Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stand Up for Tibet Today

Last week - 32-year old Richen, widowed mother of 4 from Ngaba
 set herself on fire in front of a Chinese police surveillance station
at the gates of Kirti monastery.

Tsering Kyi, young female student from the Tibetan middle school in Machu,
set herself ablaze at the vegetable market in Tro Kho Menma Shang village in Machu.
Chinese vendors at the Machu vegetable market threw stones at her burning body.

Dorje, 18, set himself ablaze in a nomadic area of Ngaba, the third immolation in three days.

He is the 26th Tibetan to have self-immolated since February 2009 in protests against Beijing's rule in Tibetan-populated areas.  [1]

These are the acts of a desperate, deeply troubled people.   A different picture is painted from the Chinese goverrnment's point of view:  In Tibet, "the people are happy," it claims, with the changes brought under Chinese rule.

The people say different.

"Soldiers are ... everywhere."
"You can't have a picture of the Dalai Lama. You would be arrested."
"You can't speak out. You would be beaten. Taken away. Disappeared.
"You can't leave the country.  Reporters can't get in.  News is difficult to get out."*
 “Communities and monasteries in these areas are undergoing patriotic re-education.”
“Tibetans have been warned that they can be shot if they protest against Chinese government rule.”

"Happy" is not a word I would use to describe a population forced to live under such conditions.

Studying the history of any nation, one is struck, in general, by mankind's seemingly incessant desire for possession of territory throughout the ages -- and the Power wielded by those able to claim and assert control over the territories they manage to acquire.

Tibet has now been claimed by China and named the Tibet Autonomous Region.
An autonomous region is an area of a country that has a degree of autonomy, or freedom from an external authority.

au·ton·o·mous   adj: According to my dictionary, means "not
controlled by others.  Independent.  Self-governing."  Which doesn't seem to be the case, however, in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

This posting is not about who owns what parcel of land;who is or is not in control; or even what words one uses to describe one's acquisitions.  My concern here today is about the violation of the rights of a particular group of human beings who want to keep their own language, beliefs and culture, and not be afraid every waking day of their lives.  

This is not about refusal to assimilate.  People willingly adopt a new language, religion, culture or way of life every day.  But if who you are and what you think, believe, say, write, or choose as a way of life constitutes grounds for you to be monitored, arrested, punished, "re-educated", disappeared or killed  ... that's bullying gone viral.  Societies claiming to be civilized that routinely permit, or engage in, this sort of "governance" should not then be surprised when others call them to task for this hypocrisy.

civ·i·lized .adj. :
1.  showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement; humane, ethical, and reasonable;
2.  cultured, polite.

Intolerance, cruelty and revenge are not compatible with civilized society.

Such practices, unfortunately, are rampant throughout history.   Some group arrives that wishes to occupy the space another group inhabits. Or territories are won or lost as a result of war between nations.   I can't help seeing a parallel, though, between what happened to the original North American Native Indian population and what's happening today to the Tibetans vis-a-vis the slow, steady eradication, through subversion/conversion/dispersion, of a culture struggling to maintain its existence in the wake of drastic and unstoppable change. As with the Native Americans, the Tibetans are being forced to assimilate, not use their own language, accept subjugation and refrain from resistance.  I am not the only one who wonders if in another 40 years' time everything one normally associates with the words "Tibet" or "Tibetan" will be but a memory. 

Such were the thoughts that came to me when I heard recently from friends about what's happening today in Tibet.

"They install spies in monasteries to monitor us and demand that all monks be "re-educated."
"Our Tibetan native language is not allowed to be taught in the schools."
"All international phone calls are monitored. You have to watch what you say."

("Re-educated:  as in "Wipe the mind clean, insert only officially sanctioned material".)
I tried to visit a well-known, widely read Tibetan online news site today and a big red WARNING box suddenly appeared on my screen telling me not to go there, that doing so would infect my computer with malicious trojans ("This site is listed as suspicious. Visiting it may harm your computer.  Third parties can add malicious code to legitimate sites, which cause a warning notice", it explained.)

Tibetan news sites or blogs in support of Tibet are routinely hacked, so this is not surprising, given that today is the anniversary of a Tibetan uprising.  Clearly, certain entities do not appear to want what's currently happening in Tibet to be known, much less talked about.

Today there will be demonstrations, candlelight vigils, marches, and protests worldwide, from thousands of people in a wave of support from activists, friends and sympathisers in solidarity with the Tibetans, standing up to say, unanimously, that the brutality and killings must stop.

I sense their desperation, these repressed  Tibetans who are resorting to self immolation as the only way out of a devastating situation. The last defiant act, the final plea, to the world at large, to please help.

I realize with a small shudder that if I  now lived in China or Tibet, this blog post would likely never be allowed, and that if I persisted in expressing my opinion or sharing such news about Tibet that unfortunate things might begin to happen to me.

(Just ask Cheng Jianping, who got sent for a year of hard labor to be patriotically "re-educated" for posting a sarcastic remark on Twitter.  Ask Liu Xiaobo, professor, writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, whose long,  non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China and calls for the Chinese government to become more "democratic" earned him a lengthy, ongoing prison term.)

So many uprisings, so much civil discontent, worldwide.  So many wars, so many violations by humans against other humans, so much death and suffering .... so little one can do.

Hang onto your freedoms while you still have them, those that can.  The bullies of the world will always exist, pouncing to control what you do, limit where  you go, decide who you're allowed to talk to, what you read; monitor what you say, judge you by what you believe.  And if you object, you will be dealt with.

We are all humans sharing the same planet.  Some just have more Power than others.  It is those powerless others with whom we must stand as brothers.  Born into a different earthspace  ... we could be them.

A single image, whether captured by camera or painted by words, is worth a thousand reminders.  What kind of world are we living in where one's response to another's desperate act of suicide by fire -- is  to hurl stones at her burning body?  As a species, we seem not to have evolved all that much in the Human Compassion Department these millions of years we've been inhabiting this planet.

Tibetans in Tibet are risking everything to ensure their message is heard and acted upon by the outside world.  *Last year, 54 percent of all messages sent to the Sina Weibo blogging site from Tibet had been deleted by the Chinese government.[2]

Please.  Stand up for Tibet today.  Enough of these needless deaths!!!