Response to Patrick French's "Dalai Lama" op-ed

(photo taken in Tucson, public talk. All rights Res)

He May Be a God, but He’s No Politician

Published: March 22, 2008


NEARLY a decade ago, while staying with a nomad family in the remote grasslands of northeastern Tibet, I asked Namdrub, a man who fought in the anti-Communist resistance in the 1950s, what he thought about the exiled Tibetans who campaigned for his freedom. “It may make them feel good, but for us, it makes life worse,” he replied. “It makes the Chinese create more controls over us. Tibet is too important to the Communists for them even to discuss independence.”

Protests have spread across the Tibetan plateau over the last two weeks, and at least 100 people have died. Anyone who finds it odd that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has rushed to Dharamsala, India, to stand by the Dalai Lama’s side fails to realize that American politics provided an important spark for the demonstrations. Last October, when the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Dalai Lama, monks in Tibet watched over the Internet and celebrated by setting off fireworks and throwing barley flour. They were quickly arrested.

It was for the release of these monks that demonstrators initially turned out this month. Their brave stand quickly metamorphosed into a protest by Lhasa residents who were angry that many economic advantages of the last 10 or 15 years had gone to Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. A young refugee whose family is still in Tibet told me this week of the medal, “People believed that the American government was genuinely considering the Tibet issue as a priority.” In fact, the award was a symbolic gesture, arranged mostly to make American lawmakers feel good.

A similar misunderstanding occurred in 1987 when the Dalai Lama was denounced by the Chinese state media for putting forward a peace proposal on Capitol Hill. To Tibetans brought up in the Communist system — where a politician’s physical proximity to the leadership on the evening news indicates to the public that he is in favor — it appeared that the world’s most powerful government was offering substantive political backing to the Dalai Lama. Protests began in Lhasa, and martial law was declared. The brutal suppression that followed was orchestrated by the party secretary in Tibet, Hu Jintao, who is now the Chinese president. His response to the current unrest is likely to be equally uncompromising.

The Dalai Lama is a great and charismatic spiritual figure, but a poor and poorly advised political strategist. When he escaped into exile in India in 1959, he declared himself an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance. But Gandhi took huge gambles, starting the Salt March and starving himself nearly to death — a very different approach from the Dalai Lama’s “middle way,” which concentrates on nonviolence rather than resistance. The Dalai Lama has never really tried to use direct action to leverage his authority.

At the end of the 1980s, he joined forces with Hollywood and generated huge popular support for the Tibetan cause in America and Western Europe. This approach made some sense at the time. The Soviet Union was falling apart, and many people thought China might do the same. In practice, however, the campaign outraged the nationalist and xenophobic Chinese leadership.

It has been clear since the mid-1990s that the popular internationalization of the Tibet issue has had no positive effect on the Beijing government. The leadership is not amenable to “moral pressure,” over the Olympics or anything else, particularly by the nations that invaded Iraq.

The Dalai Lama should have closed down the Hollywood strategy a decade ago and focused on back-channel diplomacy with Beijing. He should have publicly renounced the claim to a so-called Greater Tibet, which demands territory that was never under the control of the Lhasa government. Sending his envoys to talk about talks with the Chinese while simultaneously encouraging the global pro-Tibet lobby has achieved nothing.

When Beijing attacks the “Dalai clique,” it is referring to the various groups that make Chinese leaders lose face each time they visit a Western country. The International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, is now a more powerful and effective force on global opinion than the Dalai Lama’s outfit in northern India. The European and American pro-Tibet organizations are the tail that wags the dog of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

These groups hate criticism almost as much as the Chinese government does. Some use questionable information. For example, the Free Tibet Campaign in London (of which I am a former director) and other groups have long claimed that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese since they invaded in 1950. However, after scouring the archives in Dharamsala while researching my book on Tibet, I found that there was no evidence to support that figure. The question that Nancy Pelosi and celebrity advocates like Richard Gere ought to answer is this: Have the actions of the Western pro-Tibet lobby over the last 20 years brought a single benefit to the Tibetans who live inside Tibet, and if not, why continue with a failed strategy?

I first visited Tibet in 1986. The economic plight of ordinary people is slightly better now, but they have as little political freedom as they did two decades ago. Tibet lacks genuine autonomy, and ethnic Tibetans are excluded from positions of real power within the bureaucracy or the army. Tibet was effectively a sovereign nation at the time of the Communist invasion and was in full control of its own affairs. But the battle for Tibetan independence was lost 49 years ago when the Dalai Lama escaped into exile. His goal, and that of those who want to help the Tibetan people, should be to negotiate realistically with the Chinese state. The present protests, supported from overseas, will bring only more suffering. China is not a democracy, and it will not budge.

Patrick French is the author of “Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land.”

