Category Archives: ethnic conflict

“On The Train to Lhasa”

RFA is stealing High Peak’s thunder today by translating another good Woeser post:

A train attendant from Hubei asks me anxiously: “What is the security situation like in Lhasa?” “Very safe for you [Han Chinese],” I say, pointedly emphasizing the “you.” Some young people sitting nearby with real Beijing accents overhear this, and ask me about it. “There are army, police and plainclothes officers lining the streets,” I tell them.

The train attendant is pretty bright, and asks: “Do Tibetans feel very constricted?” Another young person chips in: “Does this have anything to do with those Tibetans who have self-immolated?”

I am very conscious of the language barrier, even though we are all speaking Chinese. I reflect that self-immolation is hardly a rare tragedy these days, but that while another culture might understand why a person would self-immolate on their own behalf, they can’t see why someone would do that on behalf of a whole ethnic group. But I’d like to say a bit more about that, and tell them about the last words uttered by some of the Tibetans who have self-immolated.

When our train, packed full of so many living things, arrives at Lhasa station, the majority of non-Tibetan passengers breeze easily through, so very excited to be heading off to various parts of Lhasa, and looking quite perky; even those who are immediately hit by altitude sickness.

The dozen or so Tibetan passengers, on the other hand, are stopped by armed police and their identity cards checked with a device similar to those used to swipe credit cards. When I hand my card over, I am stopped with the words, “Woeser, stay behind!”

Two young Tibetans from the southern part of Qinghai province are to be sent back home the next day, because they didn’t have a “permit to enter Tibet.” The police dealing with Tibetans pay scant heed to their pleas, repeatedly telling them that a “permit to enter Tibet” must be issued by county level police departments or above. The really funny thing is, one of the young women, who did look a bit Chinese, tells the police that she is actually a fake Tibetan, which surprises them, and they ask her why. She says she changed her nationality from Han to Tibetan in order to take advantage of positive discrimination offered to ethnic minorities in the university admissions process. “This is now a huge pain for me,” she says, admitting that she deeply regrets it.

Those Tibetans who do hold a “permit to enter Tibet” have their ID cards photocopied, and are asked to fill out the address where they will be staying in Lhasa, the reason for their trip, and their identity, as well as signing their names and adding their fingerprints in blood-red ink.

When I and the two young people from [Qinghai] are finally allowed to leave the police station and enter Lhasa, they say to each other, amid sobs: “Who’d have thought it would be so hard for Tibetans to get into Lhasa?”

I might be a reactionary imperialist running dog, but this looks a lot like apartheid to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet

“Suicide Attack on National Day”

In Xinjiang, where Chinese National Day can seem like something of a cruel joke, RFA is reporting on a suicide attack on a Chinese border post:

The motorcycle crash caused an explosion at the People’s Armed Police facility in a rural area of Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture on Oct. 1, sources said, though the exact number of casualties was unknown

“When we were informed about this it was around noon and we were on our way to the flag-raising ceremony for National Day.”

“We were told that some people died and some were injured. But because it happened on the base, we were not given the details,” he told RFA’s Uyghur service.

One resident in Chasamechit village speaking on condition of anonymity said a total of 20 people had died or been injured in the incident, but police have not confirmed the figure.

Police have arrest warrants and are searching for two Uyghur men around age 21 or 22, Abdurahman Abdusattar said.

“From what we can see from their pictures they are modern-looking Uyghur boys with unshaved heads and without beards,” he said.

A local official in a nearby village, speaking on condition of anonymity, said news of the incident had been kept out of the media in order to quell fears among the Han Chinese living in Kargilik, where 20 people were killed in a stabbing incident in February.

Last week’s attack could have been a reaction to the shooting in December of a group of Uyghurs in Guma county last December, the official said.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Xinjiang

“Plea to Stop Burnings Ignored”

As exile Tibetans gather in Dharamsala, another Tibetan has self-immolated in Kham:

Dressed in full Tibetan traditional attire, the man set himself ablaze and shouted slogans against Chinese rule in Dzatoe (Zaduo, in Chinese) county in the Yushul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture before he was taken away by Chinese security forces, the sources said.

The man, whose identity and other personal details were not immediately available, was severely burnt when he was taken away, the sources quoted eyewitnesses as saying.

“While burning, he shouted various slogans—calling for the independence of Tibet, inviting the Dalai Lama and Karmapa (another senior Tibetan Buddhist figure) to Tibet, asking for long life for the Dalai Lama and addressing Lobsang Sangay (the head of the Tibetan government in exile) as the King of Tibet,” one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He walked past several Tibetan shops in Dzatoe county’s shopping complex with his body on fire. The shopkeepers threw water on his burning body but his whole body was engulfed in fire.”

Sources said the latest self-immolation could be linked to recent local Tibetan protests against the shooting of a film by authorities wanting to portray that Tibetans were happy under Chinese rule.

“Few days back, the Chinese authorities coerced the local Tibetans to participate in a shooting of a movie themed on ‘happiness in Tibet,'” a source was quoted as saying by India’s Tibet Express.

“The Tibetans resented it and expressed their unwillingness to participate. This incident had led to protest against the Chinese policy,” the source said.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“Updates on Labrang Jigme”

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated an oral account given by Labrang Jigme’s brother, Sonam Tsering, after briefly seeing him:

Three police officers took me to a hotel to meet Lama Jigme. After entering the room I asked my brother about his health, he said that he was not in a good state. Subsequently, Lama Jigme asked the police officers a few questions: Why did you bring me here? Isn’t it just to get some food? What are you (pointing at the policemen) planning to do? And so on.

One police officer replied that the reason why they had brought him here “was just to receive food”.

Lama Jigme said: “Well, leave the food here and take my brother back.”

The police officer replied: “You should talk to your brother.”

Lama Jigme said: “I have nothing to say. If this is really just to bring me some food, then just put the food down and take him back. But if he came to visit me, why do you need to film and take photos of a private meeting? Yesterday, I said that I was not feeling well, so you invited a doctor to see me. You videotaped and photographed the whole examination process. But in the end, I did not even receive a single drop of medicine at all.”

