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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

It's Unlikely That Monks and Nuns Started Violence in Tibet

May 29, 2008

Dehai Tao
ANN Arbor News (USA)
May 27, 2008

I am Chinese and would like to comment on the May 11 Other Voices
essay entitled "Media unfair to China,"
by my country fellow, Mr. Youxue Zhang.

I agree with Mr. Zhang that any violence against innocent people
should be condemned. However, Mr. Zhang's article failed to point out
how this March 14 riot occurred. While we do not have a complete
story, it is undisputed, even according to the official Chinese
media, that the incident started on March 10, four days before the
riot. Since the Chinese government has never alleged any violence
occurred until March 14, we can assume that the demonstrations from
March 10 were peaceful. Then, the question is who is responsible for
the unfortunate turmoil which claimed innocent lives.

It is hard to imagine by any common sense that the monks and nuns
started the violence. If I had a debate with an Olympic boxing
champion, I would absolutely not escalate an argument to violence. It
is beyond comprehension that I would provoke the physical fight.
Comparing these monks and nuns to the Chinese government is perhaps
similar to me and the Olympic boxing champion because there is no
comparison in terms of power between the civilians and the
government. Therefore, we can reasonably believe that, as a weak
party, those monks and nuns had no intention to use any violence when
they demonstrated from March 10 to March 13.

It is very possible that the local Chinese government in Lhasa could
not tolerate the peaceful demonstration and tried to use force to
crush it, which angered local Tibetans. Please note that monks are
highly respected by the Tibetan people. Improper handling by the
government security forces would create tremendous resentment in
Tibetans. I do not condone violent response by Tibetans; however, had
the Chinese government followed its constitution, which allows
freedom of expression, and handled the demonstration properly, such
rioting could have been avoided. In this sense, it is the Chinese
government that is responsible for this tragedy.

Officially and ironically, there is a common ground between the Dalai
Lama and the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated
that he would not seek independence, but that the Tibetan people need
autonomy and freedom of religion; and the Chinese government has also
repeatedly stated that everything is negotiable as long as the Dalai
Lama does not seek independence and the Tibetan people have already
enjoyed autonomy and freedom of religion. Then, why can't the Chinese
government and the Dalai Lama start a serious dialogue and resolve all issues?

In my opinion, the key issue is whether the current "autonomy" is a
real autonomy. According to our current Chinese constitution, all
local people shall enjoy autonomy because our local governments are
elected by the local people and the central government cannot do
anything about it. Of course, all Chinese people will tell me I am
joking if I told them what I stated above. But it is true, according
to the Chinese constitution. Therefore, our constitution itself is
not serious. If we are honest, we have to admit that the alleged
autonomy by the Chinese government is a blatant lie. This is an
undisputed fact, which all honest Chinese - including President Hu
Jingtao -- cannot deny.

Now, let us discuss another sensitive issue: Assuming some Tibetans
are pursuing independence peacefully from China, does that give
legitimacy to the Chinese government to crush it? According to my
reading of Mr. Zhang's article, the answer seems yes, because, as his
article suggests, that is why the United States had its Civil War.

My limited knowledge about the American Civil War tells me that the
war did not start until the Southern states initiated military
action. I am not sure if the Civil War would have happened if the
Confederacy never initiated the military action. However, we do know
today that the people of Quebec, Canada and people of Puerto Rico of
the United States have referenda for independence from time to time.
But the Canadian government and the U.S. government have never
crushed independence movements.

I believe that everything shall be fine if Mr. Zhang and I establish
an Association for Michigan Independence and organize peaceful
demonstrations every July 4th to advocate Michigan independence.

Then, why we should give blind support to the Chinese government to
crush any ideas seeking independence?

There are a lot of problems for the Western media. Some of them are
too liberal and some are too conservative. Some are pro-China and
some are anti-China. Their reports may be biased or wrong. But it is
undeniable that The Ann Arbor News is part of Western media, yet it
published Mr. Zhang's article that criticized Western media. I can
guarantee that my article will never be published by any media in
China. Then, which media is more biased and unfair?

In summary, I prefer a free media, even though it may be biased, to
the government-controlled media. In this sense, I salute Western
media, which exposed scandals such as Watergate, the tortures of the
war prisoners by the U.S. military in Iraq, its sympathy to the
oppressed people, etc. - and which published Mr. Zhang's article that
criticized Western media.

I would salute the Chinese media more wholeheartedly when it
publishes my article or any other "unfriendly" articles that
criticize the Chinese government.

DEHAI TAO, the writer is a local attorney and has been an Ann Arbor
resident since 1987.
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