Mr. French writes that the Dalai Lama should drop his "Hollywood strategy" in favor of "back channel diplomacy." He asserts the protests by the "Dalai Clique" cause the Chinese to "lose face" when visiting the west. As a filmmaker I've been drawn to the Tibetan's tragedy not because of its celebrity. Interviewing monks who were chained to walls, electrocuted -- a doctor who left Tibet because he was forced to sterilize women at the behest of his Chinese overseers -- or the children who walked across the Himalayas, some who lost limbs from frostbite so they could learn to speak in their native tongue -- All of whom said goodbye to their family and country in order to keep their culture alive.

Because I live in LA, am I supposed to turn my back on their story for fear of making Chinese officials "save face?" It was Jiang Zemin who claimed he was like Abraham Lincoln because, in his words, "He freed the slaves of Tibet." To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen; "We know Abe Lincoln, Abe Lincoln is a friend of ours. And the Beijing Clique ain't no Abraham Lincoln."

As Mr. French knows, only 4-5% of China belongs to the Communist party, (73 million according to their official number) so a cadre of officials roughly the population of Shanghai, gets to dictate what the rest of the world can or can't think about Tibet. Why does this sound like a Nazi solution to me?

The Chinese may have no intention of giving up Tibet - but they didn't in 1906 either when they attacked Tibet after the British and Younghusband had withdrawn. Their forces were routed by the army raised by the 13th Dalai Lama, who kept Tibet Chinese free until 1949. For Mr. French to claim he found no evidence of the 1.2 million Tibetans reportedly dying as a result of the Chinese invasion, he neglects to offer a number that he thinks did die. 10,000? 100,000? It reminds me of the casualty figures that come out of the Iraq war. What is the number that would make you happy, Mr. French? And if it's under 500,000, should we doff our caps to those Chinese soldiers who merely starved the rest of those Tibetans to death?

It's appalling to hear Mr. French attack the Dalai Lama as if he'd devised a plan of popularity with a clique of "Hollywood phonies" instead of catering to those Beijing phonies who have claimed that "All religion is poison." In the history of China, what land have they ever given up voluntarily? In the history of China, what ruler negotiated a fair terms for the people they'd nearly wiped off the face of the earth? The same could be said for countries of the West - only an idiot would think that a dialog with charlatans, who continually claim the Dalai Lama is a "splittist" would amount to anything. "We have peace in our time," trumpted the biggest falsehood prior to "Weapons of Mass Destruction." The Tibetans only hope, according to Mr. French, is for the country to fall under the weight of its own banking system, and one day, like the Sioux Nation in the BlackHills of Dakota, their slave masters will fade into the woodwork once they've taken out all the gold, ore and uranium they can muster.

I personally interviewed a dozen Han Chinese shopkeepers in Tibet, while making my last documentary there, informally asking them if they could give me a frank assessment of why they chose to live in Lhasa. Every single one of them expressed a hatred for Tibet, and wished that they could return home to the lower altitudes of their native country. One pointed out that pregnancy results in being removed from Lhasa, because the altitude causes complications with delivering babies. To a man and woman, they all said the only reason they were in Tibet was because they were earning triple their normal salary. One day those salaries will fall, as law of supply and demand tells us; and those people will catch the first train home if a Chinese soldier doesn't stop them from doing so.

Mr. French does a disservice to Tibetans everywhere by claiming the Dalai Lama and his "Hollywood strategy" have done nothing to help Tibetans inside Tibet. Certainly those released from Drapchi prison due to international pressure, filmmaker Ngawang Choepel comes to mind, might beg to differ. While filming in Tibet, a monk came up to me with tears in his eyes and hugged me. He said "thank you for caring about Tibet. And thank the American people for not forgetting us." I prefer to think his tears were worth every effort of every person who tries to pressure the Chinese. The fact that they become intractable under pressure, is like saying during the 1930's; "Don't annoy the Nazis. They're only going to become more difficult to dealt with."

I invite anyone interested to view my documentary "Tibetan Refugee" which features interviews with recent arrivals from Tibet. It's available, for free, on youtube, (links provided next to this post - it's free - and only 50 minutes) and Mr. French can judge for himself what the Tibetans think about helping the Chinese government to save face.


Martin said...

I traveled extensively in Tibet in 2006, speak good Chinese and some Tibetan, and I have to say that I agree with Mr French. I felt the Chinese were opening up,were granting more religious and personal freedom, and could have been persuaded to grant even more if they were sure that would not threaten their political control. The construction of the railroad and of interior roads was actually a big part of that opening up. That's an impossible case to make now. The Chinese have to protect their own Han citizens in Tibet, as well as the Moslems, who were also attacked despite having been in Tibet for centuries - the Tibetans are actually a pretty racist people, a fact that we don't see because they have so few occasions to show their racism.

richmartini said...

