London-based rights organization Free Tibet claims that on the evening of August 19, a gang of men in Darlak County, Eastern Tibet, assaulted Tashi Wangchuk, a notable champion for the Tibetan language and a former political prisoner.
According to Free Tibet’s research arm, Tibet Watch, Tashi Wangchuk traveled to Darlak County to bring attention to the decline of the Tibetan language in schools. He recorded a video outside Darlak County Nationality Middle School to show his displeasure, and he uploaded it to the Chinese social networking site Douyin.
His hotel room door was broken into at roughly 8 o’clock at night, and he was brutally attacked by unknown perpetrators for around 10 minutes. From what Wangchuk could tell, he was followed from his school to his hotel. He begged the assailants to stop and called on the hotel manager to call the police. Around 9 o’clock that evening, police were called to his hotel room; they questioned him at the station until 11:30 p.m. The cops interrogated him and pressured him into wiping his phone clean of any evidence he had taken that day.
Tashi Wangchuk, a native of Kyegudo in Yushu Prefecture in Eastern Tibet, rose to prominence after appearing in a New York Times documentary in which he spoke about the importance of protecting the Tibetan language and his efforts to sue local authorities over the elimination of Tibetan language instruction in schools. In January of 2016, he was arrested by Chinese agents, taken to an undisclosed location, and tortured. His two years of pre-trial incarceration were followed by a five-year jail term on allegations of “inciting separatism,” a charge that has been widely criticized as being politically motivated.
Tashi Wangchuk was released from jail in January 2021 and immediately resumed his campaign to get Tibetan, along with other “minority” languages, included in Chinese classrooms. In January 2022, he started a major lobbying effort to save the Tibetan language by visiting municipal agencies in Jyekundo (also spelled Yushu). As a result of his activism, he was called in for questioning by Yushu’s Public Security Bureau. He was so dedicated to his cause that he traveled to several schools in occupied Tibet to collect proof of the disproportionate focus on Chinese language education compared to Tibetan.
Proponents of Tibetan language and cultural preservation in occupied Tibet face grave dangers, as seen by the assault on Tashi Wangchuk’s guesthouse in Darlak County, say experts. Despite constitutional protections, this episode highlights the persistent violation of Tibetans’ language and cultural rights.