Freed in 2021 after five years in jail, the Tibetan activist from Kham is again harassed and threatened by the police.
by Lopsang Gurung
It appears that the trials of Tashi Wangchuk have not ended. The well-known Tibetan intellectual from Qinghai province, who spent five years in jail between 2016 and 2021, went to the government office in Yushu City, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province on January 12, 2022, and asked to meet the mayor and the CCP city secretary. His purpose was to advocate for the use of Tibetan language in the Prefecture. However, he was denied access to the building.
On January 17, officers knocked at his door and took him to the police station, where he was interrogated for two hours and threatened with a new arrest. He was accused of posting comments about Tibetan language on Weibo, which he was told is illegal, as he reported himself on his Weibo account.
Tashi Wangchuk’s predicament is typical of Tibetans from Kham, one of Tibet’s historical provinces, which was not included by the Chinese in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) but was made a part of Qinghai province. Tibetan language is now under attack even in the TAR, but even more outside of it. In Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai, in 2015, the schools stopped the bilingual teaching Chinese-Tibetan and switched to Chinese only. Some kept a specific course of Tibetan, while teaching curricular subjects in Chinese, and some eliminated Tibetan altogether. Parents started sending their children to private courses of Tibetan language in monasteries, until the latter were told that they could teach Tibetan to monks only.
Tashi Wangchuk, who had been arrested twice before for his criticism of the CCP, became the leader of the protest in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and was even interviewed by The New York Times. For a moment, it seemed that his campaign, which enjoyed widespread support among Tibetan-speaking families in Qinghai, was inducing the authorities to negotiate.
However, in 2016 he was arrested and on May 22, 2018, the Intermediate Court of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture sentenced him to five years in jail for “separatism.” Since his pre-trial detention was counted as part of the five years, he was released on January 26, 2021.
He told friends and posted on Weibo that, after five years, he found the situation in the Prefecture even worse. Web sites and social media accounts in Tibetan from Qinghai had disappeared. He felt he needed to advocate again for Tibetan language in Kham before it would be too late. These efforts may now land him in jail again.