I must respectfully disagree. When I traveled in Tibet I was traveling with Nepalese and Tibetan guides. I was able to meet Tibetans in an environment devoid of political pressure. I've been across Tibet from Lhasa to Kailash and have seen the changes being made. Using Tibetan chain gangs to build their roads may seem like progress - building a railroad to take out the precious ore, lowering the water levels of the lakes may seem like progress, but don't benefit the Tibetan people. The only progress I saw was that almost half of the staff of the Lhasa Hotel were now Tibetan, when before it was 99% Chinese. That didn't stop a Chinese guard for telling me to stop speaking in Tibetan to the Tibetans. "You're in China," he said. The Han Chinese that I interviewed can't wait to get out of Tibet - they hate the food, the people, the altitude - there's nothing there for them to like or enjoy but the money. After decades of being put down, oppressed, denied jobs, having siblings and cousins put in prison for any kind of political remark will inevitably turn into retribution. To call the Tibetans racist people - towards who? Caucasians? Nepalese? Or perhaps you mean the Tibetans resent the Chinese having all the jobs, the success, and enjoying the fruits of their nation? In the face of cultural genocide, I'd hope the Tibetans would finally react to the hostility they experience on a daily basis. We did here in the US after centuries of British rule without representation. As did the people of India. It's a shame that Tibet didn't follow the path of Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim - or that the League of Nations didn't recognize Tibet when they had the chance - if they had, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Anonymous said...

I admire your courage to speak out for those helpless Tibetans. However, there is also bigger injustice going on much closer to home that requires the same kind of passion you show for the Tibetans. Namely, make US government apologize for the genocide that it committed during its conquest of North America and return all the land in North America to its rightful owner, the native Indians. Before you start doing that, everything you are passionate about Tibet problem rings hollow.

richmartini said...

I agree with you. I've told my friends in Tibet to use the U.S. story as perspective; a larger country overpowers a nation of indigenous people and rapes their land and takes all their resources. And then, after about 100 years they leave them alone. It happened in the U.S. It could happen in China. The nascent govt. of China is only 70 years old. In 30 years, Tibetans may very well be building eco-based casinos and using the funds to rebuild their culture. Strangers things have happened; but I agree with you. The stories are similar. It behooves us to pay attention to all people, refugees and indigenous peoples included, whose rights are being trampled.

Aidsmonkey said...

Are you in support of returning all US land to the natives or not? Or are you going try to gloss over it with that useless platitude?

Tibet has been in and out of Chinese rule for over 1000 years sometimes bristling under it and sometimes peacefully. There are tensions today (stirred up in no small part by ignorati such as yourself). But Tibet is still full of Tibetans with a culture that will continue (and change), as it has through multiple Chinese dynasties.

In just a few hundred years, the native population of the US went from 100% to 0.9%. Where are the film-makers, the actors, and the do-gooders?

Oh yeah, you're living on Indian land pretending to cry a mighty river but secretly snickering at your good fortune.

And all you can say to Tibetans is, "Be wary of the Chinese because they will do to you what we did to our natives."

But the truth is, the Chinese will not. They haven't over thousands of years.

richmartini said...

Learn your history, my friend. The US Supreme Court in 1832 said that all Indian lands are sovereign nations within the US borders and that all treaties must be honored. That's when President Jackson responded "The Court can make the laws, then let them enforce them." They weren't enforced until 1976. So yes, American Indians have gotten their lands back and retained their legal rights; Through the US Court system. Since China is on its way to using courts, and one day the only 4% of the country that is a member of the ruling communist party will implode, China will be free to use its courts to honor its commitments that its already made to Tibet as a sovereign nation. As a separate nation. The relations may go back 1000 years, (including when Tibetan armies over ran Beijing, or when China invaded Tibet in 1906, and was forced out by the 13th Dalai Lama until 1951) but the current relationship is this; Tibetans haven't asked for a separate country. Just to be treated equally in their own country. To be treated as a brother instead of a slave. To be autonomous, like the Native American tribes. Vote for their own representatives, within China. So please, get informed and learn a bit from world history, outside of the box you're currently in. The current Chinese govt is only 70 years old. It's changing every day. If it lasts 30 more years, I'll be surprised; every other Communist govt has disappeared.

Anonymous said...

Those Indian Reserves are a pathetic excuse of what you call the Indians getting their land back. I don’t see any reserves in China. Under Chinese rule the Tibetan population has increased and standard of living improved. Lifespan increased from 35 to 65.
Why did the CIA fund the Tibetans-in-exile? I believe there is a hidden agenda. China has every right to protect its country and borders.

What about Diego Garcia? Diego Garcia once had a small native population, the inhabitants, known as thw Chagossians, were forced to relocate (1967–1973) so that the island could be turned into the U.S. military base. Most of the roughly 1,500 displaced Chagossians were agricultural workers and fisherman. Uprooted and robbed of their livelihood, the Chagossians now live in poverty in Mauritius's urban slums, more than 1,000 miles from their homeland. A smaller number were deported to the Seychelles. About 850 islanders forced off Diego Garcia are alive today, and another 4,300 Chagossians have been born in exile.

