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China's Tibetan intermarriage policy sparks outrage

Authorities incentivize ethnic Han-Tibetan pairings

China's Tibetan intermarriage policy sparks outrage

China is encouraging marriages between Han Chinese and ethnic Tibetans. (Photo courtesy of Églises d’Asie)

Églises d’Asie

August 21, 2014

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Earlier this month, the Chinese Communist Party issued instructions for intermarriage that have sparked outrage among rights groups, who denounced the move as a new phase in the destruction of traditional Tibetan identity.

After decades of propaganda that portrayed Tibetans as a backward race with whom the blood of true Chinese (Han) should not be mixed, Beijing has now adopted a policy that advocates “assimilation through marriage”.

This “peaceful unification”, denounced by pro-Tibetan non-governmental organizations as a silent process of annihilation of an ethnic minority, does not preclude the use of violence. Just last week, Chinese authorities violently suppressed a peaceful demonstration.

Chinese officials in charge of the Tibet Autonomous Region have in recent weeks ordered local newspapers to publish articles that encourage mixed marriages.

Chen Quanguo, a Communist Party secretary in Tibet, recently organized a photo shoot featuring 19 mixed marriage families.

“Nothing is stronger than ties of blood,” Quanguo was quoted as saying in a report by the Tibetan Daily.

Quanguo said the government had decided to “actively promote mixed marriages” and urged other officials in Tibet to “act as matchmakers” to support the “Great Fatherland, Chinese culture and the way of socialism”.

In a report published this month, the Research Office of the Communist Party in Tibet said that intermarriage has increased significantly in the last several years.

According to the study, mixed marriages grew from nearly 700 in 2008 to more than 4,700 in 2013.

The report ascribes the cause of the increase to “management excellence by Beijing in the Tibetan region”, with emphasis on progress in social security and family planning, among other things.

Quanguo also addressed the importance of benefits associated with mixed marriages, including allowances for children and better access to employment.

These marriages bring with them financial and social benefits for the couples while also circumventing the country’s one-child policy, which is still in place but has been less strictly enforced.

Han-Tibetan couples are allowed up to three children, but parents must report the ethnicity of each of their children at birth, and the adoption of Han names has been incentivized to prevent children from facing discrimination and to secure access to schools and jobs.

The policy allows for the further dilution of Tibetan culture in favor of the Han majority with each new generation.

Many Han ‘settlers’ in Tibet make no secret of their reasons for relocating – financial benefits and the greater possibility of finding a wife.

Tibetan activist Tsering Woeser compared the promotion of such marriages to the worst practices of colonization in an interview with the Washington Post this week.

She said there is nothing wrong with couples from different backgrounds getting married because they love each other. Woeser is herself married to Han Chinese dissident Wang Lixiong.

But the situation is entirely different when authorities use such marriage as a tool for assimilation, she said.

“This is nothing less than an attempt to dissolve the Tibetan identity in the Han Chinese culture.”

Statistics on the exact number of Tibetans in the autonomous region are difficult to come by, but the government in exile in Dharamsala says there are between three and six million.

They comprise between 80 to 90 percent of the population in the region. The capital Lhasa has about 50 percent Tibetans, with the other half comprising Han Chinese and other ethnic groups.

This article appears courtesy of Églises d’Asie, the information agency of the Paris Foreign Missions. Translated and edited from the original French, it is published here by permission.

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