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Tibet & Xinjiang -- Demographic Colonialism at Play

October 13, 2009

Vijay Kranti's
Indian Journal of Social Enquiry
(Vol-1, Nr-2, June-2009)
(Released in Sep-2009)

(China is using its Han population as a new tool
of imperialism. Through demographic invasion of
Tibet and Xinjiang, Beijing is successfully
tightening its colonial control on Tibet and
Xinjiang. it has serious security implications
for South Asia too – especially for India – VIJAY KRANTI)

Those who had a chance to watch a spine-chilling
video clip on YouTube depicting anti-Uyghur
violence in Guangdong on 26th June 2009, were
little surprised on the horrible riots which
broke out 3000 km away in China’s Xinjiang region
10 days later. This clip[1] gives frame-by-frame
view of how a mob of youthful Han Chinese
industrial workers chased and clubbed to death
three young Uyghur (Turk Muslims) co-workers from Xinjiang.

The victims belonged to a group of over 800 young
Uyghurs who were sent this May by a government
agency from Xinjiang to be employed on cheaper
wages in a local toy factory. Unfortunately that
exposed the poor Uyghurs to the wrath of Han
workers who are being laid off by thousands in
recent months. All three killings were recorded
in less than three minutes from the balcony of a
workers’ dormitory complex in a street that looks
like washed with blood. Even as the Han arson and
killings spread all over the industrial town the
Chinese government insisted that only two
‘persons’ died in the disturbances. The
international media, quoting non-government
sources, reported that 18 Uyghurs, including two
women, were killed and over 300 injured.

HAN JUSTICE FOR THE ‘BARBARIANS’

The young Han blogger who posted this video clip
identified himself as a ‘Proud Chinese’. Though
the blog was flooded with condemnation from all
over the world, yet gleeful endorsements of these
killings by most Chinese reflected the deep
Han-non-Han divide that pervades today’s China.
One of them exclaims,” Teach Turks a lesson!”.
Yet another abusive bloggers announces that,”…
Chinese dislike ........ and treat them as animal
and slave. …”.  Yet another Han youth expresses
his contentment at lynching of the Uygher youths
announcing, “ …. I’ m happy to hear that? Chinese
are doing their duty....”. One typical Han
reaction is, “…These barbarians deserved this…”
But the one who takes away the real cake is a
young Han who announced, “......We can all enjoy
this video and? laugh ......... I enjoy this with
popcorn and coca-cola. What about you guys?”

One only hopes that these Han Chinese youths
don’t represent the general Han contempt against
China’s national minorities who are all bracketed
in a common category of ‘Barbarians’ – a term
reserved for every non-Han race since the days
when China’s boundaries were limited to the
original confines of 6000 mile long Great Wall of China.

This event was enough provocation back home in
Xinjiang where the indigenous Uyghurs have been
always on a short fuse since 1949 when Chairman
Mao sent his People’s Libeation Army (PLA) to
‘liberate’ their country, known as ‘East
Turkistan’ until then. Known for their self
respecting and aggressive temper, the Islamic
Uyghurs took to the streets in capital Urumqi
(pron. : ‘oo-room-chee’) on 5th July and killed
over a hundred Han settlers within first few
hours.[2] They torched Han cars and houses
extensively. The violence spread to another
prominent city Kashghar too where Islamic freedom
fighters had killed 16 Chinese soldiers last year
on the eve of Beijing Olympics.

But the tide turned against the Uyghurs by next
day when all the four types of Chinese Police and
crowds of young Han migrants descended on the
local population. Armed Han youths were seen
mingling comfortably with security forces. In
separate photos published in newspapers across
the world, uniformed Chinese police personnel and
rioting Han youths were seen holding identical
wooden clubs. As the police handled demonstrating
Uyghurs, the Han youths pulled out the locals
from their homes and lynched them unhindered in
broad day light. Chinese government agencies have
put total death toll at 184 as government
controlled media released selected photos and
videos to present Hans as the victims of ‘Muslim
Terrorist’ Uyghur violence. Uyghur leaders
alleged that more than 800 of their people were
killed and over 1,400 were taken away by police.

COLONIAL DIVIDE

In these violent demonstrations the public
slogans from both sides were also noteworthy.
Angry Uyghurs were seen shouting slogans like ‘Go
back to China!’ at the Han migrants and police to
express their disgust over the presence of these
‘outsiders’ and occupation of their homeland. In
contrast, migrant Han youths chanted typical
patriotic slogans like “Unite!” and “Modern
Society”, to underline that their presence in
this remote region was a mark of ‘national unity’
and a contribution towards establishing ‘harmony’
-- two elements which are being stressed by the
communist government under Hu Jin Tao in the
light of popular ‘splittist’ tendencies among
communities like Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner
Mongolia today. Unfortunately for the Chinese
government, a team of foreign journalists was
present in Urumqui who were brought in on a
conducted tour to showcase Xinjiang’s ‘economic
progress’ under Chinese rule. That prevented the
Chinese government from putting a lid on the
events to hide the real situation from world community.

This violent Uyghur reaction was unlike their
non-violent Buddhist counterparts in Tibet who
too had risen last year against the Chinese
occupation. Though their uprising was much
peaceful and mostly non-violent after the first
day, yet the spread and spontaneity of their two
month long demonstrations across a wide zone of
2500 km diameter had left Beijing rulers shaken to their bones.

