China’s Cult of Stability Is Killing Tibetans

June 14, 2017

On the morning of May 19, 22-year-old Tibetan monk Jamyang Losal set himself alight in Qinghai province’s Tsojang Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Losal, who died at the scene, was the 150th Tibetan to set himself on fire in protest against Chinese policy on the Tibetan Plateau since 2009. He had previously been detained for 10 days for posting a photo of the Dalai Lama on the heavily monitored messaging service WeChat. After this fiery act of protest, he was taken away again for the last time by police, who refused to return his body to his family.
Ever since 1989 and the Tiananmen Square protests, the Chinese state has explicitly prioritized “stability above all else” (wending yadao yiqie). The goal of this policy is an authoritarian feedback cycle combining political and cultural controls from the top with rapid economic growth from below that theoretically produces bottom-up support for the party-state. This stability drive targets any potential source of political, cultural, legal, or spiritual opposition and paints its foes, particularly in Tibet, as “cultic.” But this drive for stability has become a cult itself, one backed by the state: a totalitarian form of belief that refuses all counterevidence or opposition and that must be embraced regardless of consequences. This cult is locking people in Tibet, both Han Chinese and Tibetan, into a downward spiral of anger and pain.[Source]

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