Lama Jigme continued: “Today, my older brother is coming to see me and you are playing an old trick. You want to publicise this visual material and then claim that Jigme is in a good state, that he is well taken care of and even allowed to meet his relatives, don’t you? I am telling you, I don’t need anyone bringing me food, I don’t need my brother to visit me, I also don’t want to live in a hotel. If you think that I am a criminal, send me to court for a trial. If I really committed a crime, well then I will gladly accept my sentence, even if it is the death sentence.”

“If you still want me to talk to my brother, well then I want to tell my brother to help me to appeal”. Lama Jigme turned his head towards me and said, “Go lodge an appeal for me… Find me a good lawyer and sue these policemen! When the police from Gansu Province came here, I already very clearly raised the same points. I am a victim. But you don’t need to suffer from the same persecution (as I have).”

“The police told me that I was not allowed to meet foreigners, so I never met any. The police told me that I was not allowed to meet with the well-known writers Woeser and Wang Lixiong who live in Beijing, so I never met them. I followed the orders that the police had given me, I never went to any place that was on your list of places that I should not go to, I never met anyone who you did not want me to meet. Why are you spending so much money on me? Why do you spend so much money to let me live in a hotel and have 4 to 5 people watching me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Why are you wasting this money on me?”

As I stood next to and heard my younger brother saying these things, I felt like crying but had no tears. Every single time that I had gone to the Security Bureau I had told the police my opinion and asked them to tell me what crimes my brother had committed. They never gave a me an explicit response. My brother is innocent, I told the police to let him go immediately. I said that I would bring this case to the county level, prefectural level, provincial level, yes even to the attention of the central government. You can’t just imprison a person for no reason for over 70 days. My brother has already been arrested 4 times. Every time, he would disappear without a word or trace and then after a while he would be let go without any charges.

Hopefully some day Labrang Jigme, Ai Weiwei, Liu Xiaobo, and Dhondup Wangchen will all be able to kick back together and reminisce about the fall of the single-party state in China over a good cup of chang. Until then, keeping these prisoners of conscience in the spotlight and publicizing their cases seems to be the only thing we can, while foreign governments remain relatively uninvolved.

Leave a comment

Filed under enforced disappearance, ethnic conflict, Tibet

“The Body Count”

Elliot Sperling has a pretty chilling post about the mass killings that took place in Tibet during the two decades immediately following the Chinese invasion. The recent discovery of mass graves has brought this topic back into the light, although it’s still completely denied by the Chinese government:

In May, just a few months ago, preparations were made for the start of a building project in Nang-chen county in the modern Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, part of what was once the old kingdom of Nang-chen in Upper Kham. This is also the site of some of the instances of self-immolation, the act of protest that has been repeated again and again across Tibet and in exile over the last several years. As the ground was turned to start the construction of a house, something horrid—unexpected and uninvited—suddenly materialized. Human bones began emerging from below the soil. Lots of them, it was said.

The images are clear, the local explanations were whispered: it was where monks and laypeople had been massacred in 1958, a bloody, terrible year in Eastern Tibet.

Elsewhere in Yushu, in the grasslands near Dpal-thang, the commencement of another construction project for houses brought more of the same: three mass burial pits filled with human remains. But not everything had decomposed, it was said. There were remnants of the clothes that the victims were wearing when they were thrown in: both lay clothing and monastic robes. The long hair of some of the dead was also still there. According to elders these pits were from 1958 too, with bodies added as a result of later famine deaths around 1960. Several trucks were needed to take the remains away.

In place of intense criticism or condemnation of the Chinese authorities, who have for decades refused to open up records relating to what took place in Tibet (let alone of those whom the records would likely implicate in the savagery), there is a sort of indulgence that one might call the Chinese dispensation: the actions of China are to be seen as something akin to natural phenomena for which little or no moral judgment or critique is imaginable. It is the other actors who should be judged. This can involve the selective use of available (and problematic) Chinese statistics as well as the ascription of much, if not most, of the population loss in Tibet to migration and exile. And there is also the common, droning refrain that accounts from Tibetan exiles are exaggerated and can’t be trusted. Instead of seeking to work through exaggerations to find underlying truths, this rhetorical device is deployed to dismiss, tout court, testimony from those who have fled Tibet. Hence this sentence (from the pen of Barry Sautman): “The [1.2 million] figure is not based on eyewitness accounts or access to state statistics, and refugee reports have often been skewed to please exile authorities.” Well, at least it implies the existence of Chinese records on the subject. Still, if passed over too quickly a reader might not fully take in that the criticism contained in it is directed not at China for preventing access to those records but at Tibetans for not using them: records to which neither they nor any serious researchers are allowed access! And then there’s the schizophrenia of: a) removing from consideration any accounts (including those by eyewitnesses) reported in exile because they are ‘skewed’ and then, having done so; b) saying Tibetans don’t have “eyewitness” accounts… Of course, the utter unreliability of the 1.2 million figure is not an issue of real contention among serious observers: Human Rights Watch already in 1988 termed it unverifiable. But this is not the same as dismissing (as Sautman does) the fact of mass killings in Tibet in the first decades of rule by the PRC.

Do read the rest, although be warned: the topic itself is grim enough, and there are pictures from one of the mass graves found recently.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet, violence

“Lhasa: A New Area of Racial Segregation”

If you’ve read this blog more than once or twice you’ve probably noticed that I post things from Woeser, translated by High Peaks Pure Earth, pretty much constantly. She occupies a unique space in China, and her blog Invisible Tibet is a clearinghouse of information about what’s happening in Tibet, coming more or less straight from Tibetans themselves. Recently she’s been writing about Lhasa and the way restrictions there are coming to constitute apartheid. These are really serious claims she’s making, but it should be obvious that they aren’t being made lightly. If Tibet isn’t quite the same as South Africa or, as she says in this article, Jews under the Third Reich, it’s certainly gotten far too close for comfort.

As she says:

Apart from setting up security checkpoints around Potala Palace, in the old town of Lhasa and in monasteries, defences have been established on various levels including at airports, train stations and motorways; non-Lhasa residents who do not have all kinds of paperwork and certificates, “cannot enter Lhasa, unless they have wings”, as expressed by a Han Chinese tourist.

However, if one is not Tibetan, one can come by plane, by train, by car, by bike or one can even walk into Lhasa without problems. Of course, any people from countries other than China have already been indirectly refused entry into Tibet. If one searches for “Lhasa” on Weibo, one’s senses are assaulted with Chinese people from various places happily going to Lhasa to enjoy themselves. A little dog who has been referred to as “Xiao Sa” is most popular because it joined some Chinese cyclist halfway to Lhasa and followed them all the way into the city. This is why some Tibetans pungently wrote on Weibo : “Lhasa welcomes you, but it does not welcome Tibetans.”