After lengthy court battles in 2000, 2004, 2006 the British Courts eventually awarded the islands back the Chagossians. The U.S., however, is opposed to anyone other than military personnel and their employees living anywhere in the Chagos archipelago, asserting that security will be compromised. Having finally triumphed in a hard-won and lengthy legal battle, the Chagossians now find themselves at loggerheads with the world's superpower because the U.S is opposed to anyone other than military personnel and their employees living anywhere in the Chagos archipelago, asserting that security will be compromised.

With the US financially backing the Tibetans-in-exile, the aftermath of the Opium War and 8 nation alliance occupation of China and treating Chinese as “dogs” in their own country, please tell me why the Chinese Government should not be frenetic about protecting their borders. Charity begins at home Mr Richmartini. How about doing a documentary on those Chagossians?

richmartini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
richmartini said...

I'll get right on that doc, thanks.

If the US is backing Tibetans in exile they're doing an awfully poor job of it. The refugee center I went to in Dharamsala lacks a fresh water pump. The people live in bunk beds under tin roofs. But then, I'm sure you saw that part in the doc, didn't you?

People leave Tibet on a daily basis because of poor conditions there, because they can't get jobs from their Han masters, because they are being harassed for admiring the Dalai Lama, or because they were tortured in prison for free speech. The issue at hand is the future of China - which has only had this current regime for 70 Mao years. Once the Chinese people wake up and throw out (vote out?) this creepy regime, they can see and hear for themselves what's really happening in Tibet.

As to what borders are owned by what nationalist propaganda of the moment; I feel we're on the planet together because we share it, not because we own it. On one hand, China claims they've 'owned Tibet forever.' (To differentiate - by China I don't mean all the Chinese people on the planet - I'm referring to the Hu Jin Tao clique) On the other hand they treat the people who live there as slaves. Either Tibet is as important as Shanghai, or it's a country that was invaded and the rulers get to treat how it wants.

I spoke to an older monk (Palden Gyatso) who smuggled the torturing weapons out of Drapchi prison and he showed me the cattle prods that they'd used on his mouth and body for 30 years. What's amazing about this monk is that he outlived two of his torturers. This Chinese soldier would get up every morning, have breakfast, go to Drapchi and torture this old monk. Then the torturer got sick and died. So they brought in a new one. Then he got up every morning, said goodbye to his family, went to work torturing this old monk. And then he got sick and died. Finally, the monk got out of Drapchi prison. I asked him what it was like to see the Dalai Lama after that ordeal. Tears welled in his eyes. "It was the happiest day of my life."

It's not enough when accused of doing evil to point to other people and say "but listen to you, you're doing evil as well." It's not enough to hide behind "We've had a complicated relationship with our neighbor for centuries, but right now we happen to rule them." China has a long history with Mongolia as well, but in that case, the Russians gobbled it up before them. Why doesn't China march into Mongolia, their historical neighbor and former ruler, and claim Ulan Bator as their own? It's the same logic as in Tibet. Only it's convenient to forget about how long Mongolians ruled China.

Either way, my friend, Mr. Anonymous, we both want China (and the US) to be free. Free of being accused of being evil, free of a regime that doesn't allow free speech or democracy - the ability to vote in who represents you. Even if, in the case of the US, that administration is just as misguided as any despotic regime. We both share hope for the future, that China will one day be free of this ridiculous nationalist fervor that's whipped up by the people in charge so they can stay in charge. That one day everyone in China will get to vote for their own rights. Then, when Tibetans can vote and elect their own representatives, you'll see how neighborly they can be. Because they'll have the freedom to be neighborly. Or not. And that change is going to come. It's just a matter of time.

Chinglish said...

Richmartini might take exception to my labelling him as a misguided do-gooder. It is people like him who contributes to the growth in the pro-Tibet industry. This Juggernaut stoked by Western media, Hollywood celebrities, sports identities and politicians, is thundering along out of control. China bashing will always be their favourite sport regardless of human rights gain in other areas.
Have they ever asked themselves this question: is China deliberately out to make life miserable for the fifth- large ethnic nationals within its borders? I think not.
The ordinary Chinese had gone through countless number of political upheavals: purging of the landlords, anti-Rightist movement, the Great Leap Forward, the people’s communes, famine, the Cultural Revolution etc., etc. Each one accompanied by great suffering and death in the millions.
But the people learn to adapt, move on and get on with life. I say so with conviction because my immediate and extended family experienced death, labour camp re-eduction, seizure of assets, public humiliation, denunciation etc. for over two decades But people are now enjoying personal, religious and cultural freedom previously thought impossible. Freedom in its many forms come in small measures over time.
You can follow your religion within certain parameters. The Catholics are surviving and thriving, above and underground, without the Pope and the Vatican. I even spotted pilgrims waving the Chinese flag in the recent Catholic World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney,Australia.
On the other hand a minority of Tibetans, are living in false hopes that their great White brothers from afar will win them unfettered freedom. Clearly, that is not going to happen anytime soon. State control in every aspect of life is absolute. It is far from ideal, but we can work around it and make do. Communism is not forever.
It is people like Richmartini,who are prolonging and aggravating the misery of the Tibetans. Wake up to yourselves, channel your excessive energy elsewhere. Yo can help the Tibetans better by leaving them alone. The Chinese leadership will not be dictated to.

richmartini said...

