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Cablegate: Lhasa Tech Company Commercializes Tibetan Language

DE RUEHCN #0254/01 3140208
R 100208Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


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1. (SBU) Summary: The Tibet Luozang Digital S&T Co., founded
by an ethnically Tibetan computer science professor at Tibet
University, produces two innovative Tibetan-Chinese-English
electronic dictionary and language learning machines. Professor
Luozang, who holds four PRC patents on his electronic dictionary
designs, discussed his work October 22 with PolEconOffs.
Luozang's work has been strongly supported by the Chinese
central government's 15-year old program to make it easier to
use the Tibetan language on computers, and by grants from the
Science and Technology (S&T) Bureau of the Tibet Autonomous
Region (TAR). Luozang expects that the product will help
Tibetans become more proficient in both Chinese and their native
Tibetan. End Summary.

Tibetan-Chinese-English Electronic Dictionary Locally Designed

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2. (U) Professor Luozang's Tibetan-Chinese-English
e-dictionary and Tibetan language learning machine and his
recently founded Tibet Luozang Digital S&T Co. are the fruit of
one decade's work in the Chinese government's program on
computerization of the Tibetan language, and of his research
years in the United States at the University of Virginia and
elsewhere. Luozang (who uses only one name) graduated in
computer science from Qinghai Normal University in 1994,
whereupon he moved back to the TAR and become a teacher at Tibet
University. After attending a summer course on networking
technology at the Chinese University of Electronic Science and
Technology in Chengdu, he set up the first Tibetan language
website in the TAR at Tibet University. As a visiting scholar
at Nanjing University in 2000 - 2001, he developed a
Tibetan-Chinese-English three-way dictionary and a Tibetan
dictionary that ran in software. Luozang has been involved in
the Chinese government's efforts to develop a national standard
for computer code representation of the Tibetan language since
1993. In addition, he has worked on various problems in Tibetan
language computing, including Tibetan language fonts, databases,
electronic maps with Tibetan language text, and Tibetan language
text input.

3. (U) Luozang spent four years of work-study at the
University of Virginia from 2004 - 2008, where he earned an MA
in information technology and designed Tibetan and Chinese
language data retrieval systems for the university library.
While in the United States, the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S.
introduced Luozang in September 2005 to visiting President Hu
Jintao as an outstanding young Chinese researcher. Luozang
returned to Tibet University in March 2008. Luozang's
achievements were celebrated in a June 2009 Tibet Commercial
News report article (URL at tinyurl.com/luozang-tibetarticle ).
Luozang currently teaches a course in Tibetan on Tibetan
language computing as well as other courses in the Chinese

Tibet Luozang S&T Co. Founded by Returned Scholars

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4. (U) Luozang in June 2008 along with other students who had
returned from study abroad founded the Tibet Luozang Digital
Science and Technology Company (website URL at www.tibetweb.net/
) and registered it in Lhasa as a small business. The company
has thus far won four patents from the State Intellectual
Property Office of the PRC. The company has already marketed
three Tibetan-Chinese-English electronic products:

-- An electronic trilingual Tibetan-Chinese-English dictionary
which sells for RMB 1200 (USD 175). The e-dictionary contains
many Tibetan and bilingual general and specialized dictionaries.

-- The "Tibetan-Chinese-English" learning machine, which was
marketed for RMB 1700 (USD 250) in October 2009, which runs on
Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. The Learning
Machine contains Tibetan, Chinese, and English language study
materials from the PRC national curricula, a dictionary, and a
function that pronounces words and phrases in both the Lhasa and
Amdo dialects of the Tibetan language.

CHENGDU 00000254 002.2 OF 003

-- Software that enables computers running the Microsoft Windows
XP operating system, by far the most popular operating system in
the PRC, to use the Microsoft Himalaya Tibetan language input
system. (Note: More recent Microsoft operating systems,
including Vista and Windows 7 include native support for
Microsoft Himalaya language font and not need to use this

5. (SBU) Subsidies from the Chinese government help bring the
prices of the e-dictionaries down by several hundred RMB so they
can be more affordable to Tibetan students. Luozang said that
thus far 2000 units of the Tibetan-Chinese-English Electronic
dictionary, which was marketed in late 2008, have been sold.
The software and design are developed by the Tibet Luozang S&T
Company in Lhasa, while production is handled by a company in

6. (SBU) The company has nine full-time employees and some
part-time workers. Luozang himself is a part-time employee
since the company is a sideline from his day job at Tibet
University, where he teaches computer science to undergraduates
and graduate students. Luozang continues to apply for and
receive assistance from a number of government organizations,
including the TAR Education Department, the TAR Financial
Department, the TAR S&T Bureau, as well as the TAR Committee on
Reform and Development. Thus far, the TAR S&T Bureau has
provided 270,000 RMB (USD 34,000) in support of development of
the company's products. Luozang plans to go the United States
in December 2008 to make agreements with bookstores that will
market the company's products in the United States.

