A tale of two Tibets

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Politics
Tags: ,

Last night while watching CCTV, a documentary about Tibet came on. It started with the narrator asking the question that’s on everyone’s mind right now: “Why do Tibetans have such a strong sense of happiness?” It then cut to a professor who said, “We should explore why Tibetans are so happy. Where does this happiness come from?”

A farmer who’d just bought his 8th car, which he parked in his 400 square meter house, was shown. Then an old shop keeper came on to exclaim, “I can’t even recognize Lhasa with all the new roads! Society has become so beautiful and harmonious.” Then the original question was implicitly answered when the woman said,”Thanks to the government we have healthy and safe houses.” It went on to show how the government basically throws sacks of money at Tibetans with free or highly-subsidized public transportation, college scholarships and housing.

Last week I read something  that painted a very a different picture. Here’s an excerpt from a November 1st piece by Tom Lasseter in McClatchy: “The young man’s hands began to shake, and he tugged at his fingers to keep them still. The 20-year-old ethnic Tibetan was terrified of the police finding out that he’d spoken about the Buddhist monks who’ve been burning themselves alive. ‘They’re doing it because they want freedom,’ said the man, a livestock trader who asked that his name not be used because of safety concerns.”

I’ve never been to Tibet personally. I was planning to go in 2008, and again earlier this year, but foreigners were abruptly barred from entering both times (perhaps because all the spontaneous happiness going on at the time would make us ashamed of our own countries). So I can’t honestly say I know which of these two depictions comes closer to the actual outlook of an average Tibetan. But if I put my critical thinking cap on, I reckon I could make a pretty good guess. What do you think?

  1. kungpao says:

    The Tibetan sovereignty debate is so complicated its hard to see what really should be done, especially at this point. The history in Asia is full of occupation and poor treatment of locals by practically all nations. Now Tibet is firmly in China’s grip, and while not excusing how it got there, the central government is building an infrastructure whether they like it or not. Taking the rational point of view, I think the chance of the Lama’s ever ruling again are over, but the opportunity for the ethnic Tibetans in the future is not.

  2. Elijah says:

    There’s a way to make everyone happy without losing face. Sadly, the Dalai Lama has been proposing it for so long, that the chinese government could never dream of actually doing it.

    Make Tibet like Hong Kong. 2 systems, 1 country….

    This lets those who want to say Tibet is part of china be right AND let’s those who believe it’s different be right at the same time.

    I live in Hong Kong, so I know that despite all the promises to not interfere in local policies, the CCP still has their fingers in all the pies. It’s inevitable I suppose. So why not do the same thing in Tibet? Give the Tibetans their own administrative region that still falls inside chinese national territories.

    It’s not the Free Tibet that everyone chants about and wishes for, but it’s the best feasible alternative.

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