Over the last few days I’ve seen a few dumb things said about Tibet from both sides of the issue, so I want to address each of them:
Tibet was a living hell under the Dalai Lama, so Tibetans should be grateful to the Communist Party. Life is better than it was before…so lay-off. –As seen in Global Times.
Of course, this statement is subjective and plenty of Tibetans would disagree with it. However, it should be acknowledged that the current and former Dalai Lamas were no saints. And the situation in Tibet prior to the PRC takeover was awful by many non-official accounts.
So let’s indulge the Chinese state media and take this idea to its logical conclusion in the way that Xinhua did a few days ago: The Dalai Lama is Hitler. Let’s say he is that bad and life for Tibetans under him would be like Europe under the Nazis. If that’s the analogy we’re going to use, then the Chinese government in Tibet is Stalin (we won’t say that in the ideological sense, although with the police presence, restrictions on religion, speech, assembly and contact with the outside world, one could certainly make that argument).
Stalin could truthfully say that he saved the Russians from Hitler. And when comparing 1953 Russia to 1943 Russia, Stalin probably does look better by comparison. So we’ll concede that things are better than they might have been. But does that justify the fact being thrown back in the face of whoever complains that things should be better? Stalin thought so, and apparently so do Xinhua and Global times.
It’s time for the US to send China a message on its human rights situation in Tibet. –As seen in New York Times by US Senator Dianne Feinstein
This week Senator Dianne Feinstein ran a letter to the editor in NYT that said:
I believe that the United States must send a clear message against this continued repression and violence [in Tibet]. We can start by passing a Senate resolution I recently introduced with Senator Joseph I. Lieberman that calls on China to suspend religious control regulations, reassess its religious and security policies, and resume dialogue with Tibetan Buddhist leaders. […]It’s time the United States insisted that China end these oppressive policies.
I’m having a hard time imagining in what universe Feinstein thinks this will have a positive effect. Does she believe a Chinese leader will see this and say, “Wow. I made these policies on Tibet because from my angle they seemed like the best thing to do. But now, this non-binding resolution drafted by senators from our rival country has shown us (and the whole world) how despicable we’ve been. Janis, hold my calls. We’ve got some freedom to dish out.”
I didn’t need to visit Feinstein’s webpage to realize she’s up for re-election this year. Resolutions like this play well for domestic politics, but they won’t bring Tibet one step closer to any kind of positive change. It just plays nicely into the Chinese official line that the US-led western anti-China conspiracy is meddling in Tibet to destabilize the country. It gives state media nationalistic fodder to reinforce the Chinese public’s defensiveness over Tibet.
These kinds of high level calls have their time and place and it’s in meetings with Chinese leaders behind closed doors. Public indictments make the Chinese government lose face and give it no choice but to double-down so as to avoid the image that it’s capitulating to Western demands. Just try to ask Chen Guangcheng what foreign admonishments have done for him.
No matter which side of the Tibet issue you’re on, if you’re going to say or do something in the name of the Tibetan people, have the sense to learn if it will actually bring them any benefit. It’s good to report the truth, it’s good to have principles, and it’s good to combine these in a way that can bring a positive outcome. Global Times, Xinhua and Dianne Feinstein have all failed to do this.