This Open Letter by Tenzin Tsultrim was first published in Phayul on 13th March 20223.
An Open Letter to Xi Jinping
Dear President Xi Jinping,
Tashi Deleg for Tibetan Losar 2150 Year (Water Hare)
First, I would like to wish you a successful third-term.
I think you are the first top leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after (late)Jiang Zemin, to visit Tibet. I believe, the 2021 visit was your third visit to Tibet. From the Chinese official media, I found out that you have also visited Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
On 19 July 2011, when you visited Lhasa as a Vice-President of the PRC, you mentioned, “The fine traditions of the Tibetan culture are preserved and promoted…Like other regions in the country, Tibet is showing the dynamism of development that points to a prosperous future.”
For the past few years, there have been increasing crackdowns in Tibet. The demolitions of Gaden Rabten Namgyaling school in Kardze and Buddha statues in Kham are further creating an environment of fear and distrust inside Tibet. It also highlights Chinese leaders’ mismanagement in Tibet. Increasing the number of surveillance cameras and police posts might give the communist officials in Tibet a sense of control over the Tibetan people. In short, allowing your sycophant officials to bring further restrictions on the Tibetan people would generate further alienation and may impede your dream of rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
On 17 August 2021, during the 10th meeting of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, you talked about “Common prosperity”, where you stressed the need to “adhere to a people-centered development philosophy and called for efforts to achieve common prosperity through high-quality development.” I think common prosperityis also about treating everyone with equal respect and giving them equal rights.
In your Report of 2022 to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, you again mentioned “Common Prosperity”. You said, “We have ensured a more complete and lasting sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security for our people, and we have made further progress in achieving common prosperity for all.” However, in Tibet, for the past few years, many uncommon events have happened.
For instance, Tibetan people were restricted from visiting monasteries during the new year. In the name of the bilingual education policy, young Tibetan children were barred from learning their mother tongue. Research findings from Tibet Action Institute reveal that countless young Tibetan children were sent to faraway boarding schools to educate them in the Chinese language and culture. I think there cannot be “Common Prosperity” if the common Tibetan people are not treated with equal respect and rights. Hence, it is not by coincidence that rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Freedom House across the world are highlighting the growing repression and curtailment of basic human rights in Tibet. By curbing human rights and restrengthening the surveillance systems in Tibet, you can monitor their movements and eavesdrop on their conversations and but you cannot monitor their sentiments.
In your latest Report, you also declared that “…We must strengthen the great unity of the Chinese people of all ethnic groups and the great unity of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation at home and abroad. By doing so, we will create a powerful collective force working with one heart and one mind to realize the Chinese Dream.”
One cannot expect unity by eradicating the identities of a few. For instance, the geographical topographies of Tibet, East Turkestan, and Southern Mongolia are different from that of China, one cannot just re-engineer to make it similar to that of China’s topography. If one tries to pursue this, then the result would be a man-made disaster. For the Tibetan people, Uyghurs, and people from Southern Mongolia, culture is very close to their hearts, and without respecting their culture, it is very difficult to win their hearts and minds.
Since you are around 70 years old, I think it would be routine for you to do health check-ups, including your heart rate. Instead of collecting DNA, I think it is also high time to check the grievances rate in Tibet, East Turkestan, and Southern Mongolia. The implementation of a few months Zero-Covid policies in Tibet, particularly in Lhasa, the Capital of Tibet has led to outcry and protests from hundreds of Chinese migrant workers. Imagine the decades of bottled-up grievances of Tibetan people, Uighurs, and Southern Mongolian people. China has already spent billions of Yuan on roads, bridges, housing, and on surveillance mechanisms.
I think it is time to spend on human capital and improve human rights conditions without any Chinese or Socialist characteristics. The countless amount of money Communist China has spent for many decades on its image-building exercise within China and outside has been completely thrown out of the window. Covid-19 proved to be the final nail in the coffin. If China sincerely believes in upping its image, I think the time has come for it to give genuine rights and freedom to the oppressed people from Tibet, East Turkestan, and Southern Mongolia to decide their future.
I believe this is my second letter to you. The first letter I sent to you is through the Apple Daily of Hongkong, now defunct and its founder Jimmy Lai jailed.
Next time, when you are in India, please visit Dharamshala, there is a direct flight from Delhi. The Tibetan amchis(doctors) from Men-Tsee-Khang are known to tell the root causes of many diseases by reading the pulse. In short, many problems in the world could be solved effectively if you know the source of the problems.
Tenzin Tsultrim (A Tibetan living in exile)
(Views expressed are his own)
The author is a research Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, a think tank under the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala, India
P.S. I request anyone who knows the Chinese language to translate the above letter.
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