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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Opinion: China-free, March 10

March 4, 2010

By Tenpa Dugdak (Australia)
March 3, 2010

2008 changed everything for the Tibetan people.
It was the year Tibetans in Tibet couldn’t take
it anymore and took to the streets. The true
Tibetan spirit was on display in front of a world
audience. Suddenly the image of Tibetans in the
foreign imagination as placid, smiley, calm,
lovey-dovey and picture-perfect, was changed.
Shambala romanticism was refashioned.

The world could see that beneath the surface,
Tibetans are human beings like everyone else, the
only difference being our full gamut of emotions
was on display on the global political stage to a
greater extent than ever before.

We showed that we too want freedom, justice,
democracy and to be able to live with dignity.
Many non-Tibetan Buddhists were despondent -
their imagined Tibet was shattered. One image
resonates with me from 2008: CCP merchandise
piled in a heap and burned by Tibetans. A stark
symbol of how frustrated they were with being
dehumanised and treated as second-class citizens
in their own country. Their action demanded an
end to 50 years of colonial rule, despite being
born in a Tibet “liberated” from the darkest
feudal system by “peaceful” CCP machineries.

Those fires triggered a memory of a campaign I
heard as a school kid during the early 90s in
India. It involved some exiled Tibetans in
Dharamsala burning and destroying second-hand
drinking thermoses- cheap Chinese products. I remember being inspired.

Fast-forward to 2010 in Australia. It is a
different story. From frozen food to clothing,
toys, electronic appliances, stationery,
anti-virus software, prison officers’ and
inmates’ clothing - even garlic comes from China.
The whole world is a market where consumers have
little choice but to buy “Made in China” products.

Here’s a grim irony: unbeknownst to me, during
the 2008 March 10th and Olympic torch protests, I
was kitted out in "Made in China" (MIC) clothing
while I shouted my lungs out at the doorstep of
the Chinese embassy in Australia’s capital city,
Canberra, with other Tibetans who had bussed down
from many states, without any pay (unlike
thousands of CCP supporters paid a stipend to
travel down and display the dragon’s fury - reportedly $300 a head).

Apart from my "Free Tibet" t-shirt, which was
made in India, I was cloaked in CCP products. My
pants, undies, socks and shoes were all
manufactured in China. Little did I know that,
inadvertently, I (and many others) am complicit
in supporting the CCP. My money helps fund the
CCP when it goes shopping for the best torture
products money can buy on the international
market - the products used to violate the private
parts of political prisoners in Tibet. But this is just a glimpse.

Some of the CCP junkies in the embassy must have
been laughing, seeing us outside crying with our
MIC clothing, banners, microphone, sunglasses and
placards. Apparently, even they prefer not to use
their country’s home-made products. A little bird
once told me that even the Politburo Standing
Committee gangs and their families are more
inclined to use non-CCP goods to be sure they are
toxin-free. So, enough excuses …

I pledge, on March 10, 2010, I will follow in the
footsteps of the Politburo member’s consumer
choice - at least for one day outside the Chinese
embassy. It is a pledge to all the brave men and
women of Tibet inside CCP prisons. I will no
longer bear my name on the electronic
cattle-prods, batons or other torture products
that suck the blood out of you. I pledge to you
that I will be China-free this March 10th.

My preparations began during Christmas 2009. I
went on a hunting spree for a t-shirt, pants,
socks and underwear. I already had a pair of shoes not made in China.

Mission 1: Finding jeans

It took two hours (made in Pakistan) and this is
all I could find within my budget. Hallelujah for
Levis! Maybe on my next pilgrimage I can visit
the Levis company headquarters and do a
prostration? For the time being, I would like to
thank them for saving me from potential nudity on March 10!

Mission 2: Finding a t-shirt

The t-shirt search was infinitely harder. I
embarked on a marathon from one store to another,
through an ocean of CCP t-shirts, and finally my
mission was accomplished at the local Myers
store. It is no exaggeration to say that finding
my non-made in China t-shirt was like finding a
needle in a haystack. More like “mission
impossible”. As my weary legs survived until just
a strike before store closing time, I thanked the
store and thought about suing Deng Xiaoping for
not getting a medal after finishing such a marathon.

Mission 3: Finding undies

Bonds is an iconic Australian brand and has
produced clothing and undies for men and women
for almost 90 years. Last year, it went offshore
to CCP prisons, cutting down the labour cost. I
gave up finding non-China undies after five or
six trips to the shopping mall. If Tom Cruise was
assigned to find NMIC (Not Made in China) Mission
Impossible sequel 4, then “finding undies” would derail his hero status.

