New Delhi — Many international experts on China and Tibet are of the opinion that President Xi Jinping’s obsession with security and to present himself as the new Mao Zedong is resulting into cultural genocide and total annihilation of the national personality of China’s colonies like Tibet, East Turkistan (Xinjiang) and Southern Mongolia. Analyzing the causes and impact of dividing occupied Tibet in 1965 into many pieces at an international webinar titled “China’s Cartographic Colonialism in Tibet” experts from USA, Europe, Tibet and India expressed concern that China’s Communist Party (CCP) and its leaders are religiously focused at washing out Tibet’s history by rewriting and propagating a manufactured version that suits Chinese expansionism.
The webinar, jointly organised by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) this Saturday evening, marked the eve of 58th anniversary of Mao’s decision to break occupied Tibet into many parts and branding one of these parts as ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (TAR) on 1st September 1965. Fourteen years after occupying Tibet in 1951, Mao chopped off many parts of Kham and Amdo provinces from original Tibet and merged them into adjoining Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu. Beijing celebrates this day every year as a special day of reforms in Tibet.
The experts who shared their views in this webinar included Pierre Antoine Donnet from Paris, a well-known author of books on China and former new bureau correspondent of AFP in Beijing; Dr. UweMeya a veteran expert on Tibet and a member of the board of directors in the Swiss-Tibet Friendship Association (GSTF); Tenzin Sampho, the head of US-Tibet Coalition who is also an expert and active supporter on asylum matters and human rights in USA. Vijay Kranti, Chairman CHASE and a renowned journalist and Tibetologist moderated the webinar while Gonpo Dhundup, President of TYC delivered vote of thanks. Prof. Aaayushi Ketkar of JNU and expert in international and security matters handled the question-answer session.
Dr Uwe Meya, a well-known Swiss expert on Tibet who extensively traveled through Tibet when China decided to open Tibet to exploit its international tourism potentials, described China’s policy on Tibet as ‘Colonialism of Perception’. Supporting this concept he said that the Chinese propaganda machinery has been consistently focused at managing and promoting this perception among the international community that Tibet is not an occupied ‘country’ but is just another ‘region in South West China’; or that Tibetans are not a ‘people’ but just one of the ‘nationalities’ or a ‘minority’ community within China. “It is unfortunate that a big section of international media and other opinion makers have fallen into this trap of China,” he said.
He also pointed out that the Xi Jinping’s government is now bent upon washing out the Tibetan names of Tibetan cities, towns and regions from the international memory and usage. “Two months ago the CCP has formally banned using word ‘Tibet’ and to replace it with the Chinese name ‘Xizang’. President Xi Jinping is now focused at removing the mention of word ‘Tibet’ in all areas right from politics to science. Even Wikipedia too has started using it. And this is what I call colonialism of perception,” he said.
Mr. Pierre Antoine Donnet presented a detailed analysis of how the consistently weakening economic situation in China and increasing public disappointment with President Xi due to growing unemployment and the impact of mismanagement of the Covid on Chinese people’s lives have made Xi feel very insecure. “A new winter is descending on China. Even while the Chinese leaders have learnt many lessons from developments like the breakup of Soviet Union, fall of the Berlin Wall and events of 1989 at Tianmen Square in China, yet the CCP looks doomed. As a result of this the situation in China for the CCP and its leaders, especially President Xi Jinping is becoming more and more fragile – month by month.”
He specifically pointed at China’s efforts to assimilate the Tibetans and the Uyghur communities into the Han identity. “Chinese leaders and the CCP have failed to realize that only material policies are not enough for the human beings. This is especially proving true for the Tibetan people and the people of Xinjiang,” he added.
Mr Tenzin Sampho from New York, who was born and brought up in Chinese occupied Tibet, gave details of how China is using language and education to eradicate the distinct personality of Tibet. “In my early years we used to get our education in Tibetan language till the fifth standard and then the medium of instruction would change to Mandarin. But now Chinese administration takes away even small children from their homes in very early age and puts them into residential schools where the only language is Chinese and they are exposed to strong communist brainwashing. The CCP is bent upon Sinicizing every Tibetan to finish Tibet’s own identity permanently. Very soon a real Tibetan might become a special piece for Chinese museums,” he said.
Speaking about the division of original Tibet and assimilation of many parts of historic Tibet into neighboring provinces of China, Tenzin said that there is very strict control on the movement of Tibetans living in these provinces. “One has to seek special official authorization to travel from one place to another. There are dozens of police checking points on every road. The people of Amdo and Kham are not allowed to travel to TAR --- not even to go to Lhasa for pilgrimage,” he added.
Introducing the subject and the panelists to the audience Vijay Kranti said that Chairman Mao was quite worried over the rising international awareness about the deteriorating situation of human rights in Tibet and the undying spirit of Tibetan people for freedom from China. That is why he created TAR only to deceive the world community and make it believe that only this part was Tibet. Moreover he wanted to dilute the Tibetan resistance against Chinese occupation by distributing Tibetan populations of Kham and Amdo toadjoining provinces of China.
While giving his vote of Thanks, Gonpo Dhundup, President of TYC made it clear that his organization and the people of Tibet are fighting for the independence of entire Tibet and not just for TAR which was created by China to fool the world. When we talk of Tibet it clearly means all three regions of Tibet which are U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo. A very large number among 157 self-immolations in Tibet in recent years are from areas outside TAR. It shows that Tibetan people from all three provinces are struggling for freedom from Chinese colonial occupation,” he said.