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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?"

Opinion: Dalai Lama As A Slave Owner

November 18, 2009

By Bhuchung D. Sonam
Phayul
November 17, 2009

It is basic human nature to accuse, name-call and
to use strange analogies when you have an
internal crisis that cannot be solved. Beijing
has been under the spell of this abnormal
behaviour for a long time. The problem is that it
does not want to look for a permanent cure.
Instead it wants to remain in this irksome state.

First it was Zhang Qingli, the Party Secretary of
the Tibet Autonomous Region, who called the Dalai
Lama "a wolf in monk's robes, a devil with a
human face." Zhang was, perhaps, seeing the
world's revered icon through skewed glasses
issued by Beijing. In May 2009, while speaking to
a large crowd at MIT in Boston, the Tibetan
leader formed two horns with his fingers and
said, "A demon with compassion is not bad after
all." Laughter boomed across the hall.

On November 12, the Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman, Qin Gang, described the Nobel Laureate
as "the former head of a slave state." "In 1959,
China abolished the feudal serf system just as
President Lincoln freed the black slaves,” he said.

Let's get what Qin is saying - the PRC is
analogous to Abraham Lincoln; and Old Tibet
comparable to the slavery of black Americans.

Before China's occupation in 1959, Tibet was
neither the 'Nectar-filled Shangri-la' of foreign
fantasy nor a total serfdom as Beijing claims. It
was a viable independent nation with its own
army, legal and taxation systems. Like any other
nation, it had problems too - such as lack of
modern education and economic infrastructure.

It is also true that many Tibetan peasants worked
on estates of the rich land-owning families and
monasteries, for which they were paid, and they
enjoyed freedom and had comfortable rapport with
their employers. It was a relationship quite
similar to today's workers at large factories. If
such a system is called serfdom, as Beijing does,
and compared with black slavery in America before
1865, then pretty much the whole world practiced a kind of slavery.

President Abraham Lincoln's War of Independence
and eventual abolishment of slavery in the US was
based on the principle of basic human equality
and the urgent need to assert such rights.
Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and
later made the Thirteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution which "officially abolished
and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary
servitude, except as punishment for a crime." It
was adopted on December 6, 1865.

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not
wrong, nothing is wrong," Lincoln said.

China's coming into Tibet was neither a war of
independence nor 'liberation' from the onset. It
was an illegal annexation of an independent
country. Beijing's gifts were the death of over a
million Tibetans, destruction of thousands of
monasteries and making the Tibetans sign the 17-Point Agreement under duress.

Beijing's record in China is not much brighter.
In Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon
Halliday estimate that over 70 million people
died in China by 1976. To add onto this are
mauling of its students in Tiananmen Square in
1989 and the countless crackdowns on poor rural
people, and the execution of political prisoners
in Tibet and East Turkestan (Chinese: Xinjiang).

Despite its economic growth, today's China is no
fairer than serfdom, Beijing is loudly shouting
about. In The Dark Side of China's Rise, Minxin
Pei writes that Beijing oversees a vast patronage
system that secures the loyalty of supporters and
allocates privileges to favored groups. "The
party appoints 81 percent of the chief executives
of state-owned enterprises and 56 percent of all senior corporate executives."

In recent times there were cases of ugly racism
in China, where individuals were targeted because
of their skin colour. The Wall Street Journal
reports Hung Huang, a publisher, writer and one
of China's most popular media personalities as
saying, "It pains me to see that a people who
themselves were discriminated against by the West
and called 'the sick man of Asia,' would have
such short memories, and start discriminating
against groups that are in a disadvantaged position."

Lincoln said that blacks had the rights to "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and his
legacy is putting an end to slavery and giving
the blacks a permanent freedom in the US.

The opposite can be said about China's record in
Tibet which includes the denial of basic rights
resulting in the 2008 peaceful protests in Tibet;
arbitrary arrests and the disappearance of the
11th Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima and
writer-blogger Kunga Tsangyang among many others.

Qin Gang's analogy about slavery and Lincoln is a
new addition to China's long list of propaganda
designed to hide the fact that "beyond the new
high-rises and churning factories lie rampant
corruption, vast waste, and an elite with little
interest in making things better."

For a "former slave owner" Dalai Lama is doing
very well. Apart from being a Nobel Laureate, the
Tibetan leader is a respected spiritual teacher
and tirelessly works to promote non-violence and
equal rights based on respect and genuine compassion.

Qin said, "So we hope President Obama more than
any other foreign state leader can have a better
understanding on China's position on opposing the
Dalai's splitting activities."

Obama, being a man of conscience and a new Nobel
Laureate, has the power to stop Beijing's meaningless lectures.

The writer can be reached at bhuchungdsonam@gmail.com
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