Yes, I take exception to your posting this nonsense. "The pro Tibet industry" as you call it is ridiculous. (I don't make money from my documentaries about Tibet or Tibetans, all proceeds go to a non profit org. and I've yet to meet anyone trying to create an industry out of highlighting the suffering of Tibetans at the hands of the Chinese Govt.) I am sorry for your family suffering humiliation at the hands of the Chinese Govt during the cultural revolution, but like many people who post here and at my youtube site MartiniFilm about my Tibetan documentaries, you're confusing criticism of the govt. of China with criticism of Chinese people. I have nothing against China, or the Chinese people. I do have problems with the behavior of Mao and other Beijing officials who thought they were somehow liberating Tibet, while committing genocide to its people, destroying its culture and robbing its resources. Yes, state control is absolute in China, or so it seems, and very far from ideal, but it takes intelligent people like yourself to make a stand for freedom of thought in your own heart. Those who've studied Buddhism know that it is not a religion per se, it is a philosophy - when Mao told the Dalai Lama "All religion is poison" he showed he knew little about Buddhism and nothing about Tibetan Buddhism. Many Buddhists call their philosophy a 'non theistic religion,' because it lacks the belief in an all powerful deity that controls the universe. The only all powerful person controlling the universe is yourself, and the ability to see truth through lies is one of the tenets of this philosophy. It's a philosophy we can all benefit from studying. I believe Tibet will be free when China is free. Free from Communism, free from totalitarianism, free from a govt shipping Han shopkeepers to Lhasa against their will. Once the Chinese people who have been forced to move to Tibet, forced to torture Tibetans, forced to pretend they want to stay there - once the yoke is off their heads, they will return to China, and leave Tibet to Tibetans. As I've stated here in the past, I spoke with nearly a dozen Han businessmen who told me privately they hated living in Tibet - hated the food, hated the people, hated the climate, were only there for the money, and once the triple salary incentive was gone, they will happily return to their homes. We agree Chinglish, that time is the enemy of all dictatorial governments, (including in the west) and time is on the side of the Chinese people, the Tibetan people, but not on the side of the Govt leaders - when only 4% of a nation admits to belonging to the Communist party (their own statistics), it's just a matter of time before 5% of the people start to believe in something else. Consider the poor Chinese official mentioned in the NY Times last week, who went public with his concerns that the govt was lax with earthquake proof construction in his district. He was convicted of revealing state secrets and sentenced to a year of hard labor in prison. It requires intelligent people like yourself to help find a better way for all Chinese, who deserve to stand free with their own elected government. Hence; a free China = a free Tibet.

Anonymous said...

To Richmartini: I do not question your motive in the Tibetan cause; it is the execution that is debatable. I will not go into Buddhism philosophy or Christian ethics, rather, the re-emergence of the Christian churches in China in my argument.
By not taking a belligerent, collision course, both the Catholic and Protestant churches are going ahead in leaps and bounds right under the nose of the communist masters. The Protestant church in particular, is growing in exponential terms. A decade or so from now, China will boast the biggest Protestant population in the world. A growth rate far greater than Hong Kong or Taiwan, where there is complete religious freedom. Sure, there are still clergies in jail, and some of the heads of church had served long jail terms. But the clergies are also extracting concessions from the communist officials by standing firm, without outside interference. The emphasis is on without outside interference.
Deep down the communists accept capitalism, and repudiate what Mao had stood for. They also know spiritual fulfilment be it Christianity, Buddhism, Islam etc., goes hand in hand with economic well being. There is no escaping from the fact that the govt. will not relinquish control. Not yet.
. By antagonising the communists with your protests in every turn, by violent disruptions to the Olympic torch relay , the pro-Tibet lobby is giving the communist hardliners plenty of ammo. to tighten the screw even more. It also leads to the ordinary Chinese to believe once again the Westerners are ganging up on them, out to humiliate them. And I do think there is a degree of China bashing in the mix.
Patrick French puts it more eloquently than I ever could. There is a need for a rethink on your strategies. By your well-publicised protests, exaggerated claims, you are not doing anything for the Tibetans.
I refer you all to the classic Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The essence of this ancient treatise still holds relevance in approach to conflict and competition, and applicable to the corporate world today.
Now I do not pretend I am up to the task of reading this Chinese classic in its original scripts; but its best- known tenet is oft quoted. In my clumsy way it says: know yourself and know your opponents, fight one hundred battles and score one hundred victories. The pro-Tibet lobby sees, but does not know or understand its adversary the Chinese Govt. It succeeded in causing annoyance, irritation and nothing more.
Ask yourselves, twenty, thirty years on , what have you achieved? If you don’t change tack, twenty, thirty years hence, you are still running on the spot, and the Tibetans will continue to fall behind the rest of China.

richmartini said...

