Hotel forced to back down after banning Tibetan

A copy of Hotel Shangyul's apology
A copy of Hotel Shangyul's apology

11th January 2016

The hotel threatened staff with fines and the sack for speaking Tibetan.

UPDATE: 14 January. Following the incident at the hotel, local authorities in Rebkong issued instructions that the Tibetan script should be given equal or greater prominence with Chinese script in official notices and signs. See more below.

A hotel in Tibet has been forced to backtrack on discriminatory policies and issue an apology after resistance from Tibetans. The hotel's plan would have banned staff from speaking Tibetan.

Last week Hotel Shangyul, a Chinese-owned hotel in Rebkong County, Malho Prefecture, Qinghai Province, banned the speaking of the Tibetan language anywhere within its premises. According to reports by Voice of Tibet, the hotel issued employees with a five point set of rules, one of which was a ban on the Tibetan language. The ban was to be enforced with a fine of 500 Yuan (just over £50) for anyone found to be speaking Tibetan, and the threat of dismissal.

The ban led to strong opposition from Tibetans and caused Hotel Shangyul to be temporarily closed by local authorities. The hotel, which had only opened last December, was forced to back down and issue an apology. In a statement, the hotel ownership recognised that it had “seriously harmed the feelings of Tibetan compatriots”. It committed to undertaking a “complete, deep, detailed and thorough rectification and reform” to ensure that this incident was not repeated.

Update: local authorities back Tibetan

The People's Government of Rebkong County issued a notice on 11 January, specifying that offical communications should use both Tibetan and Chinese scripts and that Tibetan shold be of equal size and given equal prominence and more in certain circumstances. The notice state this is a reiteration of existing rules, applying to "official seals, public notice boards, papers, emblems, official documents, envelops, advertisement and the like".

The publication of the notice indicates that the rules were not previously being adhered to and appears to be a direct result of the campaign to defend Tibetan generated by the hotel's ban.

Pushing back against discrimination

The angry local reaction to the ban indicates ongoing frustration by Tibetans over the severe restrictions that they are subjected to within their own country, including restrictions on movement around Tibet and on Tibetan language and culture.

There have been signs that Chinese authorities are aware of this discontent. Last month, Jampa Phuntsok, the Chinese-appointed former governor of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, urged China’s central government to do more to tackle discrimination against “minorities”, including Tibetans. In a report, reviewed by China’s National People's Congress, Phuntsok acknowledged that there had been “recurring instances” of discrimination that needed to be rectified because of the negative social impact and strong public reaction that they were causing.

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Tibetans continue to resist Chinese occupation and attempts by Beijing to restrict their language and culture. Many are arested for their resistance. Take action to support Tibet’s political prisoners.