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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

The Holy Olympic Torch, Atheism and Tibet

October 17, 2008

China Digital Times
October 16, 2008

Beijing based poet, writer and blogger Dong Guangfu (???) published
the following essay online, partially translated by Linjun Fan:

The holy Olympic Torch has been lighted, and passed on across the
world. The dream of a large country has been lighted up together with
it, seething with excitement.

Isn't it just a torch? Why must we light it in Athens, and on the
"holy" ruins? Why must we ask priests to hold complicated ceremonies for it?

Because it is holy.

The holy torch is extraordinary because it carries the spirits,
dreams, longings and aspirations of human beings.

The torch has been lighted to pass on the values of peace, unity, and
friendship, which all human beings identify with, since the first
Olympic Games. What's also passed on through the torch is the purity
and holiness of our spiritual world.

However complicated the torch lighting ceremony is, it would not seem
strange in any country that has religious beliefs, respects freedom
of religion, and recognizes spiritual values.

But the lighting of a holy torch seems rather awkward in a country
like China, which believes in materialism and which has never
recognized the existence of spirits.

Ancient Chinese culture is rooted in the worship of deities. The
ordinary people have their gods, and the emperors believed they
carried on the will of God on earth, and were worshiped as the Sons of God.

Unfortunately, this cultural tradition was cut off when
Marxism-Leninism came to China from foreign countries, and became the
dominating ideology.

The Cultural Revolution swept away all the ancient traditions and
practices. During that time intellectuals were massacred, temples
were dismantled, classic literature was destroyed, etc. In a word,
all the holy aspects of people's lives were regarded as superstition
and ruthlessly eliminated.

What was left was the leader who was wished to live for tens of
thousands of years.

What was the fate in China of the religions from foreign countries?
The elimination was similarly bloody. All Christians have paid a high
price for it. They were put under the administration of the secular
"Three-Self" Church. Jesus was murdered for the second time in China.
There is no God, but just the church who represents the ruling party.

This damage didn't go away with the end of the Cultural Revolution.

In the sphere of ideology, our minds have been firmly occupied by
Darwinism and the class theories of Marxism. This has resulted in the
unrestrained pursuit of material gains among all the people in the country.

We are left with just one religion — money worship.

Anyone who has religious beliefs is still regarded as an alien in
current Chinese society. The pursuit of human rights and freedom
could still be charged as an attempt to overthrow the government.

There is no freedom of religion, although it's clearly written in the
Constitution. How many religious persecutions have happened during
the past ten years? It's what we all know, and there's no need for me
to talk about it here.

Because of the poisoning of materialism, the ruling officials believe
that people would be grateful to them as long as their living
conditions are improving. In fact, however, human beings rely not
just on food to live. Their spiritual and religious needs are often
stronger than material needs.

This is especially true in regions where minority ethnic groups live.
Almost all the minority ethnic groups have their own myths and their
tales of the origin of human beings. They have been following their
religious beliefs ever since ancient times.

This is the case with Tibetans.

Tibetan Buddhism is the spiritual pillar of Tibetans. It has
significant status in their life. Looking at the Tibetan pilgrims who
prostrate for every step they progress, we can tell that how deeply
they are devoted in their spiritual world. Most believers don't have
much material pursuits.

What they care about is spiritual freedom. They have strong affection
for priests, living Buddhas and lamas. The reason why we regard the
Tibetan Plateau as a holy place is because it carries the spiritual
lights of human beings. That's why we want to go there to worship and
admire the spirit of the holy snowy land.

To such a spiritual ethnic group, it's much more desirable that we
give them adequate religious and spiritual freedom, instead of ample
economic support.

As writer Wang Lixiong said, how could a boy be happy if you ask him
to curse his parents every time before he eats his meal, every time
before he puts on his new clothes, even though you provide him with
regal food and luxurious clothing? Could he be comfortable? Could he
be grateful?

We can't win Tibetans' heart merely by developing their economy. If
we fail to understand this, more conflicts will arise, and they could
be intensified into unrest like the current Tibetan incident.

Our government hopes that everybody believes in Marxism. It thus
dismisses all religious belief as heresy. This leads to the most
unbelievable ideological tyranny in the world -- forcibly remolding
people's minds.

Can beliefs be changed this way? Can the minds be reshaped this way?
The catastrophic consequence of such remolding has been exemplified
by the Cultural Revolution.

How long do we want it to last? The revival of Chinese culture can
not be achieved by economic means. The economy is just one aspect of
human life. It can't resolve various perplexities of the human hearts.

It's undeniable that one reason for us to hold the Olympic Games is
to make money out of the event. However, the greater value of the
Games lies in the cohesion and rejuvenation it brings to a nation's
spirit. It lies in the exhibition of the spirit and manners of a
powerful country to the outside world.

In other words, I emphasized the spirit and the origin of the Holy
Torch, because I want to remind people of the holy and pure aspects
of the Games. The torch, which represents spiritual values and
beliefs, is being passed on right now. All preparation work for the
Beijing Olympic Games is being conducted.

How much spiritual value have we prepared to transmit across the
world, to go hand in hand with the holy torch? It might be a question
that is worth the whole country pondering, especially its ruling officials.

The Holy Torch is not just a torch. The flame from Athens is
different from other flames because of its origin and the spirit it symbolizes.

You can say that the Olympic Games is just a sports event with more
participants and more games. However, it becomes a carrier of glory
when attached with spiritual values of peace, unity, freedom and friendship.

Has the lighting of the Torch inspired holiness and freedom in the
hearts of us Chinese? Has it enlightened some spiritual values beyond
materialism? Has it inflamed the dignity of a nation which has been
buried for a long time?
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