Friday, 25 May 2018

Tibetan Let Down by Rule of Law

Tashi Wangchuk is concerned about losing the Tibetan culture
A few days ago, a Tibetan who was hoping to petition the Chinese government to have better teaching of the Tibetan language, was thrown in jail for five years, convicted for "inciting separatism".

The thing is, Tashi Wangchuk doesn't want to have anything to do with independence. He just wants to preserve the Tibetan language and culture.

To that end he tried to file a lawsuit against local officials for going against China's constitution that says all ethnicities in China "have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages".

However he couldn't do that, so he traveled to Beijing in the hopes of getting China Central Television (CCTV) to shine a spotlight on the issue of how the quality of teaching Tibetan has fallen and how he wants to protect the language from being sidelined by Mandarin.

Beijing seems intent on more Chinese spoken than Tibetan
But when he tries to approach the CCTV building in Beijing, he sees security guards asking visitors for their ID cards and he worries he will be taken in by the police. In a touch of naivety, he thought state media was open and was always searching the truth.

Then he tries to find lawyers to take on his case, but many of them say the Chinese government has done good things for Tibet, particularly economic development. Either they are pro-Beijing or they just don't want to get involved.

His attempt to petition the government and expose his story led to him being detained in 2016 after appearing in a New York Times video chronicling his journey. Most recently that video was used as evidence against him in a four-hour trial in January, saying he was deliberately inciting separatism and trying to discredit the government's international image and treatment of ethnic minorities.

Tashi was previously a shopkeeper and learned Tibetan from his brother, who had studied with a monk. In 2015 Tashi tried to find a Tibetan teacher for his niece, traveling through several provinces but couldn't find any.

In the video by the New York Times, Tashi says: "The local government is controlling the actual Tibetan culture, such as the spoken and written language. It looks like development or help on the surface, but actually the goal is to eliminate our culture."

Did he not make his argument clear, using the Chinese law to push China to preserve Tibetan language and culture?

Apparently Beijing was not pleased by this tactic and turned the tables on Tashi. He is a young man who has thought long and hard about how to bring change to his people. Tashi tried, but in the end sacrificed himself for the cause.

In the video he talks about how over 100 Tibetans have committed self-immolation. He observes they didn't do it because of a family dispute, but because they feel so strongly about the Tibet they know disappearing that they have lost hope that things will get better.

He doesn't think he would do that, but he can now see how desperate some people are, that they practically have no choice left but to accept the inevitable -- that Beijing controls Tibet, despite it being called an "autonomous region".

For now Tashi will appeal, but trying to silence him with jail is only going to create more resentment against the Han Chinese...

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