Some Tibetans have described the bitter experiences of their families on Weibo: “My 19-year-old Tibetan nephew arranged to cycle along the Qinghai-Tibet route with three of his Chinese classmates but when they reached Lhasa’s Umatang Township in Damzhung County, his classmates could pass whereas he was stopped because he was Tibetan. Only with a certificate from a county-level or above unit would he be allowed to enter Lhasa. I made some phone calls to inquire and found out that as a non-Lhasa Tibetan if one wants to job, do business or visit relatives in Lhasa one needs all kinds of certificates and guarantees. Otherwise after passing a certain deadline, one is directly sent back to one’s native place. Anti-terrorism measures that divide ethnicities are easily implemented when there are only a few people, but what if there are many?”

This reminds people of the Second World War when the Nazis implemented policies of “anti-semitism” against Jews. In fact, Tibetans have already started sarcastically calling Lhasa a “Jewish district under Nazi rule”. The “elimination of Jews” back then and the “elimination of Tibetans” today has led many young Tibetans to spread the following sentence on Weibo about history repeating itself: “just like the Jews said who had to wear the Yellow Badge on their chests: we are unarmed and defenseless, but in the big world out there, no one is brave enough to step forward to help us.”

For the past many years, non-Lhasa residence, regardless of their cultural, economic or religious backgrounds, have always been relatively important parts of Lhasa’s societal structure. Business people from Amdo, Kham, Changthang, from different areas across the the whole of Tibet have operated businesses in Lhasa, monks have made pilgrimages to Lhasa and according to traditional customs, stayed in one of Lhasa’s three main monasteries to study. Traditionally, Lhasa has always been considered the centre, it has always been the holy land that all Tibetans yearn for; but today, it has turned into a place that “eliminates Tibetans”.

Referring to nomad resettlement camps as ghettos has become pretty uncontroversial as the scope of government resettlement projects and the grimness of the camps has become more apparent, but Lhasa itself as a ghetto… The way the Tibet issue has been evolving since 2008 has gotten more and more disturbing, and it’s hard to see what could break this impasse. If massive demonstrations in 2008 and now more than 50 self-immolations over two years have failed to spur some kind of positive change, what can?

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet

“Police Detain Tibetan Singer”

I see these stories come up on a news feed and I almost ignore them, assuming that they’re just repostings of an old story. Nope, according to RFA yet another Tibetan singer has been detained:

He is the latest target of Chinese authorities who have been rounding up Tibetan performing artists known to be effective in mobilizing support for political change in Tibetan-populated areas.

“He had been hiding in the hills to escape the police for about two to three months,” the source said.

“Three monks from the Golog region who wrote the lyrics to some of Phuljung’s songs have also been hiding in the hills for over a month and are now facing acute shortages of food,” he added.

Among the 13 songs released in May on Phuljung’s fifth DVD, titled “Our Heavy Responsibility,” are songs praising the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s exile prime minister Lobsang Sangay, an exile-based friend of the singer said, speaking in an earlier interview.

The Dalai Lama sits “on a golden throne,” and Lobsang Sangay, “a leader of Tibetans,” sits “on a silver throne,” the songs say.

In another song, Phuljung describes the Tibetan people as a “kind and just race” and urges them to resist China’s domination by speaking “only pure Tibetan” and by “uniting and working together.”

This is cultural genocide. It’s as if China heard the accusations and decided to do everything they could to prove them right.

Leave a comment

Filed under enforced disappearance, ethnic conflict, Tibet

“The Souls of Chinese Cities”

FP has put out a bunch of great China-related content in the last few days. The first one I’ll post is from Christina Larson, who explores three very different Chinese cities. From her description of Urumqi:

China’s far western region of Xinjiang follows its own time. Officially, all of China recognizes a single time zone, but Urumqi’s clocks are set two hours behind — referred to unofficially as “Xinjiang time.” It’s just one more example of the ways in which history here has tended to move in fits and starts, out of sync, both accidentally and by design.

Each evening at sunset, the adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, briefly fills the streets of Xinjiang’s capital, before being overtaken by the modern static of traffic noise and blaring horns.

But with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, history, having been frozen in time, suddenly lurched forward. The long border went from being Xinjiang’s biggest liability to its greatest asset. Within two years, borders had opened with 16 countries, and Yimirhan, who had by then been promoted to a driver, was soon driving across them. He recalls his first time navigating the “beautiful and frightening” hairpins turns of the famous Karakorum highway. (His 30-year-old daughter, translating for him, smiled at her father’s youthful excitement.)

Sensing a power vacuum in Central Asia, Beijing soon turned its attention to strengthening economic and political ties with its western neighbors, as well as investing to extract Xinjiang’s rich reserves of coal, gas, copper, and other minerals. If China’s modern construction boom came 15 years late to Urumqi, building is now on overdrive here, for economic and political reasons: a 21st century form of manifest destiny.

Today the paved road from Urumqi to Yili takes 10 hours, not 24. New rail lines have opened between Urumqi and Altay, and between Kashgar and Hotan, and there’s even talk of extending the Urumqi-Kashgar rail line all the way to Istanbul. There’s also a plan floated to build a rail link between Urumqi and the port of Gwadar in Pakistan.

Alas, Urumqi’s new wealth has not been evenly distributed. The man appointed in 1994 to be Xinjiang Party Secretary was Wang Lequan; until his ouster following the 2009 ethnic riots in Urumqi, which left roughly 200 people dead, he was a chief architect of Xinjiang’s modernization: well-connected, savvy and adept at wrangling funding from Beijing. He was also a hardliner whose policies toward ethnic minorities — including restricting religious fasting, praying, and other observances in schools and government offices — earned him no love from the city’s Uighur Muslims. One professor told me that the most harmful result of his policies was to systematically deny Uighurs opportunities and promotions in government agencies.

