Sinicization of Tibet
The sinicization of Tibet is a term used by some critics of Chinese rule in Tibet to refer to the cultural assimilation that have occurred in Tibetan areas of China (including Tibet Autonomous Region and surrounding Tibetan-designated autonomous areas) which have made these areas more closely resemble mainstream Chinese society. They say that these changes have been most evident since the incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China in 1950/51 and have been facilitated by a broad range of active economic, social, cultural and political reforms introduced to Tibetan areas by the Chinese Government over the last six decades. Critics also point to the government-sponsored migration of large numbers of Han Chinese into the Tibet Autonomous Region as a major component of sinicization.
The government of Tibet in exile alleges that the consequence of Chinese policies is the disappearance of certain elements of Tibetan culture, which has sometimes been very controversially termed "cultural genocide". It says that these policies intend to make Tibet an integral part of China in order to control any desire for Tibetan self-determination.
On the other hand, the Chinese government argues that its policies have been highly beneficial to Tibet and that any cultural and social changes are the inevitable consequences of modernization. It says that Tibet's economy has expanded and that improved basic services and infrastructure projects have led to significant improvement in quality of living among Tibetans, while the Tibetan language and culture have been protected.
In the decades preceding 1950, after the collapse of Qing Dynasty, the region roughly corresponding to the modern-day Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) was a de facto independent nation. It also printed its 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.
During the Republic of China era following the fall of the Qing Dynasty in the early 20th century, the Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang, warlord and Governor of Qinghai is accused by Tibetans of having carrying out Sinicization and Islamification policies in Tibetan areas, spreading along Chinese holidays like New Year and Chinese celebrations along with the Islamic religion and making them marry non Tibetans. Forced conversion and heavy taxes were reported under his rule.
China calls the entry of its army into Tibet in 1950 a "peaceful liberation"; the government of Tibet in exile calls it an "invasion" and "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.
Prior to the invasion, the economy of Tibet was dominated by subsistence agriculture. Thus, the stationing of 35,000 Chinese troops in the 1950s weighed heavily on the food supplies in Tibet. At Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama's visit to Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1954, Mao informed him that he would migrate 40,000 Chinese farmers to Tibet.
In the 1960s, as part of Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward, Chinese authorities forced Tibetan farmers to cultivate maize instead of barley, the traditional crop of the Himalaya region. However, like many of the policies implemented during the Great Leap Forward, the decision proved to be disastrous, resulting in the failing of the harvest and the starving of thousands of Tibetans.
The Cultural Revolution was a revolution involving students and laborers of the Chinese communist party that was initiated by Mao and was carried on by the Gang of Four between 1966 and 1976 with the intention of preserving Maoism as the leading ideology of China. It was an inter-party struggle to eliminate political opposition against Mao.
The Cultural Revolution affected the whole of China and Tibet suffered greatly as a result. Red Guards attacked civilians who were branded traitors to communism. More than six thousand monasteries were looted and destroyed. Monks and nuns were forced to leave their monasteries to "live a normal life", while those who resisted were imprisoned. Prisoners were forced into hard labor, tortured, and executed. The Potala Palace was nearly harmed, but the intervention of Premier Zhou Enlai prevented the Tibetan Red Guards from causing damage.
China's "National Strategic Project to Develop the West", launched in the 1980s following the end of the Cultural Revolution, encourages the migration of Chinese people from other regions of China into Tibet, luring them there with attractive bonuses and favorable living conditions. Often, people volunteer to be sent there as teachers, doctors and administrators to assist in the development of Tibet. Citing the low quality of the labour force and less-developed infrastructure, the Chinese government has encouraged an in-flow of migrants to stimulate competition and to transform Tibet from a traditional planned economy to a market economy in line with the rest of China.
Since the end of the 1990s, ethnic Tibetans have become a minority in the "Greater Tibet" as claimed by Tibetan exile groups; as of 2003, the population consisted of an estimated 6 million ethnic Tibetans and 7.5 million non-Tibetans of different ethnic groups. However, they remain the majority ethnic group by a wide margin in the Tibet Autonomous Region proper, comprising around 93% of the population in 2008.
The 2008 attacks by Tibetans on Han- and Hui-owned property were alleged to be due to the large Han Hui influx into Tibet. George Fitzherbert has said that "Tibetans complain of being robbed of their dignity in their homeland by having their genuinely loved leader incessantly denounced, and of being swamped by Chinese immigration to the point of becoming a minority in their own country." As part of the The Chinese government has put significant resources into the development of Tibet in recent years as part of the China Western Development policy. In 2009, the Chinese government invested over $3 billion into the region, 31% more than was invested in 2008. One of the most significant investments is the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, completed in 2006 at a cost of $3.68 billion, leading to an increase of tourists coming from the rest of China. The Shanghai government contributed $8.6 million to the construction of the Tibet Shanghai Experimental School, where 1500 Tibetan students receive an education exclusively in Chinese, with the exception of Tibetan language courses. Some young Tibetans feel that they are both Tibetans and Chinese and are fluent in both Tibetan and Mandarin.
In 1949, there were between 300 and 400 Han Chinese residents in Lhasa. In 1950, the town covered fewer than three square kilometres and harboured around 30,000 inhabitants. The Potala Palace and the village of Zhöl below it were considered separate from the city at the time. In 1953, according to the first population census, Lhasa numbered about 30,000 residents, including 4,000 beggars and not counting the 15,000 monks.
By 1992, Lhasa's permanent population was estimated at a little under 140,000 people, including 96,431 Tibetans, 40,387 Han Chinese and 2,998 sundry. Added to that figure are perhaps 60,000 and 80,000 temporary residents, for the most part Tibetan pilgrims and traders. In 2008, Lhasa had 400,000 people, with a majority still being Tibetan.
In 1989, Robert Badinter, a high-profile French criminal lawyer, participated in an episode of Apostrophes, a well-known French television program 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". Subsequently, for the first time in 1993, the Dalaï Lama used the same term to describe the destruction of the Tibetan culture. More recently, at the time of 2008 Tibetan unrest, he accused the Chinese of Cultural genocide in their crackdown.
In 2008, Professor Robert Barnett, director of the Program for Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, stated that it was time for accusations of cultural genocide to be dropped: "I think we have to get over any suggestion that the Chinese are ill-intentioned or trying to wipe out Tibet." He also voiced his doubts in a book review he published in the New York Review of Books:"Why, if Tibetan culture within Tibet is being 'fast erased from existence', [do] so many Tibetans within Tibet still appear to have a more vigorous cultural life, with over a hundred literary magazines in Tibetan, than their exile counterparts?"
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- 'To engage with China's arguments concerning Tibet is to be subjected to the kind of intellectual entrapment, familiar in the Palestinian conflict, whereby the dispute is corralled into questions which the plaintiff had never sought to dispute. Tibetans complain of being robbed of their dignity in their homeland by having their genuinely loved leader incessantly denounced, and of being swamped by Chinese immigration to the point of becoming a minority in their own country. But China insistently condemns such complaints as separatism, an offence in China under the crime of 'undermining national unity', and pulls the debate back to one about Tibet's historical status. Foreigners raise questions about human rights and the environment, but China again denounces this as a foreign intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, and pulls the debate back to Tibet's historical status.' George Fitzherbert, 'Land of Clouds', Times Literary Supplement, 30 June 2008 p. 7.
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