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<-Back to WTN Archives Two suns in the Asian sky (The Pioneer)
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Friday, February 24, 2006

1. Two suns in the Asian sky (The Pioneer)

Claude Arpi
February 24, 2005

India scores over China in its respect for the deeper and more important
aspects of human values, says Claude Arpi

Compared to China, India is shining in the domain of human values.
Beijing may loudly proclaim that its objective is "peaceful rise of
China", but it is doubtful that it will manage to gain the respect it
hopes for. Mao too had a dream: To see China overtake the West. His
dream may come true during the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games if China wins
more gold medals than the United States. But this time, contrary to
Mao's earlier attempts, it will be a peaceful overtaking!
However, even if this succeeds, another Chinese objective would have not
been attained: To gain the international community's respect. And for
the Chinese leaders, this loss of face is as important as their meteoric
rise to the top. The Chinese have historically been extremely sensitive
about the image they project outside. It reminds me of the incident when
President Jiang Zemin visited Switzerland a few years ago. As he arrived
for a function, a group of young Swiss citizens shouted slogans:
"Chinese out of Tibet!"

It was a rather mild demonstration and any other visiting dignitary
would have gone his way without even noticing it. However, Jiang Zemin
was so annoyed by the protest that during a banquet in his honour by the
Swiss President, he refused to eat or to speak. Finally, at the end of
the dinner, he stood up and said: "Switzerland has lost a friend."

The Swiss Government had nothing to do with the demonstration, except
for the fact that like in any democratic nation, its citizens were
allowed to voice their concern, as long as they did not break any law.
This was not appreciated by the then strong man of the Chinese Communist
Party, who felt he had lost face in a foreign country. Probably, the
Chinese President still saw himself as the Son of Heaven (as ancient
Emperors called themselves) and China as the Middle Kingdom, the centre
of the world.

Unfortunately, successive generations of Chinese leaders have forgotten
that one has to be respectable to be respected. One of the many factors
that will prevent China to become a great power (even if they win more
medals than the US in 2008), is their disrespect for democracy, human
rights and other accepted human values. The latest example is their
arm-twisting of Google to accept the censorship of their Chinese site,

Chinese Google users will be unable to access websites containing
"politically sensitive material". Amongst the banned topics are: Tibet
and its exiled leader, the Dalai Lama; Taiwan, the rebel Island and
Tiananmen Square which saw the student protest movement crushed by tanks
in 1989.

Even though Yahoo and Microsoft had done it earlier, the censorship by
Google has created more ripples; after all, the company's corporate
motto is 'Don't be evil'. Google used to be proud to be "a different
kind of company, (it) means more than the products we make and the
business we're building; it means making sure that our core values
inform our conduct in all aspects of our lives." Whatever the morality
of these companies, this incident will not refurbish China's image.

Another incident, which shows Beijing is becoming a more and more
oppressive, occurred after the Dalai Lama recently declared that he felt
ashamed of Tibetans wearing skins of endangered animal species as an
ornament on their traditional dress. This strong reaction of the Tibetan
leader is explained by the well-known secret that some Tibetans were
behind the trading of the skins of wild animals. As a result of his
appeal, a few people assembled on January 29 in Rekong county of Eastern
Tibet and burned some skins of endangered species, mainly otters and foxes.

"The furs used to trim clothes are collected and partially burned in
front of the owner and onlookers," the London-based Tibet Information
Network reported. The Chinese authorities should have been pleased that
the Tibetans were finally complying with environmental laws, but as the
movement amplified they banned the burning of a stockpile of wildlife
skins in the main courtyard of Rongwo monastery in the same county.
Though at the beginning "the authorities' response has been restrained",
they later reacted violently.

Police and paramilitary troops were deployed in Rekong city and cadres
were verbally warned that "their participation in public events linked
to the campaign would lead to their expulsion from service". Strange
that a nation which wants to lead Asia has to punish its citizens when
they decide to abide by the law! It is true that Tibet is a sensitive
subject for the Beijing leadership, but why can't they understand that
their image is badly effected when they behave in such an irresponsible

This brings to mind another anecdote involving again Jiang Zemin. An
acquaintance told me that a few years back he was called for an
unscheduled meeting with the Chinese President who told him: "I am not a
tyrant; why do people say that I am a tyrant?" He did not understand
that as long he did not show any respect for values which are cherished
by the rest of humanity, he ran the risk of being called a tyrant.

This is where India, despite its lacunae and certain non-shining
features of its democracy, really shines compared to China. China's
image of a totalitarian nation will remain unless Beijing introduces a
minimum amount of religious and civic freedom for its citizens. And its
leaders will continue to loose face.

One could multiply the examples, whether it is Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the
Dalai Lama-recognised 11th Panchen Lama missing since May 1995, whether
it is Tenzin Delek, a reincarnate Lama from Lithang in Kham Province of
Western Tibet who was arrested and charged with alleged involvement in a
series of bomb blast incidents and condemned to death without proper
trial, just because his popularity had risen very high after his
commendable social work; or whether it is five monks of Drepung
Monastery who were arrested in November 2005 and are since missing
because they protested against "patriotic education" sessions in their
monastery - the list is long.

How can Beijing complain about being called 'tyrants' when they are not
ready to respect basic human values? The latest news is even more
worrisome. When the Dalai Lama's envoy and his team reached Beijing a
few days back, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang declared that "no
special envoy" was in China. He said that he had only heard that "people
with tight connections to the Dalai Lama (a Tibetan spiritual leader)"
were visiting China "to learn about Chinese policies, see friends and
personally observe changes in Tibet under Chinese rule".

Knowing the tremendous sacrifice made by the Dalai Lama when he accepted
a compromise - Tibet would not be an independent entity, but would be
offered genuine autonomy within the PRC - the spokesman's statement is
one more example of Beijing's irresponsible stance.

It shows how the Dalai Lama, who has been hailed the world over for his
peace overtures, and has had the courage to take a decision contrary to
the aspirations of his people, is being treated. Although Beijing has
often promised visiting Western leaders to sincerely start a dialogue
with the Dalai Lama, the existence of such a dialogue is today denied.
Can a great power be so untrustworthy?

China might become a great economic power, but its leaders will have to
continue to hide their face in shame on questions of ethics. India's
moral standing in the world is much higher, though it can't be a
consolation for returning without medals from the next Olympics.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Two suns in the Asian sky (The Pioneer)
  2. In Search of Religious Rationality, Dalai Lama Visits ... the Mideast
  3. The exile files
  4. TYC led Indefinite Hunger Strike: Day 8 – 10 (TYC)

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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