"National Day" commemoration highlights political duties of Tibetans
TIN News Update
/19 December 2001
The Chinese authorities marked the 52nd anniversary of the foundation of the People's Republic of China ("National Day") in Tibet this year with a flag-raising ceremony in the Potala Square in Lhasa attended by hundreds of army troops and Tibetans including schoolchildren who marched behind a red flag
photographs of the ceremony can be viewed at: http://www.tibetinfo.net/reports/trlead/nationalday1.htm.
Residents of Tibet's capital were required to buy and display red flags for the occasion, and some were fined if they failed to display them on houses and shops. Reports that have reached TIN recently refer to the continuing frustration and resentment among many Tibetans about the requirement to participate in political ceremonies and meetings.
A Tibetan from Lhasa who has arrived in exile told TIN: "The local neighbourhood committees told their local residents to show their love for the motherland and gratitude to the Party on the occasion of the
52nd founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China by buying and displaying the Chinese national flag on 1 October. This was described as a matter of political duty." The same source said that some Tibetans in the Shol district of Lhasa (below the Potala Palace) who had failed to display the flag were fined amounts of up to several hundred yuan. Families in the same area who had failed to display the flag were also questioned by neighbourhood committees, according to the same Tibetan.
A westerner who has lived in Lhasa said: "Many Tibetan [intellectuals] have told me that they enjoy the conveniences of modernity, but they see themselves as being in a completely suffocating situation, living under a regime where they cannot express or say things they want to. They use the Tibetan word 'dzunma', which means false or inauthentic [in a colloquial sense] to describe their experience of the Chinese Communist state." A Tibetan scholar originally from Lhasa who now lives in exile told TIN: "Tibetans use the word 'dzunma' to refer to the Communist system and the society they live in. In general Tibetans in Lhasa don't support the political ceremonies they are required to attend but they have no choice; they have been forced to adapt to leading a double life."
A Tibetan journalist who maintains contact with Tibetans in the region expressed the view that there was some resentment among Tibetan cadres and scholars when the requirement to attend political meetings was intensified from the late 1980s and early 1990s onwards, following a period of political liberalisation in the early 1980s. The journalist told TIN: "These days there is a level of acceptance among Tibetan cadres and scholars about the political meetings they are required to attend; they accept this as a fact of life, as a required ritual they have to go through. It does seem that since Guo Jinlong took over as Party Secretary in Tibet [in autumn 2000], the meetings are less intense politically - but some cadres are concerned about the increasing tendency at the meetings to require comments from each person, on subjects such as the Dalai Lama and splittism, rather than just listening to speeches. But in general, I think that Tibetan intellectuals are less concerned about the requirement to attend political meetings than about issues directly affecting their culture and academic studies - for instance, the deteriorating academic standards at Tibet University and the down-grading of the Tibetan language."
There was a particular emphasis on political meetings in the build-up to the visit of Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao to Lhasa in July for the
50th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation". Tibetan writers and scholars from institutions such as the Academy of Social Sciences and Tibet University were required to attend a meeting addressed by the current Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Guo Jinlong and senior officials and cadres. When Guo Jinlong's predecessor Chen Kuiyuan published a collection of poetry in September 1999, Tibetan writers were required to attend the launch of the book. "All the Tibetan writers who attended were required to make a comment about the poems," said a Tibetan writer now living in exile. "They read out prepared texts, which of course praised the poetry."Subscribing to Party publications is also described as a "political duty". The Beijing authorities recently issued a directive emphasising that Party organisations, government offices and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) must subscribe to the main Party newspaper and theoretical journal. At a conference to discuss the directive, Guo Tianlin, head of the TAR propaganda department, told senior TAR leaders: "Every level of Party organisation must earnestly put into action the spirit of the central government's directive and carry out well the work of subscribing to the Party's People's Daily newspaper and Qiu Shi [Seeking Truth] magazine" (Tibet Daily, 28 November).
"National Day" in Lhasa The official ceremony to mark the National Day anniversary in Lhasa was brief and relatively low-key compared to the major celebrations attended by Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao in July to mark the 50th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet. The ceremony, which consisted of a military parade into the square, a rendition of the Chinese national anthem by a military band and the raising of the Chinese flag, was attended by various TAR leaders and hundreds of Tibetans, who filed into the square in groups. The official news agency Xinhua gave an example of what might be perceived by Tibetans as "dzunma" when it quoted a "second year elementary school student Bianzhen" as saying: "We often have flag raising ceremonies at school, but to see such a solemn and sacred flag raising ceremony in the Potala Square makes me really proud and excited." (Xinhua, 1 October).
The flag raising ceremony in the Potala Square gives the authorities an opportunity to publicly display Chinese control over the region. There is also an important economic aspect to the anniversary of the founding of the PRC: the promotion of tourism. The National Day holiday period is one of the main holidays in China, and China's campaign to promote Tibet not only as a foreign, but also as a domestic tourist destination has been increasingly successful, with thousands of Chinese tourists visiting Lhasa during the National Day holiday period.
Note: A set of seven photographs depicting National Day and associated events can be viewed on TIN's website at: