February 9th: TibetWatch

There hasn’t been much else about yesterdays protests yet, but AFP is reporting that Tibet Party chief Chen Quanguo is holding to his threat of dismissing officials if protests or other disturbances occur in their districts:

Tibet’s top leader has fired three officials for failing to crack down on unrest in the region, state press said Thursday, a day after another Tibetan set himself alight to protest China’s rule.

Chen Quanguo, Communist Party head of Tibet, announced the sackings in a Wednesday meeting at which he also called for increased pressure on Tibetan separatists led by what he called the “Dalai clique”, the Tibet Daily reported.

The three fired officials worked for the region’s human resources department, a government organ responsible for job placement.

His appointment was met with muted optimism, and firing officials instead of carpet-bombing districts with PAP might sound like an improvement… but firing them for not ‘striking’ the ‘Dalai Clique’ hard enough… Yeah, that sounds pretty ominous.

Meanwhile, ChinaDialogue has an article about the efforts to resettle Tibetan nomads. Given the prominent position herdsmen have had in recent protests, this could likely be called a major source of discontent across Tibet:

The provision of adequate public services is one of the biggest challenges. Infrastructure in some of the relocation sites is excellent, just like in a modern town. But in some cases, basic amenities including water, electricity, roads, schools, toilets and healthcare facilities, not to mention television, have not kept pace with the rising population. These services have a direct impact on migrants’ lives, and their absence makes it harder to attract inhabitants, as well as making future development work much harder.

In Guoluobanma county, for example, the influx of migrants has put serious pressure on the local healthcare system: the county hospital cannot cope with the increased numbers, while the Tibetan medicine hospital has no inpatient beds. The nearest alternatives are distant. The town of Dawu is 320 kilometres away, and Xining, the provincial capital, 786 kilometres away. Access to medical care has become a major issue for local people.

Housing projects built by the local government are mostly located on the outskirts of towns. We have seen places with cable television wired up – but no electricity, or vice versa. Even when television is available, the herders don’t watch it much, as many of them don’t speak Mandarin. And of course, they can’t easily communicate with the rest of the community. Existing residents tend not to welcome the newcomers, and there’s little sense of kinship or belonging.

Just getting by is hard. The herders used to live by moving their herds around the grasslands, finding fresh grass and water, but relocation has taken away their livelihood: they are not herders anymore, but nor are they farmers or urban workers, and low incomes have become a major problem.

The herders had expected to live comfortable lives in the towns; they put a lot of faith in the local government. They never expected that they would not only lose their original way of life, but also suffer what they call the “four hardships”: not being able to afford meat, milk, butter tea or heating fuel. The herders’ standard of living is generally lower now than it was before – and much lower than that of other locals. In Guoluo, a typical migrant’s income is around a fifth of that of an established resident. Poor locals, moreover, receive government welfare; not so poor migrants.

In the village of Xiangda, in Nangqên county, virtually everyone lost their land and several thousand people across the prefecture now struggle to make ends meet. These people are not ecological migrants – they have not been relocated – but they are demanding the same treatment as those who are. They too have made sacrifices for the sake of protecting the ecology of Sanjiangyuan, and the government should not ignore their hopes and needs.

Finally for today, Merab Sarpa has a great exploration of Chinese education policies in Tibetan areas. From their conclusion:

In The Will to Empower, Cruikshank (1999) questions and analyzes power relationships and asserts that in spite of the emancipatory claim of those who seek to empower others, the relations of empowerment are themselves relations of power. This seems to be case with China’s attempts to empower its minorities, although here the government’s intention is dubious. In Chinese government discourse, education to the minorities in Mandarin and Han Chinese culture represents an attempt to empower the minorities and bring economic and educational development to ethnic minority regions. Yet, from the minorities’ perspective, it has clear disempowering effects, as the educational displacement causes low school enrollment and erosion of their language and culture.

One of the central issues in the discourse on minority education is national unity and stability. In the case of Tibet, the government establishes a link between Tibetan Buddhism and language with local ethnic nationalism. Thus, deliberate attempts were made to exclude Tibetan culture, including religion and language from education. However, government efforts have not diminished ethnic nationalism, but rather increased alienation and created sense of exclusion. It is quite evident from the Tibetan and Uyghur experiences that the cultural exclusion, ideological education and mainstreaming seldom results in national integration. On the contrary, it has led to protests and unrest that threaten national unity. Uprisings in Tibet and Uyghur area in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and Tibetan students’ protests in 2010 are cases in point. A more culturally oriented education could in fact bring the minorities closer to the Chinese nation and promote unity in diversity. Beijing must recognize that the child’s community and local milieu form the primary social context in which learning takes place, and in which knowledge acquires its meaning.

Thus, a genuine bilingual education rooted in minority culture could be the true panacea for China’s minority educational problem. In the case of Tibet, Tibetan language should be promoted as the first language. Along with that, it is important to create economic and political expanse for Tibetan language to gain functional utility. This entails making Tibetan language the language of administration and commerce. Without the prospect of political and socio-economic gains and opportunities, even the choice for an education in Tibetan language would be a ‘false choice’ (Zhou & Ross, 2004).

I really hope Merab Sarpa can keep up this quality of writing.


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Filed under development, education, ethnic conflict, protests, Tibet

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