16th March, 2008

Tanks, troops and terror

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.

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