Chinese officials in public meetings held in Tibet’s Shigatse prefecture are promoting marriages between Tibetans and Han Chinese, as a new “ethnic unity” law goes into effect in what Tibetans say is another assault on their cultural identity, already weakened by decades of Chinese migration into the region.
China’s “Regulations on the Establishment of a Model Area for Ethnic Unity and Progress in the Tibet Autonomous Region” was adopted by the People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) on Jan. 11 and went into force on May 1.
It mandates equal participation by non-Tibetan ethnic groups at all levels of government and in schools, private business companies, religious centers, and the military—a requirement described by rights groups as a move aimed at “Sinicizing” the Tibetan people.
Now, in mass meetings and educational training sessions held in Shigatse, a large municipality located to the west of Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, Chinese authorities are also urging Tibetans and Han Chinese to intermarry, one local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“If Tibetans and Chinese marry each other in Shigatse, they will be held up as exemplary ‘ethnic unity’ families, and such model families will be awarded prizes,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Meeting participants have also been ordered by Chinese officials to study the writings and political thought of China’s President Xi Jinping, outlining his vision for a “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” the source said.
Efforts unlikely to succeed
Efforts to promote inter-ethnic marriages in Tibet are unlikely to take hold, though, Tibetans in Shigatse and living in exile said.
“Our family members will never marry the Chinese, because the Tibetans and Chinese have completely different lifestyles,” one Shigatse resident told RFA. “Our languages, diets, and habits are very far apart from each other’s.”
“We even find it hard to trust anything made by the Chinese,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“At present, there are very few inter-ethnic marriages between Tibetans and Chinese in Shigatse,” the source said. “In my own family, our parents have often advised and encouraged us to marry within our own ethnic group, in which we have shared a common language since we were young.”
Meanwhile, human rights activists and Tibet supporters have lashed out at China’s new ethnic unity regulations, calling them an attempt to absorb the Tibetan people into China’s dominant culture.
“On the surface, China’s model of ‘ethnic unity couples’ may sound like a good idea,” said Aryang Tsewang Gyalpo,, a spokesman for Tibet’s India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration
“But in reality, China’s implementation of these new regulations is just an attempt to ‘Sinicize’ the Tibetan people by eradicating Tibetan religion, culture, language, and identity.”
“China is trying to turn the Tibetan people into Han Chinese,” he said.
Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.