Friday, August 01, 2008
VIDEO: RISKING THEIR LIVES FOR AN EDUCATION
the government of China recently issued an ultimatum to all Tibetans who are current or retired government employees, or Communist Party members. Under the threat of loss of their livelihood, they have been ordered to get their children out of Tibetan-run educational institutions (which are beyond the Party's control, in India) within two months (recently covered here in this article).
On average, several hundred Tibetans every month take massive personal risks to escape China's borders for a chance at a freer life, although much stricter border control in recent months has certainly made it much more difficult to get out. If refugees are caught trying to sneak out, special prisons await them. If catching the freedom-seekers is too difficult, border patrols are known to simply shoot them from a distance. Most of these groups have children among them who have left their families to seek a real Tibetan education in exile.
The government of China loves education (and re-education!), as long as it conforms with its own indoctrination standards. Thousands of Tibetan children are sent by the government to residential boarding schools in other parts of China, far from their own family and culture in much the same way that aboriginal children were yanked out of their societies to be molded in Canadian or Australian boarding schools. Most people in Canada consider this one of the most shameful deeds in our history, and aboriginal schools now receive the government's recognition and support. One day, I expect the average Chinese person will also see this as a shameful part of their history.
Children of Tibet: The Exile Generation is a film which follows three young Tibetan refugees into exile in search of an education which values their own culture, something they cannot get in the Chinese school system. A trailer for the film has just been released.
Apparently, a little Tibetan education wouldn't go amiss among Chinese people either. Saso Popovski was the first Macedonian Olympic competitor to arrive in Beijing. The first thing he did was to hang two large Macedonian flags from the balcony of his quarters. He soon had a knock on the door, from some poorly educated security officers.
"I was surprised to see security at the door. I had put the flags out as soon as I settled in the apartment. The security asked me to take the flags down, however, I refused and told them they are Macedonian flags. The International Olympic Committee got involved and explained to the Chinese, the flags are not Tibetan flags. The security people were very embarrassed and apologized dozen times.The Chinese security forces are absolutely neurotic about Tibetan flags, yet they don't even seem to know what one looks like!