THROUGH A BLURRY CELLPHONE VIDEO, DARKLY

 

LANGUAGE, IDENTITY & REVOLUTION IN TIBET

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The task of getting news out of Tibet these day has taken on the frustrating ambience of  cold-war research methodology. We haven’t exactly gone back to the days of Sovietologists and China watchers poring over precious photographs of Mayday line-ups for scraps of usable information, but we’re heading there.

Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, doesn’t have a single representative of the international media posted there, not even a stringer. There is no one from the United Nations (or its many related agencies), The Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders. You name it, not one representative from any of those variety of agencies usually jostling for a story or territory in every other conflict or disaster zone in the world. Even beleaguered Gaza has half-a-dozen such NGOs stationed there. Tibet is a dead zone as far as such access is concerned.

Information technology has eased the situation somewhat, but because of poverty, remoteness and the iron-grip of the world’s most sophisticated and extensive system of information control and censorship, Tibetans can only send news to the outside world by using such (not easily available) technology in clandestine and rough-and-ready ways – one familiar end-product being the blurry cellphone video.

I watched a video of the Tibetan student demonstrations posted by RFA on their website and on YouTube.  The first video of the demonstration in Rebkong on October 19th was blurry and clearly shot with a cellphone, but you could make out the thousand or so protesting children in dark-blue and white track suit uniforms. There were also other children in gray tracksuits and many in street clothes. They all looked very young. I didn’t expect it but they started the protest march with a ki-sha, a traditional battle cry, a very nomad thing – “kee-he-he-hee!” Then they began to chant their slogan, again and again: “mirig danyam, kayrig rangwang” (equality of nationalities, freedom of language).

The second video from Chabcha was of better quality. Probably a camcorder with a decent optical zoom was used. The demonstration (on 20th October) appeared to be taking place along a street across a broad river or culvert. The photographer is on a parallel road, this side of the culvert.  The video begins with a tight shot of the front of the demonstration – a mass of young men advancing forward. Then it zooms back slowly and you see a long line of people massed together tightly all along the road – stretching back for at least half a mile. One report in the New York Times mentioned only a hundred students at Chabcha, but the reporter probably hadn’t seen this video where one gets the impression of more than a thousand students demonstrating. The students at  the Chabcha protest also appear somewhat older than those at Rebkong. They were probably high school students. But what gave me goose bumps was the way all of the demonstrators jogged forward in massed formation like soldiers going on the attack. The demonstrators chanted their slogan over and over “mirig danyam, kayrig rangwang“. But it didn’t come over so much as a chanting or cheering than an angry and aggressive shout or bark. This was not your usual student protest.

Mention of blurry cell phone videos in the context of Tibetan protests first appeared in a report in 2008 by Anne Applebaum, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and scholar (Gulag, A History). She was one of the few Western intellectuals who observed an underlying revolutionary feature in the 2008 uprising in Tibet. Others journalists and pundits, especially China experts, chose to play down the nationalist and revolutionary aspects of the protests, and interpreted Tibetan discontent as merely stemming from economic disparity between the Chinese and Tibetans, something that Beijing would probably correct down the road, if Tibetans just cooperated.

Applebaum wrote “Watching a blurry cell phone video of tear gas rolling over the streets of Lhasa yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder when – maybe not in this decade, this generation or even this century – Tibet and its monks will have their revenge.” For Applebaum the 2008 events in Tibet represented one manifestation of a wider reaction of “captive nations”, Uighurs, Mongols, Tibetans, rising up against the tyrannical rule of an old imperial and foreign power that has long oppressed smaller countries and societies surrounding it. Applebaum concluded that if Chinese leaders “…aren’t worried, they should be. After all, the past two centuries were filled with tales of strong, stable empires brought down by their subjects, undermined by their client states, overwhelmed by the national aspirations of small, subordinate countries. Why should the 21st century be any different?”

Why indeed? But can a high-school student demonstration, no matter how large or widespread be regarded, even in a peripheral way, as a manifestation of a greater national revolution?  We should remember that both Rebkong and Chabcha had the biggest outbreaks of Tibetan nationalist protests in 2008.  The population there also suffered greatly in the subsequent crackdown by Chinese security forces, with many hundreds even thousands being imprisoned, beaten and tortured. Some of the demonstrators were shot outright during the protests while a few others were killed in prison. In exile we received unsettling photographs of such victims from Amdo Ngaba through cellphones.

Furthermore, language is a tremendously volatile, even explosive issue in Tibet – for a simple reason. The Chinese authorities had, during the period of the Cultural Revolution, made an extraordinary attempt to not only replace the written Tibetan language with Chinese, but to also forcefully discourage the use of the spoken language among the populace throughout the Tibetan plateau. This was over and above the destruction of many thousands of Tibetan temples, monastic centers of learning, libraries, countless works of arts and worship, and the burning of many metric tonnes of rare and incalculably precious traditional literature – when these were not, quite deliberately, used as toilet paper by Chinese soldiers and officials.

Pema Bhum, a scholar from Rebkong, in his Tibetan Memoirs of the Cultural Revolution, provides a personal and detailed account of the destructive campaign against Tibetan language and literature. Pema describes how Tibetan cultural and literary classics, also books on Tibetan grammar (even those earlier printed officially by the PRC) were withdrawn and banned as “superstitious” and “old thought”.  Because Tibetan was considered a “feudal” language, older Tibetan cadres who barely spoke Chinese, were compelled to address meetings (even in remote nomadic communities) in halting and atrocious Chinese. Pema Bhum was required to act as a “translator” on few such bizarre occasions. Pema Bhum concludes,  “The Cultural Revolution lasted ten years, ten years during which Tibetan language instruction came to a hiatus in many Tibetan areas. A generation of Tibetan youth was barred from their due chance to study Tibetan language. As their ‘native’ tongue began to change from Tibetan to Chinese, the Cultural Revolution came to an end.”

Many Tibetans-in-exile mistakenly credit the Chinese “liberalization” for the revival of Tibetan in the post Cultural Revolution era. In point of fact the language renaissance in Tibet was near entirely the work of dedicated Tibetan scholars as Dhungkar Lobsang Trinlay, Mugi Samten, Tseten Shabdrung, Horkhang Sonam Pembar, and religious leaders like the Panchen Lama, and even some upright Tibetan officials. These people took advantage of the relaxation of hard-line regulations in education, publishing and business that Deng Xiaoping’s “liberalization” policy had to allow in order to modernize China’s economy and attract foreign investment.

Yet even with the so-called “liberalization” there were areas of language education over which Tibetan educationalist had to perform a very tricky tightrope walk. Any favorable reference to the Dalai Lama had, of course, to be strictly avoided, but even references to Buddhism could be problematic, depending on the political climate. In fact, under Chinese aegis a Tibetan language education without Buddhist overtones was systematically created. For instance the celebrated long poem “Songs of Lhasa Memories” (Lhasa dran-lu) by the poet and scholar Shelkar Lingpa (senior secretary to the 13th Dalai Lama) appears as lesson seventeen in a school literature and language textbook. But the poem has been selectively edited. Of the 46 stanzas of the original poem only 12 which have no religious references, appear in the lesson.  To give the reader a flavor of the poem I have reproduced one verse that I translated with the help of my friend Sonam “Country” Dhargyal la:

Amidst the many shops and stalls in the busy market square
The thousand delightful movements of soft supple bodies
All gathered there, the beauties, none missing,
Showing off their sweet smiling faces
… I remember Lhasa.

