The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

Chinese Communist Party attempts to force Tibet name change

Ezra Riemermann
Formerly two officially separate countries, China has always claimed Tibet as an integral part of its territory, leading to ongoing tensions between the two regions.

Ever since the unrightful and illegal annexation of Tibet in 1959 and the escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has dedicated much of its time and effort to attempt to erase the culture and religion of Tibet. As the years go on, Tibetans residing within the country continue to live in ongoing fear. The unique culture and religion of Tibet are in danger of getting wiped out, but the will and spirit of the Tibetans are strong. On top of various oppressive tactics such as forced abortion and sterilization, the CCP has recently started to try to replace the globally known name “Tibet” with the Chinese word “Xizang”.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, a meeting of the CCP’s top scholars took place in Beijing in August. Professors from all over China made fiery addresses demanding the name of Tibet be changed and accused the international community of believing in propaganda. Claims of owning Tibet since the existence of the Chinese empire circa 1250 BCE were repeated, as stated in the official WeChat (a Chinese social media and communication app) account of the CCP’s news source. Beijing’s “united front” made further outrageous claims, even stating that the name “Tibet” was a misconception and that the word “Tibet” was basically of no use inside Tibet. 

“China makes sure that Tibet becomes a part of China and the reason they’re changing its name to the public is because they have no legitimacy even though Communist China has been ruling Tibet for 74 years,” Representative Namgyal Choedrup said in an interview with The Heights Herald.  “Still, they haven’t been able to win the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people. China’s claims about Tibet are all historical, but they know that they have no historical truth to back it up.”

Rep. Choedrup has been representing His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government at the Office of Tibet based in Washington, D.C. since 2021 and continues to actively advocate for Tibet, including Tibetan human rights and fostering international support for the country and its diasporic people regarding the issues in Tibet.

One important step in building that global coalition was the Third Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation, which was held inside Tibet on October 5, 2023. Representatives from over 30 different countries all over the world — (mostly China’s allies) were in attendance. Sikyong Penpa Tsering graciously accepted an interview request from the Heights Herald.

“For the first time at the Trans-Himalayan forum, Bhutan had attended,” stated Sikyong (title of President) Penpa Tsering, the democratically elected President of Tibet, said in an interview with The Heights Herald. “Bhutan had never attended before but this year they did. The Taliban’s minister of Foreign Affairs had also met with Wang Yi, which had also never been done before. Then you have Russia, Iran, Burma (Myanmar) and their own group of countries that have always been Chinese allies. Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were also in attendance but they had no choice but to as they are heavily influenced by countries like Russia and China.” 

Sikyong Penpa Tsering is the second democratically elected Sikyong of Tibet, succeeding the former Sikyong Lobsang Sangay on May 27, 2021. Sikyong Penpa Tsering serves as the right-hand man to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and is the head of the Tibetan parliament.

The meeting was hosted by the Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs Commission of the CCP, Wang Yi. Yi addressed the forum about the need to use Xizang instead of Tibet no matter what the circumstances were: whether it was politics, trade or any occasion in the need to mention Tibet, according to Yi’s English transcript of his speech, which is available on the official website of the Foreign Ministry of the CCP. Any mention of Tibet was disregarded and substituted for Xizang in said speech. 

As the years go on, the treatment of Tibetans by the CCP has only gotten worse. The new initiative by the CCP to erase the culture of Tibet and rewrite history has been taken to a whole new level. Millions of Tibetans are being forcibly removed from their homes and, being relocated hundreds of miles away from their home. United Nations (UN) human rights experts estimate over a million Tibetan children were taken from their families and forced into Chinese boarding schools, and even in the few schools that have allowed Tibetan education to be taught, they were replaced with a fully Chinese curriculum. 

Tibetan families are also routinely bullied into sending their kids to these Chinese schools and, with no other alternatives, they have no choice but to send their children. Separating the children from their parents allows the Tibetan children and their young minds to be shaped into thinking unlike their parents. Even small gestures like praying or speaking in Tibetan reportedly would be hard to accomplish, as students in these schools are commonly taught not to. Parents are forced to sit back and watch their very own children be forced to attend a school that aims to erase their culture and identity.

