News and Views on Tibet

Tibetan language activist Tashi Wangchuk attacked

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Tashi Wangchuk in an undated photo (Photo/Tibet Watch)

By Tenzin Nyidon

DHARAMSHALA, Aug 23: Tashi Wangchuk, a prominent Tibetan language advocate and former political prisoner was attacked by a group of unidentified men in Darlak County, Eastern Tibet on the evening of August 19, according to the London-based rights group Free Tibet. 

Free Tibet’s research arm Tibet Watch reported that Tashi Wangchuk’s journey to Darlak County was motivated by the intention of highlighting the disappearance of the Tibetan language from educational institutions. To document his concerns, he filmed a video near Darlak County Nationality Middle School, sharing it on the Chinese social media platform Douyin.

Around 8 pm, his hotel room door was forcefully entered by masked assailants, subjecting him to a brutal assault lasting around 10 minutes. Wangchuk believed he had been trailed from the school to his hotel. During the assault, he pleaded with the attackers to stop and summoned the hotel owner to contact the police. Law enforcement authorities arrived at his hotel room around 9 pm, subsequently taking him to the police station for questioning, where he remained until around 11:30 pm. During the interrogation, police coerced him into deleting photos and videos he had taken earlier that day from his phone.

Tashi Wangchuk, originally from Kyegudo in Yushu Prefecture in Eastern Tibet, gained international recognition from his appearance in The New York Times documentary in which he discussed the significance of preserving the Tibetan language and his efforts to file a lawsuit against local authorities following the closure of Tibetan language classes in schools across Tibet. In January 2016, he was detained by Chinese authorities, held in a secret location, and subjected to torture. After spending two years in pre-trial detention, he was sentenced to five years in prison on the charges of “inciting separatism,” a charge widely criticised as being politically motivated.

Upon his release from prison in January 2021, Tashi Wangchuk continued advocating for authorities in Tibet to uphold the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which mandates the teaching of “minority” languages, including Tibetan. In January 2022, he undertook a significant advocacy by approaching local offices in Jyekundo (also known as Yushu), aiming to protect and preserve the Tibetan language. His advocacy led to him being summoned for an interrogation session at the Public Security Bureau of Yushu. His commitment to his cause extended beyond this incident as he embarked on a journey to various schools in occupied Tibet where he gathered evidence that showcased a disproportionate emphasis on Chinese-language instruction in comparison to Tibetan.

The attack on Tashi Wangchuk’s hotel in Darlak County, experts say, highlights the precarious challenges faced by Tibetan language advocates and cultural preservationists in occupied Tibet. This incident underscores the ongoing suppression of Tibetan cultural and linguistic rights, despite constitutional provisions. 

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