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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Letters: Sautman/Schrei Exchanges

May 12, 2010


I do not claim to be a Tibet scholar, nor do I wish to be one. But I do,
in fact, know something of these matters, having lived and worked among
the Tibetan community for most of my life.

As you say, anyone who enters politics should be fair target for public
scrutiny. However, in an age where fundamental freedoms of speech and
expression are deeply threatened by a rising superpower with a
distinctly Orwellian bent, I find it curious that a man of your
intelligence has chosen to take your precious right to free expression
and waste it trying to debunk a man and a people who are engaged in an
entirely just struggle for rights and are clearly moving towards more
openness and more accountability.

The level of scrutiny to which you and other apologist scholars hold the
Tibetan leadership and the Tibetan people is also curious considering
you apply no such scrutiny to other causes which you -- on the surface
-- appear to be in favor of -- i.e. the Palestinian cause. Nor would
you, I imagine, offer many other governments the exemptions you allow
the PRC. The only conclusion to be drawn from this consistent debunking
of the Tibetan people and the Tibet movement is that you have a
pro-Chinese government agenda. To be blunt, your articles are not
neutral and you know this. I don't mind being labeled an independence
activist. You're absolutely correct. Its what I am. What are you?

Every piece of yours I've read -- particularly your more recent work --
goes to great lengths to paint critics of the Chinese regime in an
unfavorable light. You use such causes as Palestine and South Africa to
play on readers' sympathies when it suits you; in other cases -- for
example when writing in favor of China's neo-colonial approach to Africa
-- the native is disregarded entirely in favor of the colonizer. You
play the champion of people's rights, yet really the bulk of your
writing exists to deflect attention from the shortcomings of the Beijing
government, who either in presence or in absence in your writing is the
implied good guy. This is the very definition of apologism.

Then, like fellow apologists Michael Parenti and Tom Grunfeld, after
relentlessly bashing a people and their leader, you cry foul when you
are called out for it, in this case taking a page from the Chinese
government's "you have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" book and
bemoaning my "abusiveness."

Such an attack is understandable, for in the worldview of the China
apologist the fact that there is a legitimate Tibetan independence
movement inside and outside Tibet represents a deeply inconvenient
truth, and the only recourse when confronting it is to chalk it up to a
centralized conspiracy and discredit it in any way possible.

Its not difficult to follow the thinking, Barry. In fact it's painfully
easy. Yet, according to you, I'm not even qualified to be having the
discussion, apparently knowing nothing of these matters of the wise.
Funny that this description should be given to the one of us who
actually spends most of his time with Tibetans.

 From your brief response to my response, I can with certainty say this:
your 'clarifications' prove my points exactly. You are correct, you do
not directly state that the Dalai Lama supported apartheid. You just
infer through faulty logic that a lack of public opposition to apartheid
equals support for it, and then 'leave it to your readers to decide,'
just as Tom Grunfeld never directly condones the Chinese occupation, he
simply reveals to the world that Tibetans were filthy barbarians whose
lives improved drastically under Chinese rule and then lets the reader
decide. Under your inverse logic, a lack of condemnation equals support,
a statement made about the material advancement of the west becomes
Euro-centric and classist, and -- gosh, who knows -- a failure to save
all the world's poor equals an outright contempt for them. Maybe you
should join forces with Chris Hitchens and start bashing Mother Theresa

The logic you use in your article is not logic at all. You attempt to
confuse the reader by fusing quotes from revisionist scholars with
unrelated quotes from more objective media just to mold your one-sided
points. You presume a Dharamsala-led conspiracy in the 2008 Tibetan
uprising because you either simply don't know the truth or you cannot
fathom it -- that over 150 demonstrations and uprisings across Tibet
erupted spontaneously, that the people of Tibet want independence and
always have, and that a people's movement has existed in Tibet since the
invasion and still exists today. You call out the Dalai Lama for not
condemning his patrons, yet do you condemn your patrons on a regular
basis? Or, for that matter, ever?

Perhaps we should poll Tibetans, inside and outside of Tibet, on who,
between you and I, is the more arrogant and uninformed. Perhaps you and
I should make deal -- I'll willingly and gladly write an article
critical of the hypocrisies of the Tibet movement if you write a similar
piece criticizing Beijing's Tibet policies. Better still, why don't you
and I sit down and have a public debate on Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and
the current movement and then we can let the public decide whether or
not I "show any signs of knowing anything about these matters." The
invitation is open. Anytime, anyplace. Only we won't be able to do it in
your adopted homeland, because free speech doesn't go over so well there.

You see, in the movement in which I live and breathe, there is constant
debate and dialogue on the very issues you raise. But you have chosen --
for whatever reason -- to limit the scope of your analysis to that which
either serves to further the goals of the CCP's propaganda department
or, at the very least, does not offend it. Somewhere in your writings
one can sense the ghost of a progressive past; but that progressive, in
continually seeking to justify the actions of a regime that he for some
unknown reason seems to idealize or at the very least continually
excuses, died a long time ago. The only question in my mind is whether,
when your host government's violations of the rights of the individual
become so egregious that they can no longer be ignored by the thinking
people of the world, will that progressive in you reawaken and stand for
freedom or will he be subsumed into the totalitarian machine and forever
be its mouthpiece.

Time will tell,

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