​China must end cultural assimilation campaign and crackdown on Tibetan intellectuals and cultural leaders

The Chinese Party-state is targeting and silencing influential Tibetan writers, intellectuals and cultural leaders that it views as hindrance to its cultural assimilation campaign.

Among the latest to be targeted are renown scholar and author Gō Sherab Gyatso (also known as ‘Gosher’), age 46; Dhi Lhaden, age 41; Rinchen Tsultrim, 29; and Trinley Gyatso, age 20; all of whom have been sentenced to four to ten years in prison following lengthy periods of detention in undisclosed locations. The exact charges, dates of sentencing and current whereabouts remain unclear in most cases.

New information obtained by TCHRD revealed the ongoing detention of four other writers. They are the well-known author, Goyon, 33,  from Drango (Ch: Luhuo) County and Sabuchey, 34, author and teacher from Dzachuka in Sershul (Ch: Shiqu) County, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Also Rongwo Gangkar , 46, and Rongwo Gendun Lhundup, 47, who belong to Dowa (Ch: Duowa) Township in Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) County, Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Goyon was detained overnight in Chengdu with two of his friends on 5 June 2010  and has suffered beatings in custody. He chronicled the experience in a journal titled, “Torture in Prison”.

Rongwo Gendun Lhundup has been detained and interrogated on several occasions by Chinese security officials. He was last detained on 2 December 2020, more than a year ago.

The charges and current whereabouts of all four are unknown.

A Tibetan scholar in exile familiar with the works of these young writers and intellectuals confirmed their detention although more details are unavailable. 

“The crackdown on Tibetan intellectuals and cultural leaders, who wield positive influence on the promotion of Tibetan language and culture, exposes the Chinese government’s sinister plan to marginalise and undermine Tibetan culture and language”, the scholar told TCHRD on condition of anonymity.

“The widely publicized news of Gosher’s detention is a mere example of the other unpublicised detentions of scholars, teachers, and students from Rebkong and other Tibetan areas.”

A common characteristic among those detained individuals is their extensive scholarship on Tibetan language, culture, literature that have captured the imagination of many young Tibetans. This appears to be the sole reason behind their detention because there is no instance of any of them violating any domestic laws.

Many Tibetan language websites have been shuttered in recent times such as the popular websites Emperor administered by Rongwo Gendun Lhundup and Bodh Du Ched Tawa administered by Rinchen Tsultrim.

Other leading websites such as New Youth, Je Tsongkhapa, Wish fulfilling snow flower, Sound of Dzachu’s wave, Spiritual friend, Sengdor, Tibetan language, Golok’s website have also been closed down.

Recently, Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk shared screenshots of closed websites on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo and wrote, “Why can [we] not access these Tibetan language websites?”

Tibetan Language Activist Tashi Wangchuk’s post on Weibo

Prioritizing Mandarin Chinese

A recent notice by the State Council and the tenth session of the People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region both resolved to prioritize Mandarin Chinese learning and recognized Tibetan nomadic and farming communities areas falling under the Three Regions, Three Prefectures as key areas for the implementation of the Children Homophony plan.

The Chinese Ministry of Education recently announced that the Putonghua (standard Mandarin) penetration rate must reach 85% by 2025 and 100% by 2035. The ministry claimed that Putonghua promotion is more enhanced in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces.

TCHRD remains concerned that the Putonghua promotion plan is designed to erode non-Chinese identities and directly contravenes various provisions in the Chinese Constitution, the Regional National Autonomy law and the bilingual education policy.

TCHRD urges the Chinese Party-state to immediately cease its cultural assimilation policy and uphold human rights and constitutional rights by immediately and unconditionally releasing all Tibetan writers, intellectuals and cultural leaders and reinstate their universal rights to freedom of thought, conscience and expression. 

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