Does China’s new Tibet policy amount to ethnic cleansing?

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. (Photo credit: Antoine Taveneaux/Wikimedia Commons)
Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. (Photo credit: Antoine Taveneaux/Wikimedia Commons)

A new Chinese “ethnic unity” policy is coming to Tibet this May.  

Critics, including the Tibetan government-in-exile, say the real agenda is cultural suppression and worse.

They fear a new a repeat in Tibet of the widely condemned internment camps and re-education programs China has enforced in the ethnic Uigher region of Xinjiang. 

“Comprehensive stability”

The full text of the rules has not been released. 

But they are said to include directives to promote local tourism, arts and crafts, and small business enterprises. 

Significantly, this includes requirements for companies to “integrate ethnic unity into [their] management and culture, recruiting employees from all ethnic groups.”

China’s President Xi Jinping has said that ethnic unity will help secure “sustainable, long-term and comprehensive stability” in the region.  

An anonymous government official said the new legislation could “consolidate” ethnic relationships and “establish a model for all of the people and industries in Tibet.”

Autonomous region

Critics say these words are euphemisms for ethnic cleansing and cultural suppression. 

Since China took over the region in the 1950s, ethnic Han Chinese people have been encouraged to move en masse to Tibet, in a bid to turn Tibetans into a minority in their own country. 

Anti-China protest by ethnic Tibetans in India. (Photo credit: (Photo credit: kc7fys/Flickr Creative Commons)

So-called “autonomous” regions under China’s influence thus come to be dominated by outsiders more in tune with the wishes of Beijing.

Tibetans have long struggled for independence from China, and the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in India, has decried this latest gambit to diminish and erase Tibetan heritage.

Disturbing precedent

A disturbing precedent for this is the ongoing — and widely condemned — crackdown on Uighur culture, communities and religion in Xinjiang, another autonomous region incorporated into China. 

The Uigher crackdown also has an “ethnic unity” policy, along with a huge internment program in which ethnic Uighers are forcibly relocated into camps, and put into re-education programs designed to stamp out Islamic Uigher culture and religion. 

As with Tibet, Xinjiang is also home to a separatist movement that the China is struggling to control.

U.S. Senator Marco said in a tweet that the ethnic unity bill is “following Xinjiang’s footsteps.”

Sources: South China Morning Post, The Tibet Post, Catholic News Agency

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