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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Be A Voice for Tibet


China’s leaders are determined to use the Beijing Olympics to build international esteem. Six months out from the opening ceremony they are facing the prospect of widespread condemnation over their human rights and environmental record. But there is still time for China to save itself the embarrassment. Constructive steps towards the resolution of the Tibet issue would be a good start.

In Australia, with a recent change in government and the Dalai Lama on his way to Sydney in June, there are new opportunities for us to play a role in reinvigorating the China-Tibet dialogue.

A few people have questioned why I am so passionate about this situation; here are a few facts that I hope speak for themselves:

A Brutal Occupation:

For centuries Tibet, a high altitude plateau between China and India, remained remote from the rest of the world with a widely dispersed population of nomads, farmers, monks and traders. Tibet had its own national flag, its own currency, a distinct culture and religion, and controlled its own affairs. In 1949, following the foundation of the Chinese Communist state, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet and soon overpowered its poorly equipped army and guerrilla resistance.

China’s actions in Tibet over the past 50 years have created a climate of fear that still continues today - torture and imprisonment for peaceful protest, and economic plans that discriminate against Tibetans, threatening their unique identity. The PLA maintains a strong presence in Tibet and China’s military control is expected to increase with the 2006 opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Human Rights Abuses:

Human rights conditions in Tibet remain dismal. The Chinese government continues to violate the basic human rights of Tibetans as provided by both the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and China’s own constitution. These include the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Despite China’s assurance to the International Olympic Committee that the awarding of the Olympics to Beijing would bring about improvements in human rights, there is now robust evidence that the human rights situation in Tibet is deteriorating. In 2007, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported a three-fold increase in arbitrary arrests and detention since 2006.

Religious Persecution:

Tibetan Buddhism has been fundamental to Tibetan culture for over one thousand years, shaping the very fabric of traditional Tibetan society. It is implicated in everything from environmental management and education to social cohesion and national identity.

Systematic repression of Tibetan culture along with forced “patriotic re-education” continues to take a heavy toll on the people and environment of Tibet. Despite a growth in international support for the Dalai Lama and Tibet, the Chinese government has intensified it’s attacks on him. Tibetans including, high-ranking Lamas, are commonly forced to publicly denounce the Dalai Lama.

Many Tibetans wanted to celebrate the awarding of the US Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama in October 2007. However, even simple cultural gestures, such as the burning of incense and whitewashing of monastery walls, were swiftly halted and prohibited by local police. The Drepung Monastery in Lhasa was surrounded by armed troops and road blocks set up to prevent news of events from spreading. Under Chinese rule, the education made available in Tibet actively suppresses Tibetan religious and linguistic identity.

According to a 2008 report, the Chinese authorities in Tibet are making life difficult for Tibetans who are not fluent in Mandarin by passing laws to minimise teaching of Tibetan in schools and by replacing Tibetan language with Chinese language in many spheres of public life. As a result, many Tibetans send their children on the dangerous journey across the Himalayas to study at Tibetan schools in India.

Environmental Concerns:

With an average elevation of 14,000 feet, the Tibetan Plateau is the highest and largest mountain plateau on earth. Towering above the vast Eurasian landmass, Tibet is the source of major rivers feeding India, China, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. Exploitative and unsustainable development policies, coupled with escalating impacts from climate change, are exacting an alarming toll on this fragile and environmentally strategic region.

Under Chinese rule, traditional nomadic pastoralism has been replaced by intensive industrial agriculture unsuited to the arid conditions of the Tibetan Plateau. Over-grazing, soil erosion and the steady drying-out of the plateau due to climate change are turning the vast rangelands of Tibet to desert. These trends are destroying Tibet’s traditional rural economy and reducing the productivity of one of the world’s most important rangelands.

With this once remote and inaccessible region now linked to China’s rail network, extraction of copper, gold, iron, chromite and other minerals required to keep China’s burgeoning economy afloat is accelerating, bringing with it a myriad of new environmental challenges. New large-scale infrastructure projects and a ten-fold increase in visitor numbers over the last decade are placing further strains on Tibet’s environment and culture.

Economic & Social Development:

While China’s central government has spent billions of Yuan on new infrastructure in Tibet, urban-centric investment strategies, focussed on integrating Tibet into the Chinese economy, have in many instances reduced the wellbeing and prospects of Tibetans.