CHINA’S MIDDLE KINGDOM SYNDROME

These events of unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang
represent a deep rooted problem that the present
day Peoples Republic of China (PRC) suffers from.
It’s origins lie in the Han race’s desire of
establishing their ‘Middle Kingdom’ which
includes every such region that was ever ruled or
influenced by any Chinese emperor during history.
Interestingly, they include in this list even
those areas which were under rule or influence of
those races like the Monghols, Manchurians, and
Tibetans  who had conquered Hans’ China at some
stage in history but who live under Han
domination today. Forgetting that the Hans had
erected the historic Wall of China exclusively
for the purpose of protecting their country from
these ‘barbarian’ races, the present day PRC
stakes claim to many parts of Russia, Japan,
Korea, Mongolia, Central Asia and India on these
grounds. China’s claim on India’s Arunachal
Pradesh are solely based on the premise that
since Tibet had its influence on some parts of
this region at some stage in history, hence these
parts legitimately belong to today’s PRC. Many
Chinese think tanks have started referring to
India’s Arunachal Pradesh as ‘Southern Tibet’.
Some of them have started asking Chinese
government about when does it intend to
‘liberate’ South Tibet from ‘foreign occupation’.

DEMOGRAPHY AS A TOOL

PRC comprises of 56 nationalities today. Out of
these, Hans alone comprise of over 92 percent of
its population today. This is result of a
consistent Han policy of establishing Hans’
demographic dominance through every possible
means. These means include mass migration of
indigenous populations, mass Han settlement in
their areas, killings, forcible birth control
measures or coercive racial integration through
forced or encouraged inter-race marriages.
Forcible imposition of Chinese language in a
highly controlled administration, education and
socio-political national life has contributed its
multiplying impact in spreading the Han domination over past 60 years.

As a result of these policies, a good number of
these ‘nationalities’ have dwindled to just
academic or museum value levels. Few exceptions
are Xinjiang’s Uyighurs  and Tibetans who, helped
by their remoteness from Beijing and harsh
climatic conditions which, have been keeping the
Han migration at bay. But phenomenal expansion of
Chinese roads and railway networks and
communications has lead to an unprecedented flood
of Han population in these regions in recent
years. For example introduction of railways first
up to Gormo and then to Lhasa in Tibet has broken
the physical and psychological barriers that
dissuaded Hans from migrating to Tibet despite
enormous financial and other attractions. Before
the bullet train’s arrival in Lhasa, a Han
migrant official or a contractor had to undertake
at least five days of tiring road journey to
visit his family in mainland China. But today no
place is farther than 48 hours of a comfortable
train journey. In Xinjiang this barrier was broken many years before Tibet.

In China’s history the importance of railways as
a tool of colonialism was underlined long ago in
late nineteenth century when a 16 km long railway
line was laid between Shanghai and Wusong with
foreign help. In “Tools of Empire: Means of
National Salvation” Robert Lee wrote about the
Chinese resistance to colonial railway
programs.”Fearing that railroads connecting
Chinese villages and towns would have a negative
impact on Chinese cultural values, destroy
employment in traditional transport industries,
involve large numbers of ‘European or Westernized
Chinese’ working permanently over a large area,
and require foreign loans, Shen Baozhen, in the
late nineteenth century ordered the demolition of
the first railway as Governor General in Nanjing.” [3]

Taking clue from its own fears Beijing today is
using railways as an effective tool of colonial
control over Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and
many other similar colonies. Besides starting a
process of irreversible demographic change in
Tibet, China’s success in extending its railway
network right up to Lhasa has also multiplied
Beijing’s strategic logistic capabilities in
Tibet vis-à-vis India. Latest developments in
Beijing and Kathmandu indicate that the Chinese
railway network may be soon extended up to Nepal.

When China occupied eastern Tibet’s Kham and Amdo
provinces in 1950 and the remaining parts in
1951, no exact population figures were available.
Later by 1959 when Dalai Lama, the religious king
of Tibet, was forced to flee from Tibet, reliable
estimates put Tibet’s population at around six million.

Although the transfer of Han population from
mainland China to Tibetan areas has gained
significant momentum in past five years, yet
China’s official census figures of 2002 show that
Tibetans account for only 3.5 million as compared
to 154.7 million Chinese population in the four
Chinese provinces namely Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu
and Yunnan, which have assimilated Tibet’s Kham
and Amdo provinces. No wonder Tibetans have
become an insignificant minority in these Chinese
provinces. A majority of these Tibetans live in
ethnic pockets, termed as ‘Provincial Autonomous
Regions’ (PAR) in these four Chinese provinces
today. Remaining Tibet, just one-third of its
original size, was renamed as “Tibet Autonomous
Region’ (TAR) and accounts for about 2 million
Tibetans according to official Chinese records:

Tibet (Original)                          6,000,000 (1959 estimates)*

Tibet (Truncated) i.e. TAR                2,616,329
Sichuan                                  82,348,296
Yunnan                                   42,360,089
Qinghai                                   4,822,963
Gansu                                    25,124,282

Source : (China Statistical Year Book-2002, China Statistics Press, p-100)

* Based on claims of Tibetan government, headed
by Dalai Lama. (Not included in above Chinese official publication)

