Oppression cries out from behind the Himalayas as Tibetans are completely shut off from the rest of the world by China’s impenetrable digital wall of surveillance and drones.
The digital wall
China always has had its share of territorial and racial problems, whether it be with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang or Kazakhs, Mongols, and so on. Tibet is a territory that is especially “at risk,” according to Beijing, since the natives have a strong distaste for the communist regime. As such, the Chinese government maintains a tight grip on the Tibetan minority.
In the past, the government had problems keeping Tibetans from fleeing the country. Thanks to the Himalayas, many have fled from Chinese occupation due to the fact that the military found it hard to patrol the borders of the mountains. Most Tibetans found refuge in India, Nepal, and other countries. According to estimates, 150,000 Tibetans are living overseas. But today, the number of Tibetan escapees has fallen sharply. With technological advancement in China, the government has built a digital wall that can detect Tibetans trying to run away from the region.
Tibetans’ cry for justice has often made headlines across the globe. “The uprising itself was responsible for the kind of paranoia that we see with the Chinese authorities… They really want to stop anyone from coming in, or going out,” said Director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Tsering Tsomo (Coda Story).
The Chinese government wants the world to believe that Tibetans are happily living in their homes. But in reality, that is far from the truth. Human rights groups say that Tibetans are now being oppressed far worse than ever before, since the “digital wall” allows the state to have absolute control over the people.
A problem with minorities
While China is trying to present a “progressive” image of itself on the global stage, the harsh truth is that President Xi’s regime represses everyone who opposes him. The Communist Party has long been condescending to the ethnic minorities of China. As a national power rising from the ashes to claim its past glorious days, the country is keen to silence incidents of human rights violations, believing that the collective cries will tarnish their reputation in the world.
According to Yun Sun, Head of the Stimson Center’s China program, the state believes that if matters with ethnic minorities are dealt with properly, the public outcry could push political reform that would endanger the grip of one-party rule. The government is also afraid that granting ethnic autonomy to groups like Uyghurs and Tibetans could prompt the secession of Tibet and Xinjiang (home of the Uyghurs) — a “de facto disintegration of China.”
Secession in particular “is not a political scenario that the central Chinese government can afford… It would lose its legitimacy in front of the Chinese people,” according to Sun (Axios). However, given the intensity of oppression that Tibetans and other minorities face at the hands of Beijing, Yun Sun believes secession or autonomy is possible.
People outside China think that Beijing’s policy toward minorities is just its expression of controlling dissent. But it runs deeper than making China great again. The government’s authoritarian policy is driven by ethnic prejudice and racism. It seeks to reduce the status of ethnic minorities by elevating the majority Han people as the superior race in the country. If this continues, China will have a hard time building a peaceful society that other countries can look up to.