The Sinicisation of Tibet and restrictions without contact

Tibet Sinicisation

Tibet is facing a double assault, one through forced Sinicisation, and another with local Tibetans being restricted from speaking to non-Chinese citizens.

According to Jamphel Shonu, China's ethno-federalism model of governance began to shift towards a more rigid and assimilationist policy since the early 2010s into what scholars have called a second-generation ethnic policy.

He explained that China did practice a limited preferential policy towards minorities in areas such as family planning, school enrolment, bank loans, job recruitment in minority regions, etc.

"This preferential policy (Youhui Zhengce) has however never produced any strong ethnic tensions as the majority Han Chinese (almost 91%) live outside of minority areas and thus the state’s ethnic policy was a non-issue to them," explained Shonu.

However, the 2008-09 protests incited strong emotions among the majority Han, which according to him, "was due to the immense global attention that these protests received and the international scrutiny that followed about China as a nation and its treatment of minorities."

The majority Han ethnicity saw this as an affront and a betrayal of the state’s largesse toward minorities. The majority’s anger soon started resonating with scholars who have long called for assimilation and integration of the minorities with the majority, and the depoliticisation of ethnicity in China.

Finally, Shonu lists the sinicisation process.

"Destruction of Tibetan Buddhist statues, imposing limits on the number of monks and nuns, suppression of Tibetan language education, encouraging inter-ethnic marriage with Hans, incentivising the study of Mandarin, and mass migration into Tibetan areas have now become the norm in Tibet.

"It remains to be seen how successful this second-generation ethnic policy would be in eradicating ethnic identities and forging a single Chinese national identity among ethnic minorities. However, one thing is certain.

"The fate of the unique cultural and religious identities of the national minorities is being seriously threatened into extinction through assimilation.

"The road ahead for national minorities and their cultures including Tibetans and Uyghurs are looking extremely difficult and fraught with challenges and obstacles."

Shonu's paper also comes as a Tibetan tour guide, Pasang Norbu was detained by the Chinese police authorities on unreasonable charges in a bid to restrict locals from coming in contact with foreign visitors to the tightly controlled Himalayan region.

A middle-school graduate in his 20s, Norbu, arrested last Friday, used to work in western Tibet’s Shigatse municipality.

He is a resident of Shigatse’s Gampa county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). A Tibetan living in exile told Radio Free Asia that Norbu was beaten by the Chinese Police and he was accused of running an illegal business.

Even when Norbu had the permit to work in the region, the Chinese police ignored his permit and threatened him twice to shut down his business, according to the sources.

A researcher at London-based Tibet Watch, Pema Gyal confirmed Norbu’s arrest, also citing sources in the Shigatse area.

“It’s true that Pasang Norbu was arrested by Chinese authorities in Shigatse, but he is not the only one to have been detained. The Chinese government has recently been increasing its controls on many privately owned Tibetan tourist services and has been holding their owners on unreasonable charges,” Gyal said.

A source described Norbu as “a very decent person and always friendly with everyone.”

“He owns seven tour bikes, all in very good condition, and his family’s livelihood depends on his tour guide service,” he added.

Moreover, he shared, “He has a mother named Tsamchoe and his 13-year-old sister Choedon is still in school.”

Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, and Tibetans living in Tibet frequently complain of discrimination and human rights abuses by Chinese authorities and policies they say are aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity.

Petros Aramidis is a geopolitical analyst based in Athens.

READ MORE: 71 years of China’s colonial rule over Tibet.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor