Growing income levels among young Tibetans living in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have led recently to a widespread addiction to gambling, resulting in social problems and disruptions in family life, Tibetan sources say.
Supported by earnings from the harvesting of caterpillar fungus, Tibetan youth in Qinghai’s Wulan county now gather in restaurants and hotels, where they bet large sums of money in games of mahjong or dice, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They gamble as much as 10,000 [U.S. $1,513] or 100,000 yuan [U.S. $15,132] over the course of a single night,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They are becoming addicted to gambling,” the source said.
“Those who lose money simply borrow more from their friends, and continue to gamble undeterred,” RFA’s source said. “The gamblers are all young Tibetans. The Chinese themselves aren’t gambling.”
Young Tibetans gambling in Wulan are often joined by youth from Qinghai’s Yulshul prefecture, the source said, adding that gamblers evade the law by meeting in secret.
“This addictive lifestyle and behavior are causing problems in society and in their families, which experience hardship when large amounts of money are lost,” the source said.
“Those who lose will often sell their livestock so they can continue the vicious cycle of betting,” he said.
Tibetan religious teachers always urge young Tibetans to abandon gambling and to better themselves through education, the source said, adding, “And this advice has led many to lead better lives.”
“But still, many young Tibetans are now becoming addicted to gambling,” he said.
Meanwhile, uneducated Tibetan nomad youth now living in Wulan are finding themselves “at loose ends” after being resettled in government-built housing, another local source told RFA.
“They are finding it increasingly hard to adapt to their new lives, as they are illiterate and have no skills to find jobs in the towns.”
“Instead, they loiter around wasting their time, have no sense of purpose to their lives, and spend whatever money they have buying motorbikes,” he said.
Unable to cope with their new circumstances, many get divorced, leaving children behind in broken households where they receive less parental attention and care, he said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.