Chinglish, are you posting as anonymous now? Whatever. The problem I have with Mr. French's diatribe is that he claims the Dalai Lama is pursuing a strategy visa vis Hollywood. That's nonsense. "Hollywood" doesn't exist per se, and certainly filmmakers like myself ("Chicagoan," thank you very much)seek out the Tibetan cause because it represents a conflict between a bully and a victim. The essence of drama is conflict, and it doesn't get much better than the bully Chinese government slapping around an innocent Tibetan monk. You can argue till you're blue in the face about the "strategy" the Dalai Lama should take, but he's been remarkably consistent in the face of tremendous oppression: non-violence and acceptance of Tibet within China's borders. That's HIS point of view, and mine happens to be from my exalted apt. in Los Angeles, where I see the Chinese government repeatedly abusing people - whether it's the poor Chinese girl picked to sing at the opening of the Olympics, but her voice is not worthy, so they use the ugly girl to back her up - to the people of Tibet that I've interviewed who have been tortured, beaten and abused, but the government claims they're not subservient enough. I spent yesterday with someone who had spent five years in Drapchi Prison. I can tell you - it's not a place that you or I would like to spend five years. God forbid you should ever have to spend five years in that place. That being said, yes, YOU should read the Art of War where 60% of the book is about how prisoners should be treated. How the incarcerated prisoner should be treated "better than the soldier" because that's how you can gain his confidence and loyalty. I wish the Chinese soldiers and overlords in Tibet would read the book, because maybe they'd stop treating the Tibetans like they're subhuman, using cattle prods to control them, or consider them less than worthy of running their own country. And what nonsense you write about "well publicized protests" as if people cared a whit about the publicity of those protesting a crime. No matter how wonderful the opening ceremonies of the Olympics were, it still won't dissipate the bad taste in everyone's mouth from the insistent abuse of power coming from the government in Beijing. Again - I have no complaint about the Chinese people - only the goons who are running their country. They should all be arrested and sent to prison, not only for their shameful acts after the earthquake (arresting an engineer who complained about their standards and sentencing him to a year in prison for telling the truth), but for their constant drumbeat that the Dalai Lama is a threat to their people. You're way too bright to defend these criminals. Why not get off the anti-Tibetan band wagon and get behind a change in government in Beijing? Then, when the people of China can vote for their government, they will be free - and most likely - will allow the Tibetans to rule themselves, even if they maintain the current borders. If, after everyone in China is free to vote their conscience, they still decide the Tibetans are their servants, that will be something else, but I sincerely doubt it. Once you free China there will be a free Tibet. Get to work on that my friend, and please stop wasting your time trying to prove that Mr. French, and the other arm chair apologists have anything but their own world view obscuring their vision - He's not far removed from the subject of one of his books, "Younghusband" only without the enlightenment that Sir Francis experienced upon leaving Lhasa.. once you put a Tibetan in front of you, as a friend, as a brother, you'll have a hard time saying that we should work to appease those who are abusing him, whoever they may be.

Chinglish said...

Chinglish is Anonymous in the last posting
I do not pretend there is no human rights abuse in China. I accept everything you said about the switch in the Olympic Games opening ceremony. The Sichuan earthquake highlights the level of corruption and sham justice in China. The list can go on about China’s social injustice, inequality, large underclass, the land grabs, pollution and so on so forth. I derive no comfort from them.
But my position on Tibet is not shifting. I maintain that Tibetans should be left alone. All the protesting is not doing one iota of difference for them. You may embarrass the Chinese Govt., but they’ll get over it soon. The Chinese Govt. might see the protesting movement as one monolithic hostile force which must be countered by not losing grips in Tibet.
You are spicing up the debate by bringing in the Dalai Lama…. Western leaders are falling over themselves to be seen with him, and he is feted like the Pope of Buddhism. Is he what he cracked up to be? Of course, he is a very charming and at times humorous individual. His messages of love, peace, and compassion strike a chord with everyone. Honestly, what do you expect a Buddhist monk to preach, the art of motorcycle maintenance, perhaps? George Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Angela Merkel Gordon Brown and company all want to show their human rights credentials for domestic consumption by being seen in Dalai Lama’s presence.
He may deny it, but the Dalai Lama is just another political animal in a monk’s cloak. He had his chance years back when China offered him a chance to return. But he blew it by demanding other provinces such as Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan, where there are Tibetan settlements, to be part of Greater Tibet, and amongst other things, no troops stationed. He lost his marbles then.
The Dalai Lama’s appeal to his legion of New Age Western fans and converts is in his perceived Buddhist mysticism. To the mainstream Buddhist nations such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, the Dalai Lama is of no significance. You certainly would not find him in Africa. The Africans are too poor, and have no political voice on the international stage. He and his minders are not stupid.
Chinese officials will meet his representatives from time to time to appease some of the world leaders. You can bet your bottom dollar, nothing of substance will come of the meetings. To the Chinese hierarchy, the Dalai Lama is a non-entity, his use by date is up.
There must be other ways you can improve the Tibetans’ lot. Hammering the Chinese Govt. is not one of them. Don’t give them false hope that because the Dalai Lama is seen with world leaders, that people are protesting long and hard outside, therefore help is on the way. Know how your adversary operates, ignore it at the Tibetans’ peril.