Although Beijing leaders today look shy of
admitting population transfer as a colonial tool
but until a few years ago they presented it as a
reasonable measure. The process of bringing in
Han population into occupied Tibet started in
1949 itself when PLA first occupied Chamdo and
other parts of Kham province of eastern Tibet.
Its first focus was on developing basic
infrastructure like roads and bridges to
galvanize PLA’s advance. However, a major
watershed year was 1983 when Beijing sent more
than 60,000 workers to Central Tibet. On 14 May,
1984 (1700 hrs bulletin) Radio Beijing announced,
“Over 60 thousand workers, representing the
vanguard groups to help in the construction work
in the TAR are arriving in Tibet daily and have
started their preliminary work. They will be
helping in the electricity department, schools,
hotels, cultural institutions and construction of
mills and factories.  However Radio did not mention the number of days.[4]

In 1985 the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi
officially announced Beijing government’s plans
to transfer (Chinese) population to Tibet on the
pretext that it was to be done to “Change both
the ecological imbalance and the population lack”
not only in Tibet but also in “sparsely populated
outlying regions”. It said that Chinese
“migration should be welcomed by the local
population, and should result in a population
increase of 60 million over the next 30 years in
those regions.” The official announcement further
added claimed that “this is a very conservative
estimate. As a matter of fact, the increase might
swell to 100 million in less than 30 years.” [5]

Further in 1987, Deng Xiaoping admitted in his
meeting with ex-US President Jimmy Carter that
population transfer policy was in action in
Tibet. He asserted that the local population of
Tibet “needs Han immigrants as the region’s
population of about 2 million was inadequate to develop its resources”. [6]

In the case of Xinjiang (East Turkistan) too
Beijing has been focused on flooding the region
with Han population to improve its physical
control over the colony. In 1949 when China’s
People Liberation Army moved in to occupy what
was then known as ‘East Turkistan’, the total Han
population here was not more than 200,000 in a
population of around 10 million. (In Chinese
language ‘Xinjiang’ literally means ‘New Land’.)
According to latest Chinese census, the current
population of Xinjiang East Turkistan is 18.62
million which includes about 7.5 million Hans who
were settled in the newly formed “Autonomous
Uyighur Region of Xinjiang” after 1949. The
population of Muslims in this province is
slightly over 11 million. Among these about 8,68
million are Uyghurs of Turk origin and constitute
the majority while remaining are Kazakhs, Taziks
and others from adjoining Central Asian cultures.

Even though the Uyghurs of Xinjiang have been
facing more violence at the hands of China as
compared to their Tibetan counterparts, they have
failed in attracting as much international
attention and sympathy, especially from the West.
One reason has been the lack of a charismatic
leader like Tibet’s Dalai Lama and the other was
the events of 9/11 in the USA which generated
significant reservations in the West on
supporting a ‘Muslim’ freedom movement. Some
public utterances on behalf of Al Quaida in the
international media in favor of Xinjiang Muslims
have, unfortunately, done more harm than good to
the cause of the Uyghur’s freedom movement.

  Xinjiang’s lack of universally acceptable
leadership has its roots in that fateful and
mysterious ‘accident’ of 1949 in which entire
Uyghur leadership was blown off along with the
airplane that carried them to Beijing for a
‘friendly’ meeting with Chairman Mao.

Summarizing the Chinese policy of ‘Hanification’
of East Turkistan Peter Navaro, a famous western
China watcher writes: “Although China's
iron-fisted repression in Xinjiang borders on the
unbearable, what sticks most in the Uyghur craw
is the ongoing "Hanification" of Xinjiang. As a
matter of policy, for decades the Chinese
government has sought to pacify Xinjiang by
importing large portions of its Han population
from other, primarily poor areas - and even by
exporting young Uyghur women of child-bearing age out of the region.” 7

PRC has strategically distributed new Han
settlers in new settlements in big cities like
Urumqi and Kashghar in a manner that locals have
been slowly pushed to a minority status and
limited mainly to old and underdeveloped parts of
the towns. Most of well paid jobs, contracts and
businesses now are controlled by the Han
migrants. As it happened in Tibet and some other
parts of China, all private and community lands
were transferred to state and commune ownership
during Mao’s ‘Long Leap’ and ‘Cultural
Revolution’ campaigns. Later, at the time of
reorganization all good lands were transferred to
Han settlers and communist party functionaries –
leaving the locals literally high and dry. In
Xinjiang too this lead to deep resentment against
the Chinese rule. No wonder, the Uyighurs have
been giving vent to their anger against the Hans
through innumerable violent expressions since
1949. Anti-Han violence on 5th July this year was
only one of those hundreds of such events. Large
dimension of the riots and presence of foreign
media in Urumqui on that day gave it an added international dimension.

Uyighur leaders allege that the young Uyighur
boys and girls who were target of Han violence in
Guangdong were sent there under the policy of
moving out locals to distant Chinese locations
and bringing in larger number of Hans to fortify
Han control over Xinjiang. For a region which
holds more potential of natural oil and gas than
all oil reserves of USA put together, it is not
difficult to understand Chinese desire to reduce
the Uyighur challenge and improve its physical control in this region.