Janet Upton, an anthropologist who has written on education and literature in Tibet remarks that even in this truncated form the poem “invokes longings for a Lhasa that most students have seen only in their minds eye: the Lhasa of traditional Tibet.” Shelkar Lingpa wrote the poem in 1910 when the 13th Dalai Lama was in exile in Darjeeling in British India because of a previous Chinese invasion. This and other “secular” poems like “A Song of Grassland Memories” by Dhondup Gyal also taught in schools, have according to Upton “created a powerful nostalgic longing for Tibetan spaces, real and remembered.”

In stripping Tibetan language of references to religion and the Dalai Lamas, the Chinese authorities were probably subscribing to the theory, that some Western scholars also seem to accept, that Tibetan identity, hence Tibetan nationalism, is fundamentally rooted in religion, in Tibetan Buddhism. It is possible that the state support for the study and promotion of the great Tibetan epic, King Gesar of Ling, was one attempt to foster a non-religious secular language and culture in Tibet.

There might perhaps also be an incidental, even subliminal, reason for this undertaking. Since the Chinese literati discovered Homer at the beginning of the twentieth century, they have keenly felt the lack of a national epic poem, their own traditional fiction of knight-errant (wuxia) stories being considered too episodic and prosaic.  Attempts to create epic poetry or shishi (literally “historical poetry”) were not very successful.  So the promotion of the Gesar as China’s “national cultural treasure” was probably intended not only to strengthen secular culture in Tibet but perhaps even contribute to a cultural bonding between Chinese and Tibetans. In the story King Gesar has an older half-brother Gyatsa, who is said to have a Chinese mother.

The problem with this reading is that the Gesar epic though related, only indirectly, to the history of Tibet’s imperial past does, nonetheless, because of its intense martial content and stories of military conquests, stir deep nationalistic passions among Tibetans. As the English scholar and diplomat Charles Bell has put it “The violence and bloodthirstiness of the epic hark back to a time before Buddhism had made its impact on Tibet, and when the Tibetans took joy in hunting, raiding and making war, especially on their neighbor China.”

During the Cultural Revolution one of the major anti-Chinese uprisings in Central Tibet was led by a nun from Nyemo district who claimed to represent Gesar’s divine guide the goddess Gungmen Gyalmo. In this spirit she named eight of her lieutenants as warrior heroes of Gesar and then actually waged war against Chinese and Tibetan Communist cadres in Nyemo and other districts and eventually even took on the PLA. She was defeated, captured and taken to Lhasa and executed along with a number of her followers. References to Gesar and his warriors also appear in accounts of uprisings in Tibet during this period, especially in nomadic areas where the epic is very popular.

In the past Tibetan Buddhist sects as the Kagyutpa and the Ningmapa attempted to co-opt this essentially secular and fairly violent epic by infusing it with religious overtones and interpretations, or as the scholar Samten Karmay puts it, by the “Buddhasization of the hero and his deed”. But the dominant Gelugpa sect, which had political control of Tibet in the past, banned monks from reading the epic and strongly discouraged ordinary Tibetans from even listening to it. It was probably not just the violence in the stories that the clergy found objectionable,  but the fact that the epic harkened back to an age of Tibetan military glory and imperial power, and suggested a political alternative to Gelugpa theocratic authority.

Tibetan language education inside Tibet is of course fundamentally  based on the classical Tibetan literature of the Buddhist period which is Sanskrit inspired and formal. But modern writing, especially in Amdo, appears to be influenced, even inspired by the uncluttered and intensely Tibetan poetry and prose of the imperial period based on the ancient song-verses of the lu, gur and chid forms, and especially the Gesar epic.

The Gesar epic even seems to have played a small role in the struggle of a Tibetan speaking Muslim people in Pakistan. The Baltistan region, centered around Skardu, is home to some 300,000 people whose mother tongue is Balti, a language of the Tibetan-Ladakhi family. ”We are the only people in this region to have had our own script since the 6th century AD,” says Syed Abbas Kazmi of the Baltistan Cultural Foundation (BCF), ”but due to the ”narrow-mindedness of the mullah class our people were told to stop using Tibetan”. The result is that over the years, the linguistic and literary development of Balti has suffered. Urdu, the Persian/Arabic script of Pakistan was not suitable to writing of the Balti-Tibetan language according to Kazmi “…and hence our language became like a stray animal, our prose and poetry withered.” Kazmi, who is a scholar, has written a monograph on the Balti version of the old Tibetan Epic of King Gesar. He and his organization has, in spite of the harassment of officialdom and the mullahs, printed and distributed elementary Tibetan language textbooks and helped shopkeepers in Skardu put up signboards in Tibetan.

I saw a video on YouTube of the Balti village of Turtuk, which became part of India in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The people of the village speak Tibetan, perhaps with some Urdu and English words thrown in now and then, but unmistakably Tibetan. Yet these people are Muslim. There is a scene of  a village council. The elders, one with a hennaed beard, one wearing an Afghan Pakol hat, one a turban, another a sheepskin  Jinnah cap, make the gathering seem like a jirga in Afghanistan. But  the they are all speaking Tibetan and they are talking about inviting the Dalai Lama to their remote village. It becomes clear from the discussions that the need of these people to establish, or rather fortify their linguistic and ethnic origins, overrides concerns of welcoming and honoring a religious leader not of their own faith. After the Dalai Lama’s successful visit fifteen children are sent to the Tibetan Children’s Village school near Leh to be educated in Tibetan. The children have a matron from Turtuk to look after them, and besides being educated in Tibetan language and other school subjects  they also learn the Koran and perform their daily namaaz.

What one gets from the video is a sense of the power that language has in establishing identity, which in this case happily appears to invalidate very real differences between two antithetical religions. I don’t know for how long the people of Baltistan will manage to keep their Tibetan ethnic and linguistic identity. It is possible that they might not be able to in the face of Islamic clerical and governmental pressure and coercion. Yet the fact that they have somehow managed to hang on to this heritage for over a thousand years  is impressive and very moving. Clearly Tibetan is not one of those disappearing languages that experts say are becoming extinct at twice the rate of endangered mammals and four times the rate of endangered birds. Tibetan has, of course, the advantage of an old and practical (far more functional and efficient than Chinese) written script and a vast indigenous literature. It also has a calligraphic tradition that in terms of artistry and dynamism  stand level with Arabic and Chinese.

Language is undoubtedly one the fundamental basis of Tibetan identity. Religion is important, of course, but has probably been overemphasized in the official Tibetan world because of the theocratic nature of the Tibetan government and its policy directions, which the Dalai Lama has clearly stated is the renunciation of political sovereignty in order to preserve the “Buddhist” culture of Tibet.

