History of Tibet (1950–present) - Ethnic Composition

Ethnic Composition

The issue of the proportion of the Han Chinese population in Tibet is a politically sensitive one and is disputed, involving the Government of Tibet in Exile, the PRC, and the Tibetan independence movement.

The Government of Tibet in Exile has said that government policies are sinicizing Tibet by encouraging the migration of non-ethnic Tibetans, especially Han and Hui Chinese, so that they outnumber ethnic Tibetans in the Tibetan region. The PRC gives the number of Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region as 2.4 million, as opposed to 190,000 non-Tibetans, and the number of Tibetans in all Tibetan autonomous entities combined (slightly smaller than the Greater Tibet claimed by exiled Tibetans) as 5.0 million, as opposed to 2.3 million non-Tibetans. In the TAR itself, much of the Han population is to be found in Lhasa.

This statistic is in dispute primarily based on the distinction between Greater Tibet, in which ethnic Tibetans are not a majority, and the Tibet Autonomous Region, in which ethnic Tibetans are a majority. Referencing the population figures of Lhasa, the Dalai Lama has recently accused China of "demographic aggression" while stating that the Tibetans had been reduced to a minority "in his homeland". Exiled Tibetans have also expressed concern that the Qinghai-Tibet Railway (Xining to Lhasa) is intended to further facilitate the influx of Chinese migrants. The PRC does not recognize Greater Tibet as claimed by the government of Tibet in Exile. The PRC government claims that the ethnically Tibetan areas outside the TAR were not controlled by the Tibetan government before 1959 in the first place, having been administered instead by other surrounding provinces for centuries. It further alleges that the idea of "Greater Tibet" was originally engineered by foreign imperialists in order to divide China amongst themselves (Mongolia being a striking precedent, gaining independence with Soviet backing and subsequently aligning itself with the Soviet Union).

The Government of Tibet in Exile disputes most demographic statistics released by the PRC government since they do not include members of the People's Liberation Army garrisoned in Tibet, or the floating population of unregistered migrants, and states that China is attempting to assimilate Tibet and further diminishing any chances of Tibetan political independence. CCP member Jampa Phuntsok, chairman of the TAR, has said that the central government has no policy of migration into Tibet due to its harsh high-altitude conditions, that the 6% Han in the TAR is a very fluid group mainly doing business or working, and that there is no immigration problem. (This report includes both permanent and temporary residences in Tibet, but excludes Tibetans studying or working outside of the TAR). By 2006, 3% of the permanent residences in Tibet were of Han ethnicity, according to National Bureau of Statistics of China. The TAR has the lowest population density among China's province-level administrative regions, mostly due to its mountainous and harsh geographical features. As of 2000, 92.8% of the population were ethnic Tibetans, while Han Chinese comprised 6.1% of the population. In Lhasa, the capital of TAR, Hans made up 17%, far less than what many activists have claimed. Population control policies like the one-child policy apply only to Han Chinese, not to minorities such as Tibetans.

Barry Sautman accused pro-independence forces of wanting the Tibetan areas cleansed of Han and the Dalai Lama of consistently misrepresenting the present situation as one of a Han majority. The Tibetan countryside, where three-fourths of the population lives, has very few non-Tibetans.

Sautman also stated:

are not personally subsidized by the state; although like urban Tibetans, they are indirectly subsidized by infrastructure development that favors the towns. Some 85% of Han who migrate to Tibet to establish businesses fail; they generally leave within two to three years. Those who survive economically offer competition to local Tibetan business people, but a comprehensive study in Lhasa has shown that non-Tibetans have pioneered small and medium enterprise sectors that some Tibetans have later entered and made use of their local knowledge to prosper.

Tibetans are not simply an underclass; there is a substantial Tibetan middle class, based in government service, tourism, commerce, and small-scale manufacturing/ transportation. There are also many unemployed or under-employed Tibetans, but almost no unemployed or underemployed Han because those who cannot find work leave.

In a Writenet paper written for the UNHCR, professor Mackerras (using PRC censuses) expresses the view that claims such as that the Chinese are swamping Tibetans in their own country and that 1.2 million Tibetans have died due to Chinese occupation "should be treated with the deepest scepticism":

The figures show that since the early 1960s, the Tibetan population has been increasing, probably for the first time for centuries. What seems to follow from this is that the TGIE’s allegations of population reduction due to Chinese rule probably have some validity for the 1950s but are greatly exaggerated. However, since the 1960s, Chinese rule has had the effect of increasing the population of the Tibetans, not decreasing it, largely due to a modernization process that has improved the standard of living and lowered infant, maternity and other mortality rates.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Tibet (1950–present)

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