Cartographies of coercion in Tibet

June 11, 2023
Turquoise Roof

Executive Summary

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is rapidly transforming the physical, digital, and social landscapes of Tibet. Although colonization efforts are occurring in plain sight, they are concealed from international public scrutiny.

One reason for the lack of visibility is that it is simply too risky for Tibetans in Tibet to publish openly about PRC investments, much less triangulate and validate locally available information. New technologiesare starting to break the PRC’s monopoly on information in Tibet. Today, independently verifiable data and analysis can be leveraged from multiple open and unconventional sources and analyzed by Tibetan researchers and others outside China. New research alliances made-up of digitally connected scholars are starting to leverage remote sensing platforms to powerful effect. Informed by Tibetan researchers, this study combines data generated from official Chinese sources and satellite companies, including Planet Labs. It exposes the many encroachments into Tibet – from critical mineral exploitation including lithium mining and the building of hydro-electric dams to networks of high-speed rail, highways, and data centers. The assessment also considers the vast outlay of policing, detention, and ‘re-education’ facilities together with the deletion of religious and cultural institutions. Taken together, the study demonstrates how geospatial analytics and open-source research can provide an objective and unvarnished view of the cartographies of coercion in Tibet.