Ms. Rabiya Kadeer, a leading exile freedom
fighter of East Turkistan and President of World
Uyghur Congress, summarized this situation while
deposing before the Human Rights Caucus of the US
Congress in these words: ”Local authorities
consider the transfer of Uighur women into
China's eastern provinces as one of the most
important government policies and they have
expressed zero tolerance to any kind of
opposition to it… Already, hundreds of thousands
of young Uighur women have been forcibly
transferred from East Turkestan into Beijing,
Tianjin, Jiangsu, Qingdao, Shandong, Zhejiang and other locations,"[8]

‘OUTSIDERS’ IN THEIR OWN HOMELAND

Things are equally serious in neighboring Tibet
where heavy migration of Han settlers in recent
years gave rise to an unprecedented anti-China
public uprising last March. It went on
uncontrolled for over two months despite heavy
Chinese military and police efforts. Like
Xinjiang too, Han settlers in most of Tibetan
cities have turned the table on local
populations. During my two photo expeditions to
all the three Tibetan provinces in recent years,
I was struck by the overwhelming predominance of
Chinese language on shop boards, road signs and
advertisement hoardings across the country.

A Tibetan refugee friend who managed to travel to
Tibet on some family grounds was shocked to
discover that he needed to take a Chinese
speaking member from his host family to do his
shopping in Kongpo because the Chinese sales
staff in shops did not understand Tibetan or
English. On one occasion I too had a similar
experience in a big shopping store in a Lhasa
suburb where I had gone to buy some camera films.
I was worried when I found my Tibetan guide
missing for over fifteen minutes. Later when the
young man finally turned up he told me that he
had gone to the central desk of the store where
the manager was appealing on the public address
system for a Tibetan interpreter. The staff was
stuck with a middle aged Tibetan customer who did
not speak Chinese and none among the migrant
Chinese staff or customers could speak a word in
Tibetan. That explains the impact of Han
migration on the changing ethnic and demographic
character of Lhasa and rest of Tibet.

MIGRANT HANS: BEIJING HAS NEW ALLIES

This demographic change caused by massive Han
migration to Tibet and East Turkistan has
introduced a new factor to the internal situation
in both Chinese colonies. Recent events in Urumqi
and Lhasa involving public protests by local
populations against their Han masters reflect the
emergence of an altogether new factor that has
been missing in the entire history of freedom
struggle of Tibet and East Turkistan. This new
factor is the supportive and supplementary role
of Han migrants. In 1987 and 1989 when Tibetan
people rose up against their Chinese masters in a
big way, all the fire fighting had to be handled
by the Chinese military, police and paramilitary
outfits. During the massive and sudden 1989-Lhasa
uprising, Hu Jin Tao, then Governor of Tibet, had
to use tanks and armored vehicles to crush the
rebellion. The effectiveness of this approach and
his success in crushing the Tibetans’ uprising
established Hu Jin Tao as an outstanding
administrator. This reputation finally took him
to the central power circle in Beijing and paved
his way to the supreme seat that he occupies
today. For his role in crushing the 1989-uprising
Hu is known as the ‘Butcher of Lhasa’ in Tibet.
Interestingly, it was Hu Jin Tao’s this very
‘Lhasa Model’ which was used by Deng Xiao Ping to
crush the historic student uprising at Tien Anman
Square four months later. In Xinjiang too, there
have been numerous events in the past when
Chinese security agencies had to live with
serious losses in bloody clashes with angry
Uyghurs. In one such extremely violent event
during 1990s almost entire population of Han
migrants had to take refuge in army cantonments and railway stations.

HANS BRING A DECISIVE TILT

However, a sizeable migration of Han population
to Tibet and Xinjiang in recent years has
resulted into an almost decisive tilt in favour
of the Chinese administration of these regions.
In TV footage of March 2008 uprising in Lhasa one
could easily see young Han settlers taking
directly at the Tibetan demonstrators. In July
events in Urumqi and Kashgar too, armed Han
settlers played a decisive role in subduing the
Uyighur population through mass killings.

HAN MIGRANTS: BEIJING’S NEW SHOW-WINDOW

A couple of years ago, I had an interesting
interaction with two well known Indians who
currently lead India’s two foreign policy think
tanks. Because of their personal positions, both
are far better informed on China than most other
well informed people I have known for years as a
journalist. One was Mr. Vikram Sood who is a
former Chief of Research & Analysis Wing (RAW),
the counter intelligence agency of India like
USA’s CIA or Pakistan’s ISI. The other was Mr.
Mohan Guruswamy who is a known journalist and a
former senior functionary in the Government of India.

Both of them had just returned from a week long
China sponsored tour of Tibet. Both sounded
excited over the phone about the enormous
economic progress they were exposed to in Lhasa
and surrounding areas. Both appeared extremely
impressed by the wonderful roads, glittering
malls, modern high rise residential complexes and
the overall prosperity of the ‘Tibetan’ people
under the Chinese rule. Being aware of my close
association with the Tibetan issue and Dalai
Lama, both of them had almost identical comments
and suggestions to offer in our two independent
and separate phone discussions: “It seems Dalai
Lama is not aware of the progress and prosperity
the Tibetans are enjoying under the Chinese rule;
Why don’t you advise him to visit Tibet to see
how happy and prosperous the Tibetans are today;
I am sure if he does, he will stop making many of
his routine allegations against the Chinese rule in Tibet …….”

