Tibetans to Facebook: Give Us Back Our Hometown

The non-profit network Tibettruth has launched an online campaign to make Facebook specify Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, as a part of Tibet — rather than China.

Tibettruth calls itself an advocate for justice, human rights and independence for the people of Tibet. On its website, which details how to file the online petition, Tibettruth says:

We are asking that Facebook kindly review its current profile format to enable Tibetans to select, as their hometown Lhasa, TIBET. Currently when Tibetans open an account they are denied that choice and can only select ‘Lhasa, Xizang, China,’ as option that endorses the bogus claim that Tibet is part of China.

Here’s an example of the drop-down menu that appears when trying to select Lhasa as a hometown:

“Xizang” is the Mandarin name for the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Lhasa is the capital of that region. China claims it as Chinese territory, while supporters of a free Tibet argue that it’s Tibetan land. The dispute between China and supporters of a free Tibet has been an ongoing battle since Chinese troops occupied the region in 1950.

In the last year, more than two dozen Tibetans have set fire to themselves in protest at China’s occupation. The most recent self-immolation, by a teenage Tibetan monk in China, took place March 10. The day marked the 53rd anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising that took place in Lhasa in 1959.

For Tibetans who have been struggling for their land’s freedom, Facebook’s naming of the area is another reminder of Chinese dominion. But as one user who commented on Tibettruth’s website pointed out, the naming of “Xizang” for the Tibetan Autonomous Region is incongruous with how Facebook names other areas.

“‘Xizang’ is the Chinese translation of ‘Tibet,’ using the pronunciation in Mandarin,” a user by the name of Roller writes. “But that is not English. Nobody other than the Chinese knows what it is. I wonder if Facebook would do the same with Hong Kong, calling it ‘Xianggang,’ as the Chinese do.”

Hong Kong is identified on Facebook as “Hong Kong,” with users able to choose from cities within the region as a hometown.

Though Hong Kong is considered a “special administrative region” by the Chinese. Tibet is not. Like Tibet, it too has longstanding cultural and political disputes with China.

What do you think of the way Facebook names Lhasa? Do you think this online petition to get Facebook to indicate Lhasa as a part of Tibet will make a difference? Let us know in the comments.


Originally published on Mashable; March 13, 2012

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