Saturday, May 3, 2008

Some thoughts on Tibet

Last weekend, I visited Chinatown in San Francisco and had the opportunity to observe a man standing on top of a box and shouting out slogans against the Dalai Lama to a small crowd of onlookers. The first thought to cross my mind was how could anyone hate someone like the Dalai Lama, a peaceful man who has done nothing more than call for a peaceful resolution to the Chinese occupation of his homeland.

Since I saw that rather disturbing display, I have been thinking a lot about this issue and I realized one reason why China will probably never voluntarily give up Tibet. For one thing, Tibet is not the only region of China that is seeking autonomy. The Chinese are more than likely fearful that an autonomous Tibet will inspire Taiwan to do the same. Much like Tibet, Taiwan has been trying for years to break free from Chinese rule, all to no avail. Then there are the Muslim regions, such as Xinjiang Province in the far west. Recently, the Chinese have pointed to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an Al-Qaeda-linked extremist network, as a potential threat in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So basically, if one province falls out of Chinese control, many more could follow. In the end, China could face the same fate as the Soviet Union.

Now, this is merely an attempt to try and understand why the Chinese continue the brutal siege of such a beautiful region. I do not think it would be a good thing if China disintegrated and millions of people were threatened with an economic crash and other problems that would emerge from such a scenario, but that would not be an issue if Mao Zedong and the communists decided against invading Tibet and conquering a people who only know peace in the first place. Is it really that much to ask for the Chinese to at least start a peaceful resolution by meeting with the Dalai Lama and treating him as a legitimate leader? Would it be so much to ask if he could return to his homeland without fear of retribution? These are steps that can be taken one at a time, but the Chinese have no desire to do so.

As the Dalai Lama's envoys are set to meet with Chinese officials, Chinese state media is continuing its criticism of him. With the upcoming Olympics, one might think that the Chinese would be doing everything they can to peacefully resolve this issue. The Dalai Lama is a man of is not as though China is facing a militant leader threatening to employ suicide bombers against civilian targets, as Israel and Sri Lanka are facing with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal or LTTE (Tamil Tigers) leader Vellupillai Prabakharan.

When the Opening Ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics begin, viewers the world over should remember that the Chinese security forces strolling through the crowds of spectators are not only busy keeping the event safe, but are also in the streets of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, holding down their ironclad grip on the city while attacking demonstrators who dare to defy them. With every Tibetan activist who is beaten, jailed, or killed, China is only reminding us that instead of a "world power", it is nothing more than another savage and evil regime engaging in acts of brutal violence against innocent people.


marranci said...

Thanks for this interesting post. I think, as I have tried to explain in my own post , that there are some aspects of the revolt which remain unknown to the majority of the audience and public; like the fact that this is not just a revolt against China, but also an ethnic marked violence against other ethnic groups (such as the Tibetan Hui)


Anand said...

To help the Tibetans, you have to be very pro China, like the Dalai Lama is. The Dalai Lama opposes independents for Tibet and believes China should run foreign policy, defense policy, and economic policy for Tibet. The Dalai Lama praised Chinese economic policy, in fact. China has no truer friend and well wisher than the Dalai Lama.

If you love Tibet, then be a friend of China.
If you love Palestine (which we all should) be a friend of Israel.
If you love the Kurds, be a friend of Turkey.

And not a Kissinger style cynical tactical friend, but a real, true and genuine friend.

The secret of business is to care about the customers, suppliers and stakeholders as well.

Compassion for all is the key to all.

C.H. said...

I agree Anand, the Dalai Lama has done everything he can to reach out to the Chinese and find a solution that could benefit both of them. It saddens me when China responds to this by instructing state media to level criticism at him, or in worst cases, opening fire on Tibetan protesters.

In regards to Israel/Palestine, I wish Palestinians would come together in record numbers and renounce Hamas, Al-Aqsa, and Islamic Jihad while calling for a separate state. If that were to happen, something tells me this issue would become much easier to solve.

M said...

I agree with anand as well, that the best way to help Tibet is to help bring democracy to the people of China. However, with respect, I think the Dalai Lama is wrong on the issue of Tibetan independence. I respect his stance -- it shows how fair and willing to compromise he is -- can one imagine if Yassir Arafat had agreed to let Israel own the West Bank?! -- but I think he's wrong.

Tibet has an ancient and unique culture and long history of independence. Racism against the Tibetans in China is also very strong, meaning even under a democratic regime, tensions between the two will continue to fester. I think it would be better to let the two go their separate ways gracefully, like Czech and Slovakia, than yoke together two parts that do not mix. (Oh, and don't discount Chinese prejudice against Tibetans as a possible cause of the display you witnessed, C.H. Ordinary Chinese are taught that Tibatans are cannibals and sorcerers.)

Btw, I doubt very much Tawain will ever be part of China. As long as China is a dictatorship, the US will protect Tawain from invasion, and once China is a democracy, they won't be so insistent on swallowing everyone around them.

I do understand China's fear of falling apart like the USSR. But the problem of modern Russia, whatever China may think, is not the nations they lost, but their own internal corruption and lack of democratic institutions. I think China could be a true global powerhouse, if they could only overcome those same problems. They wouldn't need either Tibet or Taiwan to do it. A billion Han Chinese should be more than enough resource for any superpower!