or nuns in the past but have been expelled from a monastery; (5) people suspected of involvement in the protests of March 2008; and (6) “other individuals who require special attention.”
Management and Service of the Floating Population
Tibetan: phyogs mi’i zhabs zhu dang do dam ཕྱོགས་མིའི་ཞབས་ཞུ་དང་དོ་དམ།
Chinese: liúdòng rénkǒu fúwù guǎnlǐ 流动人口服务管理
Definition: The system by which authorities track, administer, and provide services to people who are not registered residents of the area where they are living. Authorities in China provide full services only to people residing in the city, town, or rural area where they are registered, which is usually the place where they were born.; This location is listed in their “household registration” (hukou) document.
The floating population management system monitor and in some cases provide services to people living in an area where they are not registered. In Tibet, many or most of the floating population are mainland Chinese who have moved into Tibetan areas, who may need assistance with access to medical care, schooling, and other services normally requiring hukou registration. Others are Tibetans living in a town or area in Tibet where they are not registered. Since they fall outside the oversight and control system in their registered home area, they are seen as a “special group” that needs additional monitoring and surveillance.
Every Village a Fortress, Everyone a Watchman
Tibetan: grong tsho tshang ma mkhar rdzong dang mi tshang ma so dmag གྲོང་ཚོ་ཚང་མ་མཁར་རྫོང་དང་མི་ཚང་མ་སོ་དམག
Chinese: cūn cūn chéng bǎolěi, rén rén zuò shǒuwàng 村村成堡垒，人人做守望
Definition: Requiring every community and every resident in Tibet to be active participants in “stability maintenance” work, meaning that all residents must report any threats to stability, such as the arrival of outsiders or expressions of dissent, and must participate actively in security operations. These operations include “voluntary defense teams,” “patrol teams,” and other security measures in villages, local communities, workplaces, and schools. Participation is unlikely to be optional. The phrase also describes the ideal “stability maintenance” condition, where every community is so well policed by the residents that no disturbing ideas or people can enter it undetected.
Fixing Root and Branch Together
Tibetan: rtsa lag mnyam bcos རྩ་ལག་མཉམ་བཅོས།
Chinese: biāoběn jiānzhì 标本兼治
Definition: An approach to eradicating dissent that includes changing people’s political views at the most fundamental level and thus eliminating the root causes of dissent. In Tibet, authorities see the influence of the Dalai Lama and his supporters as the “root cause” of dissent, and the “branches” are people susceptible to that influence. Without removing the root cause, punishing and imprisoning the “branches” will not deliver comprehensive success or bring long-term stability.