Agam's Gecko
Sunday, April 06, 2008

ew York Times columnist Nick Kristof invited Chinese readers to send him their views on the events in Tibet, for an upcoming column he was writing. It generated a lot of responses. Thanks to Tibeto-logic for pointing out this one.
Comment number 376.
April 1st,
2:05 pm

As a Tibetan, I would like Chinese people to understand why there is unrest in Tibet & why Tibetans are seeking greater freedoms and the return of the Dalai Lama. First, most Tibetans firmly believe Tibet was independent prior to the PRC entry to Tibet which Tibetans consider to be an invasion. There is ample historical evidence that Tibet was independent at least from the fall of the Manchu Qing Empire until 1951 & a number of Western scholars agree with that. I think even many Chinese scholars would agree that before PRC rule, there is little evidence that Tibet was an integral part of China & even the Qing Dynasty did not view Tibet as part of China. Certainly the fact there were very few Chinese people living in Tibet prior to the 1950s & that most Tibetans don’t speak Chinese is evidence that Tibet had a some separate status from China. Regardless of what you believe, Tibetans do believe in Tibet’s prior independence.

Second, Tibetans are very religious culturally and the Dalai Lama is the key figure in Tibetan Buddhism. To Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is as important as Jesus is to Christians or the Koran is to Muslims. If China banned worship of Jesus or reading of the Koran, Christians & Muslims would be up in arms, so it shouldn’t be surprising Tibetans are upset when China bans images & words of the Dalai Lama or publicly villify him as TAR Party Secretary Zhang Qingli often does. It insults Tibetans when you demonize the Dalai Lama.

Third, religious & political freedom inside Tibet is greatly restricted. Tibetan cadres are forbidden from engaging in any religious activity, a prohibition not applied to Chinese cadres. Tibetan monks & nuns, and in some cases laypersons, are required to denounce the Dalai Lama & take patriotic tests. But how can one force patriotism? It must be earned. Tibetans are not allowed to advocate greater freedom or teach Tibetan history from a different viewpoint. There is very little tolerance by the Party for different views. This lack of religious & political freedom makes Tibetans resentful of the Chinese government.

Third, Tibetans feel they have no control over their own affairs. All economic & political decisions affecting Tibet are made in Beijing by Chinese cadres. Tibetans are ordered to carry them out w/o debate. Tibetans may be in local govt or may have some representations in the NPC, but they must follow the Party line at all times or be accused of splittism. Local leaders in Tibet are chosen by Tibetans but appointed by Beijing. The TAR Party Secretary, the highest political post in the TAR, has always been Han Chinese & never a Tibetan. Tibetans had no say on the Lhasa Railway or the subsidies & tax breaks that Chinese businesses get in Tibet (which Tibetans don’t enjoy). They feel discriminated against when 90% of the shops in Lhasa are owned by Han Chinese & they see signs that only Han people may apply b/c most Tibetans don’t speak Chinese.

Instead of asking if the Western media is biased, Chinese people should ask their govt why there is unrest & dissatisfaction in Tibet. You should ask that the Govt allow independent investigations into the social, economic & political conditions of Tibetans so we can all get the facts. You should ask your govt not to censor the news from & into Tibet. When any govt presents one side & censors other views, the govt’s message should be suspect.

Finally, if you really want to know how Tibetans feel, they should be given the right to vote & elect their own leaders. I think people in China should have this right too. But since Tibet is ostensibly autonomous, then it should have universal suffrage just as guaranteed in the HK Basic Law. This way Tibetans can control their own internal affairs, adjust policies based on local needs, and dissatisfaction among Tibetans can be dealt w/ legally, openly, peacefully so that Tibetans don’t have to resort to drastic measures to get their voices heard.

— Posted by Wangchuk

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