I think it’s time for an update on the situation in Tibet:
Tibetans have been clamoring for the freedom to express themselves – culturally, religiously, and of course freedom of speech and press – and we’ve seen tragedy strike again and again. 62 Tibetans have now self-immolated. 62. As I’ve expressed in my previous posts, I agree with the Central Tibetan Administration and H.H. the Dalai Lama on this – these individuals are desperate, and they are committing the ultimate sacrifice because they feel the world will not listen.
Remember, the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1949. Tibetans have done everything they could, first appealing to the UN, fighting back against the incoming PLA troops, and then peaceful protests, for decades. They simply have never had the resources that the PLA has always had at their disposal (to give you an indication: when China invaded Tibet, the entire plateau only had three radios. Also consider than when the PLA first marched into Lhasa, they arrived with over 20,000 troops – all of whom had horses and empty stomachs – the fragile agricultural balance and carefully maintained surplus that Tibetans had kept going for four centuries was depleted and destroyed in roughly a few months. Mao may have called himself a Communist, but the poor farmers and working class suffered first).
Today, people are suffering from poverty, imprisonment, police brutality, the destruction of their culture, and a general lack of freedom (take, for instance, the 19-yr-old monk arrested yesterday for having a cell phone).
As you may know, we saw 7 self-immolations in 7 days last week – the highest frequency yet. Supporters of the Tibetan people have demanded change in its wake. However, there is finally some good news. The world is listening.
As Tibetan organizations like Students for a Free Tibet and International Tibet Network have pointed out, change in Tibet could come sooner than we think, because the Chinese government is going through transition – I believe Tibetans within Tibet know this, and are seizing the moment to call attention to their plight in the hope of sparking change in the new regime. And it seems to have worked. Take a look at this recent sweep of heartening news:
1) Since the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution on April 1st of this year, we haven’t heard much else from America’s so-called pro-democracy, freedom-fighting politicians (even though our presidential candidates have spent plenty of time discussing China, and women’s and human rights violations in the Middle East). But on Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated:
“We have consistently expressed our concern about the violence in the Tibetan areas, about the continuing pattern of self-immolations, heightened tensions, and Tibet in general. And we continue to both publicly and privately urge the Chinese Government at all levels to address the underlying policies in Tibet that have created these tensions and that threaten the cultural heritage of the region.” (italics and bold by Olivia)
2) Following this, on Saturday, The Diplomat released an article clearly blaming the Chinese government’s policy for the self-immolations in Tibet, and clearly putting the responsibility of change on their shoulders. Non-Tibetan Asian media sources are now calling the on-going, propaganda bluff purveyed by the Chinese government that Tibetan self-immolations are being encouraged and organized by the “separatist Dalai Lama clique.”
3) Yesterday, TIME World released another article about the Tibetan issue, also putting the blame on the Chinese government – clearly stating that the dying Tibetans are “motivated by their despair over China’s repressive rule over Tibetan regions,” resulting in more of the same police state-style control: “All areas where this month’s fiery protests have occurred are reported to be under security lockdown, with Internet and phone lines often severed,” including officials offering $30,000 rewards for anyone involved. Personally I think this shows that China is getting a bit desperate, too. The CTA rightly observes that this short-sighted behavior is ineffectual:
“Chinese efforts to offer financial incentives fail to constructively address the causes behind the self-immolations. This reflects the authorities’ lack of understanding of the situation in Tibet.” (italics and bold by Olivia)
TIME follows the Chinese’s ongoing condemnation of “the Dalai Lama clique” with a factual follow-up: The Central Tibetan Administration has not been encouraging these acts, and has in fact been discouraging them. Additionally, the CTA has announced the Tibetan perspective to the globe: “Last Wednesday, the Tibetan parliament in exile released its own statement, blaming the self-immolations on the Chinese government’s destruction of Tibetan culture.” It is encouraging to see such a famous and widely-read publication taking on this issue and presenting Tibetan voices.
4) Additionally – and perhaps most excitingly – Phayul news of Dharamsala just released a report today on the US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, who recently returned from a trip to Ngaba (Ngaba has been subject to severe crackdowns in the wake of this year’s self-immolations). Locke said, speaking in Beijing: “We implore the Chinese to really meet with the representatives of the Tibetan people to address and re-examine some of the policies that have led to some of the restrictions and the violence and the self-immolations.” State Department spokesperson Nuland makes another appearance in this article, as she visited Tibetans in Ngaba with Locke. She voices “grave concerns” and urges a “better dialogue between Tibet and China” — which indicates that the United States has finally, publicly aligned with the Central Tibetan Administration and the Dalai Lama, as they have been pushing for real, fair dialogue with Beijing for decades.
That the United States is becoming this urgent and clear in its dialogue is cause for celebration. If the US Ambassador is taking a public stand – and not mincing words, either – then we’re going to see more meaningful dialogue, more action, more progressive discussion. Not just in Beijing, but here in the United States and all over the world. Enough tip-toeing around the CCP. Let’s see people speak frankly for once, and continue to push harder and harder for the CCP to change their ways. As H. H. the Dalai Lama said recently:
“World’s trend – Democracy. Openness. Freedom. No matter how powerful, People’s Republic of China cannot go this way [indicates moving backward]. They have to go [indicates moving forward] along world trend. It’s a basic human desire, from birth – every human being has right to be free. No force can stop that.”
– H.H. the Dalai Lama interview with Ann Curry on 10/11/12