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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Tibet cries out for global support

January 21, 2008

01/18/2008 Commentary

By Jagdish Singh
Taiwan Journal

One wonders what the reality in Tibet is really like. Beijing has been
busy telling the world that the region has benefited from projects in
which Tibetans themselves are fully participating. Few Tibetans in
exile, however, are in agreement with this statement. The Dalai Lama,
Tibet's spiritual leader, is of the opinion that human compassion is not
only a matter of religion--it is a matter of survival. Without more
international support, it seems the only way people can deal with
China's policies is to cultivate human affection to negate the hatred at
the other end of the scales.

Tibet is made up of three provinces--U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo--and has a
territory of 1.2 million square kilometers. Since the creation of the
Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1965, Tibet has been controlled by the
secretary of the Chinese Communist Party TAR committee. The position was
held by PRC President Hu Jintao from 1988 to 1992.

Concerning mutual benefits, there are some examples that can be touted.
Mainly, however, Tibetans say that China does what it wishes with not
much thought for the local population. Despite the world giving so much
attention to the Dalai Lama's pacifist approach to the ongoing "cultural
genocide" in Tibet, things have not changed fundamentally.

In 2002, direct contact between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's exiled
government in Dharamsala, India, was re-established. But at the same
time, infringements upon basic rights and freedoms have continued, with
many saying that such violations have actually increased. For example,
Beijing has decreed it illegal for Tibetans to own a photograph of the
Dalai Lama. Chinese authorities also continue to run "patriotic"
sessions in temples during which monks are forced to criticize their
leader.

There has certainly not been much consulting of Tibetans on the model of
development. The railway network, for instance, is hardly in the
interest of the majority of Tibetans. One can now travel the
4,000-kilometer journey from Beijing to Tibet's capital of Lhasa in just
48 hours. The purpose of this direct route is seen as being the means to
further assimilate the ethnic population, as it facilitates the flow of
ethnic Chinese into the area. In fact, half of Lhasa's population is
already Han Chinese. And the flow of people is unlikely to be reversed.

Figures show that Beijing spent over US$4 billion on the rail network.
This far exceeds the total amount spent on Tibet's education and
health-care system over the past 47 years. There can also be little
doubt that the rail network is set to assist in the devastation of
Tibet's environment. Tibet is the source of Asia's 10 greatest river
systems, with the total area irrigated by these rivers affecting 47
percent of the earth's population. The train network poses a threat to
these water sources and the natural habitats of a variety of species.

In addition, a link with Beijing would endanger peace in the region
because it has become easier for authorities to transport weapons. Many
actually believe that China has already started to store nuclear weapons
in Tibet. In that regard, Tibetans share the convictions of the critics
who warn people against entertaining any notion of hope on account of
Hu's new set of slogans: the "Eight Honors and Eight Humiliations." The
first set reminds the people of China to cultivate love for the
motherland, serve the people, devote themselves to scientific studies,
be diligent workers, foster unity, maintain honesty and trustworthiness,
observe discipline and the law, and be committed to the struggle. The
latter set of eight refers to harming national interests, betraying the
people, lacking wisdom, reaping rewards without work, harming others,
having no sense of gratitude, violating the law and engaging in
extravagance.

Such "lofty" slogans, critics have been saying, are just a facade to
contain burgeoning tensions in the country. They do not imply that a
wind of change is blowing. Faced with such a barrage of propaganda and
systematic "colonization," it would be naive to assume that any
opposition movement in Tibet will always remain peaceful. Tibetan
activists are instead becoming increasingly restive.

While the Tibetan Youth Congress has always been for total independence
of the plateau, the Tibetan Women's Association has so far been towing
the Dalai Lama's line. However, even among the TWA there is growing
disenchantment. Some TWA activists believe a lack of concrete action and
support from democratic governments worldwide might lead to the
alienation and frustration of those people who believe in a culture of
peace and goodwill in Tibet.

The world's leading democracies must make a sincere investment in peace
by supporting Tibetan opposition to China's policies. Taiwan, which had
long opposed the autonomy of Tibet, has already changed its policy to
accommodate the genuine aspirations of the people of the Tibetan
Plateau. Other democracies from North America, Europe and Asia should
also review their platform, because freedom and peace in Tibet will
guarantee peace and stability in Asia and the world.

--Jagdish Singh is assistant editor and special correspondent to the
National Herald in New Delhi, India.

Copyright 2008 by Jagdish Singh

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