The consequences of Tibetan people being minority in their own homeland, Tibet

By Tenzin Tsultrim

“The language is the root of the civilization and an identity of every nation in this world”
Every independent nation in this world have their own unique and different identities such as language, culture, custom and many other distinct traits which make them different from each other.

And these unique traits are best preserved and improved if the particular nation is independent in nature. History has witnessed that time and again, whenever a powerful nation occupies a weaker nation, there was almost a total negligence towards the occupied nation. All nation states, despite their political ideologies have persecuted minorities in the past and many continue to do so through the policies designed to assimilate indigenous into the dominant culture.
Since the invasion of Tibet by China in 1959, China has taken up numerous steps, visibly and invisibly in making Tibetan people minority in their own land. Because of large scale   transfer of Chinese population to Tibet, Tibetans have become minority in their own land. With the completion of Quinghai-Tibet railway in 2005  lines in  which links Tibet with the major cities of China—Beijing, Shangai, Xining, Chendu and Guangzhou, the transfer of Chinese population become far easier than before. According to Thupten Samphel, former spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile “…The railway line itself is not a cause of concern for the Tibetan people. How it will be used is the main concern…” 
Hence there are many long term and short term consequences which Tibetan people in Tibet had faced and are still facing because of the Chinese controlled-environment.
Educational consequences
Before the invasion of the China, All the important works which have historical, religious, literary and scientific significances were in Tibetan language. However there was a sea of change since the Chinese arrival in Tibet. All the important works preserved and passed from generations to generations were destroyed by the Chinese within a few years. The Chinese government created controlled-environment, where Tibetan language is treated as a backward language and Tibetan people were discouraged to learn. At present, almost all the schools and higher educational institutions in Tibet, only subject or courses taught in Tibetan are in Tibetan language class or Tibetan language department; while all other subjects are taught in Chinese only. In Tibet, without the knowledge of Chinese language, there is no scope for the young Tibetan students once they completed their study. Hence their parents have no options other than encouraging their children to learn Chinese language. From opening a bank account to locating one’s seat in public transportation, everything is written in Chinese language. The Tibetan students, who are fluent in Chinese language, were given scholarships to study in prestigious Universities in Tibet and China.
In October 2010, there was a series of protests by Tibetan students and Tibetan teachers all over Tibet against the proposed reform in education called “equality for nationalities and freedom for language”, where provincial Communist party and government of Amdo decided to replace Tibetan with mandarin Chinese as the medium of instruction at educational institutions. 
This strong reaction by the Tibetans shows the worsening situation in Tibet because of systematic crackdown on Tibetan language by the Chinese government. If the current situation continues, the Tibetan language will be endangered and Tibetan language will soon disappear from the land where it was developed.
Political consequences
From the beginning itself, Chinese government had removed almost all the Tibetan officials who were loyal to the Dalai Lama and gave all the important posts to the Chinese. Later they realized the importance of inclusion of Tibetan officials in the administration and started giving posts to the Tibetans. But they were used as a mere rubberstamp, with no power at all in the formulation of the policies in Tibet. For instance, His Holiness Panchen Lama and Ngapo Ngawang Jigme were given high posts but with less power in respect to policy in Tibet. Presently in Tibet, the ratio of Tibetan officials against Chinese officials is very low and all the vital posts were occupied by the Chinese officials in Tibet. Most of the political meetings held in Tibet were conducted in the Chinese language even when majority of attendant are Tibetan. According to the TCHRD’s 2010 Annual Report, till 30 December 2010 there are 831known political prisoners in Tibet and out of which 360 were sentenced. From March 2008 to May 31, 2008 there was a chain of uprising which broke out in Tibet against the Chinese regime. This clearly shows the political aspirations of Tibetan people to have their own independent country headed by the Tibetan people.

Socio-economic consequences
The huge transfers of Han population to Tibet have direct consequences on the socio-economic life of Tibetan people. The then Secretary of State, Collin Powell, stated that “Han migration to Tibet seems to be a policy that might destroy Tibetan society.” Because of the large scale Chinese population, all the traditions and customs which Tibetan held dear were on the verge of disappearance. Even though the China signed International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) but has not ratified it. Despite being the signatory of ICCPR, China has never given religious freedom to the Tibetan people and especially to the monks and nuns in Tibet. The recent self-immolation of monks and nuns which started on March 2011 in Tibet symbolizes the strict restrictions on religious freedom and frustrations of Tibetan monks which drives them to take extreme actions. A survey report released in July 9( 2007)  by the Center for Religious Freedom, a division of the Hudson Institute, USA, revealed Tibet among  11 countries in the world with worst religious freedom.
In the economic sector also, Tibetan people are always at the receiving ends. Most of the hotels and shops in Tibet were owned by the Chinese people. Tibetan teachers were given less salaries as compared to the Chinese teachers in the school and other educational institutions, thus making Tibetan people insignificant in their own land.  In the hotels and others commercial jobs, Tibetan employees were paid less as compared to the Chinese employees.
This was followed almost in the entire sectors, where Tibetans are discriminated and subordinated.
All the above consequences are the results of systematic steps taken by the Chinese Communist Party in making Tibetan people minority in their own land. According to the [late] tenth Panchen Lama, “the lands which managed itself well with its own language for 1,300 years lost its written language within two decades of liberation under the Communist Party Leadership…”
Thus it signifies the critical conditions which already had begun in Tibet in the 1980s because of Chinese government systematic policies and measures. The present conditions in Tibet is further deteriorating which is clearly evident from the number of strong protests which outbreak all over in Tibet, starting from 2008 Tibet uprising followed by the protests by Tibetan students and teachers against language reforms  to the recent self-immolation of monks and nuns in Tibet. Hence it is high time that United Nations should take positive steps for the protections of the Tibetan identity on the ground of moral responsibility.  
And my message to fellow Tibetans all over the world is, that we have to preserve and develop our unique culture and tradition which our brothers and sisters in Tibet doesn’t have the freedom to do so. As our current Prime Minister Dr. Lobsang Sangay has time and again stressed that “Buddhism is 2000 years old and Chinese Communist Party is only about 100 years old…”, so we do have every possibility of getting back our freedom from the Chinese government and rise from the ashes in Tibet.

Editor's NOTE--Tenzin Tsultrim has completed his M.phil in Historical Studies from Madras University, and currently pursuing Phd from the same university. Follow US on   FACEBOOK // TWITTER

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  1. Good work Tenzin, keep writing!

  2. Well written Tenzin Tsultrim la.
    Any language is in danger due to two forces either external or internal. If the language is being dominated by military, economic, religious, cultural or educational subjugation, and the internal force is like the negative attitude of the speakers themselves towards their own language.
    In nutshell, Tibetan Language is facing threat from both forces, so the Tibetan language is in great danger now.

  3. Language is important to be preserved as it is the (maybe) identity of the nation but for us (Tibetans), the priority is to get Tibet back to us. So, in order to get Tibet, we can use language and buddhism as means to meet the meant.

  4. Tenzin la, i salute u for the well written article but i do hve a observation on the picture u used for the article, given the focus of the article, maybe use of this picture without stating that it is not from Chinese occupied Tibet will open the article to 'lying'. Bodh Gyalo!!

  5. Fact: Nepali police also do beat Tibetans whenever Tibetans stage an anti China protest on Nepalese soil, and this photo is one of the pics which speaks of Nepal's restricting anti China Tibetan protest in Nepal. The Himalyan kingdom of Nepal do such things not because they hate Tibetans, but its because of the Chinese influence on the Nepali government to beat up all Tibetans when ever an anti china protest takes place.

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