It is more than possible that the Communist Chinese authorities have now come around to seeing the Tibetan language as a dangerous challenge to their overall control of  Tibet, in much the same way as they previously regarded the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism.  Following the “success” of the Beijing Olympics and the world economic collapse there has also been a noticeable hardening in the overall leadership style of the Communist Party. Hence the pushing aside of Cantonese language program on Guangzhou TV  this July in favor of Mandarin programming, which provoked a demonstration in that city and a small support rally in Hong Kong.

We can be fairly certain that Beijing is not just viewing the student demonstrations as merely an educational or linguistic problem. Following the two demonstrations in Amdo. Tibetan students at Beijing National Minorities University also organized a protest. Students from six schools and a teacher-training college in Malho (in Amdo) are also reported to have organized protests. Protests have also been reported from schools in the Golok region and in Gansu province. Significantly, Uighur students in East Turkestan appear to have been galvanized by the Tibetan language protests and school officials  and security personnel in Xinjiang are reportedly making an enormous effort to prevent any such outbreak of protests there An Uighur teacher in Xinjiang speaking to RFA, agreed that Uighur support for the Tibetan protests was high in the region. “Every Uighur teacher and student is supporting Tibet right now, because we have the same problems here.” the teacher said. “Enforcing the use of Mandarin Chinese in Uighur schools has had a detrimental effect on the entire education system in Xinjiang.”

Beijing will probably not immediately crack down in their usual draconian manner. The Tibetan students were uniformly careful to only voice slogans about “freedom of language” and not even hint at freedoms in other contexts especially Tibetan political freedom. So the authorities will have to find a more appropriate way to deal with this new problem.  They might, as Chairman Mao once advised, take “one step back” for the moment, to take “two steps forward” in the future. But they will eventually and most certainly  devise a way to get rid of the Tibetan language and identity problem throughout the Tibetan plateau.

Right now twenty of the demonstrators in Chabcha have reportedly been arrested. But all the students at schools in Rebkong have been ordered to attend political re-education classes daily. Besides the inculcation of Party propaganda, the re-education classes also serve to instill fear in the mind of all those required to undergo it. There is little subtlety in the process, though it is effective, after a fashion, and for a while. But this institutionalized browbeating also causes tremendous resentment and anger. A few generations of experience have taught people to suppress and conceal their immediate feelings. But the only psychological outlet or political redress available to Tibetans is in further uprisings down the road, and possibly and eventually, revolution. This is the inescapable spiral of life in occupied Tibet.

Comments

  1. Dawa | November 10th, 2010 | 12:48 pm

    Such an insightful article. I wish those over-coiffed nincompoops at Newsweek and the Economist would publish it so more people get to read it.

  2. aFOSO | November 10th, 2010 | 2:54 pm

    Stop Tibetan kids from going to the schools. Let them become monks. We hate development or national integration. Afterall we are Tibetans, the greatest people on earth.

  3. Doug Heselgrave | November 10th, 2010 | 4:47 pm

    Another very insightful if troubling article. Of course it makes sense that there’s not a single representative from the organizations you mention stationed or even working as a media stringer in Lhasa. But, to see it put in such stark irrefutable terms reminds us all of how far uphill the struggle still is. With so much interest in Tibet, yet so little information outside of the sphere of Tibetan Buddhism available for people to read and come to their own conclusions about, hope dangles like a frayed rope. Sad.

  4. BDHEYCHEN | November 10th, 2010 | 6:58 pm

    “Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, doesn’t have a single representative of the international media posted there, even on a pro-tem basis” – The very inequity of the situation – so appalling!!

    A quote from a website “Echoes in Exile”

    What is the relevance of the epic today? Apart from its importance as an immense storehouse of Tibetan poetry and literature, it has value at a sociological and cultural level as it portrays an ancient period of Tibet. Further the contents convey to us how foes and friends should be regarded; it encourages bravery and valour; there are praises for heroes and teases for cowards; there are calls for national unity and patriotism; we are persuaded to endeavour for independence and happiness; there are counsels for way rulers and the ruled should conduct their affairs and then there are strategies in the Tibetan art of war.
    Additionally there are lessons on integrity, spirituality, causality and interdependence. The reality of birth, growth and disappearance of phenomenon are also discussed”.

    In their own way these young people are playing out a modern version of this Ling Gesar’s epic.

  5. Billk | November 10th, 2010 | 11:10 pm

    Afoso

    Tibetan students were demonstrating because they want to go to school and learn – but they want to learn in their own national language: Tibetan. I’m sure they also want to learn their own history and not China’s version of it.

    Tibetans are not Chinese. It’s very simple: they are Tibetan. Forcefeeding them Chinese language and Communist Party propaganda has nothing to do with “national integration.” If you want to wipe out their history and language and turn them into second class Chinese don’t call that project “national integration.” Give it it’s proper name: cultural genocide.

  6. Nyinjey | November 11th, 2010 | 1:07 am

    Full of insights – language indeed is the soul of one’s identity.

    Thanks!

  7. Billk | November 11th, 2010 | 1:15 am

    Afoso

    Another thing – Tibetans overwhelmingly want material development. That does not mean they want to watch Mandarin language programmes on plasma screen TVs. It also doesn’t mean wanting to be herded into concrete box villages where Big Brother can keep an eye on you. Living a modern life as a Tibetan might well entail continuing to live as a nomad for some, while having access to things like modern medical treatment and top quality, Tibetan language, education for your kids.

  8. Sheila | November 11th, 2010 | 1:46 am

    AFOSO, reversing an existing successful program, and going back in time to Cultural Revolution programs, is not development. It is regression.

    Non-Chinese can never become Chinese; forcing the physically impossible is not integration, it is ignorance.

    With forced “development” and “integration,” Tibet is becoming less stable, not more stable. The 1980s leaders learned this; the 2010 leaders have forgotten it.

    The chief characteristic of the current party is not progress, it is regression. You want the 1960s again, you are well on your way. This time there is likely to be a different outcome.

  9. BDHEYCHEN | November 11th, 2010 | 11:32 am

    Afoso,

    For all your sneering & sacarcism – Can I point out to you that even monks get a good alternate education; if that is the chosen path.

  10. Nyinjey | November 11th, 2010 | 1:43 pm

    Afoso is one of those who believes that ‘power comes out of the barrel of the gun!’

    I’m sure Mao and Henry Kissenger are his role models!

  11. BDHEYCHEN | November 11th, 2010 | 3:22 pm

    The Tibetan students want to take back their ‘Identity’. They’re tired of being ‘Serfs’ under the Han Landlords.
    The Han serf will soon awake to this fact after the ‘high’ of economic success has lost its edge.

  12. Jamyang Norbu | November 11th, 2010 | 3:31 pm

    BDHEYCHEN, Thanks for mentioning the translation and commentary of the Gesar Epic by Khechok in his Echoes in Exile. His website is really interesting.
    anyone know who he or she is?

  13. Kalsang Wangdu | November 11th, 2010 | 8:17 pm

    Jamyang la thank you for the post.
    You have touched on most of the issues related with the Chinese attempts to eradicate Tibetan language. Besides denying Tibetan language education in most of the Tibetan regions, Chinese have also created a school system for Tibetan outside Tibet in Han-dominated provinces from 1985 called Neidi in the name of “intellectual aid for Tibet (zhili yuanzang). This is actually meant to uproot Tibetan children from their socio-cultural milieu and assimilate them into Chinese culture. The Chinese government hoped to create what Lord Macaulay attempted in India – “a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. But this has failed in India and there are ample evidences to show that the policy is backfiring China too. This isolation strengthened the feeling of distinct identity.