Urumqi today is a divided city. Government investment is flowing into the northern part of the city, but the southern part, the Uighur corridor, has seen little development since the 2009 riots. One Saturday evening, I went to a Uighur wedding, held in a third-floor hotel ballroom, with fraying rugs and chipping paint. The guests, dressed in everything from gowns to jeans, danced to a mix of pulsing techno music and traditional Uighur songs; groomsmen sprayed the happy couple with silly string from a can. The bride and groom had met at Xinjiang University, and although they and their guests were also mostly well educated, they lived in a world apart; there were no Han Chinese guests. (As a Han friend put it: “Even in the same city, Han and Uighur barely talk to each other; segregation is not an ongoing process, it is a fact.”)

Another afternoon I visited the famous Border Hotel complex, where Central Asian traders come to do business. Typically, I was mistaken for Russian. With me was a young Uighur guide, whose own language is close enough that he can understand most Central Asian languages. But as we entered one hotel lobby, the doorman, a pale, sweaty Han Chinese man with a receding hairline and a nervous manner, stopped him: “What are you doing? Where are you going?” Behind us, an assortment of unshaven Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Tajiks passed by unmolested. “To be Uighur is to be under constant suspicion,” my guide hissed through his teeth. I could easily see that a negative feedback loop was at work. He waited for me outside, puffing nervously on his cigarette; when I came back, he complained: “It’s getting worse.”

I asked if he’d ever been to any of the bordering countries, but he shook his head. “I can’t get a passport.” Fearful that Uighurs will radicalize if they travel abroad, the government has limited their ability to cross borders — a policy that raises the uncomfortable question of just who is supposed to benefit from the “New Silk Road” strategy.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, inequality, Xinjiang

“China jails Uighurs on separatism charges: reports”

And just to the north of the ongoing crisis in Tibet, China is working to keep Xinjiang unstable as well:

Courts in a restive region of west China with a large Muslim population have jailed 20 people for up to 15 years for using the Internet to incite separatism and “holy war”, state media said Thursday.

The sentences were immediately condemned by a group representing China’s mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, which said they were aimed at silencing critics of Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region.

“These criminals used mobile phones, and other media to watch, copy and publicise ‘holy war’ and terrorism through pictures and audio visual materials,” a report on the trials in on Xinjiang’s government-run Tianshan news site said.

“China is meting out heavy sentences to Uighurs who use the Internet to access information that is not controlled by the authorities and who are expressing opposing political views,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told AFP in a statement.

“These people were seeking freedom and were fighting against institutional persecution.”

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Xinjiang

“Tibetan teen monk dies in 44th self-immolation protest”

Grim news via Tibet Post:

The 18 year old monk identified as Lobsang Lozin, of Gyalrong Tsodun Kirti Monastery, set his body on fire near the monastery’s main prayer hall around noon and walked in the direction of the County’s local authority office engulfed in flame and died of the burns immediately, sources told exile groups.

While engulfed in flames, sources said, Lozin was heard chanting some slogans which can’t be clearly understood. His charred body was immediately taken into the possession of the fellow monks of the monastery where prayers are being held.

Sources also said anger are rife in the area and expressed fears of further tension as the local Tibetan population have gathered in strength to stand guard at the County’s main entry point to prevent the Chinese security officials from coming to the self-immolation site.

In March this year, two other monks of Gyalrong Tsodun Kirti Monastery, situated 85 kms north of Barkham County, set themselves on fire and died in protest against China’s harsh rule and restriction on the religious freedom. The monastery has more than 300 monks, according to sources.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“In Occupied Tibetan Monastery, a Reason for Fiery Deaths”

Edward Wong has a good piece in the NYT on Kirti Monastery, explaining why this particular place has become the center of Tibetan resistance this year:

Chinese paramilitary units are now posted on every block of the town of Ngaba, and Kirti is under lockdown. Journalists are barred from entering the monastery, which has made the question of how Kirti became the volcanic heart of this eruption of self-immolations something of a mystery.

But monks and laypeople from Ngaba who have fled across the Himalayas to this Indian hill town said that Kirti had been radicalized in the last four years by an occupation of the monastery that amounted to one of the harshest crackdowns in Tibet. Chinese security measures have converted the white-walled monastery, with its temples and dormitories and rows of prayer wheels, into a de facto prison, which has fueled the anger that the measures are aimed at containing.

The Ngaba exiles here say the security measures imposed on the town and the monastery have been extreme, even by the standards of Chinese control in Tibet. In 2008, during a Tibet-wide uprising, security forces shot protesters in Ngaba with live ammunition, killing at least 10 civilians, including one monk, according to reports by advocacy groups and photographs of corpses that had been brought to Kirti. It was one of the most violent events of the uprising, and anger and alienation set in among local Tibetans. Officials tightened security.

In February 2009, in the town’s market area, a young man from Kirti self-immolated, the first monk to do so in modern Tibetan history. The monk, named Tapey, survived, and officials stepped up surveillance of Kirti. In March 2011, the next self-immolation occurred: Phuntsog, 20, set fire to himself on the same street in the market, which locals now call Hero’s Road.

Local Tibetans say the heavy-handed reaction of the authorities in the six months after that event backfired, encouraging the self-immolations to continue. Chinese officials ordered the People’s Armed Police to surround the monastery; built a wall to cut off a rear entrance; banned all religious activities; smashed photographs of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader; forced monks to attend patriotic re-education sessions; cut off Internet access; and barred pilgrims from entering. They also took away 300 monks in a nighttime raid; many of them have not returned.

“The most uncomfortable thing was seeing soldiers pointing guns at you but not shooting at you,” said Lobsang, who recently arrived here and agreed to speak on the condition that only his first name be used. “This has been daily life since 2008. For myself, I’d rather get shot than to have them pointing the guns at me every day, 24 hours a day.”

Two days before his self-immolation in 2009, Tapey was walking among military trucks and kicking them.

“He was intentionally trying to provoke the soldiers,” Lobsang said. “I asked myself, ‘What happened? What’s wrong with him?’ That day he was really different, and in his eyes I could see how he hated the military.”

On Feb. 27, 2009, a high lama told a gathering of monks that Kirti had to comply with official orders to cancel an important prayer ceremony scheduled for that day. Tapey set himself on fire in the marketplace half an hour later, having left a note saying he would kill himself if the government banned the ceremony, Lobsang said.

One day in September, after officials had eased some restrictions on Kirti, two monks raced through the marketplace at noon, their robes aflame. One held up the banned Tibetan snow lion flag. Before collapsing, one of the monks, Lobsang Kelsang, a younger brother of Phuntsog’s, shouted, “We are the accused.”

