Tibet and Xinjiang

Qichen Qian


Protests constantly take place in China’s borderland: Tibet, Xinjiang and recently Hong Kong, to challenge Beijing’s economic and political status quo. This paper aims to compare Tibet and Xinjiang’s protest methodology as a case study to illustrate why does Tibet receive more international support than Xinjiang. Beijing’s policy dealing with the Lhasa Unrest and Urumqi Unrest are similar— that is, both aim to preserve stability and impose hardline suppression. However, the international actors (countries and international organizations) support Xinjiang and Tibet in a different manner. Tibet, as well as the Tibetan government in exile, was more generously supported economically and politically. Xinjiang was merely supported in a more reserved way, and Uyghurs are less recognized and sympathized than Tibetans in the world. Even though according to the sixth Chinese official census in 2010, about 10 million Uyghurs live in Xinjiang compared to the 6 million Tibetans in Tibet, Uyghurs were not as recognized as the Tibetans globally. Why the international altitude is discrepant regarding Tibet and Xinjiang? This paper argues that The Tibet model structure composed of a unified leadership and the employment of a non-violent method of protest are key evidences to receive more international support. Uyghurs, if they choose, to implement non-violent protests, they are more likely to receive more international support. Violence is exactly what Beijing hopes for because then the movement can be labeled as terrorist acts. Although Tibet model is not a complete success, Dalai Lama is still in exile and the rising number of self-immolations, nonetheless the Tibet model is a strong model to learn from so as to receive more global recognition.

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