richmartini said...

Well my friend, I'm glad to see you agree with me about abuse in China, as well as the levels of corruption in the government. At least we have a groundwork from which to converse. However, it makes me chuckle to see you making the Dalai Lama out to be a publicity whore, like some celebrity out to get his picture taken. Why not take the time to read some of his books? I think you'll find that the people who seek out his advice, and honor him, are honoring not only the person, but the philosophy behind it. I've seen him speak a number of times; I highly recommend going to his website to hear his lectures online. But in the same paragraph where you point out the corruption in Chinese government, you wonder why the Dalai Lama didn't believe them when they offered "safe passage" if he'd return. Gee, ya think that's a good idea? The last time they invited him to talk, they were shelling the Potala Palace. The Panchen Lama was invited to Beijing for talks and was promptly put into prison. He was finally released during the warming of relations in the 80's; when he returned home, he publicly repudiated his overseers. (He died a few days later, many think by State administered poison.) His 'reincarnate' was imprisoned once the Dalai Lama recognized him, and is still incarcerated. Why? Because the Panchen Lama is involved with selecting the new Dalai Lama. (However in this case, the Dalai Lama has already announced where he'll be reborn, in a democratic country, so the Chinese authorities need not bother to try to manipulate the selection.) If you would just spend a little time learning about Buddhism, you'll discover the various branches - Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana - and how a different branch of Buddhism made its way to China, to Sri Lanka, and other parts of Asia. That the Tibetan branch (Vajrayan) is unique for a number of reasons - mainly because it is translated from the original Sanskrit - and after Buddhism was virtually wiped off the face of India, it was through the translated Tibetan texts they were able to reclaim their heritage. Do yourself a favor, pick up a book on Buddhism. I could recommend a few, but let's start with any book written by the Dalai Lama. Bob Thurman's book "essential Tibetan buddhism" explains the lineage, and "Good Life, Good Death" is a good book about rebirth. But mostly you'll learn about compassion - how to cultivate a warm heart - a heart of compassion for your fellow humans, including the Tibetans. I understand that you think you're right in lecturing me that the Tibetans should find a different tack in their dealings with China - but the only one that seems available to them besides asking for outside help is to start a long and bloody war, which on one hand could result in their being released from bondage, but will certainly result in the shedding of lots of innocent blood and lives and awful hardship. So, perhaps you have a better idea for them to deal with the Chinese who've invaded their country. Would love to hear it. But please don't blame the Dalai Lama - he's not the one who burned shop owner's places in Lhasa. He's not the one protesting the Olympic torch, in fact he's advocating the opposite. And you're right - his message of love, peace and compassion strikes a chord with everyone. And his "minders" as you put it - as if he needed someone to tell him what to say, or what his heart feels - are also praying for your liberation. And I will bet my bottom dollar, as you put it, that as the Chinese become more and more capitalistic ("I should have earthquake proof schools if I pay for them!") the government will have less and less power - the genie is out of the bottle, and no amount of oppression will put it back in. And once they're done milking Tibet for all its minerals, boxite and uranium, they'll spend their time somewhere else. Africa perhaps, as they already have in the Sudan. But either way, we can agree that what the Chinese government is doing in Tibet probably isn't what they're publicly telling us their doing.

Chinglish said...

