Sat, May 26, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: China anything but a happy family

With all the drama this week about the will-they-won’t-they US-North Korea summit and then Thursday’s diplomatic tragedy for Taiwan, many people might have missed a story that has received a lot of play internationally this week; one that has ominous implications for Taiwanese:

A judge in China’s Qinghai Province sentenced Tibetan shopkeeper-turned-involuntary-language activist Tashi Wangchuk to five years in prison for inciting separatism.

All Tashi wanted to do in the beginning was find a Tibetan language tutor for his niece.

His real crime was talking about Beijing’s restrictions on Tibetan culture and language and his efforts to ensure that the Tibetan language would continue to be used in local schools to the New York Times in 2016, which ran a story and video featuring him.

The video followed Tashi on a trip to Beijing, where he tried to file a lawsuit against local officials back home for contravening China’s constitution, specifically the portion that states that all ethnic groups in the country have the “freedom to use and develop” their own spoken and written languages.

While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) likes to promote its inclusiveness when it comes to the more than 50 ethnic minorities in China, trotting out dance and culture troupes from the various communities for foreign visitors or having delegates to the annual National People’s Congress dress in their traditional costumes, and it is forever claiming that the rights and interests of these myriad of peoples are protected by the Chinese constitution, the truth is far different.

The CCP in words and deeds acts to ensure the supremacy of the Han majority, insisting that their culture and language are the true bedrock of China, and, over the decades, it has worked to ensure that Mandarin is the primary language of the nation. It also insists that its efforts are helping to “modernize” all these poor benighted minorities.

This has been especially true in Tibet, and areas that were formerly part of Tibet, but were incorporated into what is now Qinghai by the then-Republic of China government or into Sichuan Province by the People’s Republic of China, as well as Xinjiang Province, where the Muslim Uighurs have Beijing’s cadres seeing Islamic militants behind every beard and in every mosque.

During Tashi’s trial in January, prosecutors said that he had deliberately incited separatism by discrediting Beijing’s international image and its treatment of ethnic minorities. This even though he had made it very clear to the Times that he was not advocating Tibetan independence.

His trial, and its forgone conclusion, was proof yet again of the growing xenophobia of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) government and its unwillingness to tolerate even the minutest criticism.

The CCP has never been a promoter of freedom of expression, but Xi is working harder than his predecessors to force everyone into the Han identity CCP mold.

Taiwan suffered under a similar mentality for decades under the authoritarian Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government, and only in the past two decades have efforts to preserve and promote languages other than Mandarin, be they Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Hakka or the many Aboriginal languages, been given funding and government support.

Xi and his officials like to talk about cross-strait relations in terms of being “one family,” but their vision of family is not an inclusive one.

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