The event was described by a witness who arrived in Dharamsala this spring. “Because of unfair judgments, oppressive policies and discrimination, because of all those things, the Tibetan people feel isolated,” he said. “The self-immolations are not the end. This is only the beginning.”

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“Kalon Tripa Accepts Resignations of Envoys”

A sad day for the hopes of a peaceful reconciliation between China and Tibetans:

Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay, Head of the Central Tibetan Administration, regretfully accepted the resignations of Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen. The resignations became effective June 1, 2012.

Special Envoy Lodi Gyari, assisted by Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen, led the Tibetan team in nine rounds of talks with representatives of the Chinese government starting in 2002.

At the Task Force meeting on May 30-31, 2012 in Dharamsala, the envoys expressed their utter frustration over the lack of positive response from the Chinese side and submitted their resignations to the Kalon Tripa. “Given the deteriorating situation inside Tibet since 2008 leading to the increasing cases of self-immolations by Tibetans, we are compelled to submit our resignations. Furthermore, the United Front did not respond positively to the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People presented in 2008 and its Note in 2010. One of the key Chinese interlocutors in the dialogue process even advocated abrogation of minority status as stipulated in the Chinese constitution thereby seeming to remove the basis of autonomy. At this particular time, it is difficult to have substantive dialogue,” stated the two envoys in their resignation letter.

The Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations will be expanded and will meet again in December 2012 to discuss the Chinese leadership transition with the hope of continuing to dialogue with the new Chinese leaders to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully.

It seems like this is also a good point for everyone involved to stop and rethink what they’ve been doing. If Gyari couldn’t work with the Chinese despite having the backing of the Dalai Lama, will future envoys have any better luck? As much as Beijing hates the Dalai Lama, they at least acknowledge him as a legitimate Tibetan figure. They’ve never accorded as much to the Central Tibetan Administration, which is what the new envoys will be representing. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the Middle-Way Approach, or at least how they’re pursuing it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dalai Lama, ethnic conflict, Tibet

“Technology Reaches Remote Tibetan Corners, Fanning Unrest”

A good piece from NYT about how technology and development are aiding the development of Tibetan nationalism and political consciousness, contrary to what Beijing expected:

“We may be living far away from big cities, but we are well connected to the rest of the world,” said the 34-year-old monk, who, like most Tibetans who speak to foreign journalists, asked for anonymity to avoid harsh punishment.

The technology revolution, though slow in coming here, has now penetrated the most far-flung corners of the Tibetan plateau, transforming ordinary life and playing an increasingly pivotal role in the spreading unrest over Chinese policies that many Tibetans describe as stifling.

Rising political consciousness has found expression through a campaign of self-immolations that the authorities have been unable to stamp out.

Many analysts say the contrast with the aftermath of unrest four years ago is striking, noting that it is still difficult to know exactly what happened during and after the 2008 rioting that started in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetan advocacy groups say hundreds across the region died at the hands of the police. The government acknowledges only two dozen deaths, most of them of Han Chinese killed by rioters and several of Tibetans convicted and executed for their role in the violence.

“We have no idea how many Tibetans died in 2008, but within 24 hours we have received photos of everyone who died by self-immolation,” said Robert J. Barnett, the director of the modern Tibetan studies program at Columbia University.

Monks like Dorje, a 23-year-old at the Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai, are typical of an increasingly wired and worldly generation. His room is decorated with the acoustic guitar he sometimes fumbles with late at night, Kobe Bryant posters and images of a beloved reincarnate Lama.

His most prized possession, though, is the computer he uses to download Celine Dion ballads and news from Tibetan advocacy groups. “All of us know how to jump over the wall,” he said slyly, referring to software that circumvents Chinese Internet restrictions. “I think all of us are aware of our Tibetan identity more than ever.”

Such activity, however, can be perilous. Dorje said a fellow monk was taken away by the police in March, days after a friend in Sichuan Province called to report the latest self-immolation. The monk’s mistake, he said, was to share the news with too many people. “The police are everywhere,” Dorje said.

These days, the authorities require Tibetans who want to make photocopies of documents — from religious texts to farming manuals — to get permission from the local police, and Internet cafe customers must hand over their state-issued identification cards. After a self-immolation this year in Gansu Province, the police corralled witnesses inside a market, confiscated their cellphones and deleted photos of the episode, residents said.

At Labrang, an enormous monastery popular with tourists, monks said the temporary tower that looms over the temple complex can intercept cellphone chatter, or shut it down entirely. Security officials, they say, did just that last summer during the visit of the Panchen Lama, the top religious figure handpicked by Beijing, whom many Tibetans view as illegitimate. “For five days, all our phones were dead,” one monk said.

Losang, a high-ranking monk at Labrang, said such tactics were only briefly effective because the authorities must eventually restore service or risk crippling the local economy.

On a recent afternoon, Losang, a sharp-tongued man in his mid-40s, latched the door to his home and showed off the contents of his computer: video footage of a recent religious festival, scanned images of government directives and banned images of the Dalai Lama. After lingering on a photo of the 21-year-old monk whose self-immolation last year set off the most recent spate of suicides, he was asked whether he thought such imagery inspired copycats.

He shook his head and said government strictures, not photos of the dead, were prompting young people to take their own lives. “When you choke a person,” he said, “you should not be surprised when they kick back.”

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet

“China moves long-missing Mongolian dissident to “luxury resort”

After the “vacation-style therapy” claims we heard a few months ago it looks like the Chinese government wants to outdo itself in terms of bizarre imprisonment classifications:

China has moved a prominent ethnic Mongolian rights activist to a “luxury resort”, a rights group said on Thursday, in the first account of his whereabouts in more than a year since he was put under house arrest.

Hada, who like many ethnic Mongolians in China uses a single name, was tried in China’s vast northern Inner Mongolia region in 1996 and jailed for 15 years for separatism, spying and supporting the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, which seeks greater rights for ethnic Mongolians.

He was released in December 2010 and then had to serve a separate sentence, “four years of deprivation of political rights”, Tao Jian, the deputy Communist Party boss of Inner Mongolia’s law and order committee, said in March.

Haschuluu told the group that Hada was in poor health and had rejected an offer to go free along with family members in exchange for signing a paper that would be tantamount to admitting wrongdoing.

