Analysis by Kalinga Seneviratne

BANGKOK (IDN) - China is keen to demonstrate that its ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, dubbed the “New Silk Route” by the media, is not geared to exclusively serve China’s economic interests, but to build connectivity in the region and beyond for the benefit of all.

This was the message from a high-powered Chinese team taking part in a ‘side-event’ organised by China at the 72nd UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) sessions here May 17-19. It is also an idea that ESCAP is strongly endorsing as it embarks on promoting a new development paradigm for the region.

In an opening address to the event, China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Qian Hongshan said that the ‘Belt’ is designed “to form synergy between the development strategies of various countries, draw on their respective strengths and unleash the huge development potential of this region to achieve common progress”.

- Photo: 2020

Xi Ready to Turn Free Tibetans Into Hapless Uighurs

By Nadir Ali Wani*

SRINAGAR, India (IDN) – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet. Which of them would be the first to completely lose its separate and independent identity under the watch of the expansionist Chinese president, Xi Jinping? Critics say while the world pays more attention to Taiwan and Hong Kong and the Ladakh stand-off against India, Tibet is his chosen prey.

President Xi has used the COVID-prompted isolation since January to create the atmosphere – in terms of an ideological justification coupled with amendments to laws and governance of autonomous regions – for the felling of Tibet.

At the two-day seventh Central Symposium on Tibet Work in Beijing on August 29, 2020, President Xi underlined the Communist Party of China’s policies on governing Tibet for a new era: To build a new, modern, “socialist Tibet”.

Build a new modern socialist Tibet that is united, culturally advanced.

Developing new Tibet as a major contribution to the overall work of the Party and the state.

The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the system of regional ethnic autonomy must be upheld to carry out work related to Tibet.

Work-related to Tibet must focus on safeguarding national unity.

More education and guidance should be provided for the public to mobilize their participation in combating separatist activities.

Patriotism should be incorporated into education in all schools.

Enhance recognition of the great motherland, the Chinese nation, the Chinese culture, the CPC and socialism with Chinese characteristics by people of all ethnic groups.

Tibetan Buddhism should be guided in adapting to the socialist society and should be developed in the Chinese context.

Building of leadership teams at all levels, cadre teams and primary-level Party organizations

These measures are to be implemented at once. There is a new law already in place to execute these principles of annexation. Under the CPC’s supervision, the Beijing-controlled legislature of the Tibet Autonomous Region passed the “Regulations on the Establishment of a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress in the Tibet Autonomous Region.” It came into force this May. It will do to Tibet what the new security law is doing to Hong Kong – erase its independent identity and turn its ethnically different people into a subjugated minority.

The Tibet legislation has four devastating provisions. First, it asks for combating separatism and “strengthening ethnic unity” in every Tibetan sphere.

Article three states that “safeguarding oneness of the motherland, strengthening ethnic unity, and taking an unambiguous stand against separatism are common responsibilities of all people from all ethnic groups”.

Article four aims at establishing “model districts” of ethnic unity in the region which will “guarantee to advance the people of all ethnic groups to build a better home, create a better future, and share the glorious dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Article 46 asks organizations to give “education” to their employees who disturb ethnic unity or spread separatist ideas. If the offence is deemed too severe, “public security bureaus will handle the related organization or individuals according to law”.

The world, busy handling the COVID-19 pandemic and focused more on the China-sponsored standoffs in Ladakh and South China Sea, is yet to grasp the CPC’s ulterior motive in passing the new law. Tibetans in exile are already crying foul, saying it will soon be used to “Sinicise” Tibet.

The word Sinicization is coined to describe the process the CPC executes to translocate indigenous mainland Chinese, the Han Chinese, to rebellious regions inhabited by people of independent cultures, thus turning the latter into minority groups in their own land.

President Xi’s enslavement policy comes out clearly when he says that all ethnic groups in Tibet must realise that the future is of a Chinese nation and promote a Chinese community of integrated ethnic groups.

The United States holds a Damocles’ sword over China in the form of its Tibet Policy and Support Act that the selection of the new Dalai Lama is an internal Tibetan matter and no Chinese can interfere in it. It is enough to launch the Cold War.

Tibet is roughly a quarter of China, but Tibetans are under half a per cent of the total population. That disparity makes them vulnerable to demographic submersion. Already they don’t have democratic rights anywhere in China and are minorities in their own land now redesigned as Chinese provinces.

This is what happened in Xinjiang where the Uighur Muslims will soon be reduced to the status of an ineffective minority, robbed of its distinct culture, language, customs and history, forced to accept China as the motherland and adopt Chinese customs, culture and politics.

