Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Globalisation of Tibet

From The Statesman

ND Batra

China will once again succeed in crushing the Tibetan uprising which has spread from the politically reorganised region known as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to the outlying provinces, Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai, where Tibetans have a significant presence.

Once again silence would descend upon Tibet and its people would retreat into their hearts and prayers. But that would hardly be a remarkable achievement for a rising global power, especially when it is trying to show off to the world how the country’s stupendous economic growth has transformed the lives of the people, including, as China claims, those who for centuries suffered the “tyranny of Tibetan feudalism”.

During more than half a century of total domination over Tibet and its cultural and religious institutions, including the massive settlement of ethnic Chinese and their businesses into the heartland of Tibet, China was supposed to have reformed and re-educated Tibetans into total submission to China’s “superior culture”, not to mention hegemony. Why, then, has one of the most authoritarian states the world has ever known failed to brainwash and control the minds of a tiny minority of six million mostly illiterate and leaderless people? Why would these “wretched Tibetans” listen to the voice of the “splittest” from Dharamsala?

After all, the mighty Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was able to crush innumerable uprisings including the bloodiest students’ and workers’-led brief revolution on 23 October 1956 in Hungary. The USSR, as China is doing now, sent in tanks and troops and, in spite of the fact that there were worldwide protests against the Hungarian suppression including in India, the Soviets succeeded in re-establishing their yoke on Hungary. That was an era of Cold War, a balance of terror and mutual annihilation, and the USA and the Soviet Union had other battles to fight. Hungary was forgotten in the vast oblivion until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Tibet’s storyline is different. First, in 1959, after the failure of the Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama along with 80,000 Tibetans escaped to India; and thanks to the Gandhian spirit still alive in India at that time, the Nehru administration let the young Tibetan leader gradually establish an international political and spiritual presence instead of turning him and his people into perpetually ghettoised refugees. Since the Great Escape, Tibetans ~ young and old alike ~ have been braving the hazards of Chinese occupation forces and have kept coming to Dharamsala. This year, another 2,500-3,000 Tibetans will escape to India. Many of them eventually go to Europe and the USA, where they imbibe the spirit of freedom and keep the spirit of Tibet alive.

The rise of the Dalai Lama as a global spiritual leader is an amazing phenomenon. Nothing has diminished him. How could this man who has been termed by a top Chinese official as a “wolf wrapped in a habit, a monster with a human face and an animal’s heart”, whose people are suffering a cultural genocide, still be so forgiving and so loving?

Visiting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, the Speaker of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful, courageous and compassionate women living today in the USA, told her audience that Chinese atrocities against Tibetans were “a challenge to the conscience of the world”. Was she chiding India for being chicken-hearted? “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,” she admonished.

Last September, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the Dalai Lama in her office, Chinese authorities were enraged because it amounted to giving the monk recognition as the political leader of Tibet. But Sino-German relations had begun to mend until the peaceful protests by Buddhist monks in Lhasa turned into a spontaneous eruption in the entire greater Tibet region and suddenly lifted the massive public relations smokescreen that the Chinese had succeeded in casting over the world about the “improvement” in its human rights record.

Through the miracle of cell-phone video, the Internet and YouTube, the whole world watched what the Chinese authorities were doing to Tibetans. Of all the Europeans, Germans are the most sensitive about human rights issues. The Genocide and Holocaust are eternally etched into their collective consciousness and historical memory. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul was quoted as saying, “Violence can never be a solution. The two sides can only arrive at a solution through dialogue.” But there can be no dialogue between two sides unless they accept each other. Tibet’s Communist Party secretary, Zhang Qingli, told regional officials, “We are engaged in a fierce battle of blood and fire with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death struggle between the foe and us.” Whatever happened to China’s pretensions to a “peaceful rise” and the “journey of harmony”?

While Germany has been more outspoken about China’s oppression in Tibet, even suspending environmental technology aid talks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been no less bold in his decision to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits London. He told parliament about his phone conversation with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao wherein he urged him to ensure that there “had to be an end to the violence in Tibet”. He also said that he “called for constraint” and “an end to the violence by dialogue between the different parties”. But China considers the Dalai Lama a runaway rogue and trouble-maker rather than a party to the dispute.

China has two alternatives.
It may attempt to “resolutely crush” the Tibetan people’s uprising as the Communist Party’s official daily newspaper has urged the government to do and turn Tibet into an Orwellian Panopticon, much like the Soviet Union had done in Hungary and its other satellite countries. But in the age of wireless mobility, texting, networking and decentralised global organisations fighting for human rights everywhere, the Communist leadership may not succeed in using the great Chinese propaganda machine and the digital firewall to control the Tibetan mind without doing the same to the rest of the population.

Alternatively, China may consider establishing a genuine dialogue with the Dalai Lama and restore to Tibet internal sovereignty and autonomy and in the process transform itself into one country, multiple systems ~ as is the USA, India or the evolving European Union.

(ND Batra, the author of Digital Freedom, teaches communications and diplomacy at Norwich University. He can be reached at narainbatra@gmail.com)


  1. http://newschecker.blogspot.com/

    Truth about Xizang.

  2. India has more political troubles than China.

    According to India official report, in 2007 alone, more than 7000 people died in political or religious conflicts. Almost twice the death of US soldiers in Iraq in 4 years. Don't forget, that's India's official report, actually number could be much bigger.


    When Internet penertration is India reaches the height of China and when average Indians have the similar education of China, more and more poor Indians would pick up weapons tto fight for their rights.

    You are a loser and cheater. that's why you very often close comments of your blog.