A political street theatre in Dharamshala challenging Xi Jinping to acknowledge Chinese leadership's policy failures in Tibet on October 3, 2012. (Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal)
DHARAMSHALA, December 12: An authoritative group of Tibet experts submitted a letter to China’s president in waiting, Xi Jinping, expressing their “deep concern” about the state of the Tibetan language in China occupied Tibet.
Renowned Tibetologists, including Prof. Robert Barnett, Prof. Elliot Sperling, Samten Karmay, and Tsering Shakya, among many others, noted that Tibetan language is “seemingly marginalised and devalued” in Tibet at a time when it is “increasingly being taught and studied” in universities around the world.
“As specialists in the areas of Tibetan language, culture and religion, we would like to share with you, through this letter, our own concerns about the various measures that jeopardise the continuing viability of this civilisation, a civilisation that is one of the treasures of humanity and for which the Chinese government has clearly stated its responsibility,” the experts said.
“We would like to remind you that in China the Tibetan language is, after Chinese, one of oldest continually-used languages, and has also contributed to the understanding and reconstruction of the ancient Sino-Tibetan family, a family that, like Indo-European, contains many hundreds of languages.”
While appreciating China’s gesture of establishing schools in Tibetan villages, the group however pointed out that over the last several years, authorities have been trying to “institute new measures that eliminate or severely restrict the use of Tibetan as the language of instruction in Tibetan-speaking areas.”
They listed measures such as the replacement of Tibetan by Chinese as the medium of education (announced in Qinghai in 2010) and the replacement of textbooks written in Tibetan by Chinese textbooks — as was seen in Rebkong (Chin: Tongren) in March 2012.
The letter took note of the numerous ways in which Tibetans, especially students, have made known their strong desire to preserve their language as the medium of instruction and communication in schools, including writing petitions to the authorities and leading street demonstrations.
“Dozens of Tibetans of all ages, men and women, religious and lay, have committed acts of self-immolation over the last few years. Several of them have shouted slogans demanding respect for the language and culture of Tibet,” the letter states.
The Tibetologists further expressed their hope that China’s new leadership will be sympathetic to the aspirations of Tibetans and “work with them to find peaceful solutions to this crisis that will allow for the promotion and development of Tibet’s language and culture.”
Similarly, a group of young educated Tibetans in Dharamshala sent a letter to Xi, appealing the Chinese government to change its “faulty policies” on Tibet, which they said are the underlying factors for the crisis inside Tibet.
The Tibetan Educated Youth Group, in a letter dated December 10, said China’s violent clampdown on the 2008 uprisings in Tibet and its policy of “more repression, more arrest, more imprisonment, and more killings” have resulted in the ongoing wave of self-immolation protests.
“The desperate call for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet and freedom by the self-immolators during their fiery protests clearly reveal the desperate wishes of the Tibetan people,” the letter reads. “So, we expect that you and your colleagues will stop these repressive policies in Tibet and rather understand the underlying grievances and the deep wishes of the Tibetan people to resolve the Tibet issue.”
The group further told Xi that inviting the Dalai Lama now will create an atmosphere for peaceful coexistence among the Chinese and the Tibetan peoples.