The most powerful word that in the legislation is “re-education”. It is one way of brainwashing the Tibetans, like the Uighurs before, to forget everything they owned or believed in. The Tibetans may be forced into “re-education camps” – not dissimilar to concentration camps – like the Uighurs in their millions have been forced into.

The new legislation and President Xi’s nine-point charter to turn Tibetans into Chinese puppets is an established system of the CPC to repress an independent group of people and turn them into ineffective minorities.

The provisions are complemented by several infrastructural addons that will change the Tibetan landscape once and for all: Concentration camps will dot the peaceful Himalayan mountainsides. Billets of the PLA will throng the plains to watch the Tibetans and turn them into a docile flock. The streets of Tibetan cities, towns and villages will be crowded with hundreds of poles, the surveillance cameras lofted high to watch the people.

Tons of “re-education” material – mostly related Xi Jinping’s statements and utterances, the CPC ideology, Chinese customs and language – will be dumped on the Tibetans to remember by rote. There would certainly be brutal measures, as have been implemented in Xinjiang – to control the expansion of Tibetan population.

Unlike the Uighurs, the Tibetans are a much better known “commodity” of peoples. They caught the world’s attention when they rebelled against China for their “Free Tibet” cause. The Dalai Lama exiled himself in India. Tibetans in their thousands settled in Dharamshala in India’s Himachal Pradesh. There is a Tibetan government in exile. Tibetans freely practice their religion, their culture and education the world over even today.

Yet, with the world sympathy lacking them, they may find themselves still feeble to stop President Xi’s sweeping onslaught as and when it comes. The Dalai Lama, now past 84, is old and keeps to his Indian “home”. He has sought the intervention of every US President, every European head of state, but in vain. China has shown neither consideration for the Tibetan cause nor remorse for what it proposes to do with the Tibetan region.

Yes, the Trump administration did impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials as a counter to restrictions of Americans travelling to Tibet. But he is engrossed more in his re-election. Tibetans in exile regularly hold public demonstrations against the impending Chinese aggression in Europe and Australia, but they do not eke out anything more than sympathy. Some Tibetan monks have self-immolated themselves too.

Bhutan and Nepal, immediate Tibetan neighbours, are being pressurised by China to stop sympathising with the Tibetans and refuse to shelter them in the future. They are also being asked to restrict the hitherto free movement of exiled Tibetans in these countries. China is blackmailing other countries whose financial debt it owns to stop supporting the Tibetan cause.

The question now is whether President Xi will launch his latest exercise in repression in Tibet right away or will wait for the melee over the taking over of a new Dalai Lama. There is a hitch, however, with the latter. China has said long ago that it would want to control the next Dalai Lama. It probably already has a strategy to anoint a new Dalai Lama whenever necessary. But the current Dalai Lama has often said his successor may be reincarnated outside of Tibet. That will make it for President Xi to choose and control a successor. This can only further confirm his resolve to move into Tibet as quickly as possible.

An enslaved Tibet is what President Xi craves for to expand his dubious Border Rods Initiative that fronts his expansionist plans. His goal is to lay a road on which he can move freely across the Himalayas into west Asia and then to Europe. That is his expansionist route.

Of late, even as China populates Xinjiang with infrastructure, it is also executing plans of upgrading roads and other infrastructures in the Tibetan region. There does exist the Sino-Nepal Friendship bridge, north of Kathmandu, along the treacherous mountain road between Tibet and Nepal. The other key road is the one between Pakistan and Xinjiang. And then the controversial G219 highway that connects Xinjiang with Tibet, passing through Aksai Chin region of India’s Ladakh. The road network coming up on the Chinese side of the Doklam area bordering south-eastern Tibet is also there.

The Tibetan Autonomous Region that exists today is already a truncated territory that originally belonged to the Tibetans. China carved out several provinces out of it, including Yunnan, Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai. There is nothing Tibetan in these provinces. That is the fate that awaits the remaining portion of the Tibetan homeland. It awaits a total assimilation. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 October 2020]

* Nadir Ali Wani Ali has an abiding interest in the study of conflicts in South Asia with a particular interest in International politics to do with China, Islam and Kashmir. Currently, he is Director, Center For Peace and Justice (CPJ), a non-profit research group based in Srinagar known for its efforts of youth development in Kashmir. He has no political affiliation.

Photo: The Dalai Lama, spiritual head of the Tibetan people, interacts with the media during his visit to the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, December 2019. Credit: PTI.

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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