[lg policy] Tibetan entrepreneur who is a vocal but moderate advocate for bilingual education in schools across Chinese-ruled Tibetan regions has been illegally detained

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Mar 11 15:50:12 UTC 2016

BEIJING — A Tibetan entrepreneur who is a vocal but moderate advocate for
bilingual education in schools across Chinese-ruled Tibetan regions has
been illegally detained by the police for one and a half months, his family

The man, Tashi Wangchuk, 30, who lives with his parents in the western town
of Yushu, has written about language policy on his microblog. He has
highlighted the dearth of meaningful Tibetan language education and
expressed concern that many Tibetan children are unable to become fluent in
their native language, a widespread worry in the ethnic group.

Mr. Tashi was detained on Jan. 27 and has been held for 44 days. According
to Chinese law, the police can generally detain a person for 30 days before
officers must ask prosecutors to bring formal arrest charges or release the
person. Prosecutors then have seven days to announce a charge.
Continue reading the main story

Mr. Tashi’s family has tried contacting the Yushu police and the town’s
main detention center, where relatives say they believe he is, but officers
have not given them a reason for the detention and have not let them see
Mr. Tashi.

Reached by telephone, a senior police officer in Yushu, Chief Zhang, who
gave only his surname, said that his unit, the guobao, was handling the
case. Asked for more details, he said he needed to verify whether the case
his unit was handling was indeed the same one.

A Tibetan’s Journey for Justice

Worried about the erosion of Tibetan culture and language, one man takes
his concerns to Beijing, hoping media coverage and the courts can reverse
what he sees as a systematic eradication. By JONAH M. KESSEL on Publish
Date November 28, 2015. Photo by Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times.
Watch in Times Video »

Until his detention, Mr. Tashi was posting about Tibet to his Sina Weibo
account. Many messages expressed anxieties about the gradual extinction of
Tibetan culture. On Jan. 20, for example, Mr. Tashi reshared an item in
which an online commentator had asked Khampa Television, the local official
Tibetan Khampa-dialect channel, to stop broadcasting, saying “the Tibetan
culture you talk about is for commercial and exhibition use.”

Mr. Tashi’s last item, on Jan. 24, was a repost of a comment that urged the
legislature and legislative advisory committee of Qinghai Province, where
Yushu is, to enhance bilingual education and hire more bilingual civil

Mr. Tashi’s views were published in an article in The New York Times in
November. He was the subject of a nine-minute documentary that The Times
produced about his efforts to use legal means to bolster Tibetan language
education. He was again quoted in an article in December that looked at how
Chinese officials in Tibetan areas use horse festivals for propaganda

In an interview last year, Mr. Tashi said that he was not advocating
Tibetan independence and that he was mainly concerned about cultural
preservation. He traveled to Beijing that year to seek legal help in filing
a lawsuit against local officials, but he has yet to make the filing.

He said he sought to use the law to press officials to have true bilingual
education in schools. In most schools in Tibetan regions, the native
language is taught in a single class, similar to foreign-language education
in the United States. Mandarin is the main teaching language.

“My goal is to change things a little bit, to push to preserve some of our
nation’s culture,” he said. “The entire Tibetan ethnic nationality and
culture is at risk of disappearing.”

Mr. Tashi also said that he was thankful to “all the Chinese people who
truly protect minorities” and praised President Xi Jinping for having
“promoted a democratic and law-abiding country these last few years.”

Mr. Tashi was detained briefly twice before, he and his family members
said. More than a decade ago, he was arrested after he was caught trying to
travel illegally to India. (Many Tibetans make illegal pilgrimages to India
to try to see the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, who
lives in exile.)

In 2012, Mr. Tashi was detained for posting online comments that criticized
local officials over land seizures, a common complaint of citizens across

As well as managing a shop, Mr. Tashi uses Taobao, an Alibaba platform, to
sell goods from his native region to buyers across China. His merchandise
included caterpillar fungus, harvested on the Tibetan Plateau, which is
popular in Chinese medicine. In 2014, Alibaba featured Mr. Tashi in a video
for its investor roadshow before a prominent initial public offering.

Chinese officials consider the winter and early spring to be sensitive
periods in Tibet. They watch for protests during Losar, the Tibetan New
Year, and around March 10, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising
against Chinese rule. Detentions and security clampdowns increased after
March 2008, when a Tibetan revolt that began in Lhasa spread across the
plateau. Since 2009, more than 140 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in

During the annual conclave of the National People’s Congress in Beijing
this month, the Chinese government has been eager to promote an image of
ethnic harmony. Tibetan delegates there have been spotted wearing pins
featuring pictures of President Xi Jinping. On Wednesday, Xinhua, the state
news agency, said the government planned to spend $75 million to repair and
preserve 156 traditional sky burial


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