Tibet Protests and the Dalai Clique

I'm sitting here trying to untie the plastic wiring on some figurines I bought for my daughter. For those of you who have seen these additions to toys, tying them up to the box, making it virtually impossible to untie without pliers - I'm struck at the metaphor of how this is the way China has tied the feet of the world around it. The US is neck deep in debt to China, the toys, the clothing, our drugs, our food, everything is manufactured there (when a democratic, capitalist inclined, english speaking India waits next door) - and like the Tibetans bound in Drapchi prison, these toys are trapped in this box. Oh maybe that's pushing the metaphor a bit.

Some ingenious Chinese laborer has devised a way to make me never get this thing untied. Or perhaps, it's the prisoner's only way of reaching out to let us know how tied he or she is - sitting in a prison cell perhaps, making toys for people in the West. It reminds me of when I spoke to Robert MacNamara in Delhi. I asked him "Why has our country always aligned itself with Pakistan, when it's neighbor India, is democratic, a capitalist country and speaks English?" And he said "1. India's not capitalist, it has too many tariffs, 2. It's not democratic because it's not the same kind of democracy as ours, and 3.." at this point he put his arm around me, as if we were old friends. I thought "I'm being MacNamarized." He leaned over and said "off the record. They're a pain in the ass to deal with." So. I wasn't interviewing him, I wasn't a reporter, I was a filmmaker in Delhi, so as far as it being off the record - well, there you have it. Why we aligned ourselves with Pakistan and not India for forty years. And why all our goods are made in China.

Here's Elton John in San Francisco protesting on behalf of Tibet. Good job Sir Reginald (Elton).

This is a letter I wrote, published today in the Chicago Tribune. Enjoy.

(The original letter from the spokesman for the Chinese embassy was posted at the Tribune on April 7, complaining about the media being addicted to the "Dalai Clique.")

Tibetans speak for themselves

With reference to "Chinese restore order in Tibet," as a documentary filmmaker who interviewed Tibetan refugees who had recently arrived in Dharamsala, I think it's important to hear Tibetans speak for themselves about the Chinese occupation of their country.

Mostly children and monks, they make the dangerous trek over the Himalayas for many reasons, including the following:

*Parents send their children to learn Tibetan language and culture they can't learn at home.

*Some monks were tortured in prison for possessing photographs of the Dalai Lama or for putting up banners that read "Free Tibet."

*A doctor left because he was being forced to sterilize Tibetan women.

(watch the videos on the right panel to hear them speak for themselves.)

The language the Chinese government uses, claiming these protests are instigated by the "Dalai Clique" (separatist forces for Tibetan independence, both in and outside China), is reminiscent of Nazis blaming unrest in Poland on the Jewish ghetto. Trying to tie freedom-rights protesters to the Nobel laureate is telling of profound Chinese distaste for all things Tibetan.

I interviewed Han workers in Lhasa who spoke of their distaste for the food, the altitude, the people of Tibet; the only reason they remain is the triple wages they earned for relocation. If members of the Beijing Clique wants to earn the world's respect by hosting the Olympics, they might consider treating their adopted Tibetans as brothers instead of servants and claim the Dalai Lama as one of China's greatest resources.

--Richard Martini


"Tibetan Refugee"

"Journey Into Tibet"

Santa Monica, Calif.

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