Loud voice, small eth­nic group

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By XU WEI in Bei­jing xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Kalzang Drokar is the only rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the small­est eth­nic group in China dur­ing the an­nual political con­sul­ta­tive ses­sions, but works hard to en­sure her peo­ple’s voices are heeded.

The mem­ber of the China Peo­ple’s Political Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence Na­tional Com­mit­tee rep­re­sents the Lhoba peo­ple, who have a pop­u­la­tion of about 3,000 in China, at the an­nual political con­sul­ta­tive and leg­isla­tive ses­sions in March.

“I have al­ways fully cher­ished the role as a political ad­viser, and I have al­ways pushed my­self to make sure the voices of our peo­ple are heard,” said the head of the Da­mu­lu­oba eth­nic town­ship in Me­tok county in the south­east of the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

Drokar was rec­om­mended as a CPPCC mem­ber in 2012 and her political ad­viser role will last un­til March 2017.

“I had to speak up for my eth­nic group, oth­er­wise no­body else would,” she said.

Drokar, 40, said for the past four years, her pro­pos­als have largely fo­cused on the pro­tec­tion of ecol­ogy in bor­der ar­eas and the pass­ing on of the cul­tural her­itage of eth­nic groups.

Me­tok be­came China’s last county to be con­nected by high­ways in 2013, and its poor in­fra­struc­ture pre­vi­ously helped pre­serve the eco­log­i­cal sys­tem, in­clud­ing prim­i­tive forests and wildlife.

“How­ever, the num­ber of tourists has in­creased sharply over the past two years, and we sim­ply don’t have the ca­pac­ity to take in a large num­ber of vis­i­tors,” she said.

As a town­ship of­fi­cial, Drokar said an im­por­tant part of her job is to or­ga­nize lo­cal res­i­dents to pick up trash thrown away by tourists.

“The garbage from out­side is a ma­jor prob­lem be­cause we don’t have any waste treat­ment plants like in cities,” she said.

“If the en­vi­ron­ment is pol­luted here, the out­come will be much more se­vere than else­where. With poor med­i­cal care at town­ship lev­els and un­sta­ble trans­port in the rainy sea­son, catch­ing a se­vere ill­ness in a vil­lage would al­most mean cer­tain death.”

Trans­porta­tion in the county re­mains a ma­jor chal­lenge de­spite the open­ing of a new high­way as flash floods or land­slides dur­ing the rainy sea­son can eas­ily shut down roads.

“I don’t is­sue in­vi­ta­tions to my friends or fam­ily mem­bers to visit my work­place dur­ing the rainy sea­son. There are still un­pre­dictable dan­gers at times,” she said.

A na­tive of Gong­bu­jiangda county, Drokar grad­u­ated from an agri­cul­tural col­lege in Lhasa, the re­gional cap­i­tal, in 1997, be­fore be­ing ap­pointed as deputy head of a town­ship in her home­town. She was ap­pointed deputy head of the county bureau of jus­tice in 2007.

She said it took her two months to make the de­ci­sion to work in Me­tok county in 2012, where her hus­band was also work­ing for the Me­tok county govern­ment.

“The nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment was too harsh, and my fam­ily was try­ing to dis­suade me from work­ing there,” she said.

Drokar said her de­ci­sion to be­come a political ad­vi­sor came with its own re­grets.

“Our group had a tra­di­tion of us­ing rope skip­ping as a lan­guage to com­mu­ni­cate and my aunt was the last woman who knew about it.

“She had asked me sev­eral times to ei­ther teach me the lan­guage or have me video­tape it. But I was too busy. She broke her leg in 2014 and soon left us for­ever,” she said.

Drokar fears that may not be the only cul­tural her­itage the Lhoba peo­ple are los­ing.

With no writ­ten lan­guage, the pass­ing down or record­ing of the group’s cul­ture is dif­fi­cult, she said, even though hav­ing the clothes of the Lhoba peo­ple in­cluded on the list of Na­tional In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage items makes her im­mensely proud.

“There is a lot still to be done. I hope I can do much more in the last year of my ten­ure,” she said.

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