Without undies, a March 10th protest, as you can
imagine, may be a new and difficult experience -
even painful. Alternatively, I could copycat Gandhi’s loincloth.

Mission 4: Finding socks (still active)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying everyone
should boycott Chinese products. How can you
resist the temptation of buying CCP goods?

They are cheap and abundantly available, made by
modern day slaves in dungeons across China and
Tibet. Plus, I don’t have a lot of cash lying
around or time to seek alternative products
indefinitely. But think about this: there are
approximately 1,000 Tibetans in Australia, the
majority of whom are former political prisoners
and their families. Let’s say we have
approximately 300 families. According to the
Australia China Business Council, the average
Australian household spent more than $3,400 per year on Chinese made products.

Just think, if all Tibetans in Australia
refrained or at least made more effort to avoid
CCP goods, we would cost the CCP a whooping
$1,020 000 per year. So you see, abandoning MIC
has a far more direct effect on the Politburo gangs than any feel good protest.

Australia has a history of China-ass-kissing
(CHAK!) and the current PM, the Hon Mr Rudd has
perfected the art. Two-way trade between
Australia and China was worth $53 billion last
year and the Australian PM can even speak Chin
Chong Mang. Mr Rudd decided to snub His Holiness
late last year when he visited Australia. His
office’s rationale: "Given the frequency of the
Dalai Lama's visits the government believes the
current arrangements are appropriate."

Mr Rudd’s predecessors have been even worse.
In1976 Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser moved a
condolence motion in the House of Representatives
over the death of Mao Tse-tung, the man who
sentenced to death more than 70 million people in
China, including more than a million Tibetans.

According to the Australia China Business
Council, the trade and commercial relationship is
growing rapidly, with two-way trade growing at an
average of around 20 per cent over the past five
years. China experts predict relations between
China and Australia are likely to grow after the
CCP released two panda bears as a gift to
Australia. Pandas are endangered animals, and so
are Tibetans. With the rate of Han migration into
Tibet, I wonder when the CCP will start giving
away Tibetans as gifts to other countries,
bearing a tag: “TIBETAN, MADE IN CHINA”.
Made in China, made with the world campaign

"Made in China, Made with the world" is the theme
of an ad campaign masterminded by DDB Guoan, the
Chinese branch of Manhattan-based agency DDB.
They’ve been challenged with the task of
advertising tainted milk and toothpaste, toxic
toys and slave labour. Their audacious campaign:
"Made in China, Made with the world,” actually
translates as: “products are produced in
sweatshops for 20 cents a piece with the hard
labour of political prisoners and sold for 1,000 times that.”

Bad publicity for CCP products had them worried
that it would derail their world status as number
one exporter. "Overcoming Western prejudice will
be a long process for us. And we have to be more
patient and tolerant, and adopt more ways of
communication," Renmin University communication
professor Yu Guoming told China Daily.

To spruce up their image, China needs more than a
wimpy ad campaign if it is going to change
people’s perception of their goods - and their
reputation on the global stage, for that matter.
For this campaign to work, the CCP will have to
extend their "patriotic re-education" campaign
throughout the world. It’s already rumoured to
have begun in certain Australian universities.

Consumer activism

So back to my mission impossible consumer
activism; finding NMIC (not made in China) undies
for March 10. There is always a creative solution
to any problem. In the event that I don’t find
any undies not made in a Chinese sweatshop, I
will give Chinese undies a day off and I will go
without underwear for Tibet on March 10.

I hope that you will come NMIC on March 10,
because as a wise man Mahatma Gandhi once said,
"Everything you do will seem insignificant, but
it’s important that you do it." Or a modern day
Gandhi might say, "Everything you do will offend
the Chinese government, but it is important that you do it."
"Almost everything you do will seem
insignificant, but it is important that you do it"
Mahatma Gandhi

About the Author
Tenpa Dugdak was born in the town of Sok in Kham
province, twelve hours north-east of Lhasa. When
Tenpa was four his mother decided to flee Tibet
to be with his father who had escaped the year
before. It took 30 days to cross the Himalayas.
They travelled mostly in the darkness to avoid
being seen by the Chinese troops. At the age of
six he was sent to a Tibetan Homes boarding
school in Mussoorie, India and was taught the
Tibetan language, Buddhism and the history
Tibetan culture. His mother died when he was a
little boy. Dugdak moved to Australia with his
father, and his two sisters, in 2002. Tenpa Dugdak lives in Sydney, Australia.
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