I am aware there are many branches of the Buddhist faith. The faithfuls always accord the various senior monks, priests, abbots, whatever their titles, from recognised branches, awe and respect. I do not detect the same degree of reverence accorded the Dalai Lama. He is too much of a globe-trotting politician to be taken seriously by traditional Buddhists.
I don’t think I had said anything telling the Tibetans to take a different tack. My consistent plea is to ask outsiders to leave them alone, don’t egg them on banging their heads against a brick wall. What have all the outside protests over the decades achieved? By all means antagonise, insult, humiliate, embarrass the Chinese leadership and govt. But don’t cry foul when the authorities tighten the screw with each annoying move that you create. The protesters don’t have to wear the consequences. Leave the Tibetans alone, let the authorities worry about other things. Take a look at the Christian churches, there is your proof! They don’t have the insane onslaught of protests to distract their single- minded push for greater religious freedom. Small gains made over time becomes a major concession. Sanity prevails over hothead.
Heed the call by Patrick French. He hit the nail on the head by observing that each major bloodshed was accompanied by things happened outside Tibet. I am only a light weight, call me parroting his line if you must. Patrick French knew when it was time to call half-time, to regroup and rethink.

richmartini said...

Pardon me, but Mr. French is deluded. Just as his meandering bio of Younghusband, where he thinks traipsing in the footsteps of the explorer would help him define the people he met along the way, Mr. French clearly hasn't spent much time in Tibet, despite his pedigree with ICT. For him to claim the Dalai Lama is pursuing a Hollywood solution to the problems of Tibetans is nonsense, and a conclusion from someone completely removed from anyone who might know what policy, outside of compassion, the Dalai Lama is pursuing. No amount of posturing by any celebrity will sway any electorate, or govt. toadie - however, it's not the fault of the celebrities that they find truth, solace and compassion in the Dalai Lama's message. Nor is it a failing in filmmakers, writers and others who feel a pull to tell their compelling story. Your "leave the Tibetans" alone sounds like someone saying "Leave the people in Darfur alone, they'll work it out themselves, shining a spotlight on their horror won't solve their problems." I spent time the other day with someone who was released from Drapchi prison because of the spotlight put on his situation by celebrities. Would you prefer he still be in prison? Chained to a wall? Tortured with cattle prods? The Chinese leadership can only humiliate and embarrass themselves, whether it's claiming that 14 year old gymnasts have legitimate passports, singers have to be beautiful in order to be on camera, or that fireworks need to be digitally enhanced to seem all the more powerful. It's the death throes of a dying, bloated empire that's trying to prop up its reason for existence. Once the talented, educated, fierce Chinese people wake up to realize their government should be swept aside for a group of honest people who care about its country, will there be any kind of significant change. (and one can hope in this country as well) Meanwhile, those of us who care to pay attention to the crimes and inequities heaped upon the Tibetans, will continue to do so, Mr. French can find his own way to help liberate them, through appeasement, kowtowing, or whatever else it is you think people should do for despotic fatuous overlords. When they finally put the bad Disneyland wax fake of Mao's body to rest (the one on display in Tianemen is fake, mind you, the real body is below, a victim of bad postmortem mistakes) I predict there will be some improvement in the lives of the Chinese, and by extension, the Tibetans. One can only hope.

Anonymous said...

richmartini said:
"the League of Nations didn't recognize Tibet when they had the chance - if they had, we wouldn't be having this discussion."

The 13th Dalai Lama did not apply for membership, even though he knew about it. He probably knew Tibet did not qualify, when China would have claimed sovereignty. Anyway, he dared not. Tibet would not be able to resist the Chinese provincial armies. Tsering Shakya has a paper on Tibet and the League of Nations, and he tells us that the Dalai Lama did not pursue the idea of membership.

To tell people that Tibet was independent before 1950 is the greatest lie made by Hollywood and the current Dalai Lama, and all the Tibet campaigners. The above paper by Tsering Shakya is proof of this lie.

No wonder the Tibetans had to suffer, because they were deceived, above all by their religious idol, their God.

Time to liberate them from the deceptions of their God.

richmartini said...

Facts have a funny way of refuting delusion. The Tibetan govt sent an emissary to the League of Nations original conference. He was arrested by the British and sent off the train he was on. He came back in disguise - as a boy - but was discovered a second time by the British authorities, who were determined to keep the Tibetans from screwing up their trade agreements with China. Open a book my friend. Hollywood isn't interested in Tibet - or there would be more movies than "Kundun" in the theaters. It's only documentary filmmakers who point the camera at the truth that get a chance to tell their story. If you knew anything about Buddhism, you'd know they don't believe in God - and the Communists in China slaughtered, and continue to abuse them, because they haven't bothered to understand Buddhism either. It isn't a religion my friend, but a philosophy - but I doubt you'd understand the difference. The proof of the lie the Chinese govt repeats every day about their owning Tibet is in how they treat Tibetans. Like servants. Like people who are less than them. Tibetans suffer because The Chinese govt is deluded, and delusional. But I give them another 20 years before a people's revolution finally wakes up to the fact that only 4% of China is actually part of the Communist Party. As long as toadies like yourself spread the lies they want you to, you will continue to keep down the intelligence and freedom of Chinese people. But Change is Infectious.. and democracy has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. As I've said before: Free China and you'll Free Tibet.

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