Tibet: Will We Stand By and Just Watch?

Serena Hu sent this email around and it made me realize how much I still don’t know about this issue. Hope it helps you.

As most of you know, I was lucky to have had the chance to visit Tibet during my trip to China last year. Having grown up in Taiwan, I have been taught that the many outlying minority groups residing in China are also considered Chinese. After visiting Tibet however, I realized that this premise is totally unjustified. Tibetans’ (and many other minority groups) comes from a long, and very distinct cultural and political lineage from that of the Chinese. They have their own historical figures, belief systems and practices, language, dress, food, art, etc. To claim that they are Chinese and forcibly keep them under Chinese governance is not only inaccurate but plainly unjust.

Even though I visited Tibet at a much more peaceful time just a little over 6 months ago, there was no doubt in my mind that what I witnessed there was a systematic regime of cultural genocide from the Chinese. The Dalai Lama’s policy of “one country, two systems” have not been fruitful in the last decades, and the Tibetans are growing intolerant of the Chinese as they have stepped in to interfere with Tibetan’s political and religious core by first kidnapping their 11th Panchen Lama (Tibet’s important political and religious leader next to the Dalai Lama) at the age of 6 (world’s youngest political prisoner) and later dictated a Chinese replacement that now resides in Beijing. The CCP also announced just last summer that the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will not be “allowed” to take place in Tibet.

It saddens me to see that some of the Tibetans have lost faith in their leader – the Dalai Lama, but it angers me to read about the kinds of ridiculous accusations the CCP is making about the Dalai Lama, and further using those accusations as grounds for aggression. But I think what bothers me the most, is that I am afraid the world will simply stand by and watch as all of this makes history.

If you believe in and support human rights, please take a moment and visit the website below. There are a variety of simple ways you can show your support on this issue. Please feel free to forward on to others as well. Also, I will be attending the candle light vigil on 4/8 in SF to show support for the Tibetans as the Olympic torch passes through SF. Please let me know if you would like to join me.

— Serena Hu

New demonstrations continue to happen daily in towns and villages across eastern Tibet. Please visit www.savetibet.org to see a map showing where demonstrations have occurred. You will also find in-depth updates that we are posting daily.

13 thoughts on “Tibet: Will We Stand By and Just Watch?

  1. You should read a little Tibetan history. Tibet was a serfdom before 1959, led by the privileged Lamas and the aristocracy. It was never truly an independent nation, although China did give it some autonomy before 1959. In fact, Tibet survived into the 20th century only because the Chinese emporers paid it little attention. Ironically, it was the communists, appalled with the serfdom, who finally abolished it in 1959. So when you say Tibet should be returned to its historical practices, its “cultural history,” you’re basically advocating a return to slavery and a feudal system. You might as well be asking the U.S. to return the South to the Confederates.

  2. Even given a reasonable dispute over the historical autonomy of Tibet, one cannot so easily parallel the Tibet-China relationship with the North-South dynamic of the Civil War-era U.S. That is an entirely too simplistic comparison.

  3. Good point, although it doesn’t address the substantive points of my comment.

    In any case, if you prefer another comparison, how about U.S. – Hawaii. Given the history, native Hawaiians have an infinitely better claim to an independent Hawaii than Tibetans do to an independent Tibet.

  4. I can’t even tell what the substantive points were. You begin with an admonition about reading history and then give your own interpretation of Tibet-China history. You then make a highly disputable comparison to the Civil War-era North-South relationship.

    The Hawai’i-US comparison is also suspect.

    The whole point to me of Serena’s email was that the situation in Tibet is resulting in human suffering and should get involved.

    If you don’t agree with this particular viewpoint, that’s of course your right, but your historical suppositions are just argumentative.

  5. Keith, Serena’s email, boiled down, says China bad, Tibet good. My point is that if you look at the history, you’ll find a different story. OK? Marcus

  6. The tricky thing about history is that it changes depending on who is writing it. The points you’ve shared sounds the same as the version I saw on the walls inside the Potola Palace written by the Chinese Communist Party.

    Unbiased information on this topic is available in books and on the web, and an easy and basic source would be Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Tibet

    If you visit the page, you will see that China and Tibet has co-existed since thousands of years ago. The word “invasion” however, first comes up in 1904 as the start of China’s exertion of violence and control.

    I am also not sure what you mean by “truly” independent, but Tibetans are certainly not Han Chinese. Why else would the Chinese refer to them as Tibetans? There is obviously a difference in the minds of the Chinese as well.

    Of course, neither Wikipedia nor I are the scholarly reference for this topic, and I agree Tibet does not have a perfect social system (do we?). However, I do believe that whatever kind of system they decide to have, it should be their decision, not China’s.

    Thanks for the chatter. Maybe attending the discussion on the 7th at UC Berkeley will give you an opportunity to explore these ideas further with experts. http://support.savetibet.org/site/PageServer?pagename=RFT_BerkelyEvent_RSVP

    Also, just as a last note, I do credit the CCP with doing away with feudalism in China overall. However, they have committed countless atrocities on our own people since that I would be suspect of their claims with reference to any historical events. If you are interested in learning more about this history from a first person account, I would recommend the book “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang.

  7. Hi Serena,

    I learned of Tibet’s serfdom through Western publications, not from the CCP.

    The wikipedia enty appears to support my points, stating that “Before 1951, according to anthropologists, a vast majority of the people of Tibet were serfs (“mi ser”), often bound to land owned by monasteries and aristocrats.”

    (The footnote to this quote cites Goldstein, Melvyn, Taxation and the Structure of a Tibetan village, Central Asiatic Journal, 1971, p15: “With the exception of about 300 noble families, all laymen and laywomen in Tibet were serfs (Mi ser) bound via ascription by parallel descent to a particular lord (dPon-po) though an estate, in other words sons were ascribed to their father’s lord but daughters to their mother’s lord.”)

    I’m against cultural genocide. But I can’t support preservation of a culture linked to bondage, as Tibet appears to be.

    Plus, all the news reports say that the Tibetans are attacking Chinese people and destroying their shops and homes. The CCP’s crackdown seems like a reasonable response to this kind of violence, although I don’t know what tactics have been employed.

    Marcus

  8. You seem so quick to justify the actions of the Chinese Communist Party. Yet you overlook the fact that the vast majority of Tibetans (both those who follow the Dalai Lama and those who do not) would prefer to live in a serfdom versus under the Chinese Communist Party.

    True, in a serfdom, Tibetans were bound to the land. However, under the CCP every aspect of their religion, economy, culture, and education is bound to the decisions of brainwashed communists in Beijing.

    It was Mao Zedong who once said “Religion is poison.” However, the Tibetans value their religion over everything else–if you’ve ever been to Tibet this is apparent the moment you set foot in Lhasa.

    Next time, before defending China, try to check your individual values and assumptions at the door. To think that you know what is best for a culture you know nothing about is not only ignorant but dangerous as well.

  9. I won’t respond to that ad hominem. That said, all I’m advocating here is a more balanced and nuanced view based on the historical forces at play.

  10. Not knowing a whole lot about this issue, it seems to explode onto the lead story in Newsnight every now and again. Every time this happens, it is always given the same treatment — the Dalai Lama ruled over this utopia that was taken over and subsumed into Red China, the same way that China is taking our jobs and our men, so be afraid, be very afraid. Now, I’m not naïve enough to trust the ravings of Gavin Esler or Jeremy Paxman, given my own heritage.

    I’m just trying to gain some knowledge of the situation before making up my mind. Is Ms Hu’s characterisation accurate? Probably not. Is Mr Wu’s? Probably not. However, taking both of them, there are some aspects of truth.

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