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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

China's heavy Tibetan hand? « Previous | |Next »
March 30, 2008

China's heavy handed repression of Tibetan desires for greater autonomy and cultural independence includes imprisoning those who engage in peaceful demonstration as well as rioters, whilst attacking t the Western media, the Dalai Lama and all those taking part in the protests in language that is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.

Tibet.jpg Martin Rowson

No doubt Rudd will say little about this, even if he is aware of the history of the region. Will he make the distinction as to whether the crackdown was merely oppressive (hundreds of thousands of troops pouring in) or repressive as well (protestors fired on, protesters killed, monks and lay people taken away and beaten). Economics will ensure that Rudd says little.

So Rudd will go along with China's strong armed attempts to control Tibet and its welcoming the world to a peaceful, orderly and more open China for the Games. Will he challenge the widespread view that the events in Tibet represent just another Tiananmen?

Will Rudd argue that the citizens of Τibet, as with those in the rest of China and the world, should be free to speak and write and criticize without fear of censorship or government suppression, and to demonstrate peaceably if necessary? Will Rudd argue that the citizens of Τibet should be able to worship and participate in cultural practices as they see fit, to be educated in the language of their choice, and to be able to pursue these rights in free, unbiased, and independent courts?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:03 AM | | Comments (29)


the Chinese language says that a small, extreme group of splittists - organized by the Dalai Lama and his followers - sparked a hate-filled rampage in Lhasa, smashing vehicles and looting and burning more than 100 stores; the violence in Lhasa then led to a few copycat incidents in three neighboring provinces. Those who call for greater freedom for Tibetans are seen as defenders of arsonists, looters and killers.

that splittist language would indicate that the Chinese fear that the Chinese nation will fracture.

I'm not sure what to think about this issue. How would our government have reacted if Aborigines had rioted for independence in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics? Does our own police force discriminate between peaceful demonstrations and rioting? The media certainly don't.

The AFP went to some extreme lengths to stop demonstrations at APEC. Politicians routinely refer to demonstrators as mobs and extremists.

I'm not sure it's realistic to expect Rudd to do anything else in the circumstances.

The pro China argument is that the "Tibet independence" movement is supported by some influential US political groups, aiming to hinder the rising geopolitical status of China. The common goal of the Western media reports was to stir up international public opinion and to isolate China as the Beijing Olympics approaches.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how deeply the attractions of Western liberalism and capitalist prosperity. I do know that the western media narrative is the 'Invaded Tibetan Underdog' narrative. From the beginning, media reports suggest (implicitly or explicitly) that China's crackdown is bloody, and (to some), this is another Tiananmen. The media slant reports to cater to readers' prior belief/opinions.

From what I can make out the early protests--around March 10 were peaceful, apart from some monks throwing sticks at the PAP.

They then became violent---the riots on March 14--- which involved Tibetans attacking ethnic Han Chinese.

you are right. As well as rejecting Chinese Government claims that the Dalai Lama was somehow behind the outburst of violence we need to factor in the Tibetan race riots of March 14 in which Tibetans attacked Han and Hui Chinese--- and to question the media's use of the terms "brutal crackdown" to describe what had happened in Lhasa on 3/14. Did e state security forces act with more restraint than they were given credit for?

That means we do need to question the Western media's narrative that March 14th was indeed just another Tiananmen: that peaceful protesters were killed by heavily armed troops firing indiscrimnantly into crowds; that Beijing has again committed murder upon its own citizens.

It must be difficult to operate a country that has so many borders to other countries. We are very lucky to be a continent. I suppose what China does in Tibet sends a message to their other neighbors.

You'd be right about China's other neighbours, but it's caught between maintaining it's don't mess with us reputation in the region and trying to keep the rest of the world impressed leading up to the olympics. There probably was a crackdown, but China knows the world is watching so I doubt it's as brutal as reported. I wouldn't suggest there was no violence, but I wouldn't believe a massacre either.

As with reports of demostrations, riots, rallies, attendance figures and anything else to do with crowds here, I'm very sceptical about both the numbers thrown around by all sides and the way crowd behaviour is reported. Think about the way the media used a few idiots throwing marbles under horses here to trash all demonstrators for all time.