    The recent call for elevating Chinese as the medium of instruction in Amdo province (only Tibetan region that is still using Tibetan as the medium) shows that the ultimate aim of China is to eradicate every possible traces of distinctive of ethnic minorities and gobble them into Han culture.

  14. Wangchuk-norbu | November 12th, 2010 | 1:07 am

    It was very interesting to read the article. JN jumps from one post to the other in emphasizing the importance of language in maintaining the identity of a people.

    JN’s take on the Gesar Epic betrays his limited knowledge of written Tibetan. We could safely surmise that Gesar lore is pre-Buddhist and by extension of being Shamanistic in origin. Before their transcription into written Tibetan, the exploits of the Great Hero was sung by mediums in their states of trance. It could be that in the course of time, Buddhist symbolism was superimposed on the original corpus, thus identifying Gesar, the hero as a manifestation of Guru Rinpoche and all that follows.

    It would be an injustice to great Chinese scholars, reformers and educators who worked hard to open China to the world to claim that the Chinese came to know of Homer in the twentieth century. We have to give the Devil his due.

  15. Kalsang Phuntsok | November 12th, 2010 | 10:26 am

    Thank you Jamyang La for another brilliant piece. Your articles helps readers like me to put the enormity of the challenges facing us in proper perspective.

    Your article caused me to remember a book by French explorer Alexander David Neel (a woman)that I read when I was a kid at my brother-in-law’s house, who is from Lingtsang. It was a photographic book full of great black and white pictures of her travel to Derge and some other eastern parts of Tibet in 1920s and 30s. This woman, who later I learned, was fascinated by the mythology of Gesar and has written many books on Tibet in French. One of the reasons she travelled to Derge was to find out the birth place of Gesar. Her rendering of Gesar epic “La vie Surhumaine de Guesar de Ling le Heros Thibetain, racontee par les bardes de son pays” was translated in English by William Hutchinson as “The Superhuman Life of Gesar of Ling” is said to be the most referenced source in the study of the subject.

    ..thought I would share this with all readers…

    Thank you. Bhod Gyallo.

  16. Dawa | November 12th, 2010 | 10:31 am

    “As the English scholar and diplomat Charles Bell has put it “The violence and bloodthirstiness of the epic hark back to a time before Buddhism had made its impact on Tibet, and when the Tibetans took joy in hunting, raiding and making war, especially on their neighbor China. ….
    In the past Tibetan Buddhist sects as the Kagyutpa and the Ningmapa attempted to co-opt this essentially secular and fairly violent epic by infusing it with religious overtones and interpretations, or as the scholar Samten Karmay puts it, by the “Buddhasization of the hero and his deed”.

    I had to reread the whole thing again to be sure but there is no doubt that JN is aware of the pre Buddhist nature of the epic.

    By the way it is possible Newsweek will publish this since that magazine seems to have taken a right turn. And whatever one may say of the American right, they are less fearful of standiing up to the Chinese.

  17. Jamyang Norbu | November 12th, 2010 | 2:00 pm

    I’ve posted this piece on Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamyang-norbu/language-identity-revolut_b_782498.html

    I would appreciate some comments there, especially from Tsampa eaters (tsam-sen) to counteract the inevitable fenqing rants.

    If you want a heads-up on my HUff post articles I’ll let you know on Facebook.

  18. Kalsang Phuntsok | November 12th, 2010 | 2:01 pm

    One of the ways by which I think we can encourage youths (in exile)to learn Tibetan is by imposing some kind of test in Tibetan for those who are applying for scholarship. I assume that Sherig gets reports on test-scores from schools all around India and Nepal. They should use those data to formulate workable strategies to further encourage study of Tibetan language.

    There are many things that needs to be done and CAN be done. Not the least of which is secularization of the language. Amnye Machen Institute was a very noble and remarkable effort in that direction, but it seems the institute is no longer in operation (readers, correct me if I am wrong here).

    Thank you.

  19. Kalsang Phuntsok | November 12th, 2010 | 2:50 pm

    My comment on Huffington below:

    This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.

    Thank you Jamyang La.

    This article should tell those who think Tibet and Tibetan culture are mere object of curiosity and subject to be studied in a 6’x6′ rundown faculty room of a university by students wearing strange looking jewelries and spectacles, that ‘We Tibetans are here and alive, NOW, and crying out for justice’. We are humans and our sufferings are real just like everybody else’s.

    “A few generations of experience have taught people to suppress and conceal their immediate feelings. But the only psychological outlet or political redress available to Tibetans is in further uprisings down the road, and possibly and eventually, revolution. This is the inescapable spiral of life in occupied Tibet.”

    We are a peaceful people and are deliberately conducting our struggle peacefully for moral and philosophical reasons. But we hope that the rational people of the world see that in the context of the general standard of the present world, we have more than enough reason to seek justice from the barrel of guns.

  20. Tenpa D. Gapshi | November 12th, 2010 | 3:01 pm

    I posted my comment there.

  21. gangchenpa | November 12th, 2010 | 5:45 pm

    Thank you for the great article, Gan Jamyang Norbula. What a great impacts it would be on the undertaking of educating and enlightening all the young Tibetans here and there if your articles are written in Tibetan language.
    The Tibetan language and the discourse in our own Tibetan language is the only source and the way through which we are be bale to rescue our nation from the enemy of the ongoing colonization in the all kinds of rhetoric name such as liberation,(liberated from whom? from Tibetan occupation?) development,(develop what? nuclear weapon?)preservation( preserve what? the neaimperial tyranny? and harmony( harmony what?between the whorehouse and the corrupt official?) ;;

    By the way, only by using and promoting one’s own language,he or she can uphold their culture tradition and national identities. Therefore, it is childish to trying to rescue your native language by using foreign languages, and appear as a Tibetan just in blood and color. Learn your own language, improve your written skill, read the Tibetan blog, go to Tibetan learning center. These are the only sources of the knowledge which eventually will become your weapon which would help you to be able to imagine the sense of unity and oneness and finally regain your Imagined Community-Nation , and only by then you are become an inseparable part of the people of Tibet and you can proudly say “I am Tibetan.” Thanks.

  22. Chinese Engineer | November 13th, 2010 | 3:22 am

    @ Billik

    Chinese is the Lingua Franca of commerce in China. You want material development that doesn’t stem from government subsidy? You learn Chinese.

    @ Sheila

    You certainly can make non-Chinese Chinese. This happened a few times, most recently with/during the Qin dynasty.

    @ Nyinjey

    You speak of Kissinger and Mao as if they are pariah. I frankly find it ironic, considering that your own leaders have achieved very little after renouncing violence.

  23. thenorbu | November 13th, 2010 | 11:39 am

    @chin engineer!

    “Chinese is the Lingua Franca of commerce in China. You want material development that doesn’t stem from government subsidy? You learn Chinese.”

