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Tanks, troops and terror

16th March 2008

Having spent a comfortable Sunday morning reading the newspapers and pondering how best to use my freedom on this wet day, I began to feel compelled to write about the worrying reports coming out of Tibet, a country an “autonomous region” that I have spent many years reading about, hoping to one day visit before its whole identity and heritage is obliterated…

Then I read Whatever China does, Tibet will still demand its freedom by Ed Douglas over at The Guardian. His article (whilst not entirely accurate by some accounts or my own reading) describes the thoughts of the Tibetan people and their alleged treatment at the hands of the Chinese better than I ever could. It is also interesting to read about how China has apparently closed Mount Everest due to increasing paranoia, and of their increasing control in Nepal.

Buddhist Monks in a stand off with security forces in the monastary town of Xiahe, Gansu province, China. Photograph: Dan Chung
Above: Buddhist Monks in a stand off with security forces in the monastary town of Xiahe, Gansu province, China. Credit: Dan Chung. Source: Guardian.

Our Western governments dare not even whisper anger at the disregard for human rights in Tibet over the last sixty years because of our reliance on trade with China. Various spokespersons are calling for the fighting to stop, but will never openly point the finger at the Chinese government.

The Chinese, with their resettlement of Han Chinese into Tibet, and the building of ambitious railroads have brought new money, opportunities and 21st century amenities to the region, but most of the economic riches go straight to the new settlers, or to Beijing and into the hands of the Chinese. The Tibetan identity is not benefiting from being annexed once again by China. Their beliefs are sidelined, their opportunities quashed. Over the years, as Ed Douglas states, “...the Tibetan people have been starved, murdered, tortured, imprisoned and marginalised in their own land”.

In truth, nobody really knows if Tibet was initially part of China, or was originally autonomous, and it has changed hands so many times that most historians have lost count. One also has to take the reports from both Tibetans and the Chinese with caution, as over the decades both have been known to censor and exaggerate their accounts of the conflicts, but certainly the situation is unstable and without question the Chinese authorities are answerable to a number of significant charges over human rights abuse. A supposedly non-violent people are fighting in the streets against either forced exile from their country, life as an underclass to the Chinese, or eventual death. Occupation and invasion breeds resistance whatever the beliefs of the people.

Anyone who understands the Buddhist ethos will surely understand the brutal fear that hundreds of armed troops on the streets of Lhasa will instill in the people of Tibet. Nightmares old and new on the high plateau. Up to two million were killed during the major uprising of 1958-59, when nuns and monks were made to murder or fornicate with each other at gun-point. The streets of Lhasa ran with blood. The world turned a blind eye. The world is sick.

Responses

# Tim Van Damme responded on 16th March 2008 with...

This really puts our little online life in perspective… We go whining whenever Twitter has a 5 minute downtime. Strange how not small the world really is…

# Wolf responded on 16th March 2008 with...

Maybe that’s just you Tim ;)

# Andy responded on 16th March 2008 with...

The Chinese authorities are spending a lot of time ducking and dodging any opportunity to give concessions on Tibet. Their lack of willingness to condemn or intervene during with the Burmese crisis was just another indicator that shows how worried Beijing is to show any favour for territories wanting a change to way they are governed - they know it would be the thin end of the wedge.

At the same time this is highly embarrassing for the Chinese, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t also hear from the Taiwanese in the coming weeks and months. China seems to be in a continual struggle to ‘dress up’ news that portrays it in a bad light. The lack of freedom of the international press encounters doesn’t do anything to help.

Mainstream Chinese influence is very obvious on the streets of Tibet’s towns, and for all the benefits that transport and public works have brought, the Tibetans I talked to always had an alternative story to tell. Unfortunately even the current BBC4 documentaries don’t give anywhere near a genuine reflection of the strength of Tibetan opinion, but I think current news reports probably demonstrate that this might be the case.

In my opinion, Tibet currently has the upper hand, but as history has shown before, despite some international condemnation, no intervention will be made. My unfortunate belief is the Chinese belt will tighten further after the Olympics has ended, and with little prospect of a lasting, meaningful solution during the lifetime of the current Dalai Lama, the Tibetan question sadly won’t be resolved for a long while yet.

It’s a real shame - my impression was that the Tibetans simply want to be left alone in their stunning, stunning land.

# Simon Collison responded on 17th March 2008 with...

Andy: Thanks for your comment.

Yeah, it seems that the Chinese authorities are currently censoring any western coverage of the situation, although that isn’t surprising. Apparently, most Chinese people have no idea that their troops have massed on Tibet. One report simply said that the Chinese propaganda suggests that the Tibetans have simply gone mad like the animals they are. This is horrific stuff.

Indeed, the Tibetans are desperate to be left alone to live as they have for centuries. Regrettably, that plateau they live on is of too much value to the Chinese, who have always viewed the Tibetan way of life as backward, and Mao was so keen to force the 20th century onto them. That said, the young Dalai Lama was a big fan of Hollywood movies etc (for educational purposes, apparently).

The big fear was that by resettling so many Chinese in Tibet, the Tibetans would be outnumbered and any resistance would eventually be squeezed out, but I’m pleased that this has again been proven wrong.

I am not condoning the attacks on ordinary Chinese people in Lhasa or other towns at all, but I am thrilled that ordinary Tibetans are still joined together by their desire for genuine autonomy and self-rule.

The Tibetan flag, and any images of the Dalai Lama have been banned for decades, and Beijing imposed its own Panchen Lama on Tibet (a man with strong ties to the Chinese ways) at the expense of the Tibetan choice. I wonder how any such decisions help make a region “autonomous”. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced, and the language still taught in most schools, but it is harshly regulated, and learning Chinese and China’s ways is given much more importance.

The Olympics should be interesting, but I’m only watching from a political viewpoint. That will likely be much more rewarding than the games themselves. Especially if you’re English.

# lynne responded on 19th March 2008 with...

Andy, you mentioned the Olympics being an interesting event in terms of politics and news. I am also curious to watch even China’s security concerns and growth during this time. I would like to see implementation and impacts of heightened security throughout the Olympics.

Even the passing of the torch (its route and itinerary has become an interesting process)

# Orga responded on 27th March 2008 with...

Thanks for your comment. The world is really sick. I think about it everytime watching tv.

# Greta responded on 1st April 2008 with...

The country that was chosen to host the Olympics and carry the Flame can show the world that it can still inflict pain on Tibetan Monks without consequence to the event. Yes, they are not disqualified BUT they make a mockery of what the Flame stands for…passing it on signifies everyones chance and right to have hope burn in their hearts (to win and put up a good fight). Too bad Chinese leaders just believe in outward expressions of civility and still remain savage to the weak and helpless.

# Susan Shepherd responded on 9th April 2008 with...

Just the other day someone told me that China would be a powerful place to reckon with when it decides to open its doors. I frown at the idea since having a country become powerful and be oppressors at the same time means D-A-N-G-E-R. Isn’t China bullying Tibet an example of corrupt thinking and greed?

No offense to chinese citizens just your overlords and elite who rule you…

# Ian responded on 10th April 2008 with...

Hi,
Put this badge on your blog (http://www.ka2.fr/vive-le-tibet-libre/) for a free Tibet.
Bye

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