I wouldn't expect China to give up on Tibet. I would think the bigger challenge coming out of this, and the olympics, and China's growing middle class, and Murdoch's dealings in the country, will be controlling the flow of information in and out of the place.

There's a good chance it will get harder to sustain the Bad Commie China Boo narrative. You'd have to be stupid to think China is stupid enough to do anything to feed it. On the other hand, the recent reports out of China of a thwarted terrorist attack were pretty lame. It looked very much like a blatant 'look, we hate mossies too' gesture. Perhaps for America's benefit.

I'm reserving judgement.

Sometimes we put too greater emphasis on the country in commentating on fights. China this and China that.

Man needs to have war. That is what man does.

I think in Kevin Rudd, Mr Hu Jintao has found the perfect lapdog. I can't see Cardboard Kev getting upset with the Chinese gov't.

Rumpole QC,
what would you want Kevin Rudd to say?

I don't think Kev will be taken as seriously in the big world as he would like.

Going to china and giving opinion on what they do with Tibet would seem silly to them coming from the leader of a country that stole their country from another people.

I think we should mind our own business.

The autonomy problems in Tibet of late are now linked to the Olympics. The torch relay has already been used as a site of protest. Over the next month we will likely see significant demonstrations in places like London, Sydney, San Francisco, Paris as the torch moves around the world. It will probably not only be Tibet protesters, but also Falungong, Dafur activists, and human rights advocates more generally.

The Peoples Republic of China the PRC is a nation-state not an empire.

The demands a nation-state places on its people are different than those of an empire. It is not enough that Tibetans merely pay taxes and not revolt, they must also identify with the nation-state first and foremost, with other cultural and religious aspects secondary to the demands of modern state building. Empires want to be respected, nation-states desire assimilation.

I agree your with comments re ' I think we should mind our own business'.

Whether Tibet remains a part of the Peoples Republic of China, becomes an independent state, or ends up something or somewhere in between, is a matter for the Tibetan people and the PRC government to then resolve peacefully through dialogue and negotiation.

Yes I know. Tibet is to China as Victoria is to Australia. Or maybe as remote Aboriginal communities are to Australia.

I tend to agree with Les that we should mind our own business for the same reason - that we're vulnerable to the same criticisms, but also because we don't have any reliable information on what actually happened.

Yikes! 2 people agree with me on the same day. I may need to have a lie down.

But seriously, why does Australia need to be a larger player in the worlds business?
And lots of the army personnel would be better served as police here.

No need for a lie down Les. I disagree with you on whether we should be involved in world affairs generally. We're part of the world and should be involved in decisions about it.

We already are involved. My point is as Rudd stated that we need to be more involved.

Tell me why we need to be more involved?
Does it put a larger target on us?

I'm just not persuaded that we should support the Chinese narrative that covers over the oppression of the Tibetan people and the denial of Tibetan identity and culture so as to ensure the national cohesion of the Chinese nation-state. The techniques used by this narrative blames the international community's continued support for the Dalai Lama for the unrest in Tibet. The two main targets for the commentaries’ ire are the Dalai Lama and his “clique” and the West (usually media).

This op-ed in the Washington Post says:

the problem Tibetans have with Chinese rule. Their culture has been packaged for tourism. Business is booming. But they aren't getting any of the bounty. This, more than violations of human rights and religious freedom, is what fueled the riots in Lhasa and across Tibetan areas that started on March 14 -- the largest and most violent protests since an uprising in 1959, when Tibetans rebelled against Chinese rule. Today, Tibetans stand at an economic threshold, about to be overwhelmed by the tsunami of China's great expansion in ways that may ultimately be more devastating than the previous decades of repressive rule.

Taking a critical stance does not mean that the position should be one of arguing that Tibet should remain as it was a thousand years ago because it represents something so peaceful and idyllic.

This takes us to the China's prevailing narrative about Tibet. China liberated it from feudal brutality and gave it all the wonders of development. The great mass of Tibetan people understands this and is duly grateful. This narrative has been thoroughly sold domestically, but it has never been widely accepted in the West, due to indications of genuine discontent in Tibet.

one of your links---William Moss at Imagethief--- has some interesting things to say about the national myth of Tibetan economic success and Tibetan integration or suppression. He says that China's growing international exposure aside, it must be tempting to wave away international concern as interference in China's internal affairs. Unfortunately, another problem with defending the myth at all costs is that this approach seems calculated to inflame ethnic tensions rather than dispel them. Coverage of the riots suggests that much of the violence was Tibetans taking out their frustrations on Han who simply had the bad luck to be in Lhasa.

