The Chinese government is gradually dropping the name “Tibet” in official English-language references in favor of the region’s Mandarin Chinese name—”Xizang”—with experts saying the move is in line with Beijing policies aimed at erasing Tibetan culture.
The propaganda department of China’s State Council, its central government, last week released a white paper on “Governance of Xizang in the New Era.” Though the term “Tibetan” is used to refer to the region’s people and geographical features like the Tibetan Plateau, Xizang is used exclusively when referring to the southwestern region’s official name.
The document comes on the heels of a Chinese forum in October in the Tibetan city of Nyingchi, where Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rebuffed Western human rights concerns and invited international visitors to another government-organized showcase of ethnic culture in the heavily policed region. “Xizang” was reportedly displayed in lieu of “Tibet” for the English translation of his opening speech.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry had not responded to Newsweek‘s request for comment before publication.
“The Chinese government was desperate enough to propagate Xizang to create a Tibet of Chinese characteristics which is unknown to the world,” Tenzin Lekshay, a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile, said of Beijing’s report.
“This time, the Chinese government is rigorous in changing the name in all the official records and communications, which is strictly designed to fulfill their political ambition of legitimizing their claim over Tibet by dividing and annihilating Tibet,” he told Newsweek.
Lekshay said the Sino-Tibet conflict was long-running and that changing the name would complicate rather than improve the situation.
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