First Time I Feel Ashamed to be Han, and Lucky to Not Be a Party Member
I’ve wanted to write something for a while in the wake of the latest developments in Tibetan regions. But after seeing press reports by media outlets from home and abroad, I don’t know whom to believe in. I lost my judgment. I tried to start writing, but then couldn’t continue because my feelings are too complex. This afternoon, I talked to a colleague again about this issue and the conversation escalated into a fight. The colleague finally used a very “Chinese Communist” style to stop me from “venting angry words.” Faced with irrationality, I zipped my mouth. I’ve worked with a variety of people, but I didn’t imagine that there are people who have been brainwashed so much, and I started to realize this issue isn’t a small matter!
The key is, a lot of Han and some ethnic Tibetans with vested interests have become blind to the blue sky, white clouds, green mountains and water. Amidst the long history and mystical culture of Tibet, their brains are only thinking about how to commercialize these things. They don’t know that many aspects of the Tibetan way of life, religion and custom, culture and values are gradually being dismantled. Neither do they know that the dignity of Tibetans is shedding tears, and many Tibetans are struggling…
Looking at Tibet, I sometimes feel ashamed to be a Han. Since first coming to Tibet in 2006 I often think about these issues: What on earth does Tibet need, how should it develop and who does it need to lead that development? I have no power to resist anything, nor do I have the intention to resist, after all our motherland is slowly making progress and our party is gradually inching toward democracy. As an ethnic university graduate and a Han who now works in the Tibetan region, these topics have surrounded me every day of my working life.
In a civilized world in the 21st Century, when something incredible happens in a certain area but many people around us (including Tibetans) yell out about a crackdown and mass killing, should we seriously reflect on ourselves: Why? I have picked an article by an alumni [of the Central University of Nationalities] below. As a member of the Chinese nation, no matter which ethnicity, we, the future of the country, shall rethink the whole issue!
Those Who Throw Out Angry Rhetoric Please Apologize to Tibetan Compatriots
What I write has no intention to be separatist or to damage ethnic solidarity. I love my motherland, love my people and love all my compatriots. I only hope that in this huge family, we can truly love one another, understand and tolerate one another, and truly live a harmonious life.
We always mistakenly believe that whatever we do is progressive, but we are repeatedly committing mistakes.
While walking on the streets in Lhasa, I always have a subconscious sad feeling. In a sacred place like Lhasa, I cannot find where I belong, and I’ve lost my direction. Jiangsu Road, Beijing Road, so on and so forth, these names pop up in front of my eyes. Roads named in Tibetan are few in number, and the city makes one feel like being in a mainland town. Children beggars swarm around me and when I see their aspiring eyes and the joy of getting some money, my heart bleeds, and language becomes pale. Occasionally, made-up ladies cozy up and wave toward me, wanting to saying something but I understand they are not just saying hello to me.
The whole sacred city is filled with aid construction. I am not saying this is not good, and Tibetan people very much appreciate the help from other ethnic groups and the care from the central government. But those Hunan-aided and Shandong-financed post boards stand up high on the top of buildings, fearing that not enough people will recognize their generosity. But this philanthropic advertising is overstretched. Every ethnicity has its dignity, so imagine, will this hurt the feelings of the Tibetans? And the assistance buildings are not constructed based on Tibetan culture and ideas, but wild shapes and structures. Will Tibetans like these houses?
Nowadays, there are so many prostitutes on the boulevards and small lanes, they number at least in the thousands. There was once a women’s movement that put out a slogan that says “Sichuan women get out, husbands return home.” Imagine how many people are engaged in prostitution! We cannot blame the Tibetan ethnicity, these are imports from the mainland. And their influence is so deep that it’s unimaginable. Those colorful women fill the streets wide and narrow and beam their seductive eyes around the crowds, which is for sure a blasphemy on Lhasa’s image. Still, we have no regret and, instead, have turned the sacred town into a setting of indulgence and satiating lust.
Some even say that Tibetans are dark-colored and dirty. Yes, Tibetans are dark-skinned, but they have a red heart and pure belief. Look at us who believe ourselves to be light-colored. We feel proud about our faces being covered with chemical compounds. Tibetans are not dirty, and their hearts are pure and kind.