Both of these short phone discussions sounded to
me like going through the writings of a well
known pro-Chinese Indian journalist who has been
religiously representing Chinese government’s
views in Indian media on issues like Tibet and
India-China relations since years. Chinese
government hosts several such intellectuals from
all parts of the world who in turn portray
positive picture of Chinese presence in Tibet.
This time the Chinese government had picked up
the same journalist to accompany these two VIP
guests during their maiden China-Tibet tour.

Had I been hearing such comments first time from
visitors to Tibet or had I not been to Tibet
myself before them, I would have been surely
impressed. Rather, I would have been shocked on
my sad levels of ignorance on a subject that is
dear to me as a journalist and photographer.  In
that case these discussions would have surely put
me to shame for being ‘misinformed’ and ‘taken
for a ride’ by my friend Dalai Lama, his
colleagues and followers.  As the two gentlemen
described separately how ‘happy’ and ‘prosperous’
the Tibetans were in Lhasa streets, shops, cars
and impressive housing complexes, my one straight
question brought their eulogies to a screeching
halt. “Before we go ahead on this matter, please
tell me frankly: can you really distinguish
between a Tibetan and a Han Chinese face in a
Tibetan street?” The result was electrifying. I
must salute the magnanimity and honesty shown by
both of them. Their common and prompt reaction
was, “I am sorry. I must admit that I can’t
distinguish….. OK! I will have to think on this issue again….”

Unfortunately, in  most other similar cases
Beijing’s propaganda department gets away with
presenting hordes of Han Chinese settlers as
‘happy Tibetans’ to hundreds of their guests from
foreign media, diplomats, researchers and
business guests who are taken on sponsored tours
of Tibet every year. One great advantage to
Beijing in this game is that despite remarkable
and basic racial differences between Han and
Tibetan races, it is nearly impossible for most
of foreign visitors to make the distinction
between two Mongoloid races. Unless a visitor is
well informed and understands the difference
between these two races, any smart Chinese
official guide can present a well dressed Han
Chinese as a ‘happy Tibetan’. It is not unusual
that a tourist who has come to see ‘Tibetan’
culture and ‘Tibetans’ in cities like Lhasa or
Shigatse, goes back with the impression that
“Tibetans are happy, free and prosperous” in “China’s Tibet.”

WAR THROUGH STATISTICS

Before 1951 when Chinese troops first time
entered Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, the city’s
population would touch the highest level of
100,000 only during Monlam festival in March
every year as thousands of pilgrims from all over
Tibet would descend on the holy city. Today the
population of an amazingly expanded Lhasa is
somewhere near 500,000. (The number of cars
registered in Lhasa crossed the 100,000 mark
early this year.) But when Chinese government
publications claim that Han migrants account for
‘less than half’ of Lhasa city’s population, a
visitor like me wonders where from so many
Tibetan have come to live in Lhasa? The official
Chinese publications provide an interesting
answer to this puzzle when it is explained that
the population figures don’t include ‘temporary’
residents. These temporary residents actually
refer to those hundreds of thousands of Han
workers, contractors and their family members who
were brought in for those innumerable development
projects whose main purpose is to create new job
opportunities and living space for more Han settlers.

THE MANCHURIAN TRAGEDY

It is interesting to note that China has played
this demographic manipulation game with great
success in most of its other colonies like
Manchuria and Inner Mongolia in the past. In the
case of Manchuria, the misfortunes of this
northern neighbor of China started in late 19th
century when Han manpower from across the China
Wall was invited to lay railway lines in this
thinly populated region. As swarms of Han workers
descended on Manchuria, their extraordinary
talent of multiplying fast left the host country
inundated with the Han population in coming
decades. In later decades, presence of a sizeable
Han population in this region played an important
role in spreading Comrade Mao’s communist
movement in China. In his public expressions of
taking non-Han nationalities with him in this
movement, Mao promised ‘equal’ and ‘respectable’
participation to them in new China of his vision.
In order to win support of these nationalities
during his communist revolution, he created a
special Central United Front Work Department of
Chinese Communist Party. Quite cleverly, he later
converted this department into a powerful central
official tool to ensure that all non-Han
nationalities (55 in number) remain under the PRC control.

Interestingly, most of these ‘nationalities’ were
the same very ‘barbarian’ countries like
Manchuria, (Inner) Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet
whom the Hans have been fighting and fearing
through the history. It was Hans’ fear of these
very countries and races that they had erected
the ‘Great Wall of China” around their country.
As an assurance of ‘fairness’ , ‘equality’ and
‘respect towards individual identity’ of these
countries Mao created a special ‘Autonomous
Region’ system to govern these regions. In his
public announcements he even granted these
nationalities the ‘right to dissociate themselves from PRC’.

AUTONOMY -- A COLONIAL TRAP

On the face of it this policy appeared to ensure
due autonomy for these nationalities from
provincial governments. But in actual practice it
turned out to be a clever ploy of Mao to govern
these countries directly from Beijing. It is
interesting to note that while all provincial
governments have their laws and systems to govern
their regions, all such rights on these
‘Autonomous Regions’ were transferred to the
Communist Party leadership in Beijing. The Party,
in turn, undertook a special demographic campaign
which was aimed at overwhelming these regions
with Han population to ensure that local
populations are reduced to a meaningless minority
in their own homelands. It was an effective ploy
to ensure that these nationalities do not dare to
break away from PRC or pose any threat to the
‘unity’ of PRC. It is noteworthy that Manchuria
too was initially labeled as “Autonomous Region
of Manchuria”. But once it was decisively
overwhelmed by Han population, this title was
quietly removed. The same process is now in
progress in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet.

