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China’s new ethnic identity law reflects its failure in Tibet, Xinjiang-style campaign may follow: analysts

At least 156 Tibetans have immolated themselves in China since 2009 to protest Beijing’s homgenisation efforts in the region

Dhairya Maheshwari Dhairya Maheshwari
New Delhi Updated on: January 13, 2020 22:08 IST
A file photo of the Dalai Lama (representative image)

A file photo of the Dalai Lama (representative image)

A veteran China-watcher has said that the new ethnic identity law in Tibet is reflective of Beijing’s current insecurities in the region whose population they have so far failed to integrate into the mainstream Chinese identity, despite repeated claims from the Beijing leadership stating otherwise. 

"This announcement is an indirect admission by the Communist Party of China (CPC) that they have failed in integrating hearts of the people of Tibet into the overall Han identity of China,” Vijay Kranti,a senior journalist and Tibetologist, told India TV News.

The new ethnic identity law passed by China calls upon Tibet’s population to strengthen “ethnic unity” and take a stand against separatism, state-backed Global Times reported on Monday. Many analysts are pointing out that the legislation is aimed at curbing the growing resentment against Beijing’s policies in the region. At least 156 Tibetans have immolated themselves in China since 2009 to protest Beijing’s homgenisation efforts in the region, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, the world’s largest Tibet support group.

In fact, observers say that the law could also herald the beginning of a Xinjiang-style campaign in Tibet. According to some estimates by independent researchers, approximately 1.5 million Uyghur Muslims were undergoing “re-education” in over a 1,000 internment camps in Xinjiang as of 2019.

The Dalai Lama factor

Kranti reasoned that the new law could also be aimed towards imposing a Dalai Lama of Beijing’s choice, amid the existing attempts by the Chinese government to move the centre of gravity of Tibetan politics away from the current Dalai Lama, who is leading a life in exile in India after fleeing Chinese occupation in 1959. 

 “Given the feverish preoccupation of the China's government these days to occupy the religious system and hierarchy of Tibet by imposing the next Dalai Lama of their choice after the present Dalai Lama passes away, this declaration is yet another attempt of Chinese government to make the world believe that the Tibetan people are happy under the Chinese rule,” said Kranti, who has travelled extensively in Tibet.

Kranti also expressed concerns over the passage of the new law, the first time in the history of China, stating that the Beijing leadership could soon pass similar laws in all the other so-called autonomous provinces under its control.

“The passage of this new law is a unique and first-time event in the seven decades-long history of PRC. It will not be a surprise that all other Autonomous region legislatures are also forced to pass similar laws,” he said.

Although China is home to 56 different ethnic groups, as recognised by the Communist Party of China (CPC), critics have often pointed towards the government’s continuous covert and overt campaign to project the culture of Han group over others. The Han Chinese constitute over 80 per cent of China’s population. 

“Over past seven decades the total demographic, lingual and cultural presence of the other 55 ethnic groups has gone down to below eight per cent while the Hans today dominate with over 82 per cent,” explained Kranti.

Tibet is among the five autonomous provinces in China, the others being Guangxi, Xinjiang, Ningxia and South Mongolia.

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