Hada’s wife, Xinna, who has denied her husband is a separatist, was jailed for three years in April for “engaging in illegal business”, the group said.

“This is a completely trumped-up charge used by the authorities to have the family cooperate and keep them quiet,” Enghebatu Togochog at the SMHRIC said in emailed comments to Reuters.

Xinna was living in her rented warehouse with her son, Uiles, in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, because their house had been confiscated, the group said, citing Haschuluu.

Chinese authorities had offered Xinna and Uiles good jobs, nice cars, a luxury house and a special offer of a “beautiful girlfriend” to Uiles if they cooperated with the authorities, or risk arrest, detention and imprisonment, the group said.

Hanshuulan, Xinna’s mother, told SMHRIC that they had rejected the offer.

Do you think they actually had a girl on hand for this offer, or were they just going to go around China trying to find a ‘beautiful’ girl who wouldn’t mind dating the son of a prominent Mongolian dissident? How is that deal supposed to work?

Leave a comment

Filed under enforced disappearance, ethnic conflict, Inner Mongolia

“China forces Karma Monastery monks to disrobe”

In Chamdo Prefecture, one the most restricted areas on the Tibetan plateau, authorities are trying to dismantle one of the most historically important Tibetan monasteries:

In a revival of Cultural Revolution tactics, monks at the Karma Monastery in Chamdo, Tibet are being forced to disrobe by Chinese officials.

The monastery itself has been placed under a heightened security clampdown with a large presence of Chinese officials and security personnel carrying out patriotic re-education campaign.

“Monks are being ordered to disrobe while the whole Karma monastery has been sealed by the Chinese security officers,” Sonam Tsering, an exile Tibetan with contacts in the region told reporters.

Following the self-immolation of Tenzin Phuntsog, a former monk at the monastery and the reported bombing of an empty municipal office in the region, last year, monks at the monastery are continuing to face severe restrictions.

Although no casualties were reported in the October blast, local Chinese authorities directed their suspicions towards Karma monastery. The monastery was locked down and strict restrictions were placed on its monks, resulting in the arrest of 70 monks while over 40 monks reportedly escaped into the hills.

Speaking to Phayul, the director of TCHRD, Tsering Tsomo had earlier said that most of the monks of the Karma monastery have either been arrested or have fled the monastery in order to avoid growing Chinese repression and surveillance.

“The monastery initially had over 300 monks but now not many are left,” Tsomo said.

“For instance, the dialectic department in the monastery had to be shut down as all of its 120 students left the monastery. Many monks fled to escape the repeated visits and questionings by security officials.”

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“Han Only”

Autonomous Region has an example of the kind of day-to-day discrimination that mostly flies under the radar, sadly:

The government of Urumqi recently posted a recruitment notice to hire 27 civil service positions this year; 10 of them at the rank of Division Head, 17 at the rank of Deputy Division Head. Like many other things in China’s “minority regions” all positions are ethnicity-specific: all the 10 Division Head rank positions may only be filled by Han; of the 17 Deputy Division Head positions, two may be Uyghur, one by Kazakh, and one by Hui. That means, of the 27 positions at the two Division Head levels, only two may be Uyghur. And this is the capital of a Uyghur region that they call “autonomous.”

This doesn’t only happen with government positions, as private positions in both Xinjiang and the Tibetan regions are frequently given ethnic qualifications. I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure open job discrimination does a lot more to drive ethnic conflict than any of the things the Chinese government ever blames- Rebiya, Dalai, CNN, etc.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Xinjiang

“Tibetan Land Seized For Chinese Migrants”

Amidst all the Chen Guangcheng craziness business is still going on as usual in other parts of China- for example, Qinghai province, where RFA reports that there’s been another round of ethnically-driven land seizures:

Chinese authorities have forcibly grabbed land from three Tibetan nomadic villages in Qinghai province and will give it to tens of thousands of new Chinese migrants, according to a Tibetan resident of the area.

The new wave of migration will result in the growth of a Chinese town fueled by construction of two hydroelectricity projects, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“On April 25, Chinese government officials convened a meeting of five nomadic villages in Gepasumdo [in Chinese, Tongde] county in the Tsolho [Hainan] prefecture in Qinghai,” the Tibetan source said.

“At the meeting, the Tibetan residents of Setong, Dragmar, Seru, Machu, and Goekar villages were told they would have to give up 60 per cent of their land and get rid of 54 percent of their animals within this year,” he said.

The officials said animals would not be allowed to remain on the land taken over by the government, and villagers were advised to reduce the number of their animals by selling them to slaughterhouses.

“During the meeting, the Tibetans from the five different villages unanimously refused to accept the Chinese proposal to take over their land,” the Tibetan source said.

The government officials returned to the county center and later “forced the Tibetan residents of Setong, Dragmar, and Seru villages to surrender all their land,” the Tibetan said.

“The Tibetan land taken by the Chinese authorities … is meant [to cater to] over 30,000 Chinese migrants.”

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, forced relocation, nomads, Tibet

TibetWatch: April 26

Not as big of a day as yesterday, but a major protest in Derge is definitely news:

About 3,000 to 4,000 Tibetans led by monks protested Wednesday in front of a township police station and government center in China’s Sichuan province, condemning a security crackdown on a local monastery and demanding the release of a nine people who had been detained, sources said.

The protester at the Zogchen township in Dege county in the Tibetan-populated Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture were angry at a series of raids conducted by security forces on the Zogchen Monastery from Sunday to Tuesday, during which monks were severely beaten, interrogated, and taken away, the sources said.

Wednesday’s mass protest was peaceful but protesters demanded that the crackdown should stop and all security forces in the monastery be pulled out.

“They told the officials that if there was no withdrawal, things could turn ugly,” one caller from inside Tibet told RFA. “The people were disgusted that the police could enter the monastery and assault the monks, including one 13-year-old monk,” said the caller, identified as Tashi.

Reuters has news about continuing unrest in Yushu and Jyekundo, where earthquake recovery plans look set to ignore the overwhelming Tibetan majority in the region:

For two years after a cataclysmic earthquake struck a remote and wild part of China’s northwestern Qinghai province, Baobao and 29 other homeless ethnic Tibetan residents occupied the area outside several government buildings to denounce a land grab.

But no officials in Gyegu – known in Chinese as Yushu – would listen to their pleas, said Baobao, 41, a burly Tibetan odd-job labourer, who goes by only one name.

