Beating about the Bush, they actually said “Greater Tibet”

The following (not necessarily accurate) translation is from a post on Woeser’s blog.


China’s government is very unhappy with the expression “Greater Tibet”. Therefore, they frequently need to earnestly announce that this expression seriously hurts the feelings of the Chinese people. Since October last year, vice minister Zhu Weiqun (朱维群) has kept shouting: this so-called Greater Tibet, which is meant to split one quarter from China’s territory, these splittist elements’ ambitions against us are unsatiable1) Clearly, the subject of “Greater Tibet” is a minefield. Only people in the free world can refer to “Greater Tibet” in geographic or cultural terms, but Tibetans within China’s borders can only implicitly sing songs like que ka long (却喀松)2). If things haven’t changed during the past two years, when people establish some Three Districts of Tibet QQ groups or Three Districts of Tibet3) blog groups, they will inevitably be closed down.

But recently, especially since March, I’ve seen something that could be food for thought. In March, the whole nation was immersed in propaganda about  how happy New Tibet is, and how dark Old Tibet was. Within the high-decibel noise, it remains unspecified what Tibet actually is. In other words, no matter if it is the Cultural Palace of Nationalities’ Fifty Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet Exhibition or the official term of Tibetan Serf Liberation Day, the Tibet described always refers to today’s administrative division of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, not traditional Tibet’s Duo, Wei, Kang4) definition. These are designated to the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

This is a conscious way of description, as on the one hand, it prevents the impression of “Greater Tibet” to enter peoples’ minds, and on the other hand, it comes from sinister motives. As the deputy director of the State Council’s No. 7 Bureau of the State Council Information Office, Wang Pijun (王丕君), who is described as someone who has “researched Tibetan history in government departments for many years”, tells foreign media that “the Dalai Lama originally said that 1.2 million Tibetans had been massacred by China. But we have found that before 1959, the complete number of Tibetan population was less than one million. If 1.2 million had been massacred then, then how do you want to explain the more than two million Tibetan population of now?” That comment is a crafty change of the concept, because 1.2 million Tibetans refers to the Tibetans killed in all of Tibet, including Duo, Wei, and Kang. CCP cadres only refer to the population of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. One can also say that the former is “Greater Tibet”, and the latter is “Wei Cang” [see footnote4)]. These two concepts are different, no matter if in geographic or population terms – how can one confuse them?

As for the food for thought I mentioned before, it has nothing to do with vice director Wang, but a lot with some Tibetans. They are members of the Chinese Communist system and its vested interests, with one difference. They carry the Tibet elite label. Incorporated into these authorities as servants, they are bound to accept their assignments, and in exceptional situations, they become spokes people for the Tibetans. However, just as my Tibetan friend Terang Chagu wrote in his blog: “Among today’s Tibetan elite, you never know what may still be alive deep inside them”. Because of their peculiar utterances, we often get confused.

For example, when Beijing Tibetology Center’s Dr. Gele (格勒), in his capacity as an emancipated serf, reeled against “Old Tibet’s” evils, the problem was that he made his speech on Greater Tibet and the separatist clique as someone from Dege County in the Ganzi prefecture, Sichuan province. That’s right, he’s a Kang Tibetan, but this is something he can’t openly admit. But isn’t he, by his speech, mildly acknowledging that he is a Tibetan from “Greater Tibet” himself? Similarly, when the Tibetan author Alai (“The Dust has Settled”) was asked about relations between Jiarong Tibetans and Wei Tibetans, he sincerely explained that “we may geographically, culturally, and from our lineage be one” – doesn’t that mean that he really acknowledged “Greater Tibet”? Apparently, people are in the political arena despite themselves. As Dr. Gele and author Alai are beating about the bush saying “Greater Tibet”, we must at the same time conduct extensive propaganda and explanation to keep more and more young Tibetans from “misunderstanding” them.

Beijing, April 16 2009. This article was written for a feature program by Radio Free Asia. When reprinting, please specify.

— end of translation —


1) 分裂分子亡我之心不死。An enemies wang wo zhi xin bu si is a term often used in context with imperialism – historically and also for recent history, such as the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia. But I know neither the exact meaning, nor the original source of the term, if there is one.

2) seems to be a Tibetan folk song – but again, I’m not sure.

3) Three Districts of Tibet would comprise Monyul, Loyul, and Lower Zayul. The history of the term – or its accuracy – is disputed, as this thread shows.

4) Apparently the Three Districts of Tibet again – Duo Wei Kang means Anduo (安多), Weicang (卫藏), and Kang (康).

2 Comments to “Beating about the Bush, they actually said “Greater Tibet””

  1. Interesting to consider that whilst the CCP condemns the idea of ‘Greater Tibet’, they continue to base their claim to ‘South Tibet’ (AKA Arunachal Pradesh) on the same basis.


  2. FOARP, you are no great friend of the Chinese people (GFOTCP).


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