Friday, March 21, 2008

Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter
[Sent 03-21-08 to selected portion of list.],



U.S. media coverage — mainly that of TV news but virtually the entire corporate media — has been offering the American people a one-sided picture of the riotous situation in Tibet in the last week. Newspapers and radio-TV reports depict China as the villain for suppressing peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks. But it is not quite this simple.

Following is a very brief introduction to the conflict in Tibet we just put together to clarify some of the realities in Tibet, followed by two commercial news media articles that contradict some of the interpretations put forward by the U.S. news media.



According to anti-Chinese reports from the Tibet "Government in Exile" in Dharmsala, India, Tibet was “was forcibly annexed in 1950” and “the heel of Chinese rule has led to 1.2 million Tibetans dying” over the years. There has never been any proof to support this allegation about deaths.

China has exercised a loose sovereignty in Tibet for 600 years. (See “The Making of Modern Tibet,” By State University of New York Professor A. Tom Grunfeld, published in 1996 by M. E. Sharpe.)

The lives of the working people of Tibet have been greatly enhanced since the 1949 Chinese revolution. For example, over 90% of the people in Tibet had been poor, landless serfs ruled by a feudal theocracy which kept them in bondage and illiteracy. About 5% were slaves to the ruling elite. Everything in the country was owned by about 100 noble families and the abbots of an equal number of big monasteries.

The wealthy Dalai Lama, who was essentially a pawn of the small ruling class, lived in a 1,000-room palace. There were no public schools, except for feudal monasteries where a handful of young boys studied religious chants.

Total enrollment in the old-style private schools was 600 students. Education for women was as unheard of as female equality. There was no health care at all for the masses. Even the Tibet exile government has been forced to admit — with great understatement — that before the Chinese revolution “Tibetan society...was by no means perfect.”

Thanks to the Chinese revolution, serfdom was outlawed in the late 1950s, rule by the feudal lords and abbots was ended, schools and medical facilities were constructed and made available to everyone, roads were built, women obtained equal rights and so on. This, apparently, is what is meant by the frequent U.S. charge that China is destroying Tibetan culture. The CIA was most deeply involved in establishing and maintaining the exile government in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even the Dalai Lama (who, incidentally, as a fundamentalist is strongly opposed to women’s right to choice and to gay rights) had to admit a few years ago that he was on the CIA’s payroll at $180,000 a year throughout the 1960s.

The situation in Tibet is not without complexity and contradiction. The Chinese government has mistakes in Tibet. But overall the lot of the working people — as opposed to its conditions under the old ruling class and the theocracy — is improved as a result of the Chinese revolution. It is a disservice to history to depict old Tibet as some kind of Peaceable Kingdom. It would be tragic for the working class of Tibet to return to the old ways.


By Sam Taylor
The Herald Sun (Australia)

Kathmandu (Agence France-Presse March 19, 2008): Rampaging Tibetan youths stoned and beat Chinese people in the Tibetan capital and set ablaze stores but now calm has returned after a military clampdown, say tourists emerging from the Himalayan region.

"It was an explosion of anger against the Chinese and Muslims by the Tibetans,'' 19-year-old Canadian John Kenwood said, describing an orgy of violence that swept the ancient city of Lhasa.

Mr Kenwood and other tourists, who arrived by plane in Nepal's capital Kathmandu yesterday, witnessed the unrest, which reached a climax on Friday when they said Han Chinese as well as Muslims were targeted.

They described scenes in which mobs relentlessly beat and kicked ethnic Han Chinese, whose influx into the region has been blamed by Tibetans for altering its unique culture and way of life.

Mr Kenwood said he saw four or five Tibetan men on Friday "mercilessly'' stoning and kicking a Chinese motorcyclist.

"Eventually they got him on the ground, they were hitting him on the head with stones until he lost consciousness.

"I believe that young man was killed,'' Mr Kenwood said, but added he could not be sure.

He said he saw no Tibetan deaths.

Tibet's government-in-exile said yesterday that the "confirmed'' Tibetan death toll from more than a week of unrest was 99.

China has said "13 innocent civilians'' died and that it used no lethal force to subdue the rioting.
The Tibetans "were throwing stones at anything that drove by", Mr Kenwood said.

"The young people were involved and the old people were supporting by screaming - howling like wolves. Everyone who looked Chinese was attacked,'' said 25-year-old Swiss tourist Claude Balsiger.

"They attacked an old Chinese man on a bicycle. They hit his head really hard with stones (but) some old Tibetan people went into the crowd to make them stop,'' he said.

Mr Kenwood recounted another brave rescue when a Chinese man was pleading for mercy from rock-wielding Tibetans.

"They were kicking him in the ribs and he was bleeding from the face,'' he said. "But then a white man walked up... helped him up from the ground. There was a crowd of Tibetans holding stones, he held the Chinese man close, waved his hand at the crowd and they let him lead the man to safety.''

Reacting to the tourists' accounts, Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, called the violence "very tragic".

The Tibetans "have been told to keep their struggle nonviolent,'' he said.

The unrest began after Tibetans marked on March 10 the 49th anniversary of their failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. Then, Tibet's Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama trekked through the Himalayas and crossed into India, making Dharamshala a base after the revolt.

By last Saturday, Chinese security forces had locked down the Tibetan capital.

The Chinese military ordered tourists to stay in their hotels from where they said they could hear gunfire and tear gas shells exploding.

On Monday the tourists were allowed some movement but had to show their passports at frequent checkpoints.

"Shops were all burnt out - all the merchandise was on the street in a bonfire. Many buildings were gutted,'' said Serge Lachapelle, a tourist from Montreal in Canada.

"The Muslim district was entirely destroyed - every store was destroyed,'' said Mr Kenwood.

"I was able to go and eat in a restaurant (outside the hotel) this morning (yesterday). The Tibetans were not smiling any more,'' he said.



Associated Press, March 18, 2008

Tibetan exiles saw a chance to put China on the spot ahead of the Beijing Olympics, but never expected their protests to spread to Tibet and turn violent. Now the Dalai Lama is threatening to quit if his people don't return to peaceful resistance.

It's a warning he has used before — telling Tibetans to return to peaceful protests during 1989 unrest — but this time it comes amid deep divisions within the Tibetan community between those who back his pacifist approach and an angry young generation that demands action.

While the situation inside Tibet remains unclear, much of the violence last week appears to have been committed by Tibetans against Han Chinese — a fact that troubles the 72-year-old Dalai Lama, who has long called for Tibetans to have significant autonomy within China

"Whether we like it or not, we have to live together side by side," the Dalai Lama told reporters Tuesday in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. "We must oppose Chinese policy but not the Chinese. Not on a racist basis."

Though fearful of a Chinese crackdown — he compared the plight of Tibetans to that of "a young deer in a tiger's hands" — the Dalai Lama insisted he could not abide violence by his own people. Peaceful protest is the only way, he said.

He said that if the situation gets out of control, his "only option is to completely resign."

An aide later clarified that the Dalai Lama meant he would step down as the political leader of the exile government — not as the supreme religious leader of Tibetan Buddhists.

Regardless, his call for Tibetans to work with the Chinese stands in stark contrast to the "Free Tibet" chants of thousands of Tibetan youths, Buddhist monks and nuns who have marched the steep paths of Dharmsala in recent days, angry faces painted with Tibetan flags and chests smeared with blood-red paint.