A Chinese woman’s racist social media post on Saturday calling for the extermination of Tibetans in Tibet’s capital city led to her apprehension after the post went viral. In a carefully orchestrated apologetic statement after police took her into custody, she apologized to “the government and the general public” but not directly to the Tibetans against whom she made her racist remarks.

On Oct. 8, the woman—named Liu according to the Lhasa City Public Security Bureau—made a racist post on WeChat that called for wiping out Tibetans in Lhasa and for Chinese to take over the city. Dismissing a complaint shared by a person about the Lhasa government’s COVID-19 strategy, the woman commented:

“The government doesn’t care? Hey! All the Tibetans in Lhasa should be wiped out! All Tibetans should be wiped out — leaving us Han Chinese to occupy this place!”

The comment went viral in Lhasa, with Tibetans expressing their outrage at the woman’s racism against Tibetans. Tibetans posted their objections and comments expressing their anger at her remark.

One Tibetan netizen said:

Hope all of you are well. Today I have no choice but to say something as it feels like [someone] stabbed a knife on my heart. It is my fervent hope that you all will show interest and provide encouragement so that the superior authority will take stern action on this. The Chinese woman with dirt in mouth had said like this. Listen to this. All of you listen to what is being said till the end [plays the WeChat voice recording of the Chinese woman]. This is what was said. This is really crossing the limits of human behavior. When Wuhan was struck with the [COVID] epidemic, we Tibetans were praying then that there be no war and famine, and there be relief from the epidemic. But look what this Chinese woman says [repeats her utterance in Chinese]: That Tibetans should be wiped out from Lhasa and for Chinese to occupy the place. I really hope that you all will urge as much as possible, and the superior authority will take stern action on this. Thank you.

A day after the Tibetans’ public outrage, the Lhasa City Public Security Bureau identified the woman’s name as Liu in a public notice, saying:

“On October 8, 2022, some netizens in our city posted inappropriate remarks that undermined national unity on social networking platforms and were reposted. After our bureau filed a case for investigation, the publisher of the remarks was Liu XX. At present, our bureau has carried out investigation and evidence collection and will pursue its legal responsibilities in accordance with the law.

Hereby notified.

Lhasa Public Security Bureau
October 9, 2022.”

The International Campaign for Tibet notes that the Lhasa PSB in its public notice reduced the racist remarks simply to “inappropriate remarks” harming the Chinese Party-State’s “national unity ” policy but not addressing the issue of Chinese racism against Tibetans (another Chinese netizen did post a statement condemning the woman’s remarks).

Lhasa PSB notice

In a subsequent carefully orchestrated apologetic statement issued by the Chinese woman, she apologizes broadly to the “government and the general public”. No direct apology has been offered to the Tibetans, the subjects of her racism. Neither was the apologetic statement translated into Tibetan. In a video message with her face blurred, the woman, wearing her black hair down on a checkered flannel shirt and black jacket, states:

At 3:00 pm on October 8, 2022, (I) posted something unfavorable to the nation (unity) in the (WeChat) group, which had a huge impact on the society. Here, I would like to express my deepest apologies to the government and the general public. I won’t do anything like this again in the future. I am sorry.

Institutional Racism in Tibet

Tibet is one of the clearest cases of institutional racism in the world today. Chinese authorities have spread racist narratives about Tibetans. A Chinese state media report on Tibet in 2008 asserted that prior to its “liberation” (meaning Tibet’s conquest by Chinese armies), “Tibet remained a society of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, one even darker and more backward than medieval Europe.” A Chinese state media report also claimed in 2021 that Chinese rule has taken Tibet “from a society under feudal serfdom to socialism, from poverty and backwardness to civility and progress.”

China’s illegal occupation has forced Tibetans to live as second-class citizens in their own land. And China shows an oppressive and paternalistic attitude toward Tibetans.

As a result, discriminatory policies are enforced in Tibet, like the relocation and forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads and herders; the widespread repression of Tibetan Buddhism; and crackdowns on Tibetan communities after self-immolation protests.

Tibetans face discrimination in employment, housing and travel. Unlike ethnic Chinese, Tibetans are regularly denied passports and the right to travel abroad. There have been instances of hotels denying rooms to Tibetans because of their ethnicity and jobs offering lower salaries to Tibetans than to Chinese.

China’s racism has real consequences. Tibetans have been jailed for simply promoting the Tibetan language. And Tibetan nomads have been forced by the Chinese government to abandon their traditional way of life. Life as a second-class citizen can lead to desperation and protest, as shown by the heartbreaking stories of Tibetan self-immolations.

Instead of China’s discrimination, what Tibetans need is the right to manage their own society from the ground up. The world must help put a stop to China’s racism against the Tibetan people.