-By Arya Tsewang Gyalpo*
Abstract: Chinese Communist party leadership has acquired a new vile passion to wipe off Tibet from the people’s memory and the world map. To this effect, in order not to invite the international community’s ire, it used the Chinese and foreign academicians’ shoulders to shoot the gun. China organized the 7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies last month. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) notes that the official China News Service reports that the “seminar was attended by more than 320 scholars, including over 40 from outside mainland China.” Whatever the outcome, Chinese academicians’ discussion on how the word “Tibet” is misleading and how it should be replaced by “Xizang” and justification of the Chinese boarding schools for Tibetan children are widely circulated and reported in China! This paper will examine why the CCP is after this renaming game to eliminate Tibetan identity and how continued international silence will embolden China`s wolf warrior diplomacy to go ahead jeopardizing peace and stability around the world with impunity.
WHY TIBET TO XIZANG?
Even after more than seventy years of brutal occupation and forced indoctrination, Tibetans remained resilient and the Tibet issue is still alive and robust in international forums. China realized this strong Tibetan identity based on the language and its religious culture and Tibet as a land as the unifying force challenging China`s efforts to gain full control over Tibet through its Sinicization policy. The past few years global commotion and instability due to the Coronavirus pandemic followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have kept the world preoccupied; China took full advantage of this opportunity and unleashed cultural revolution-like repression in Tibet and other occupied regions. Destructions of Tibetan monasteries, religious statues, prayer wheels, and flags; closure of Tibetan schools and forcing Tibetan children into communist boarding schools; and taking DNA samples of Tibetans happened and are happening even now.
China has gained full control over Tibet and the Tibetans physically through its ignominious brutal measures, but the Tibetan spirit of freedom has not been vanquished. Despite China’s fierce propaganda to portray old Tibet as a cruel feudal polity and H.H. the Dalai Lama as a demon, it has not won the much-needed moral authority and trust of the Tibetans to rule Tibet. China has now adopted cartographic and nomenclature aggressions to distort history and rewrite it to go along with its false narrative and assertions.
Wang Junzheng, popularly known as “the butcher of Xinjiang Uyghur for his brutality in the region”, is among the party leaders pushing this policy to replace Tibet with Xizang in all official documents. Since his joining as the Party Secretary of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region in October 2021, he unleashed the policy to eradicate Tibetan identity and culture, even to the extent of banning the usage of the word “Tibet”. He ordered the government offices and media to use Xizang instead of Tibet in all official documents and communication to confound the international community and the younger generation of the existence of Tibet as a nation. He is among the top lists in the U.S. sanctions against Chinese authorities responsible for human rights violations in the Chinese-occupied territories.
A CLOSED SYMPOSIUM
Judging from the proceeding of the 7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies held on August 14-16, it was a closed symposium and the purpose of the symposium was to further this policy to erase Tibet from the world and extol developments in the region to legitimize the communist occupation of Tibet. It has been shown as if the inspiration came from the academicians and scholars attending the seminar. Foreign scholars on China’s white list are invited and made accomplices to this heinous conspiracy to virtually abduct Tibet from the world scene. Tibetan scholars from India and abroad have not received any notice or invitations to attend the symposium.
China analyst Mr. Kunga Tashi, based in the U.S., in his recent video News 108th issue, said that the Beijing International Seminar on Tibet was first held in September 1991 and the purpose of the symposium as per their official document is noted as “To expose the true face of the Dalai clique and their dark feudal society and to inform the international community of the CCP’s glorious contribution in liberating Tibet and introducing democracy.” So, we could well surmise what to expect from the seminar. How such a purpose or theme fits as an international seminar on Tibetan studies is anyone`s guess. It is just another propaganda gimmick aimed to mislead and confuse the international community. No wonder the United Front Work Department (UFWD) is publicizing the seminar`s outcome frantically through its official WeChat account.
This “Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies” should not be confused with the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS) which was first held in 1979 in England, and the latest 16th conference was held in 2022 in Prague, Czech Republic. Unlike Beijing`s symposium, the IATS is an independent body where scholars are free to present their papers and express their opinions freely. Many say that China instituted the Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies only to Challenge the International Association of Tibetan Studies and to circulate its propaganda through pretentious academic and scholarly meetings.
WHAT IS TIBET
We must remember that Tibet is composed of the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. In these three provinces live the descendants of miudhung-drug, (Tib: mi’u gdung drug), the first six original clans of Tibet since the dawn of civilization on the Tibetan plateau. The name Tibet has evolved over a long period of time from Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, Tubot, etc. Italian explorer Marco Polo has referred to Tibet as Tebet [The Early History of Tibet from Chinese Sources by S. W. Bushell. Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society. Page-436].
After the brutal occupation of Tibet in 1950, China divided the Tibetan provinces in 1965 with U-Tsang and some parts of Kham as Tibet Autonomous Region and merged Amdo and major part of Kham with the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan. China adopted this policy of divide and rule to weaken Tibetan unity and distort Tibetan geohistory. Now, by removing the word Tibet from the official documents, the CCP wants to deceive the international community that there is nothing called “Tibet” and the Tibet issue; it is only Xizang, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan, and these are all Chinese provinces!
