China Seizes On a Dark Chapter for Tibet

The New York Times revisits the history of the British in Gyantse, Tibet and looks at how the government is trying to shape the narrative:

These days, Gyantse resembles other towns in central Tibet. Its dusty roads are lined with shops and restaurants run by ethnic Han migrants, whom many Tibetans see as the most recent wave of invaders.

But Chinese officials prefer to direct the world’s attention away from that and to the brutal events at Gyantse in 1904, which conveniently fit into their master narrative for Tibetan and Chinese history.

The Chinese government insists Tibet is an “inalienable” part of China, and it has appropriated the 1904 invasion as another chapter in the long history of imperialist efforts to dismantle China — what the Communist education system calls the “100 years of humiliation.”

In that Communist narrative of Gyantse, the Tibetans are a stand-in for the Chinese who were victimized by foreign powers during the Qing dynasty.

“The local people resisted the British there,” said Dechu, a Tibetan woman from the foreign affairs office in Lhasa who accompanied foreign journalists on a recent official tour of Tibet. “They put up a great resistance, so it’s called the City of Heroes.”


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