I would ignore DMan
, especially considering he was banned for being a prick, but I might as well just point out a couple of his more obvious fallacies before getting into the body of my writeup.
- Argumentum ad hominem: All the 'facts' above about those in the Free Tibet movement have precisely nothing to do with the validity of their cause.
- The straw man fallacy: those in the Free Tibet movement are not demanding a return to a feudal theocracy. That, from my atheist anti-authoritarian perspective, would be worse. The Dalai Lama has already drawn up a constitution for a democratic Tibet, but it's so much easier to put people down if they seem to have a belief in the value of oppressive regimes. I will not do this to DMan. Honest.
What follows is an article I have just submitted to our student newspaper, it was written mainly to promote the cause of Students for a Free Tibet
, a campus club of which I am secretary. The bands mentioned towards the end of the piece are all Christchurch
bands and I will node their details after the party.
When I read George Orwell’s 1984, I could not help but be revolted by the repressive and uncaringly brutal society it portrayed.
When I was reading (journalist) Vanessa Baird’s account of her journey to Tibet, I was shocked for many of the same reasons. While it lacks the absolute, meaningless horror of 1984, the rule of Tibet by China bears certain disturbing resemblances.
Since China occupied Tibet in 1949, the invaders have killed over 1.2 million Tibetans. The Tibetans are treated as second-class citizens in their own country and are under intense surveillance for any ‘counter-revolutionary’ activities. Their native religion, Gelugpa Buddhism, is repressed – it is illegal, for example, to possess the tiny pictures of the Dalai Lama (the leader of this religion) which many of the common people of Tibet wear around their necks. Foreigners coming into Tibet are watched, and are never permitted anywhere unapproved by the Chinese officials. Political demonstrations (generally consisting of 3 or 4 monks or nuns chanting freedom slogans in the street) are broken up within minutes by plainclothes police or security guards. Many Tibetans flee their country in fear, bringing tales of torture, abuse and terror with them. Most Tibetans who escape go first to Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, just inside the border of India. They are given shelter and help if they need it, but they are also encouraged to return so that the resistance to the Chinese occupation within Tibet does not die out because all its leaders have fled in fear. Dharamsala is also the centre of Tibetan culture, the Chinese policy has been to eradicate the traditional cultures of people inside its borders – Chairman Mao declared war throughout China on ‘the four Olds’ – old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. Since the occupation, over 6000 monasteries and cultural institutions have been destroyed. The Tibetan culture is also being suppressed by a policy of incentivised migration of Han Chinese into Tibet.
The Chinese people in Tibet sincerely believe that they are helping the Tibetans by modernising them and bringing them out of the serfdom they suffered under the indigenous government. China has advanced Tibet technologically, but the benefits brought were in order to extract Tibet’s mineral wealth more easily, and benefit the Chinese residents far more than the Tibetans, who are still largely rural serfs. Tibetans are now outnumbered in Tibet by Chinese who have been relocated there.
Plainly it is unreasonable to ask that the Chinese people leave Tibet for good, the mythical Shangri-La has been invaded and there is no going back. What is being asked for now is not a return to the feudal theocracy of before the Chinese invasion, the plea is now simply for a democratic right for the Tibetans to have some rulership over their own country, and for the culture to be allowed to thrive as it has ever since the Buddhist conversion of Tibet in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.
The nature of the catastrophe in Tibet leads us to ask for a better way. In 1963 the Dalai Lama promulgated a constitution for a democratic Tibet – it is not backwards that the Tibetan independence movement wishes to go, it is forwards. The Dalai Lama has a 5-point peace plan, including the abandonment of China’s population transfer program, the granting of democratic rights (as well as basic human rights) to the Tibetan people, as well as environmental considerations (China uses Tibet as a nuclear dumping ground) and the transformation of Tibet into a zone of peace (thereby removing the worries of border friction between India and China).
What is horrific about Chinese rule of Tibet is not the rule itself, uncaring as it may be, or the occupation by military, unlawful as it may be might (the UN does not recognise military occupation as grounds for sovereignty). It is the systematic extermination of a unique culture and the terrible abuses by which it is achieved. The repression, brutality and fear used to quash political and cultural dissent in Tibet is the Orwellian boot, stomping on a human face forever. If a culture is eradicated, there is no going back. While Tibetan culture still flourishes in the overlooked areas within Tibet, it is preserved officially only outside Tibet, in Dharamsala or one of the numerous Tibetan cultural associations. Amnye Machen, one such organisation, is typical of the progressive approach to the problems in Tibet. Recognising that the way forward cannot be a step back into the isolation and rigidity of the past system, Amnye Machen sees the injection of modern ideas as the way to vitalise Tibetan culture. I found it singularly appropriate that they translated the works of George Orwell, Vaclav Havel, and other writers critical of communism into Tibetan to provide some context for the abuses going on inside Tibet.
There is a perception among many people I have spoken to that the situation in Tibet has improved within the last 20 years. The reports of atrocities have become less frequent and less extreme as China becomes more secure in its power over Tibet. But the situation is not one of increased tolerance or kindness on the part of the Chinese rulers – rather the spirit of resistance is beginning to falter under the brutality, which has in fact become more repressive within the last 20 years. Less and less information is getting out without official approval. The plight of the Tibetan people is getting more desperate with each new generation raised with no awareness of their traditions. Something needs to be done now.
But what can we do here in New Zealand? The best chance any foreigner has for putting pressure on China to improve its behaviour is indirectly, by getting their government to put human rights on the agenda when discussing trade with China. Every now and then one of China’s trading partners will mention human rights, but will take no action to back up their words and China will do nothing to change its ways. In 1993, for example, Bill Clinton stated that the renewal of China’s Most Favoured Nation trading status would be contingent on improvement in their human rights record. But he failed to act on this promise and the status was renewed with no improvement in China’s actions. The status quo suits the international community quite well, by ignoring the situation in Tibet foreign nations can guarantee continued access to the huge market that China represents. If our governments can be held to their words on the human rights issues in Tibet, there is a real chance for improvement ion the conditions of the Tibetan people. This is what SFT tries to do, through educating people to lobby MPs and to be aware of the human rights issues behind the products they buy.
We also fundraise to support the Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala; especially their political organisations and institutions dedicated to caring for incoming refugees.
SFT is throwing a party on the 6th of October at the Jetset Lounge, with Confucius, Mainsauce, Solaa, the Roots & Riddum crew, Insomniac, Odyssey, Megstar, and Nitro. Doors open at 10 p.m., and it finishes at about 5 am. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of lectures, and all proceeds go to the Tibetan children’s village. Tickets are $12 on the door, presales $10 from Cosmic Corner, Galaxy Records, or Wyrd.
If the international attitude towards China can be changed, if countries can be persuaded not to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Tibetan people, then there is a very real chance that we can keep our trade with China as well as improving the conditions within Tibet. Change can’t happen without people to make it happen, and everyone can cause a little change. Above all, don’t turn away. The last thing the Tibetan people need is to be ignored.