Despite White Paper Claims: Tibetan Language Publishing Sectors Struggle Under China’s Restrictions

By Tsering Choephel

Illustration Representational.

DHARAMSALA, 17 November: The Chinese Communist Party’s latest ‘White Paper’ on Tibet claimed a flourishing publishing sector in Tibetan languages, which in reality, has been undergoing heightened restrictions and is bound to limited themes under the scrutiny of Chinese authorities. China’s restrictions on the Tibetan language and its publications inside Tibet apply across all three traditional provinces of Tibet: Kham, Amdo, and U-Tsang.

The white paper document states that  “By the end of 2022, Xizang had 17 periodicals and 11 newspapers in the Tibetan language and had published 45.01 million copies of 7,959 Tibetan-language books” and that “There are 40 printing enterprises and 219 publishing institutions of various types, releasing nearly 2.32 million copies of periodicals and 2.71 million copies of books.”

A report from Tibet Times on 16 November quoted an unnamed renowned Tibetan writer based in Tibet as saying, “Recently, the Chinese government is imposing severe restrictions on publishing houses related to renowned Tibetan writers, particularly writers who have been to Chinese prisons. It is not permitted to publish books without approval from the Chinese government for thematic reasons.”

Another Tibetan informed Tibet Times of how the Chinese government has reduced subsidies for many publishing houses in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR). “Books related to the Tibetan language, history, and Buddhism are restricted from being published, but many translation books about the history of the Communist Party of China and its leader’s achievements are published.”

He added, “Despite the Chinese government declaring that many books in the Tibetan language are published and distributed in the TAR, those books are all about Chinese ideology, not Tibetan language and culture. For instance, it’s all about ‘praising songs to the Chinese government,’ ‘Without the Communist party, there would be no new China’ and ‘Masses have to respect the Chinese constitution”.

Besides books, digital resources, including websites and news channels in Tibetan languages, are filled with political propaganda alongside the scenic landscape of Tibet, local products of nomads and farmers, displayed for tourist attraction. Tibetans using the Tibetan language on social media platforms like Kuaishou get an immediate strike down, says the report.

The CCP’s controlling mechanism employed in all sectors within China is well known. Stacked with many levels of bureaucratic ladders of scrutiny and upped with digital surveillance, nothing escapes censorship or outright rejection, leading to interrogations and arrests in many cases.

A Tibetan writer whose works have faced inspections for political reasons in the past has told Tibet Times of the process of publishing books, saying that any books, after submitting to the publishing house with details, must get permission to be published from the news radio station of the province. “That station secretly orders someone who knows Tibetan to inspect the work for political issues. If there is any political issue with the book, it has to be marked, but there is no right to make an amendment. As this inspection process is secret, it is hard to know whether this inspection work is given to one person or a few people. If there is no political issue with the book, it can finally be published.”

China’s National News Radio Station implemented the regulations on publishing industry management on 1 June 2016. Individuals or any office must get permission to publish any literary material from concerned authorities at the local, county, or provincial level.

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