Pressemeldungen - Nachrichten
Beijing's claims of an "unwavering stand" in support of
Tibet are groundless
International Herald Tribune March 21st, 2008
By Howard W. French
XINING, China: Count the ways that China has sought to bring
Tibet to heel since the People's Liberation Army rolled into the
country in 1950, brutally ending a phase of nominal independence.
It has tried decapitation. No, heads didn't roll, but one of
the heads of Tibetan Buddhism has disappeared. Here, I speak of
Gendun Choekyi Nyima, a 6-year-old boy who was apprehended by
Beijing after the Dalai Lama named him Panchen Lama, the second
holiest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, in 1995. Nyima, ostensibly
one of the world's youngest political prisoners, has not been
seen or heard from since.
It has tried cartographic dismemberment, gerrymandering
western China to place heavily Tibetan areas under non-Tibetan
jurisdictions. That is why when protests broke out in Lhasa last
week, they were followed quickly by sympathetic demonstrations
by Tibetans here in Qinghai Province, and in Sichuan, Gansu and
It has tried ethnic drowning, flooding Tibetans with
officially encouraged westward migration of members of China's
Han majority, who may already outnumber Tibetans in Lhasa and
control both the political administration and every meaningful
sector of the economy.
It has attempted suffocation, as well: not literally
smothering Tibetans, but rather rewriting the region's history
to take out every politically inconvenient or embarrassing fact.
Such ambitious management of history is hard and never-ending
work, which partially explains why Chinese news accounts of
recent events have been so one-sided, and in the end, believable
only to people who have been raised within the intellectual
garden zealously roped off and tended by the Chinese state.
As I prepared to leave home for work Thursday, I overheard
via the Internet an interview with China's ambassador to Canada,
Lu Shumin, who likened China's use of heavily armed police and
military forces to put down protests in Tibetan areas to the
responses of the authorities in the United States and France
when there are civil disturbances. "This is normal," he said,
striving for a reassuring line. Others have spoken of China's "utmost
restraint" and pledges to avoid lethal force.
What, then, was I to make of the pictures that greeted me in
the foreign press that showed Tibetans gathered around the
corpses of several of their brethren slain near a monastery in
Sichuan Province the other day?
Many Tibetans think of Chinese as faithless, but the people
who govern China believe firmly in one thing, the irresistible
power of the state. Under Mao Zedong, under the guise of
Marxism, this ideology was unleashed on man and on nature alike,
the first of which Mao repeatedly sought to remake, and the
second, to tame.
A war on religion soon followed in the 1960s, with marauding
youths and troops smashing temples and burning relics all over
China, but nowhere more fiercely than in Tibet, which suffered
more than most places during the horrors of the Cultural
But while most of China has succumbed to official teaching
that religion is superstition, replacing spiritual pursuits with
the quest for money and personal advancement, the events of the
last week or so suggest strongly that in the Tibetan world,
dialectical materialism has met its match in the Tibetan's
people's attachment to their own culture, to their identity and
to their beliefs.
Tibetan anger, and the willingness to die for a cause, is
more than a routine minority grievance, such as one sometimes
sees in civil disturbances in the West. It is about survival as
a people with cultural and religious integrity in the face of
state-sponsored migration and Chinese-style modernization.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao may have thought he addressed this
in saying that China "not only has the ability to maintain
stability in Tibet and normal social order, but also will
continue to support Tibet's economic and social development, to
raise the life standards of all ethnic groups in Tibet, and to
protect Tibetan culture, ecology and the environment. This is an
To Tibetans, it is a stand with no ground to support it. All
along China's northern periphery, once strong local cultures are
being supplanted or just plain wiped out. Kerry Brown, in his
book "Struggling Giant: China in the 21st Century," writes this
about Inner Mongolia, which has already been largely homogenized:
"Dressing up in colorful clothes, dancing exaggerated dances,
eating mutton and drinking white spirit are all O.K. But musing
about just what the historical claims of the current Chinese
state on Inner Mongolia are, or writing more trenchant articles
in Chinese about the gradual annexation of the region are good
ways to be rewarded with unwanted police attention and very
probably lengthy prison sentences."
For many people here, hearing a foreigner air such thoughts
is ample proof of anti-Chinese-ness. This is a kind of
us-versus-them paranoia stoked by the same state that works so
hard to manage history, assuring widespread ignorance of many
The view here, encouraged from above, is that China is
bringing development to Tibet, for which Tibetans should be
grateful. There are many problems with this, starting with the
fact that few indigenous people want progress "given" to them.
For one thing, that's because they don't see themselves as
inferior, as such patronage would require. For another, it's
because they know of the many strings attached and of the
slippery road to losing one's soul.
One would think that Chinese, of all people, would understand
this, having been offered the "gift" of modernization by
Imperial Japan under its erstwhile Greater East Asia
Co-Prosperity Sphere. One even finds eerie echoes of Japan's
Manchukuo with its bogus Emperor Puyi in China's attempts to
pick religious leaders on Tibetan's behalf.
It's not for foreigners to say what should happen between
Tibet and China, but it's hard to imagine a happy ending for
either party until such charades are called off.