    You made a critical error in your judgement.
    You don’t learn chinese to do commerce in China. You learn the art of “kuma jhakpa” to do business in China.

  24. Kalsang Phuntsok | November 13th, 2010 | 2:22 pm

    Go to the link below to see how Chinese treat their own people.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/12/zhang-chuanqiu-chain-skin_n_782809.html

  25. Sheila | November 13th, 2010 | 5:55 pm

    Chinese Engineer, this has nothing to do with learning Chinese. The kids already learn Chinese. This has to do with withdrawing support for Tibetan.

    Language support is in the constitution because supporting (or appearing to support) non-Mandarin languages makes the “Mandarin pill” easier to swallow, and thus enhances stability. Everyone’s already swallowing the pill; it’s dumb to take away the honey.

    Tibet is not China. However, as long as Tibet is occupied, supporting the Tibetan language nonetheless supports stability. Sure enough, when Tibetan was threatened recently, people took to the streets.

    You can fantasize about the Qin, burning books and burying scholars alive. You can throw the lever, try to overwhelm Tibetans in the Chinese tide and imagine a future where these newly-drowned “Chinese” can no longer resist, and it all works out conveniently for you. But the flood you release will not necessarily be controlled by you in the end.

    Harsh, reckless and despised, or soft, careful and attractive? The neo-戡s in Beijing are abandoning the successful model.

    “A fool and water will go the way they are diverted.” (Ethiopian proverb)

  26. Chinese Engineer | November 13th, 2010 | 8:18 pm

    @ Sheila

    Sure, they are offered Chinese text books, but are they actually literate? One of the biggest hurdles cited for Tibetan employment is the lack of Chinese language skills.

    And I disagree with your position that support for Tibetan language study quells the masses. In fact, Jamyang Norbu himself said as much in his Frontline interview right around 1997.

    Also, I was quite confused with your book burning remark until I noticed that I wrote “Qin” instead of “Qing”. Mea Culpa, but I think my point should be much more salient with this correction.

  27. Sheila | November 13th, 2010 | 11:08 pm

    @ Chinese Engineer,

    Are HK students “literate” in Mandarin? It is not a hurdle for a Hong Kong dweller to lack Mandarin skills.

    Mandarin is not genuinely required for doing business in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is the richest and most successful region of China. This
    doesn’t mean Mandarin is useless in HK or that HKers are anti-patriotic. It just means Cantonese is popular in HK, and the government has had to respect that reality whether it wants to or not.

    The reason there is a problem in Tibet, is because the government does not respect Tibetan in the same way it respects Cantonese. It does not respect the reality of Tibet.

    The PRC government forces Mandarin in Tibet in a way it does not force it in HK or GZ. In Tibet it’s “Mandarin or nothing,” right? Well, that’s ridiculous; the zf would never suggest such a thing in HK or GZ. Of course it’s not “Mandarin or nothing” in HK because it’s perfectly advisable to do business in Cantonese. Just as it’s perfectly advisable to do business in Tibetan in Tibet.

    The sad reality as that the zf constantly betrays its classist attitudes: Northern Han=1st class, Cantonese=2nd class, Tibetans/Uygurs=3rd class, or something like that. The hangup is not even linguistic, but racial. You know, and I know, that Tibetans are not considered equal even to Cantonese citizens, let alone Northern Han citizens.

    The government claims Tibetans can’t get jobs due to “lack of Mandarin skills,” which is complete nonsense. Half the Chinese doing business in Tibet don’t even speak Mandarin as a primary language in the first place, and half the Tibetans trying to get jobs in China would do better learning a local Chinese dialect rather than Mandarin–a very little-known and hush-hush subject. (The lame attempt to pass Sichuanese off as “bascially Mandarin” is total hogwash. Maybe someone in your family speaks it, as my father’s family did, and you know it’s not “basically Mandarin.” If the government says Sichuanese is Mandarin then I challenge them to broadcast 100% Sichuanese programming in Chengdu and stop harassing the Sichuanese programmers.)

    If a Tibetan moved to HK right now and became fluent in Cantonese, he or she would actually be light years ahead of a Mandarin-speaker in Siling, as far as pure economic opportunities. Many of the Chinese people taking Tibetan jobs don’t even speak good Mandarin themselves.

    The government’s clumsy spin-job on the “vital necessity of Mandarin education for Tibetans” is designed for one thing only: to end the “Tibetan Problem.”

  28. Chinese Engineer | November 14th, 2010 | 12:00 am

    @ Sheila

    You cannot draw a parallel between Cantonese in HK and Tibetan in Tibet. One is a dialect, still connected to Chinese through the written language, the other foreign.

    I think Chinese is important for Tibetan employment because employment opportunities are scarce in Tibet.

    I think the perceived racial lines are a result of perceived political reliability. So while this might give an appearance of racial motivations, the true underlying sentiment is far more…pragmatic.

    I am not familiar with the Sichuan situation, but I will say this: I was born in Shanghai, and I had a mandatory mandarin language education. Most people today on the coast speak mandarin for most public dealings.

    As for the “Tibetan Problem”, there certainly are much more effective solutions than what the CCP practices today. People of your political disposition have frequently leveled these allegations. Hopefully, these remain allegations.

    Of course you (should) have noticed that I haven’t touched upon the issue of Chinese in Tibet. That’s because I don’t know much about the topic, and I don’t trust most of the reports.

    (Also, I can understand Sichuanese, the biggest issue is the speed and pitch, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand Cantonese)

  29. Sheila | November 14th, 2010 | 12:36 am

    @ Chinese Engineer,

    If you say employment opportunities in Tibet are scarce and in order to get them one needs to speak Mandarin, then it seems to me what you are saying is that somehow in Tibet, unlike in HK, most of the employers are Mandarin-speaking Chinese.

    How is it that in HK the employers are Cantonese-speaking, in Fujian the employers Min-speaking, but in Tibet the employers are not Tibetan-speaking? The linguistic issue alone gives evidence of large-scale economic corruption at worst or bad planning at best, whereby somehow in all of Tibet almost no employers are Tibetans. Is it any wonder people are protesting?

    As for political reliability versus race, if practically no Tibetans are considered politically reliable that certainly blows out of the water the government’s assertions that hospitals, highways, concrete huts and liberation from serfdom have turned Tibetans into “happy citizens, with only a handful of anti-government criminals.”

    I think it’s very fair to draw a parallel between Cantonese and Tibetan. We only disagree on cause and effect: you see that Cantonese is respected because the people are politically reliable, whereas I think it might be the other way around. Who can say whether, if Tibetan were respected on the same level as Cantonese, that Tibetans wouldn’t have become just as politically reliable?

    But in a world where Wen and party elders are at odds with Xi and the Strike Harders, it’s hard to say what “politically reliable” really means.

    One thing we can agree on, Sichuanese and Cantonese are very different beasts. Thanks to Jiang there are Tom & Jerry cartoons in each, but maybe soon that will be a thing of the past…

    Just to end on a serious note, though, I really believe this new turn towards the harsh-style of governing is going to continue backfiring and then blow up.