“What we don’t understand is why the officials’ homes can be left alone, but the ordinary people’s homes have to be snatched away,” he told Reuters in the tent he set up next to his home that is still standing.

“There must be two kinds of policies: one for officials and another for ordinary people.”

Land disputes are common across China, but the issue takes on new ramifications in areas dominated by ethnic Tibetans.

An official with the prefecture government said he had no knowledge of the situation.

Officials had first promised Amdo a free house and money in 1995 in exchange for him giving up his herd and relocating to the nearest town. He moved but got nothing in return.

“I petitioned the government to solve my housing problem but there was no effect,” said Amdo, dressed in a sheepskin robe.

Trinley Palmo, 56, another nomadic herder, said the authorities tore down her house in the grasslands after the earthquake, citing safety concerns. Her family was moved into an 80 square-metre (850 sq.foot) brick home in a resettlement area on the outskirts of Gyegu – one of almost 70,000 such households.

An official with Gyegu’s Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Department said resettlement “should not have any detrimental impact” on the nomads’ cultural and religious beliefs.

“Most of the farmers and herdsmen are still in favour of resettlement,” the official, identifying himself by his surname Li, said by telephone.

Many residents said they had seen no benefits. Tashi Nyima, 35 and a former herder, worried about feeding his family.

“If the government policy changes, I would go back to herding,” he said, after trading goods outside a storefront.

After snowstorms last week, Jamdrol said life was tough in the two-room 20 sq. metre tent pitched outside his house. The interior was lined with wooden benches, with strips of carpet on them. His wife, Tselha, was chopping firewood for warmth.

The government may seize his land, but he says he is unafraid.

“I will persist in telling the government the land belongs to me,” Jamdrol said. “Even if they want my life, I’ll never give it up,” he said, moving his finger across his throat.

Finally, Beijing is trying to use the World Buddhist Forum it created to elevate the fake Panchen Lama it created:

China’s disputed selection as the Panchen Lama has espoused Buddhist philosophy in a speech that was his first appearance outside the mainland and showed greater efforts by Beijing to gain acceptance of its rule over Tibet.

The Panchen Lama is Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest spiritual leader, but followers of the exiled Dalai Lama do not recognise China’s choice.

He spoke at the third World Buddhist Forum in Hong Kong, a showcase for China’s cultural diplomacy attended by more than 1,000 monks, nuns and scholars from 50 countries. China holds the forum every three years and the Panchen Lama’s attendance was aimed at burnishing his religious credentials.

Leave a comment

Filed under disasters, ethnic conflict, protests, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

TibetWatch: April 25th

It’s hard to even choose where to begin today, but perhaps the most important note to start with is that today marks the 23rd birthday of the Panchen Lama, kidnapped by the Chinese government at the age of six and not heard from since:

Speaking to Phayul over phone, an official in the Press Section of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi today said that the XIth Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is in “mainland China along with his family.”

“He is currently in mainland China along with his family and he doesn’t want to be disturbed,” the press officer, who declined from giving his name told Phayul.

When asked why the XIth Panchen Lama doesn’t want to be disturbed, the Chinese official, instead of giving a straight answer, blamed the Dalai Lama for “fabricating the truth.”

Despite repeated international pressure, the Chinese government has refrained from disclosing the well-being and whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family.

Coinciding with the XIth Panchen Lama’s 23rd birthday, Tibetans and supporters worldwide organised campaigns demanding his release.

If any one episode could fully relay exactly how villainous Beijing can be, the Panchen Lama affair might be it. Fittingly, today the International Campaign for Tibet is releasing a report entitled “60 Years of Chinese Misrule,” which makes detailed accusations of what ICT calls ‘cultural genocide’ in Tibet. The 148-page report can be downloaded here.

My thoughts on the report (and by the way, this is where I would put a full disclosure statement if this were anything other than a blog on the internet I write in my spare time): Before getting a chance to read it, I was worried that misleading narratives we frequently see in Tibet writings might be given some play, namely the misrepresentation of Tibet as an idyllic Shangri-La which only became a human realm after the Chinese invasion. To be sure, the report does make little mention of some of the problems of pre-Chinese Tibet, although given that this is explicitly a review of Chinese rule these omissions seem irrelevant. Instead, “60 Years” painstakingly documents how Tibet has been transformed from a proud civilization to a Chinese colony by way of policies which attack Tibetan culture, language, religion, traditional social structures, and ethnic identity.

By clearly defining cultural genocide and bringing all of the dimensions of the Tibet struggle into one document, ICT is trying to definitively change the discourse on Tibet in the same way that Mearsheimer and Walt did for Israel/Palestine with “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Points about different aspects of Chinese rule- from nomad resettlement to the elimination of Tibetan language education to rule by gunpoint- have all been made before, but the argument that together they constitute something greater (that is to say, worse) than the sum of their parts has never been made in such a detailed, focused way before.

Ultimately, it may come down to whether or not the reader believes in the concept of cultural genocide. Successive attempts to recognize cultural genocide, dating back to the same time as the coining of the term ‘genocide’ itself, have mostly been put down in the UN. ICT is at least trying to get it out there, and the reaction from the international community and retaliatory statements from China will likely be almost as interesting as the report itself.

Also breaking from Phayul today is news that the most recent self-immolators in Tibet left an audio statement which is now circulating around Tibet:

In their last message addressed to all Tibetans, Choephag Kyab and Sonam have reportedly said that their actions were for the “protection of the Buddha Dharma” in Tibet and for the “restoration of Tibet’s freedom.” They specified that their actions “were not for personal glory.”

The two have also urged the locals to “avoid fighting among themselves” and pleaded for “unity among Tibetans.”

“The message is being circulated widely in the region and Tibetans in the Zamthang area have been deeply moved by the message,” Gyatso said.

Local Tibetans had gathered in large numbers at the site of the protest to prevent them from being carried away by Chinese security personnel and carried the bodies to the Zamthang monastery.

Later at around midnight, following pressure from the local Chinese authorities, they were cremated near the monastery.

Around 6000 Tibetans from around the region attended the funeral according to Gyatso.