We always stress the importance of Mandarin. Indeed Chinese is important and it’s our national official language. But in Lhasa and many Tibetan ethnic regions, there is a popular saying that goes, “Tibetan is a formality but Mandarin is the rice bowl.” That’s exactly as I see it–Many Tibetan students work hard on Mandarin for their future, and, as a result, many forget their own language. Of course there are a lot of reasons for this, for example some schools don’t have Tibetan language curriculum at all, and classes of mainland students are not allowed to speak Tibetan, etc. Language is the root of an ethnic group and to a great extent is a symbol that distinguishes one race from another. Without a language, an ethnic culture will also die along with it. On the other hand how many Han people understand Tibetan language and script? Which makes us feel deeply ashamed and sorry. There are so many Tibetans who can fluently speak Mandarin. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad about this, but I feel there’s a serious lack of understanding between the two ethnic groups.
Han people have their own holidays and customs, so do the Tibetans. In Lhasa, along with more contact with other ethnic groups, many Tibetans started to celebrate Han holidays, such as dragon boat festival and tomb sweeping festival, etc. But few spend Tibetan holidays with Tibetans. Some say Han culture is so tolerant and so influential. But do you truly understand the Tibetan holidays?
When some people talk about sky burial, they associate it with cruelty and horror. But have you ever thought about that when a dead body is incinerated it perishes and when it gets buried it becomes part of the soil, while heavenly burial benefits other animals and alleviates their hunger, thus protecting them. What a noble burial and selfless funeral is this. But it is regarded as barbarian, primitive, cruel. So when you talk about this please read up a little and understand more about it!
Many still stubbornly believe that rice is the best staple food. But when told that Tibetans eat Tsangba [roasted barley], their facial expression reflects shock, contempt, dismissal. It’s ridiculous and stupid and ignorant because tsangba is actually a pure and unpolluted natural food.
All these examples are beyond reason but they happen around us. Some only know that there are Tibetans in Tibet, but don’t know that there are Tibetans in other provinces. Some only know there’s a Lhasa in Tibet but don’t know any other place there. But they still randomly say outrageous things about Tibet.
Let’s also talk about those cadres who assisted the development of Tibet. Were/are they really coming to help Tibet? So many of them have returned to their home bases for promotions after a short stint in Tibet. I heard about a friend’s uncle, who stayed in Tibet for less than four years and took 800,000 yuan back to the mainland. There are many stories like this, going back home from Tibet to skyrocket in their career or buy villas, so on and so forth. Did they come to Tibet to work for the good of Tibetans? How much contribution did they make to Tibet? Where did the money go after the state earmarked it for Tibet? I don’t even want to imagine, the more I think about it the more frightful it gets.
Let me also talk about the inner land (neidi) classes for Tibetans. I don’t know about other ethnic groups’ neidi classes but I know quite a bit about the Tibetan ones. Everything they study is written in Mandarin and the history they learn is also Han history. What about Tibetan history? As a Tibetan who doesn’t know his/her own history, is he/she still a Tibetan? Of course there is reason for this but shall we consider their racial feelings and ethnic belonging? Many years later, many kids have made tremendous progress in Mandarin but their Tibetan level is still elementary.
Let me also talk a bit about March 14.
China’s coverage of it has been indeed thorough and detailed. But some issues have been haunting me still. For instance, in the news, a lot of information was “according to reliable sources/materials.” I don’t know how reliable these pieces of information are. Where on earth are the sources? Why not tell us, the public?
Videos on March 14 shown on the Internet are truly saddening. No matter which ethnic group, it’s heart-wrenching. But let’s look at the comments and our netizens, who speak about killing or exterminating in every sentence. Why are we so extremist? Why so partial? How about let’s try not to preemptively judge certain people without getting the whole story?
No ethnic group is composed of all good people. Why not say things like that? Shall we also reflect upon our own behavior and our own mistakes? To kill all Tibetans, isn’t it a little irresponsible?
We did make efforts to develop solidarity and the growth of Han and Tibetan cultures. But we ignore the feelings and belief of Tibetan compatriots. We did give, but we didn’t do it sincerely enough and not perfectly enough. Not only shall we give in terms of material, but also spiritual, support. We shall offer our help with an equal and caring attitude, not just to do cosmetic work. Think about it: China has run Tibet for so many years and now we have this situation over there, there are so many things we should reflect on about ourselves. We cannot always think that we are always right and we are the best.
For those who randomly say outrageous things, please apologize to our kind Tibetan compatriots. Only mutual understanding and trust can build up our truly harmonious society…
(Note: this article has been deleted three times on campus Internet forum. It was delayed for republishing today [April 1], only to express my opinion, there’s no other motive. Viewers’ tolerance is greatly appreciated.)