MEANINGLESS MINORITY IN THEIR OWN HOMES

During one of my later visits to Lhasa as a
common tourist, I was surprised to note that most
of vantage positions occupied by Tibetan beggars
at popular tourist spots like Norbulingka palace,
Drepung and Sera monastery had been taken over by
Han Chinese beggars. Most of the pavement stalls
in various Lhasa bazaars were now owned and
overwhelmed by Han shopkeepers and customers.
Situation is still worse in Cities of Amdo and
Kham, the two provinces of Tibet which were
scooped out of Tibet and merged in surrounding
Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Quinghai
and Gansu soon after China occupied Tibet in 1950s.

In Xiling, the capital of Quinghai (Tib : ‘Amdo’)
one will have to let more than 500 Hans to pass
by before one can spot the first Tibetan face on
a heavily crowded road. The famous Kham city of
Gyalthang faces a still more interesting dilemma
today. At Dali, a popular tourist town a couple
of hundred km away, the booking girl at the
government bus station shrugged her shoulders in
disgust when she found that her computer had no
destination named as ‘Gyalthang’. After seeing my
map and a chat with some colleagues she had a
smile on her face. “Its not Gyalthang. Its
Zongdian!’, she exclaimed. Like most of Tibetan
towns Gyalthang had been rechristened with a new
Chinese name ‘Zongdian’ as a part of Chinese
policy that helps migrant Hans feel more at home.

Interestingly, Zongdian too is now gone. It is
feverishly being marketed as ‘Shangri-La’ to
present the real ‘heaven’ as described by British
author James Hilton in his 1933 novel ‘Lost
Horizon’.  In this new found heaven of Beijing
rulers, the traditional old town has been
uprooted to accommodate new tourist facilities
and resident Tibetans have been pushed out to the
new city where they find themselves reduced to a
meaningless minority in the midst of an ocean of
migrant Han population. Nearer home, the first
Tibetan town ‘Dram’ that greets the foreign
visitors via Nepal too has lost its Tibetan name
and character. It is now renamed as ‘Zhangmu’ and
is more of a Han Chinese town than a traditional
Tibetan one. Just a few more examples of this
lingual imperialism: Labrang is ‘Xiahe’; Rebkong
is ‘Huangnan’; Trango is ‘Luhuo’, Kardze is
‘Ganzi’; Dortsedo is ‘Khangding’; Tsonub is
‘Haixi’’ Tsochang is ‘Haibei’ and Nyarong is
‘Xinlong’. Even famous Kumbum monastery town near
present Dalai Lama’s birthplace has been renamed
to ‘Huangzhong’. This sleepy village of Amdo
Tibetans and Hui Muslims is today flooded with
over a million Hans living in a jungle of skyscrapers.

Besides giving new Chinese names to many places
in this region, many new Chinese towns have been
developed all over Tibet. 1200 km long
Gormo-Lhasa route, known only for snow and yaks,
hums with at least two dozen new towns around new
railway stations. In farther and remote region
along Tibet-Nepal-India borders small villages
and towns like Nyelam and Lhatse are buzzing as
crowded Han towns. This policy has a serious
impact on controlling the movement of those
Tibetan citizens who, until very recently, used
to flee to Nepal -- at an average of 2500-3000
per year. This process of Sinofication of Tibetan
towns and villages has gained a new speed with the arrival of railway line.

IMPACT ON SOUTH ASIA

Tibetan occupation and demographic manipulation
by China has its own impact on South Asia,
especially India. China’s geographic interface
with South Asia is just as old as its occupation
of Tibet (1951). Before People’s Liberation Army
(PLA) of Mao forced the Dalai Lama’s theocratic
government of Tibet to merge Tibet into People’s
Republic of China in 1951, China never had even
an inch of common borders with India, Pakistan,
Nepal, Sikkim or Bhutan. Since times history was
recorded, no section of Tibet bordering with
these countries was ever governed or even
remotely controlled by the writ or men from
Beijing. It was only after China occupied Tibet
that ‘India-Tibet’ border had to be renamed as
‘India-China’ border. Just before occupying
Tibet, China had already occupied East Turkistan
which resulted in extending China’s borders
further in Central Asia up to Tazikistan,
Kirghizistan and Kazakhastan provinces of
erstwhile Soviet Union as well as up to Pakistan
and India. Later when Pakistan handed over some
parts of Ladakh to China it snapped India’s only
link with East Turkistan and helped China in
establishing a direct road link from Tibet to Pakistan.

It is a well established fact that before Chinese
occupation of Tibet, Tibetan currency, Tibetan
Post and Tibetan check posts on the Tibetan side
of Himalayas defined an exclusively Tibetan and
non-Chinese character of Tibet’s borders with its South Asian neighbors.