Luozang Products Benefit from Ongoing Language Input

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7. (SBU) The widespread adoption of the Microsoft Himalayan
Tibetan language input system, and native support for the system
in the most recent two releases of Windows, has made computing
in Tibetan much easier than it was earlier, when Tibetans used a
variety of less functional and mutually incompatible Tibetan
text input applications programs. (Note: The development of
input methods for Tibetan had been complicated by its
complicated writing system, borrowed from Sanskrit, that
vertically stacks certain letters to make word components and
from a history of competing transliteration systems making input
using the Roman alphabet challenging. End Note.) E-mail and
website use in Tibetan has become much easier over the last
several years as the use of this input system has spread in
Tibetan areas of China (reftel). According to a February 2009
Lhasa Daily report (at URL tinyurl.com/gangjie), the TAR
government ordered government cadres to use a separate software
package developed at Tibet University named Gangjie, which uses
the same internationally accepted standard Tibetan character
codes. According to the report, Gangjie is an alternative to
the flood of many Tibetan language input software packages from
outside China used in the TAR. An online notice about training
in Tibetan language computing in Chamdo, TAR (at URL
http://tinyurl.com/tibetan-software ) mentions other Tibetan
language software packages developing in China, including a
Tibetan language version of Red Flag Linux and the Shanghai
NeoShine Tibetan office software developed by the China Standard
Software Corp. and Tibet University.

For Fear of Pirates,

No Software Version of the Trilingual Electronic Dictionaries

--------------------------------------------- ----------------

8. (SBU) Luozang told PolEconOff that the company has no plans
to market software products that provide the same functionality
as its hardware products. "If I did this, the pirates would get
it, my company would be left without any income and just
collapse," Luozang said.

ConGen Chengdu Warmly Welcomed in Its October 22 Visit

CHENGDU 00000254 003.2 OF 003

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9. (SBU) PolEconOffs visited the Tibet Luozang Digital S&T Co.
on October 22. Many company employees, including Luozang, wore
traditional Tibetan dress and large banners in Chinese welcomed
the Consulate's visit. PolEconOff, who was greeted by Luozang,
electronic dictionary in hand, as the Consulate group entered
the company office asked Luozang questions in Tibetan about the
company's products. The conversation and the visit were
recorded by the company on video tape and film. (Pictures of
the visit are at URL tinyurl.com/luozangvisit ) Luozang said
that his company's main aim is to produce products useful to
society; they cannot hope to make a great deal of money in the
small Tibetan language market. Luozang said that the software
and dictionaries are being improved and new functions are being
added. For example, the third major Tibetan dialect, Khamke,
will be added to the Tibetan learning machine's Tibetan text
pronunciation function.

10. (SBU) Luozang offered three of the Tibetan Learning
Machines to the visitors from ConGen Chengdu. PolEconOff
declined the gifts, saying that "Our disciplinary commission is
tougher than yours," eliciting a smile from the accompany FAO
officer who is a Communist Party member. (Note: The
disciplinary commission of the Chinese Communist party and local
party committee counterparts are charged with preventing and
prosecuting cases of corruption among communist party members.
End Note.] PolEconoff bought a copy of the Tibetan Learning
Machine and a computer keyboard marked in the Tibetan alphabet
for the going prices while the company video cameraman taped the

11. (SBU) Two Xinhua journalists who did not declare themselves
also attended the meeting.

12. (SBU) Comment: Strong support for the computerization of the
Tibetan language and now this inexpensive
Tibetan-Chinese-English dictionary are a positive side of the
PRC's policy towards Tibet. The Chinese government is now
struggling with the implications of greater online use of
Tibetan, as enforced vacations for some Tibetan language
websites and the recent ban on Tibetan language messaging on QQ,
China's most popular instant messaging service shows.
PolEconOff has found the Luozang Trilingual dictionary helpful
in studying Tibetan. The Tibetan-English dictionaries are much
less useful than the Tibetan-Chinese dictionaries. Although
improvements are still needed in the dictionaries, it is
already, especially the Tibetan language pronunciation function,
helpful for foreign students of Tibetan and for Tibetans
studying Chinese, as many rural Tibetans have inadequate Chinese
and Tibetan language skills. This and other Tibetan language
information technology products can help. This product and its
descendants will likely prove helpful to students, especially as
improvements in technology and perhaps also TAR government
subsidies make it more affordable to Tibetan students. The
Luozang company is small and may benefit from finding a
technologically powerful partner.

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