“The CCP’s grip has always been tight —, after the 2008 lockdown of Tibet, the flow of information [was]has been cut so the implementation of boarding schools, forced relocation of nomads, and other insidious tactics were not exposed to the world earlier,” Chemi Lhamo, a Tibetan activist working with the organization Students for a Free Tibet, said to The Heights Herald organization. “The faith and devotion of the current generation of Tibetans towards His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is unshakeable, and the PRC (People’s Republic of China) realizes [this] time and time again with uprisings and actions from Tibetans inside Tibet. Hence, the next tactic is to eradicate the very identity by attacking the Tibetan way of life, religion and language. But they will not succeed — the people have been rising, are rising and will continue to rise until we are all free.”

Chemi Lhamo is currently an activist for human rights in Tibet. She serves on the Leadership Council of the World Library Congress and the board of Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust in Canada, as well as serving as the CEO and president of the Student Union at the University of Toronto Scarborough. 

Tibetan Buddhism is also seen by many as the kryptonite of the CCP. The philosophy of Maoism is based around anti-religion, and now, practicing religion is getting harder as the CCP cracks down on any religious events ors and activities. Mao was even famously quoted for claiming that “religion is poison” during his meeting with the Dalai Lama. After the death of Mao Zedong in 1979, the CCP opened the borders and allowed travel in and out of Tibet. They had also allowed religious and cultural activities to continue then, assuming that the Tibetans’ spirits had faded, but to their surprise, Tibetan spirits were higher than ever. Now as the international community finally starts to realize and becomes more educated on the topic of Tibet, the CCP has reverted to more outwardly oppressive tactics to crack down on such things. Tibetan children aren’t allowed to freely practice their religion, and now one can’t become a monk unless they’re over the age of 18. (Traditionally, monks go to practice at the monastery at a very young age.) The CCP hopes that they can assimilate the young Tibetans into the Communist majority society before they have a chance to become a monk. 

The forced name change is yet another tactic in line with the CCP’s central goal of erasing Tibet’s identity sooner rather than later.

“People’s Republic of China, the colonizers’ goal is to eradicate the Tibetan identity as a whole that legitimizes their rule over Tibet. The change of name[It] allows the PRC to prove the lack of history and further the repression inside Tibet as a part of its own, without other entities meddling in their internal business,” Lhamo said. “The perception within China bloats the idea that [the] CCP under Xi has become so powerful that the Western narrative is merely a follower of the PRC’s actions, and this adds to the nationalistic propaganda they use to brainwash all of their citizens.” 

Tibet historically has had three different provinces: Dotoe, Domey and Utsang. As soon as Tibet was in Chinese hands, the CCP only named Utsang as the “Tibet Autonomous Region” and kept it that way, trying to minimize the size of Tibet by cutting off two whole provinces of Tibet and claiming that Kham and Amdo both belonged to China beforehand. 

“They’re claiming Kham and Domey weren’t a part of Tibet. As well as trying to change the name, they’re only claiming Lhasa and Utsang as Tibet, and that just simply isn’t true,” Sikyong Penpa Tsering said. “They can do their best to change the politics and issues surrounding it, but they just can’t change history no matter what they try.”

Many mainstream news sources have begun reporting on the atrocities going on in Tibet, with the Washington Post even describing it as a “‘cultural genocide’.” The name change is just one of the many ways that the CCP has tried to change history regarding the country of Tibet. The CCP just can’t change history at the snap of a finger and the world leaders along with people all over the world know that. The shameful and embarrassing attempt by the CCP to change and rewrite history won’t affect history as much as they think it will, but even the attempt to commit such a selfish act should be shunned.

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About the Contributors
Jalue Dorjee
Jalue Dorjee, Sports Editor
Jalue is a junior at Columbia Heights High School. This is his second year on staff and is currently the Sports Editor. He really enjoys watching sports — especially football. He is co-captain of the Hylander varsity football team and is also a part of the Track and Speech teams. He is also Heights Herald Advisor Polley's worst nightmare. [Editor's Note: It's true.]
Ezra Riemermann
Ezra Riemermann, Opinion Editor
Ezra Riemermann is a senior at CHHS and a first-year Opinion Editor for The Heights Herald.  He is a devoted political mind with a pension for heated debate.  When he is not editing stories for the paper or debating various topics with his coworkers, Ezra works on various creative projects, which seem to tie into a strangely fated crusade to awaken or enlighten a populace who hardly recalls he exists beyond enigmatic recollections.