Photo: NY Times
DHARAMSHALA, May 24: The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), the only rights group run by Tibetans that monitors human rights situation inside Tibet, has condemned “in strongest terms” the sentencing of Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk by a Chinese court.
“The verdict against Tashi Wangchuk makes a mockery of Chinese Constitution and Regional National Autonomy Law both of which contain provisions for Tibetan nationalities to protect and promote their language,” said TCHRD. The TCHRD said despite provisions for minority languages in Chinese law, Chinese authorities have accelerated the use of Mandarin Chinese in government and education sectors of Tibet in recent years. “The gaps between minority language policy and practice demonstrate that minority language rights become meaningless when they are seen as detrimental to ‘national stability’ and ‘national unity’.”
The rights group called on the Chinese authorities to release Tashi Wangchuk and all other Tibetans imprisoned for protecting and promoting Tibetan language and culture. “China’s assimilationist policy has increased alienation and sense of exclusion among Tibetans. It has become a major cause of instability and protests in Tibet. The 2008 and 2009 uprisings in Tibetan and Uyghur areas, followed by 2010 Tibetan students’ protests and numerous other protests including self-immolations have called for language freedom as one of their main demands.”
Chinese authorities have long expanded efforts to ‘unify’ People’s Republic of China (PRC) with the so-called minority regions by imposing nationalistic ideas throughout the education system, according to TCHRD. One method of promoting nationalism, the TCHRD said, is “reflected in the government’s renewed emphasis on standard Chinese as a common, national language and its decreasing attention to the development, or sometimes even the maintenance, of bilingual and other forms of education in minority languages”.
The rights group said Beijing has sent a “worrying signal” that it will continue to implement the counter-productive policy of discrimination and hostility against all expressions of Tibetan cultural identity. “Equally concerning is the dominant view among the Chinese leadership that PRC’s stability and unity can only be achieved through the eventual annihilation of distinct national and cultural identities of Tibetans and other so-called minority nationalities.”
Tibetan language right activist Tashi Wangchuk was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on May 22 by Yushu Intermediate People’s Court, in Jyekundo County in the Kham region of Tibet. Tashi Wangchuk, a 33 year old Tibetan E commerce entrepreneur has been in jail for over two years on what Tibetan exiles call “politically motivated charges” of inciting separatism” following his pursuit to fight for Tibetan people’s right to Tibetan language education.
Tashi was arrested on 27 January 2016 after a New York Times news article and a video report came out, documenting Tashi’s mission to file a formal complaint against Chinese officials for failing to support Tibetans’ right to Tibetan language education.
Tashi ran an online business on Alibaba, major Chinese internet e-commerce site, and featured in a promotional video in 2014 for Alibaba as an example of entrepreneurial success.
Yushu, called Gyegu in Tibetan, is one of the predominantly Tibetan areas under Chinese occupation. The government has encouraged increasing use of Chinese language in schools and official settings across these areas.