MAO: A REVOLUTIONARY IMPERIALIST

Soon after Chairman Mao’s ‘People’s Republic of
China’ (PRC) came into being in 1949, the new
communist government announced its intentions of
liberating Tibet, Xinjiang (then ‘East
Turkistan’), Hainan and Taiwan in order to give
shape to Chairman Mao’s dream of a larger China.
In his dream of a ‘New China’ Mao had a special
place for Tibet. Even before his communist
revolution succeeded in China, Mao had already
announced his plans about South Asia and India.
He is on record claiming, “Tibet is China’s palm
and Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and NEFA (now
‘Arunachal Pradesh’) are its fingers.”  Though
Tibet with its 6 million (1959 estimates) people
contributes less than 0.5 percent of population
to PRC, but it accounts for over 25 percent land
mass of today’s PRC. Similarly Xinjiang
contributes more than 15 percent of China’s land
while contributing less than one percent of
population. This way Tibet and Xinjiang account
for over 40 percent land of PRC.

TWO DIFFERENT APPROACHES

What followed is a history of clear focus and
smart action on the Chinese part in occupied
Tibet and persistent suicidal indifference and
foggy vision on the part of countries like India.
Today China is far more entrenched inside
occupied and remotely located Tibet than India,
Nepal or Bhutan are in their own respective
territorie along this 4000 km long border. Today
China’s defence machinery enjoys support of a
massive network of roads, military
establishments, logistic facilities, nuclear
facilities and communications network in occupied
Tibet. For example, China’s Army along the Indian
Himalayas is served by an end to end all weather
roads along this border. These roads are well
integrated with the main network of Chinese
highways in Tibet. In sharp contrast, with the
exception of Nathu-la in Sikkim, not a single
Indian Army post along this 4000 km long border
is supported by a pucca or all-weather road.
Linear road links along the border on Indian side
don’t even exist as a concept. It was only after
a barrage of Chinese claims and threats on
Arunachal Pradesh that Indian government has
suddenly woken up and decided in late 2007 to
connect some border points with roads.

IMPACT ON SOUTH ASIA

It would be too simplistic, rather naïve, to
believe that the impact of Chinese occupation of
Tibet and Xinjiang has been limited only to
Tibet, Xinjiang and their populations. Subsequent
events in past 60 years have proved beyond doubt
that no other development in Asia during 20th
century has had more impact on the geo-political
character of South Asia than the fall of Tibet
into China’s hands. Perhaps the best possible
description of this development was expressed in
the telegraphic message which the Indian
Consulate General in Lhasa had sent to New Delhi
following PLA’s attack on Tibet. It said,
“Chinese have entered Tibet. Himalayas have
ceased to exist”. Before Chinese occupation of
Tibet it has been a common belief in India that
Himalayas were the protectors of India. But
events after the fall of Tibet have shown that it
was actually a free Tibet, which stood as a
security buffer between China and India.

NEPAL: CHINA’S SATELLITE?

When China occupied Tibet, many political
observers feared that Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim
would be the next on Beijing’s list. But going by
its typical style of keeping everyone guessing
till the last moment, China adopted the policy of
developing these newly acquired neighbors as
levers to contain India’s influence. This policy
has worked very effectively on Nepal, Pakistan,
Myanmar and Bangla Desh. It has made India
defensive rather offensive on Tibet.
Unfortunately, Indian diplomacy in most of its
neighborhood has failed miserably. In Nepal this
policy has paid best rewards to Beijing. It is
difficult to understand that despite consistent
financial aid, close cultural and ethnic links,
favorable treaties and an open border policy with
Nepal, Indian diplomacy has proved a near
disaster. Recent emergence of Maoists in Nepal as
most influential game players, this Chinese game
appears to be reaching its logical end.

Even before the Maoists reached commanding
heights in Nepal its most governments have been
practically behaving as a virtual ally, if not a
satellite state, of China vis-à-vis India. While
anything Chinese is today perceived as ‘friendly’
in Nepal, ‘India’ has almost become a four-letter
word in Nepal’s social and political parlance. A
slightest provocation against India can easily
lead to wide spread violence and riots against
Indian traders and other Indian interests in
Nepal. While Indian has been heaping tons of
money on Nepal’s development, Beijing has been
cleverly investing its chips in winning over
Nepalese political leadership, bureaucracy, army,
police, intellectuals and media. It is,
therefore, not surprising that even on a
blatantly clear issue like spread of Maoist
movement in Nepal the ordinary Nepalese today has
come to believe that this movement is sponsored
from India. It is not surprising that Nepal today
has emerged as a safe breeding ground for all
kinds of anti-Indian terrorist and separatist
groups from Pakistan, Banglades and India itself.

In matters of developmental aid too, it is not a
coincidence that Chinese government has been
liberally helping Nepal to develop its road
network which is capable of taking the Chinese
army to the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Bihar
and West Bengal in the event of a direct clash with India.

BANGLA DESH: ANTI-INDIA ALLY OF CHINA

Bangladesh too has emerged as yet another
reliable ally of China in the latter’s plans to
encircle and contain India. This all looks
paradoxical as Bangla Desh owes its birth to
India and it was China who did everything
possible to stop Bangladesh from getting
international recognition when it came into
existence in 1971. Today a defence treaty between
Bangladesh and China assures each other
protection in the event of an attack from a
‘third country’. Until recent political
developments in Bangladesh which installed a
pro-India government in Dhaka, almost all
previous governments had been giving an free hand
to anti-Indian terror outfits which are directly
or indirectly supported by Pakistan and China. A
nightmare that currently haunts Indian security
planners is a scenario that involves China
joining hands with such forces in Bangladesh from
the South and Nepali Maoists in the North to
choke the 25 km wide ‘Chicken-Neck’ corridor that
offers the only land link between the seven
North-Eastern Indian states and the rest of
India. Many security observers fear that the
Indian Maoists’ ‘Naxalite corridor’ from Nepal to
Andhra Pradesh has Beijing’s support to make
things worse for India in such an eventuality.