  30. Sheila | November 14th, 2010 | 1:19 am

    I have to add, if one is “anti-government,” which government does that mean? The government that supplied Rebkong schools with Tibetan textbooks, or the government that plans to take them away?

    If you said in September 2010 that the government was wrong to allow Tibetan textbooks, you would be called “anti-government.” If you said in October 2010 that the government was wrong to ban Tibetan textbooks, you would be called “anti-government.” The accusation of “anti-government” carries no meaning; it’s simply an empty slogan.

    Just because a hardliner in BJ decided to try the experiment of “removing Tibetan textbooks” doesn’t mean it’s a good decision; in fact, it doesn’t mean it’s not a disastrous decision. Just because he’s a Chinese official doesn’t mean his idea is well thought-out or even pedagogically sound, nor that Tibetans protesting his idea are wrong and anti-government.

  31. ངག་རྣམ། | November 14th, 2010 | 6:40 am

    this is a good article.

  32. Billk | November 15th, 2010 | 12:30 am

    Chinese engineer

    Chinese might be the universal written language of China but I can tell you that Cantonese speakers are none too happy about recent efforts to ram Mandarin down their throats.

    However, Tibet is not China – it is part of China’s empire by force of arms only, not the agreement of the Tibetan people. China’s ongoingattempts to Sinicize Tibet, if successful, would do nothing to improve the material lot of the vast majority of Tibetans. A handful would adapt while the vast majority would be increasingly marginalized in their own land, while Chinese immigrants grab all the jobs.

    If you care anything about the fate of the Tibetan people then you must support Tibetan being the dominant language by which life is conducted in Tibet. That would give Tibetans a fighting chance to get jobs but more importantly would give them pride.

    BTW: Why is it that Chinese people who go to Tibet to work cannot learn to speak Tibetan? I have a Chinese colleague who was sent to work in Tibet for a year and he can scarcely speak a word of Tibetan. That doesn’t so much refelct badly on him as an individual as it reflects badly an entire system. The Chinese think their military superiority makes them superior in every other way and for the bulk of Chinese people it is simply a given that Chinese is a superior language to Tibetan.

  33. Sheila | November 15th, 2010 | 9:49 am

    By national law (Regulations on the Study, Use, and Development of the Tibetan Language), Chinese cadres and workers in Tibet must learn Tibetan.

    Chinese cadres and workers have not learned Tibetan, but are not punished for directly violating the law. They have not been arrested, interrogated, threatened, subjected to patriotic re-education, nor expelled from school or office.

    On the other hand, Tibetan youth who alerted people recently to violations of national law (the illegal removal of Tibetan textbooks), were themselves arrested, interrogated, threatened, subjected to patriotic re-education, and expelled from school.

    Sadly, it seems a former middle school teacher in Rebkong is correct: “For Tibetans the Chinese constitution is meaningless.” (Name withheld, 20 October, 2010, Tsolho, Tibet)

  34. Sheila | November 16th, 2010 | 10:01 am

    I remember hearing long ago that “too many VOA announcers have Chinese accents.”

    I’m curious what people’s opinion of the various broadcasters’ quality of Tibetan is. I’m thinking of VOA, RFA, Kunleng TV, Voice of Tibet.

    Then there’s the rash of Tibetan uploads on YouTube from government commentators like ikhamo and chinesecivilization, for example “Sichuan Kham TV” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNRZ7ZOzVnE).

    Another phenomenon, the Derge dialect movies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkMHo9FK9pM

    For those who watch and listen to these, have you got some opinions on the quality of Tibetan used? For example, have you found that some stand out above the rest as using generally high-quality Tibetan, with no Chinese accent, etc.? Or is it hit-and-miss depending on the individual speaker?

    Really intrigued to hear your thoughts.

  35. Sheila | November 22nd, 2010 | 1:02 pm

    An article today entitled “Tibetan, Chinese regions fight back against surge of Mandarin”

    http://phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=28599&article=Tibetan,+Chinese+regions+fight+back+against+surge+of+Mandarin

  36. Sheila | November 22nd, 2010 | 2:25 pm

    As “LANGUAGE, IDENTITY & REVOLUTION IN TIBET” points out, there seems to be an anger to the language protests that is surprising to many.

    The writers of today’s “…fight back against the surge” article also seem compelled to remark on this anger:

    “Cantonese people speak Cantonese!” many yelled, in a surprisingly venomous retort to authorities…” (James Pomfret and Farah Master, 22 Nov 10)

    But there was actually a far more venomous cry raised at both the HK and Guangzhou protests: “___ ___ mother! Hit them hard!”

    This is the battle cry of a famous Cantonese general in late Ming Dynasty against his Manchu counterpart. From Irene and Man Yung’s Tango Blog:

    “The Cantonese general and his soldiers ran into every battle yelling and screaming this desperate feisty war cry – and soundly trounced their enemies on the battlefield….Don’t be mistaken, it’s not the disgustingly inventive ways that Cantonese speakers can string together references to private parts, animal functions and “your mother”** that bothers the central Communist government – it’s the thought processes that go behind it. It’s too cheeky. Too sneaky. Too angry. Too subversive. It resists categorization, definition and control… and therefore it must be crushed.”

    The unexpected warlike quality to some of the Tibetan protests seem to me echoed also in the Cantonese protests.

    With apologies for the imagery, I’m reminded of the CCP thugs’ fondness for referring to drowning someone in many drops of saliva–crushing dissent by unleashing small individual efforts of allegedly-loyal masses.

    But in this case, could the combined efforts of the people we see in dark blurry Tibetan footage and bright clear 480p Hong Kong footage (maybe soon joined by Uyghurs, zero footage) instead turn back the government-generated Mandarin tide?

  37. Chinese Engineer | November 22nd, 2010 | 11:25 pm

    @Sheila

    You misunderstood, I was pointing to Tibetan employment outside of Tibet. The Tibetan economy itself clearly is not capable of supporting the Tibetan workforce.

    (As for HK, I would like to point out a few things: The business (spoken) languages are: English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. The HK economy is based on a (financial) capital allocation system. The language used is simply a matter of the two ends of business. Western capital going to the Pearl Delta is conducted between English and (probably) Cantonese; capital from the west to Shanghai/East Coast is in Mandarin, etc. Essentially, the language fits the business. As more capital is funneled inland, more mandarin skills are needed. This is reflected in the hiring of new IBankers in HK who has mandarin proficiency. If Tibet’s economic integration simply went inward, then there would be no significant economic incentive for Mandarin education, but we both know that’s not the case. Therefore, you should probably rethink your position if the topic of discussion is simply labor arbitrage).

    “who can say that, if Tibetan were respected on the same level as Cantonese, that Tibetans wouldn’t have become just as politically reliable”

    I can safely claim that Tibetans would not approach the level of political integration the Cantonese enjoy. Jamyang Norbu shares the same sentiment, and if this forum is any indication, so do all of you. Remember, this was tried in the 80’s. Tried and failed.

