The TibetTruth Blog (See here) has been running a campaign against the Lhasa Brewery Company Ltd. and it’s importer Lhasa Beer USA, labeling the product as:
…yet another form of cultural oppression waged against Tibetans by the occupying communist Chinese regime. Its mass production and ready availability is producing worrying levels of alcoholism among the Tibetan population.
I was shocked to hear about the statistics concerning the alcoholism problem in Tibet, outlined in the post “Alcohol-China’s Weapon of Choice,” on the TibetTruth Blog (See here).
According to a 2008 field-study, in part conducted by Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College in London, the extent of alcohol related disorders has reached 31.6% for males and nearly 10 % for women. While a 2003 investigation recorded that “Alcohol use disorder was the most serious problem in Tibet with a point prevalence of 41.89‰ and a lifetime prevalence of 43.6%“.A number of associated mental health problems were also noted amongst those Tibetans examined with neuroses reaching a level of 26.7% and over 20% instance of anxiety related disorders.
But what really is the root of this alcoholism among Tibetans in Tibet? Is it simply because the alcohol is available to Tibetans – like the TibetTruth Blog states, or is it a deeper social environment problem where Tibetans turn to alcohol as an escape from the misery of the systematic unfairness and injustice they suffer from, which leaves many Tibetans with no job, due to lack of education and/or unfamiliarity with the Han Chinese language and ways, and forces many Tibetans to suddenly move from the land they were accustomed to living on to a modern city or a “concentrated settlement” (See here)
If the answer is the latter then how will we help this problem by not supporting this company, which according to the information from the Lhasa Beer website (See here), provides jobs to 450 people in Lhasa, of which 72% are Tibetans (324 Tibetans). Of course it would be better if an even larger percentage of these workers were Tibetans but this ratio is quite good considering the Tibetan Government in Exile has stated that Tibetans have become a minority in Lhasa
To say that it is the availability of alcohol that leads to alcoholism is short sighted in my opinion, it overlooks the deeper social environment problem which leads to these high alcoholism statistics. Here in North America we have an abundance of alcohol which is very easy to get, not to mention the strong marketing of the alcohol companies which we are subjected to, yet we do not have high alcoholism rates in the forty percent range. Therefore, is it really the abundance of alcohol that leads to alcoholism? I don’t believe so, I think this sort of thinking is similar to the argument that decriminalizing or providing more leniency for marijuana would lead to more users but many studies have shown that decriminalization would have no effect on the rates of use.
I believe that by supporting this company, which has a “commitment to donate 10% of company profits and equity to support direct philanthropic intervention in Tibet,” we will help in improving the social environment Tibetans live in, which in turn would help solve the problem of alcoholism among Tibetan communities in Tibet while also supporting the 324 Tibetans workers who depend on this company for their livelihood in the city of Lhasa where the job markets are already largely dominated by the Han Chinese.