China has marked the 70th anniversary of the Chinese invasion of Tibet with a call to accept the rule of the Communist Party by learning Chinese language and culture. In a recent dictate, Wang Yang, a powerful leader of ruling elite asked Tibetans to learn Mandarin, the official Chinese language and adopt cultural symbols and images of the Communist nation.
“Tibet can only develop and prosper under the party’s leadership and socialism. For that all-around efforts are needed to ensure Tibetans speak standard spoken and written Chinese and share the cultural symbols and images of the Chinese nation,” said Yang while speaking at the anniversary event in Lhasa on 19 August. Wang Yang is the Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee and being a Member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the apex of party power body also heads a national organisation responsible for uniting all races and ethnic minorities.
China has ruled the Himalayan region since 1951, after its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded and took control of Tibet which it calls a “peaceful liberation”. Human rights activists and analysts believe such moves towards cultural assimilation spell the demise of Tibet’s traditional Buddhist culture.
“Judging by developments in Tibet over the past 70 years, the Tibetans people have no cause for jubilation, as Chinese policies have turned Tibet into an open-air prison with restrictions on all aspects of Tibetan life,” says International Campaign for Tibet, the US-based organisation in a statement.
“After 70 years of oppression, the only thing the Tibetan people need peaceful liberation from today is China’s brutality,” the group further added.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on a three-day visit to tighten its hold over Tibet and send a message to India and the US.
Questions are also arising over the future of its diaspora community. Beijing has refused any contact with the self-declared Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama who fled to India in 1959 following an abortive uprising against Chinese rule and his supporters have documented human rights abuses in Tibet related to an ongoing security crackdown.
Beijing brands the current Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist and instead recognises the current Panchen Lama, put in place by the Communist Party, as the highest religious figure in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama has been a symbol of the struggle of the Tibetan people for freedom, challenging the communist rule of China.
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), controlling the selection of the next Dalai Lama is critical for the sinicisation of Tibetan Buddhism. The project to sinicise Tibetan Buddhism has consistently received attention from the top echelons of the party, including President Xi.
“Tibetan Buddhism should be guided in adapting to China’s socialist society and should be developed in the Chinese context,” Xi has said last year.
In May this year, China had also issued an official white paper that any successor of the Dalai Lama has to be approved by Beijing. As per White Paper, it would choose the successor to the Dalai Lama through “drawing lots from the golden urn” with the candidate subject to the approval of the Communist Party China (CPC)- ruled central government.
It also called the demand for Tibetan independence a product of “imperialist aggression against China”.
China’s biggest fear is that the Dalai Lama may choose his successor outside Tibet within the Tibetan community in India. If the Dalai Lama finds a successor outside Tibet, the successor that China may appoint will not enjoy legitimacy and the spiritual authority required to exercise effective influence in Tibet.