    As for your post 36, let me remind you that while Cantonese cling to their local dialect, they couldn’t care less about Tibetans or their cultural identity. As for turning back the mandarin wave? The answer, at least to me, is a resounding ‘no’. Beijing has already wiped out a few local dialects in the last 20 years, and as economic progress turn westward, you can be ready for a few more in the next 20 years. Remember, my generation was already thoroughly indoctrinated by The Common Dialect, and there is no reason to believe that Mandarin would not enjoy increasing population penetration.

    @Billik

    Why are you so sure about the future of Tibetan economic progress under Chinese rule? To be quite honest, statistics do not agree with your assessment. Tell me, do you ever invest intellectual capital along with emotional capital into this topic? I would like to remind you that moronic arguments, regardless of the passion and conviction with which it is carried out, is still simply a pile of garbage.

    “If you care anything about the fate of the Tibetan people”

    I care about Chinese citizens in Tibet. My view is that all those living in Tibet are citizens of the People’s Republic, regardless of ethnicity, and should have access to economic progress. If Tibetans wish to throw away the yoke of progress, however harsh it is, and proclaim themselves independent, then starvation is their alternative, and I would gleefully respect their choice. However, the Tibetan territory was paid for in blood by the PLA, so do not expect the CCP, or the Chinese people for that matter, to relinquish it easily.

  38. Sheila | November 23rd, 2010 | 12:58 am

    Engineer, if you gleefully accept Tibetans starving, you can hardly care about them.

    The PLA shed blood for Beijing party bosses, and future princelings, not for Tibet. The PLA members got zero in return for their bloodshed. Is one single citizen in Fujian richer because of one PLA soldier’s blood mingling with 1000 Tibetans’ blood in the Tibetan soil? Is one single head of cabbage or clove of garlic cheaper or is one single apartment rent lower? No, because of landgrabbing overextension and greed, vegetables are skyrocketing in price, meat is off the charts, and any housing left unbulldozed is unaffordable.

    Big dams were paid for. Olympic complexes now empty. But the economic and environmental and pollution and natural disaster cost is swiftly outstripping any benefit of nationalist pride.

    Like the empty cities, the “Big Projects” paid for by Tibet are Glorious-Party-bubbles, soon to be burst by Inglorious-Citizen reality.

    There is not one single socialist aspect to the party leadership (lately); they instead took any millions left over from Tibetan forests and minerals and lives and squandered it on themselves and their image. Unsustainable “symbols of empire” that aren’t nearly as important in the end as a stable, well-fed citizenry, the hallmark of true socialism.

    As for Mandarin inroads, the testosterone-laden language rallies of HK and Guangzhou succeeded in preserving Cantonese broadcasting.

    The failure of Beijing is its inability to recognize that multiple languages are not a weakening factor in a country. The “Mandarin Hubris” will backfire (already has). Mandarin as some kind of “vital necessity” is tripe. Half the people in China don’t even speak Mandarin and don’t need to. There’s nothing wrong with offering up a common tongue, but forcing it is a reckless game.

    As for “relinquishing Tibet” most Chinesen don’t give a hoot about Tibet one way or the other except when state media runs endless “3.14 terrorist” footage, and then the urge of the Chinese public is to flee in revulsion, not flock to Tibet. The zf has created groundless but tragically strong hate where there really wasn’t any before, not from Chinese toward Tibetans.

    I respect your feelings on “economic Mandarin” if those are truly your thoughts, and not government posters, but in practical reality, Mandarin is no more (and sometimes less) necessary than other dialects, and even other languages.

    To do real business in Shanghai you would go much farther and faster speaking Shanghainese, unless you mean the smattering of new temporary noodle shops which come and go. But real business, that’s Shanghainese or English even.

    My feeling on most things to do with the party, is that it never has become complex or emotionally intelligent enough to smoothly handle the reality of “China,” as opposed to the fictitious “CCP Empire.”

  39. Chinese Engineer | November 23rd, 2010 | 9:23 am

    @Sheila

    Essentially, your position can be summed up as:

    1) Local dialects proceed Mandarin, and Mandarin is worthless
    2) Tibet offers no tangible benefit to the State
    3) Chinese economic policy is simply uncontrolled greed, and is disastrous

    Fortunately you are way off the mark on all three.

    1) It’s funny that you claim Shanghainese is used to do business in Shanghai. Clearly you have never worked with an SOE in China, and Shanghai in particular. I do. Specifically, SAIC in Shanghai. Let’s just say I haven’t heard anyone utter a word of Shanghainese in meetings. If you were to integrate with other SOEs from elsewhere in China, your experience should be more or less the same. I had a similar experience with FAW.

    2) I have already touched upon the benefits of Tibet. Most importantly, it is a major source of fresh water, and that along bestows upon Tibet a serious strategic value. It is also rich in minerals and metal. There is a large uranium (another strategic material) mining presence in Tibet, along with, if I recall correctly, significant rare earth operations. So while Tibet might be a loss leader in terms of capital, there is no guarantee that it will remain so (or even if it still is), and strategic implications warrant continued Chinese investments.

    3) Chinese asset bubble this, price bubble that, etc. So exactly what is a bubble? Let’s address two fields, real estate and CPI.

    Real Estate in China is NOT Real Estate in the US; leverage is much lower, intrinsic demand is buoyed by the structure of the Chinese economy. Essentially, the Chinese economy works by transferring saving from the population to SOE’s, which then generate government revenue. A Chinese consumer’s venues for saving and investing is very limited. He cannot easily move capital abroad, and he suffers negative real interest rate at the banks, so what can he do? Two things: the stock market or the real estate market. Given the past performance of the Chinese (Shanghai Index, Hang Seng (HK) is another topic all together) stock market and the real need for housing, I think the rest is obvious. So the real debate between people who take more than a passing interest in the subject is not if there is a bubble (there is), but if it presents the same dangers as a bubble in the US (my opinion is no).

    CPI, or price inflation, is a much more complicated topic. There are many factors at work, not all of which I can discuss with equal confidence (or am even aware of). My view on CPI cause is a combination of hot money (short term FDI that is extremely liquid), inflationary pressure due to USD devaluation, and inflationary pressure due to the 2008 (Chinese) stimulus. To keep the scope appropriate for this avenue of discussion, let me just summarize the three:

    Hot money flows in due to the rapid decrease (in fact, somewhat negative return) of capital in the Western Hemisphere. Obviously capital seeks RoE/I (return on equity/investment).

    Dollar devaluation (QE1 and 2) is causing the People’s Bank of China to devalue in tandem (even if the rate of devaluation is not the same). This particular behavior is very hard to model accurately because you must factor in future price expectations. But I think you should understand my basic premise.

    Inflation due to 2008 Chinese stimulus should be obvious, and warrants no explanation.

    CPI is a much more serious issue, but rapid and harsh capital control has clamped down on CPI upward spirals before, and there is no reason to believe that would change.

    I will part with three points:

    1) I subscribe to a rather utilitarian perspective, i.e “the greatest good for the greatest number of people”. There is no reason to expend dramatic amount of resources to accommodate a few million Tibetans who refuse economic integration when much lower fruits are hanging on the tree of poverty reduction.

    2) Emotional capital should never trump intellectual capital. There is no joy in fuming at the unchangeable (only fools think mountains are movable), but there is joy in learning, and prosperity certainly profit.

    3) Dead people have no future, and no hope.