This is a very despicable colonial policy to wipe out the historical existence of Tibet as a land and nation and Tibetans as a distinct race. Prof. Wang Linping of Harbin Engineering University`s College of Marxism has said “The use of Tibet had seriously misled the international community over the geographical scope of the region.” The United Front Work Department capitalized on the seminar`s proceedings and advocated fiercely the erasure of Tibet from official documents and daily usage stating that “This geographical scope overlaps with the so-called `Greater Tibet` that the Dalai Lama clique has long advocated for.”
HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF TIBET
It is a pity that the UFWD, a primary body with whom the Tibetans have been negotiating for long to resolve the Tibet issue, has not understood what exactly comprises Tibet. It is clear from the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People submitted to the UFWD in October 2008 that Tibetans have been seeking genuine autonomy for all the Tibetans living in the three provinces of traditional Tibet. The memorandum has not said or asked for anything greater or lesser Tibet than the traditional three provinces of Tibet, i.e. U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham.
In fact, the nomenclature “Greater Tibet” came from the old Chinese name for Tibet “Tufan and Tubod” around the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. This was how ancient Tang China referred to Tibet in those days. Xizang came up only during the Qing dynasty to refer to western Tibet only. Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, and Tubod are all holonyms of Tibet, and Xizang is just a meronym created by the Qing regime (1644-1911 A.D.). So, the nomenclature of Tibet far precedes and predates the Chinese word Xizang.
Lian Xiangmin, Vice Director of the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing, has said the use of Xizang would be in line with a proposal approved by the United Nations in 1977 and State Council Guidelines from 1978 to use pinyin for Chinese place names in English. This may be so as far as the usage of pinyin is concerned, but this does not allow China to go on erasing the colonized territories` nomenclature and replace it with Chinese pinyin. It is illegal and immoral on the part of the occupying force to change the name of places it forcefully occupied. This is what Russia has done in Ukraine. China renamed 15 places in the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh and continues to create skirmishes from time to time. India has strongly objected to this new form of Chinese aggression.
Japanese Senkaku Island, which was reverted to Japan in 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan, was not an issue around that time. China started claiming the Island later and renamed the Island “Diaoyu” only after the mid-1950s. This is the CCP’s one of the many devious tactics to claim neighboring territory by positing a non-issue matter as a disputed issue at first through nomenclature aggression followed by fierce verbal claims and then by military threats and forced incursions.
Scott Harold, Washington-based senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation research group has, in his interview with the VOA said, “I think the Chinese view is that part of narrative warfare, part of shaping a narrative about what a conflict is about, is wrong-footing or putting your adversary or rival claimant or disputant in a position where they are disadvantaged, and China holds an advantage.”
CCP’S BLATANT LIE
China’s 2019 white paper on defense said, “Since its founding 70 years ago, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never started any war or conflict. No matter how it might develop, China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence. Peace is a common aspiration of people all around the world.”
Had China’s above assertion been true and genuine, the world today would have been more peaceful, friendly, and civilized. But what China has done since the founding of the CCP is an open secret. Brutal occupation and repressions in Tibet, Southern Mongolia, East Turkistan, the Tiananmen massacre, the 1962 war of aggression against India, and the continued border incursions are just some of the heinous crimes China perpetrated against humanity at the cost of world peace and stability. What about the ongoing threat of invasion and military buildups around Taiwan and Indo-Pacific regions? Countries around the Southeast China Sea: Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam are constantly provoked and kept alert to push back Beijing’s cranky repeated belligerent moves around the regions.
WOLF WARRIOR DIPLOMACY
Japan recently released the Fukushima plant`s treated water into the ocean. This was done following strict international standards and with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Japan demonstrated how the water has been treated before the international community. The New York Times reports that scientists, including Chinese experts invited to serve on a task force by the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said that Japan’s water release would have a very low effect on human health or the environment.
So, China`s strong criticism and backlash against Japan`s discharge of treated water is baseless, unfounded, and unscientific. Chinese are not to be blamed, because their only source of information is the government’s propaganda and the leadership wants to stoke this anti-Japanese sentiment to divert public attention from the more pressing socio-political issues at home.
China must remember how Japan and the Japanese reacted when China earned global backlash for the Coronavirus eruption from the Chinese Wuhan city. The international community owes a real genuine apology and compensation from the CCP leadership for the death of more than seven million people and the havoc and damage the Coronavirus pandemic caused around the world. It’s high time that the CCP leadership listened to the aspirations of the Chinese masses and let China live peacefully with the world.
China’s United Front Work Department’s attempts to erase, remove, and wipe off the very word “Tibet” from the people’s tongues and memories are very dangerous and objectionable. It is designed not only to put a full stop to the Tibet issue but also to wipe off Tibetan identity, language, and culture in one swipe. Around one million Tibetan children aged 6-18 are forcefully lodged in Chinese boarding schools in Tibet depriving them of freedom to learn Tibetan language and Buddhism.
China should discard this wolf-warrior diplomacy, stop threatening the neighboring countries, and join the international community for peace in China, Asia, and the world. Democracy is inevitable, days of dictatorships are limited, and mankind will not be slaves forever. Colonialism is outdated and bound to collapse.
The international community should strongly condemn and oppose the Chinese belligerent moves and be wary of this nomenclature aggression, otherwise, a day may not be far when the world shall find most of the lands, mountains, and sea renamed by the CCP and become disputed regions!
*Dr. Arya Tsewang Gyalpo is the former Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) and former Director of the Tibet Policy Institute (TPI). He is currently the Representative of the Liaison Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama for Japan and East Asia. Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own.