The World Today for December 18, 2023


Death By Inches


The Chinese government recently renamed “Tibet” as “Xizang” in official diplomatic documents. The move was the latest in a series of measures that critics of China say are aimed at erasing Tibetan national identity and culture.

“These are political actions of ‘de-ethnicization,’” Yang Haiying, a Mongolian-born humanities professor at Shizuoka University in Japan, told Radio Free Asia. “‘De-ethnicization’ is equivalent to the idea of resolving ethnic issues. It is an approach to deny ethnicity by emphasizing ‘de-ethnicization’ of regions.”

Others, like Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, likened these policies to “cultural genocide.” Since China invaded Tibet in 1950, Rogin wrote, Tibetans have sought to assert their cultural uniqueness. Their government in exile, led by the Dalai Lama, has succeeded in keeping the flame of their non-violent independence movement alive. For now.

Meanwhile, the plan to erase Tibet’s identity isn’t new. China has cracked down on Tibetan culture harshly over time in a strategy that critics told France24 is designed to cause the Tibetan nation to die a slow death. For example, China has forced three-quarters of Tibetan children to attend boarding schools where they are indoctrinated to reject their Tibetan heritage and swear fealty to the Chinese Communist Party. The Tibetan language and the practice of the religion of Tibetan Buddhism are banned.

United Nations experts estimate that a million children are enrolled in such schools. The US government recently slapped visa sanctions on Chinese officials aiding and abetting this “forced assimilation,” reported the Guardian. The Central Tibet Administration, effectively Tibet’s government in exile, called the facilities repressive, “colonial-style boarding schools.”

The European Parliament recently condemned the schools and called on China to close them.

As Foreign Affairs noted, Chinese leaders have pursued similar, arguably genocidal policies against the Uyghurs, a Muslim community in the western region of Xinjiang. Human rights advocates claim China has detained a million Uyghurs in internment camps to wipe out their culture.

These developments are especially important now because Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is 88 years old, wrote the Economist. Living in exile in India since he fled Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959, he has significantly curtailed his globetrotting and state visits in recent years as he has grown older. What happens when he passes is a burning question in both China and India – two nations that are experiencing heightened tensions as they grow more powerful.

To make Tibet Chinese, all China has to do is wait.

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