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definition - Sinicization of Tibet

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Sinicization of Tibet

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The sinicization of Tibet is the alleged change of Tibetan society to Han Chinese standards, by means of cultural assimilation, migration, and political (communist) reform. Sinicization on the one hand is the consequence of the presence of a large number of Han Chinese in Tibet and on the other hand an active policy of the central government of the People's Republic of China. The active policy intends to make Tibet an integral part of the Chinese republic and to control Tibetan ambitions of independence. The result, whether in purpose or not, is the disappearance of certain elements of the Tibetan culture, sometimes called cultural genocide by the government of Tibet in exile.[1][2] The government of China denies of these accusations and sees the reform of the theocratic system and modernization of the Tibetan economy as beneficial to most Tibetans.


Change of power

In the decades preceding 1950 Tibet was a de facto independent nation, with own people, language, culture, and religions (Tibetan Buddhism and Bön). They also printed their own currency and postage, and conducted international relations with foreign countries. It claimed three provinces Amdo, Kham, and Ü-Tsang (but had only control of west Kham and Ü-Tsang). Since 1950, China reorganized the area somewhat, by making east Kham part of Sichuan, and west Kham part of the newly established Tibet Autonomous Region[3]

China calls the entry of its army into Tibet a peaceful liberation; exiled Tibetans and third parties call it an invasion followed by colonization. However, the Chinese government points to population increases and quality of life improvements as justifications for their assertion of power in the historically Chinese-claimed region.

Failed crops

The economy of Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture, that is agriculture with a destination to provide for one's family proper only. For this reason the entrance of 35.000 Chinese troops in the 1950s weighted heavily on the food supplies in Tibet. At Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama's visit to Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1954, Mao informed that he would migrate 40.000 Chinese farmers to Tibet.[4][5]

In the 1960s Chinese authorities forced Tibetan farmers to cultivate corn, instead of barley which originally is the crop of the Himalaya region, resulting in the first famine in Tibetan history. The harvests failed as the farmers had predicted and thousands of Tibetans starved from hunger.[6][7]

Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution was a revolution staged by the central government between 1966 and 1976 of students and laborers of the Chinese communist party, intending to preserve Maoism as the leading ideology of China. Next to that it was a means to eliminate the political opposition against Mao.[8]

The Cultural Revolution took place in entire China and as a result Tibet suffered great excesses as well. Red guards attacked civilians that were seen as traitors of communism. Thousands monasteries were looted and destroyed. Monks and nuns were forced to leave their monasteries to live a normal life and anyone who resisted it was imprisoned. The prisoners were forced to hard labor, were maltreated, tortured, and even executed. It should be noted most Red guards that were active in Tibet were ethnic Tibetan youths.

Migration of Chinese (Mostly Han and Hui)

The central government of the People's Republic of China issues an active migration policy of Chinese to Tibet, being lured with attractive bonuses and favorable living conditions. Since the end of the 1990s there were more Chinese than Tibetans in Greater Tibet (but still a minority in the designated Tibetan Autonomous Region). As of 2003, the population consisted of an estimated 6 million ethnic Tibetans and 7.5 million non-Tibetans of different ethnic groups.[2][9]

In 2008, the capital Lhasa has 400,000 people, [10] mainly Chinese. In 1959, only 5,000 inhabitants were living there.

In April 1991, the fourteenth Dalai Lama described the situation as follows: "The new Chinese settlers have created an alternate society: a Chinese apartheid which, denying Tibetans equal social and economic status in our own land, threatens to finally overwhelm and absorb us."[11]

Cultural identity

Some young Tibetans feel that they are both Tibetans and Chinese and are fluent in both Tibetan and Mandarin.[12]

Cultural genocide

In 1989, Robert Badinter, a high-profile French criminal lawyer, participated to a famous French television program, Apostrophes, devoted to human rights, in the presence of the 14th Dalaï Lama. Talking about the disappearance of the Tibetan culture in Tibet, Robert Badinter used the term "cultural genocide".[13] Later on, and for the first time in 1993, the Dalaï Lama used the same term of cultural genocide to describe the destruction of the Tibetan culture.[14] More recently, at the time of 2008 Tibetan unrest, he accused the Chinese crackdown of Cultural genocide.[15]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Burbu, Dawa (2001) China's Tibet Policy, Routledge, ISBN 978-0700704743, pp 100-124
  2. ^ a b Samdup, Tseten (1993) Chinese population - Threat to Tibetan identity
  3. ^ Burbu, Dawa (2001) China's Tibet Policy, Routledge, ISBN 978-0700704743, pp 86-99
  4. ^ Xinhua (30 August 2005) Ngapoi recalls the founding of the TAR
  5. ^ Thomas, Lowell Jr. (1959) The Silent War in Tibet, Doubleday & Company Inc
  6. ^ Shakya, Tsering (1999) The Dragon in the Land of Snows, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0712665339
  7. ^ Stein, Rolf (1972) Tibetan Civilization, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-0806-1
  8. ^ MacFarquhar, Roderick & Michael Schoenhals (2006) Mao's Last Revolution, Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-02332-1, p. 102
  9. ^ Pinteric, Uros (2003) International Status Of Tibet, Association for Innovative Political Science, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
  10. ^ EN.TIBET.CN (11 January 2008) Tibet gives concern for vehicle exhaust.
  11. ^ BBC News (20 May 2008) Profile: The Dalai Lama
  12. ^ Hannue (2008)Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han ISBN 9889799936
  13. ^ [http://www.ina.fr/archivespourtous/index.php?vue=notice&from=fulltext&full=Salonique&num_notice=5&total_notices=8 Les droits de l'homme Apostrophes, A2 - 21/04/1989 - 01h25m56s], Web site of the INA
  14. ^ 10th March Archive
  15. ^ BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | 'Eighty killed' in Tibetan unrest


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