  40. Dorjee65 | November 23rd, 2010 | 9:59 am

    How can you even compare Gaza with Lhasa. Did the Chinese use American made white phosphorous bombs on the Lhasans like the Israelis did in Gaza? Did the Chinese impose a blockade on Lhasans denying them medicines, food and basic necessities like what the Israelis did to the Gazans?

    At the end of the day, if you want to take advantage of China’s boomking economy, you have to study Mandarin, whether you like it or not. If you are so against it, then don’t blame China for lack of economic opportunities. Ironic thing is, you have to learn English too to take advantage of opportunities in the West, LOL.

  41. Tribalism | November 23rd, 2010 | 10:22 am

    Dorjee shenshang, the problem with your pronouncement is that in Lhasa people who protest peacefully vanish. If something like the killings in Nangpa la happens the PRC will twist the story, use some choice frames from their spy cams and make it appear as though the Tibetans are attacking the Chinese. Although it is ridiculous even to imagine people armed with sticks and stones attacking machine gun weilding people. In Gaza there are UN people, journalists, humanitarians etc who write about whatever injustice is taking place. In Lhasa there is no journalist, no UN representative although Tibet is supposed to be an autonomous region.

  42. Sheila | November 23rd, 2010 | 10:32 am

    There are a lot of points to address in your response, but I think there’s one thought which strikes me above all: now, of all times, is the wrong time to launch an unnecessary, agressive Mandarin Only campaign.

    Every schoolchild is already studying Mandarin. There is no emergency. I don’t hate Mandarin; I had Mandarin in school, too. It’s not a big deal.

    But on top of the people’s rising emotions on inflation, housing prices, food prices, corruption, never mind the tinderbox west of Lanzhou…now is exactly the wrong time to send in a Party Language Army swarming over the towns beating uncles and aunts senseless with a Mandarin Stick.

    This is yet another Bad Idea from the neo-con clique. It’s no accident Cantonese was threatened at the same time as Tibetan. Some group in Beijing suffering the pudgy discomfort of their Rolexes made yet another uneducated, rash “decision.” Did they consult linguists?? Did they consult sociologists?? Did they really take advantage of modern research into what works and doesn’t work to affect language change?? Did they account for regional differences in temperament? Hell no, they just rolled the dice again an prayed to their baomas. “Hey guys let’s try this.”

    Can you truly say it was a good idea? Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Beijing, Rebkong, Gepasumdo, Tsolho erupted into protests. That’s not a good sign. Right now, there need to be fewer mass incidents, not more.

    In the modern age, local smolderings can instead become a rapidly-spreading wildfire fueled by a common issue to rally around. It’s completely careles to risk this, because Mandarin education is already happening in every single school under CCP control. Again, there is simply zero emergency; Mandarin is being learned.

    When I hear bigwigs pleading, “Let China develop at her own pace, gradually and naturally!” as a way to postpone reform, I don’t believe those words for a second. Because out of the other side of their mouth they are hissing, “Immediately enforce Mandarin! Damn the consequences!”

    The problem with the 2010 Needless Mandarin Offensive is that it is not actually designed to promote Mandarin; it is clearly designed to smother other languages. This is far too inflammatory and therefore not a good idea at the moment, or maybe ever.

  43. Sheila | November 23rd, 2010 | 10:39 am

    P.S. Disrupting the existing Tibetan curriculum and replacing every single book takes more resources, not less. Razing the existing Cantonese programming and replacing it with a complete overhaul takes more resources, not less. Dealing with the resultant mass incidents takes more resources, not less. Heaven forbid this whole thing catches fire nationwide, because then the government will learn what “taking more resources” truly means.

  44. Sheila | November 23rd, 2010 | 12:47 pm

    It’s so timely that famous sports hero Liu Xiang just caused an uproar hours ago by speaking only Shanghainese after his competition lol

  45. HTGT | November 23rd, 2010 | 3:16 pm

    Chinese engineer, you really are an engineer: full of iron and steel!

  46. Sheila | November 24th, 2010 | 10:57 am

    Uyghur schoolteachers have been told they will have to immediately take a surprise exam; if they pass, they may continue teaching. If they fail, they will be fired, and Chinese teachers will take their place.

    If you put the pieces together in this particular pattern–fire Uyghur teachers, replace them with Beijing imports; fire Cantonese broadcasters, replace them with Beijing imports; fire Tibetan teachers, replace them with Beijing imports…doesn’t it seem that this whole thing could be a “jobgrab?” Appease some of the masses of angry, jobless Beijing graduates by kicking out “minority” teachers and handing out their jobs like candy?

  47. Sheila | December 1st, 2010 | 9:33 pm

    Time-line of Student Protests:

    October 19: Protests in Rebkong

    Students from 6 different schools (First Tibetan Middle School/Teachers’ Training School/Yifu National Middle School are among the 6)

    Demands/Slogans: “Equality of People, Freedom of Language”

    Participation: More than 1000 people

    October 20: Chabcha
    Over 2000 students protested from 6-10am

    Demands/Slogans:
    1. Return the authority of the Tibetan language
    2. Equality Among Nationalities
    3. Expand the use of Tibetan language

    Protests in Chenza; Khrigha; Drakar also

    October 21: Golok

    Three schools, 3000 students (Teachers Training College, Town Middle School, County Middle School)

    Demands/Slogans: “Equality of People, Freedom of Language”

    Rebkong Gedun Choephel Middle School- around 700 students-

    October 22:

    Beijing, Minzu/Nationalities University.

    Demands/Slogans: “Preserve Nationality Language and Expand National Education”

    Participation: around 400 students

    October 23:
    Chabcha- Gonghe dzong – 20 students of the Tibetan Middle School were arrested

    October 24:
    Several hundred students and teachers from high schools in Chentsa county, in Malho, took to the streets in support of the continued use of Tibetan in local schools.

    (Courtesy SFT Blog)

  48. Sheila | December 1st, 2010 | 9:38 pm

    Here’s a video of our local kids standing up (literally) for the Tibetan language. So proud.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75nQSAN8-4s

    “In October 2010 thousands of Tibetan students protested against China’s one language policy, which would phase out the use of the Tibetan language in schools by 2015. The members of Madison SFT and RTYC Wisconsin compiled this video with the help of local children to show their support of these students in Tibet.”

  49. Sheila | December 2nd, 2010 | 11:25 am

    I noticed two versions of the language protest slogans:

    མི་རིགས་འདྲ་མཉམ། སྐད་རིགས་རང་དབང་།
    མི་རིགས་འདྲ་མཉམ། སྐད་ཡིག་རང་དབང་།

    In the now-infamous picture of the student holding up the blackboard with the slogan, it’s kérik…does anyone think there’s a difference between using kérik or kéyik, politically, or is it interchangeable? Sometimes rebellion can be so subtle. Unless it’s Cantonese, lol.

  50. BDheychen | December 2nd, 2010 | 12:15 pm

    Sheila,
    It is subtle.
    Kerik sounds more potent. Good job @ WordSmith!

  51. Sheila | December 2nd, 2010 | 3:26 pm

    Bdheychen la, thank you – much appreciate the insight!

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