Coercive displacement of nomadic communities from areas designated for industrial agriculture is driving more and more Tibetans to the cities. Unable to speak Mandarin and lacking familiarity with Chinese work culture, they are unable to gain employment in new growth industries such as tourism.

With the completion of the Beijing-Lhasa railway, a new wave of skilled economic migrants, lured by high wages, is further reducing employment prospects for Tibetans. Education initiatives for “closing the gap” between Tibetans and Han Chinese are grossly insufficient. Official figures up to 2005 do not show any improvement in education levels, with 45% of Tibetans still illiterate and only 11.5%having the benefit of secondary education. These combined trends have entrenched a pattern of “ethnically exclusionary growth” in Tibet, resulting in by far the widest rich-poor divide of anywhere in China. While there are many winners among foreign investors and Han Chinese, Tibetans are being progressively marginalised.

Quite simply, there has never been a more important time to be campaigning for Tibet.

11 comments:

Miss Milk said...

*Applause*

Well done and well put. Researching the whole China-Tibet thing has been on my to-do list for some time, but I haven't managed to do much more than glance at the World News whenever I get an opportunity. I was so glad to read this and get a better understanding of what's going on. Very informative. Thank you. :)

It's sad that no government is very inclined to speak out against China, despite its violations and the injustices it has inflicted. Diplomacy being taken too far, perhaps? Or just a mind-your-own-business mindset...

Tex's Missus said...

Thank you so much for your lovely comments Miss Milk - perhaps (if you haven't already) you might like to check out another couple of related posts - the one directly underneath this one is a good one with a link to a short film and another post a couple down concentrates a little more on the issues surrounding China's hosting of the Olympic Games and has a link to a petition you may like to consider signing ? Either way, I'm glad I was able to give you a bit of basic information that you found useful.

范轶 said...

I think you never been in China and Tibet, or you will have a totally different view of point. What you write is just nonsense from those stupid western medai like CNN who want to split China. Welcome you to China. It will change your idea.

Miss Milk said...

... That's a worry.

gemmak said...

Jeez girl...it's 1.30 am....I can't read all that ;o) ....but I'm with you on the last line at least - 'campaign for Tibet'

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

??

You're just a brainwashed fucktard buddy. How about providing some research next time. Instead of parroting the party line.

signed,

Evil Western Devil

Tex said...

whoops, I know you're probably talking to Mr. china Sean, but the missus was a bit worried, she thought you were calling her a 'fucktard'. I realise you weren't, but maybe need to make it a bit clearer next time.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

See where it has the chinese lettering. Well that appears as ?? on my home computer.

Yes I was talking to the card carrying member of the Chinese communist party.

Brainwashed Fucktard was a bit harsh but then I support the Tibetans in their struggle and am pissed of at the tactics used by pro-china supporters to silence peaceful protest in Australia.

Tex said...

Yeah, did you notice how the media only highlighted protesters against China as rabid, left wing looneys, yet kinda conveniently ignored the fact that any violence perpetrated during the protests was mainly instigated by the pro Chinese protesters - apparently violence is ok if you're supporting a government, but not if you're denouncing one???

Miss Milk said...

I think you never been in China and Tibet, or you will have a totally different view of point. What you write is just nonsense from those stupid western medai like CNN who want to split China. Welcome you to China. It will change your idea.

I know there are two sides to this situation, or else why are there hoardes of pro-China protseters? It can't all be brainwashing, right? But what I really don't understand is why people the one who posted the comment above are willing to say that our protests are "just nonsense" but won't actually prove any of the claims wrong.

leucat said...

to Miss Milk:

nice last comment. He must have been too furious to come back to give more details.

Hope you get the TRUTH from your research.

Well I personally with you that reading news can never be called "research". Seriously.

A lot of your arguments, Tex, is based on the assumption that Tibet is an independent country. (I know you didn't say it, but what you argued does imply it.)

As to using flag, currency and language to define a COUNTRY, I have my own thought. We all know that a lot of tribes all have their flag, trading rules and language, and they are still called part of Australia or US. After all, the concept of NATION is still subtly different from that of COUNTRY.

I suggest everyone to read more about Tibet's history (and Dalai Lama), not only its contemporary history (after 1900),as this group of people has been there for so long a time (longer than a lot of contemporary countries), to get a whole picture. And then get your own conclusion. (I have my own one, and I am not interested to convince anyone, so there's no point talking about it. that will be another post.)