That's a shame, and the Chinese authorities are justified in seeking out and punishing those who have committed crimes against people and property. But the job of government is to ameliorate ethnic tensions within the country, not exacerbate them. Xinhua's heavily spun coverage of the disturbances seems calculated to stoke outrage among the Han majority, and the Internet comment that has been allowed to stand echoes with that outrage, if not universally at least widely. Much of the Han comment reflects common colonial sentiment toward natives: Tibetans are lazy, ungrateful, intractable. Worrying signs for a country that disavows any colonial inclinations and preaches integration.

He says that if the national narrative leaves no room for entertaining the notion that regular Tibetans might have legitimate grievances, then there is no hope of recourse for Tibetans and no alternative for non-Tibetan Chinese but to see the unrest as pure betrayal and thuggery.
It becomes impossible to even acknowledge underlying problems in any constructive way. All that is left is ruthless crackdown and an ever-widening gulf between the two peoples.

So the problem gets worse.

I'm not persuaded by either of the either/or arguments on offer so far. My autopilot sympathies are with the Tibetan people's bid for cultural autonomy, but China has changed since Tiananmen Square days plus they're in the spotlight because of the Olympics.

Given the continued persecution of Falun Gong I understand the holes in my own logic, but I agree with Les when he says we generalise about China and I'm also wary of reports about the extent and nature of the 'crackdown'.

Apparently diplomats were heavily supervised by Chinese authorities on a tour of the region, but I still don't see sufficient reason for Rudd to bowl in and demand justice beyond the usual polite discussion of human rights western diplomats routinely do.

George Fitzherbert at Open Democracy says that:

The current Tibetan protests are unlikely to result in anything more that the temporary reimposition of military rule, further controls over Tibetan religion and a further intensification of the Sinification of the Tibetan plateau. However the resentment and simmering discontent among Tibetans will not abate. ... If there was any political willingness on the part of the Chinese, the Tibetan problem could be solved. But demonising the Dalai Lama and refusing to compromise an inch on Tibetan aspirations, the Chinese will inevitably exacerbate the already fractious ethnic relations in this vast area of western China.

Once outnumbered by Chinese immigrants, Tibetan nationalism will become, of necessity, an unviable anachronism, and the Tibetans will be forced to accept the status that the Chinese have always assigned to them - as inalienable members of the "big family" of the Chinese motherland.

Today’s Chinese regime uses nationalism as a primary means of legitimising its rule as it seeks to combine authoritarian control with capitalist economic practices; as such, it cannot but be paranoid about ethno-nationalism taking a political form, in Tibet or elsewhere in undermining its use of sovereignty, which is understood in absolutist terms.

China see itself as bestowing modernity on a backward people. The problem is that Tibetans don't see themselves as inferior and they realize that progress comes with many strings attached.

I wonder if the Tibetans voted would they choose to oust the devious imperial overlords or keep them.
I seem to remember another country having a vote lately and choosing to keep them.
I know we are only giving opinion here and aren't charged with making actual decisions but....
Some of you people need to try to look into the future with some of the tripe you are saying and think as to what the ramifications of that opinion would be.

20 years down the track all the businesses would be owned by Indians and the Tibetans would hate them more.

The Peoples Republic of China is a nation-state not an empire. So Tibet is a region of China, just as Queensland is a region in the Australian nation-state.That is why the Chinese discourse is about sovereignty and limited autonomy.

India has no designs on Tibet. The British when they ran n India did. But those British Raj days are well gone.

Just as I stated that it is not right to collectively generalize about china this and china that it is the same for India.
I am not saying that India will own the businesses. I am saying that Indians will own them. There is a difference.

China and its handling of the Tibet Buddhist Riots is an Outrage. These people are peacful people and deserve a fair go. They will not go against goverment for nothing.

I think China's Goverment is dealing really poorly with trying to fix its problems with Tibet.

I wish the Tibetan people no ill-will, but the march of history is not on their side. I'm with China on this.