BHUTAN: WORRIES FROM CHINA

Although Bhutan has close relations with India,
the Chinese presence in neighboring Tibet has
been keeping Thimpu rulers on tenterhooks since
decades. Frequent Chinese aggressive postures
along Tibet-Bhutan border which have been
continuously limiting Bhutan’s options in its
relations with two giant neighbors. Presence of
some anti-Indian terror groups in Bhutan, with
direct or indirect support from Beijing, has been
taxing India-Bhutan relations seriously in recent years.

MYANMAR: TAKING CHINA TO INDIAN OCEAN

As a result of Beijing’s material and political
support to the Myanmar army dictators, China has
emerged as their most reliable ally. China has
cleverly leveraged this advantage to promote its
strategic interests in this region of South Asia
- especially against India. It is not surprising
that Myanmar has emerged as a perfect operation
ground for China supported anti-India militant
outfits from North-Eastern Indian states. Indian
security agencies have been expressing concerns
over Chinese sponsored air strips in such
Mayanmar areas near Indian border where the
Yangoon government had no visible reasons to undertake such construction.

But worse has happened for India in the coastal
regions of Myanmar where China has established
its naval listening posts in Coco islands of
Myanmar which is just 40 km away from Indian
naval bases at Andman and Nicobar islands.
Myanmar has also provided a direct land link up
to the coast to Chinese Navy to register its
presence in the Indian Ocean. This littoral
access to China in the Indian Ocean is believed
to be a serious threat to Indian security and supremacy in Indian Ocean.

PAKISTAN : COMMON INTERESTS WITH CHINA     One of
the most serious fall outs of Chinese occupation
of Tibet against India has come in the shape of a
direct geo-link as well as military and political
alliance between China and Pakistan. History of
past six decades shows that this alliance has
proved mutually suitable and profitable to both
in their dealings with India. All subsequent
Pakistani governments, whether elected or
dictatorial, have been religiously sharing one
common goal with Beijing --- going to any length to see India in trouble.

Following Sino-Indian war of 1962, Pakistan has
emerged as China’s most favored ally, rather a
proxy, in its attempts to contain India. China’s
unparalleled role in the nuclear arming of
Pakistan; handing over of some strategic chunks
of Aksai-Chin in Ladakh region of Jammu and
Kashmir by Pakistan to China; Pakistan’s
permission to China to build Karakoram Road
through Pakistani occupied J&K territory; and
recent development of Gwadar naval base in the
Arabian Sea jointly with China only underline the
serious dimensions of Beijing-Islamabad strategic nexus in this region.

China’s new option of moving its army and Naval
troops right up to Arabian Sea through Pakistan
has posed serious danger to India's security.
This has considerably eroded India’s supremacy
over Pakistan along its Western coast. Ongoing
construction of a dual purpose port at Hambantota
in Sri Lanka by China and hectic scouting for
naval bases in Indian Ocean has only tilted the
situation against India further. Recent reports
(May 2009) indicate that Beijing and Islamabad
are seriously contemplating extension of Chinese
railway from Kashgar in Sinkiang to Pakistan. On
the nuclear front too, any nuclear flare up
between India and Pakistan is going to prove
fruitful to China in every conceivable eventuality.

VULNERABLE SOUTH ASIA
This way we see that the occupation of Tibet and
East Turkistan (Xinjiang) by China has not only
hurt the national interests of the Tibetans and
Uyghur people, it has also created many serious
problems for other countries in South Asia too –
especially India. While enormous mineral assets
and land mass of these two regions have added to
the economic and geo-political strength of China,
it has rendered many surrounding countries in this region quite vulnerable.

Notes
1. YouTube, 27th June, 2009 (To view,
visit:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_PJTO2k0PM).
2. YouTube 6th July, 2009 (for video images of
5th July, 2009 Uyghur demonstrations visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7fAyRnmcLk).
3. "Tools of empire or means of national
salvation? The railway in the imagination of
western empire builders and their enemies in
Asia," Robert Lee, University of Western Sydney, Macarthur)
4. Radio Beijing, 1700 hrs bulletin on 14th May, 1984
5. "Movement Westward," reference material nr. 2,
Embassy of the PRC, New Delhi, 4th Feb. 1985)
6. Reuter’s report from Beijing on 10 June, 1987)
7. "THE HANIFICATION OF XINJIANG," Asia Times,
Hongkong, 19 August, 2008. Peter Navarro is
Professor at Merage School of Business at the
Univ of California-Irvine and author of "THE COMING CHINA WARS").
8. Reuters, Wed, Oct 31, 2007 8:53pm EDT:
http://www.uhrp.org/articles/554/1/Uighur-activist-asks-US-to-help-stop-China-removals-/index.html)


Vijay Kranti,  BC 48, West Shalimar Bagh, Delhi-110088. India.
vijaykranti@yahoo.com , Mobile : +91-98102 45674
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