Call it Xizang, not Tibet – says Chinese academics

By Tsering Choephel

DHARAMSALA, 19 Aug: A call for Beijing to use ‘Xizang’ instead of ‘Tibet’ in reference to the CCP’s demarcated Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) was raised by academics at the 7th International Tibetan Studies seminar held in Beijing from 14 -16 August, the CCP’s United Front Work Department reported according to the South China Morning Post report on Thursday. 

Organised by the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC) ostensibly with the theme of Prosperity and Development of Tibetan Studies and the Opening-up of Tibet – the platform is being used “to amply their (CCP) false narratives to the international community” Tenzin Lekshey, the spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration in exile is quoted by Radio Free Asia. 

Wang Linping, a professor at Harbin Engineering Univerisity’s College of Marxism clearly voiced the agenda of the CCP calling for China to establish “a dominant position in the international discourse related to Tibet” with the replacement of the term ‘Tibet’ with Chinese ‘Xizang’ as a significant move to take. He claimed the use of the name Tibet had “seriously misled the international community” over the “geographical scope” of the region.

Xia Ya, an editor working with the China Tibet Information Centre of the United Front Work Department said changing the English name from ‘Tibet’ to ‘Xizang could “help reconstruct Tibet’s media image and enhance China’s international discourse on Tibet”, reported.

Tenzin Lekshey speaking to RFA said a genuine seminar on Tibetan studies must allow Tibetologist from Tibet and around to freely participate and share the true state of Tibetan studies – lack of which at said seminar indicates a carefully curated seminar that aligns and acts as a veiled mouthpiece propaganda tool for the CCP.

A Tibetan rights analyst Sangay Kyap observes China hosting its own Tibetan seminars as a deliberate tactic “to challenge the criticisms that the Chinese communist government has been receiving over the years,” adding that such seminars intend to subvert relations many non-tibetan Tibetologist have built with exiled Tibetan communities over the years. 

In 2022, during the 16th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies held in Prague, more than 600 scholars and researchers from all over the world attended with only a few Tibetologist from Tibet able to attend due to restrictions put by Chinese authorities. 

Tibet as it is generally known among Tibetans and internationally encompasses all three traditional provinces of Amdo, Kham and Utsang. From the beginning of China’s encroachment into Tibet and following the complete annexation of the whole of Tibet in 1951, new demarcations of land and province and naming them in Chinese have been earnestly carried out.    

Beijing’s manipulation of the narrative of Tibet and whitewashing of its ever-intensifying rule in Tibet, though concerning comes as no surprise. 

In June this year, the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC) was also part of the group that held a seminar called “The Reincarnation Convention of Living Buddhas”, inviting many so-called Tibet experts in an effort to reign in the Tibetan traditional reincarnation process claiming that “the reincarnation of the Living Buddhas must be approved by the central government and the successor must be searched within China.”

Under Xi Xingping’s accelerating drive for the Sinicization of Tibet and other occupied nation of East Turkistan and Inner Mongolia, various mechanisms of repressive policies are being executed in spheres of language, religion and culture.  

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