Dharamshala, India — A new law passed by China systemises “ethnic unity” in occupied Tibet is raising serious concerns about the future of Tibetan culture and religion. China faces mounting global criticism that the new law is systematically aimed at eliminating their national identity in their historic homeland.
"Regulations on the Establishment of a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress in the Tibet Autonomous Region" (Regulations), will go into effect on May 1. The law lists the duties of officials, schools, and social groups in the region to promote ethnic unity; as well as the penalties for separatists. The regulations also state: "Tibet has long been an unsplittable part of China and the country will insist on ethnic equity for the entire nation while using the correct methods to fix any ethnic conflicts in a Chinese way."
To achieve this, the authorities require, "Religious groups and schools to 'Chinalize' the religions and integrate ethnic unity into the doctrines to develop a religious culture that contributes to social development and harmony," Article 19 says. Schools and officials should also enhance the promotion of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the "China Dream." Any organizations or individuals that "produce or disseminate ideas which damage ethnic unity" and "encourage separatism and influence social stability" will be reeducated or face criminal charges.
Passed on Saturday by the regional legislature of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and set to take effect on May 1, 2020, the law drew immediate criticism from Tibetans across the world, as well as from U.S. officials and politicians, who noted that Tibetans already struggle against immense pressure to Sinicize their culture and faith, with evermore narrow scope for them to practice their religion and deteriorating human rights conditions.
The new law, titled “Regulations on the Establishment of a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress in the Tibet Autonomous Region,” requires equal participation by non-Tibetan ethnic groups at all levels of government and in schools, private business companies, religious centers, and the military, according to the communist-authoritarian state-run media reports.
Meanwhile, village committees and local communities shall “strengthen the establishment of a model of national unity and progress,” Article 23 of the new law states, adding that village rules and covenants should be reorganized to support “neighborly relationships of mutual respect, harmonious coexistence, solidarity, and mutual assistance.”
In every case, ethnic minority culture should be seen as an inseparable part of a larger “revolutionary and socialist” Chinese culture, though, Article 11 of the new law says, adding, “Chinese culture is always the emotional support, spiritual destination and spiritual homeland of all ethnic groups in Tibet.”
There were reports that Chinese occupied Tibetan territories in western Chinese provinces like Qinghai and Yunnan approved similar laws last year. Chinese authorities began assimilating Tibetans long before passing this new law, including forbidding Tibetan children to learn Tibetan language and forcing locals to sing songs in praise of the CCP.
The Tibetan government in-Exile consistently accused China of imposing policies of "political repression, social discrimination, economic marginalization, environmental destruction, and cultural assimilation" in occupied Tibet over the past 70 decades and the illegal Chinese migration to Tibet which fuels intense resentment among the Tibetan people.
According to other media reports, the Chinese occupied Tibetan territories in the so-called western Chinese provinces like Qinghai and Yunnan approved similar laws last year. However, it is still unclear whether or not the government has imposed the laws throughout all occupied Tibetan territories in Sichuan and Gansu, which are also home to large Tibetan populations, have been at the epicenter of self-immolation and other protests against Chinese occupation in recent years.
Secretary Tsewang Gyalpo Arya, Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), CTA, strongly condemned the new ethnic identity law, calling it a measure of ethnic cleansing aimed at complete sinicization of the Tibetan plateau. The Secretary also criticised the legislation as a gross violation of the international law and the Chinese constitution.
China has waged unceasing campaigns at both central and local government levels to aggressively consolidate its military occupation of Tibet in the last more than six decades. But this new state-sponsored regulation is seen as a desperately contemplated measure to curb the undiminishing defiance of the Tibetan people and their call for the protection of their identity, for freedom, human rights and for the honorable return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
In a written statement Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said it remains deeply concerned by “the lack of meaningful autonomy for Tibetans and the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas in China, including severe restrictions on Tibetans’ religious freedoms and cultural practices.”
“We continue to urge the Government of China to respect the religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of Tibetans, including by enabling Tibetans to study the Tibetan language in schools at all levels,” the State Department said.
Meanwhile, in a written statement, U.S. Senator from Florida Marco Rubio slammed China’s new ethnic unity law as “an explicit statement of the Chinese Communist Party’s remaking of Tibetan culture,” adding, “Ultimately, the CCP is enforcing a party-approved mold in order to reinforce the party’s control of Tibetan society.”' “We must voice our concerns and ensure that human rights are an integral part of our policy towards China,” Rubio said.
You must learn Tibet to know the real China
1.2 Million Tibetans have been killed in this conflict since Tibet was violently and illegally occupied, according to international law, by China in 1949/1950. More than 100,000 Tibetans have been forced to flee their homeland and now live in Exile communities around the world. Until today, the rule of law or basic human rights are non-existent in Tibet. Surveillance, repression and arbitrary arrests are daily routines. Despite the continued suppression, the Tibetan people choose the path of non-violent resistance and for that, they deserve our utmost respect and full support.
The communist-totalitarian state of China began its invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.
Until 1949, Tibet was an independent nation in the Himalayas which had little contact with the rest of the world. It existed as a rich cultural storehouse — unifying theme among the Tibetans — as was their own language, literature, art, and world view developed by living at high altitudes, under harsh conditions, in a balance with their environment.