Finally, some interesting bits from the remarks by Lodi Gyari to the Council on Foreign Relations:

You know that I have been leading the Tibetan delegation for the dialogue with the Chinese government for the last many years. But I am not here today to give you a report on my progress because there is nothing new to say on that front. My last meeting with my counterparts in Beijing was in January 2010. Ever since, despite sincere and serious efforts on my part, we have been unable to reconvene. With the very critical situation in Tibet, the leadership changes both in Beijing and Dharamsala, and due to some other factors, I do not see any prospect for an early resumption, at least under my watch. However, having spent decades on this effort, I still do passionately believe that ultimately the only way for the Tibetans and Chinese to find a mutually acceptable solution for Tibet is through dialogue.

Adherence to the ‘one-China’ policy has been reiterated by successive American Administrations, sometimes making explicit reference to the communiqués mentioned above or to Taiwan’s unchanging status. Although the ‘one China’ policy was articulated in the context of US-China and US-Taiwan relations, Beijing increasingly demands that other governments with whom it establishes or maintains relations also endorse this ‘one-China’ policy.

What is the relevance of this discussion to Tibet? If one has to look for any reference point for China-Tibet relations, it is not the 1972 Shanghai communiqué, but the ‘17 Point Agreement,’ previously mentioned. In fact, the lack of relevance of the ‘one China’ policy is precisely what I would like to address. No Tibetan government has ever claimed to be the government of China, so the application of the ‘one-China’ policy to Tibet – or for that matter, the PRC government’s ‘one China’ principle that stresses the inalienability of both Taiwan and mainland China as parts of a single ‘China’ — simply does not arise.

We have our differences with China’s leaders when it comes to the history of Tibet and our historical independence from China but, as you well know, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s proposals and statements concerning ways to resolve the Tibetan question all envisage solutions that respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China as the state is constituted today. These proposed solutions call for the exercise by Tibetans of genuine autonomy within the People’s Republic of China and within the framework of its constitution – not for independence.

Yet, the PRC government vigorously pursues efforts to extend the applicability of ‘one China’ to Tibet and, in recent years, it has misled a number of governments into believing not only that the ‘one-China’ policy applies to Tibet, but that it restricts the extent to which their government officials can interact with Tibetan leaders in exile, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We believe that the intended effect of China’s initiative is to limit outside governments from playing a constructive role in promoting a mutually acceptable negotiated solution for Tibet. Indeed, by accepting the applicability of ‘one China’ to Tibet, governments are subtly aligning themselves with the Chinese position that the Dalai Lama is trying to ‘split’ China.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s proposals and the position of the Tibetan exile administration, supported by many international experts and governments alike, is that the situation in Tibet should be resolved by transforming what is now merely a nominal autonomy for Tibetans under the Chinese constitution and laws into a genuine and effective autonomy. We are convinced that our primary goal of restoring the right of Tibetans to live as Tibetans according to our culture, values and religious traditions can best be achieved if Tibetans can govern themselves under a system of devolution of power from the central government to the Tibet Autonomous Region and its contiguous Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in the People’s Republic of China.

What China’s leaders must also realize is that by reneging on the promises of autonomy in the constitution – even if they are unfulfilled – would severely impact the Tibetan position on the question. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach is premised on the supposition that a middle ground between independence and the current centralist dictatorship is possible within the framework of the People’s Republic of China and its constitution. That middle ground is genuine autonomy. If the constitutional basis for autonomy were to be removed from the Chinese constitution and if, therefore, a Middle Way approach could no longer be accommodated within the People’s Republic of China and its constitution, then Tibetans would be compelled to look for a totally different approach.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

“The Chinese Remaking of Kashgar”

The Huffington Post has a good article from Amy Reger, a researcher at UHRP:

Uyghurs view Kashgar as the spiritual and cultural heart of their culture, and the cradle of Uyghur civilization. However, reminiscent of the demolition of traditional Tibetan buildings in the city of Lhasa that were carried out around a decade ago, Kashgar’s Old City has been demolished piece-by-piece since early 2009. As the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) wrote in a recent report, Living on the Margins: The Chinese State’s Demolition of Uyghur Communities, the majority of the Old City has now been demolished, together with traditional Uyghur communities throughout East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China).

After the creation of the special economic trading area in Kashgar, real estate prices in the city skyrocketed, as investors from places such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Jiangxi scrambled to secure their own piece of a state-led economic boom. At the European View Gardens apartment complex, one of a spate of new residential complexes that has sprung up alongside demolitions and investment in Kashgar, a New York Times reporter asked a Chinese salesman why there were no Uyghur-language promotional materials. The salesman responded by saying, “What’s the point? They can’t afford this place.”

In an online marketing video for European View Gardens, which is located on land formerly owned by Uyghurs, a Chinese-speaking narrator promotes digitalized images of the property’s beautiful landscaping and cascading fountains, which are populated by families and security guards who appear to be Han Chinese.

The new housing developments featured in the videos are indistinguishable from cities in eastern China, thereby enticing Chinese residents who otherwise may have been uncomfortable moving to an environment outside of the Han cultural domain. These videos, and their lack of representation of Uyghurs and other non-Han peoples, raise doubts about who is benefiting from government policies to drive investment to Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan. In Kashgar, officials have suggested that Uyghurs would be able to return to their rebuilt Old City residences in the wake of construction, but financial constraints make this seem unlikely.

A quick look at recent online job advertisements in Kashgar reveals a number of instances in which candidates are openly limited to members of the Han Chinese population. Several ads placed on a website for “Dongcheng Huayuan” (东城花园), one of the many new residential complexes springing up in the city, specify that applicants must be Han Chinese. One ad seeks two Chinese individuals with mechanical repair skills; another seeks an office manager and an office clerk, each of whom must be Han Chinese; and a third seeks an accountant and a cashier, each of whom must be Han Chinese. Examples of recent online job ads for companies throughout Kashgar that specify applicants must be Han Chinese also include this ad for two truck drivers; an ad for ten cashiers; and an ad for 12 advertising salespersons, 12 telephone marketing representatives and two website editors.

As Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan become increasingly “Chinese,” Uyghurs are being pushed further to the margins, both in terms of their living spaces and their role in society. The widening ethnic gap in who benefits from regional transformation raises concerns about ethnic relations and the prospects for sustainable progress in East Turkestan.

It’s scary how accurate this story remains if you switch out Uyghur for Tibetan or Mongolian and Lhasa or the Inner Mongolian grasslands.

Leave a comment

Filed under ethnic conflict, forced relocation, Xinjiang