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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?"

50 years under Chinese rule, Tibetans still oppressed

March 5, 2009

by David Koontz
The Pendulum
March 4, 2009

It was difficult for the people of Tibet to celebrate the Losar, the Tibetan New Year, this year. March of last year was a bloody month in Tibet when pro-independence riots were quelled violently by Chinese forces. The Chinese government said that 19 people died as a result of the unrest, though pro-Tibetan groups based outside of China said the real death toll was between 100 and 200.

"The U.N. condemned China’s actions, but didn’t really do anything to step in and stop it," said junior Tess Kukovich. “The United States doesn’t approve of China’s actions either but hasn’t really done anything besides that.”

Kukovich said economical interests are a reason why the United States has not interfered.

Kukovich has been a long-time follower of the ongoing crisis in Tibet. As a child growing up in the Washington D.C. area, her family has been involved with the International Campaign for Tibet, the main organization that works for Tibetan rights. Her parents would bring her to war protests and candlelight vigils outside of the Chinese Embassy.

For more than half a century, the people of Tibet have been under the forced rule of Chinese occupiers. Next Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against China, the same one that led to the Dalai Lama’s exile to India. Pro-Tibetan protests, like the ones from last year, could spark even harsher Chinese crackdowns.

What some fear Tibet faces is a cultural genocide. Chinese enforcers are stricter against Tibetan traditions and encouraging Tibetans to abandon their identity for a pro-Chinese attitude.

"No one ever thinks about what happens in China and Tibet as genocide, which is unfortunate," Kukovich said.

By now there are more Chinese in Tibet than there are Tibetans. According to Kukovich, the Chinese government encourages Chinese people to marry Tibetans, have children and start families with them. These policies are all leading to the loss of Tibetan culture.

The biggest issue is that there is not a great deal of international publicity for the Tibetan people and their plight.

"Not enough people know about it," she said. "You have to get people behind it. People started caring once Darfur got really big."

Unfortunately the political strains are much more tense in the situation with China than they are with Sudan. Just as William Schulz, the former executive director of Amnesty International, said when he visited Elon last week, it is easier to exercise influence over a country like Sudan. An economic powerhouse like China, though, is much more resilient to international disapproval.

Still, as Schulz recommended, globally enforcing pressures on China through a unified collaboration between countries like the United States and countries in the European United could yield results for the Tibetan people.

"There’s not a lot of publicity around it, so I think you really need to get public support for it," Kukovich said. "That’s how you get the government to do things. People need to speak out."
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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