Mar 16 2008
Buddhist spiritual leader and Vancouver speaking-circuit favorite, the Dalai Lama, is condemning Chinese security forces for swarming into the Chinese province (and formerly, the independent nation) of Tibet. The move from Beijing was sparked by violent unrest by protesters in territory, annexed in 1951 (as depicted in one of Brad Pitt’s finer performances) (AFP).
I’ve been conflicted about the Tibet issue ever since reading Globe and Mail columnist and author Jan Wong’s Red China Blues about a decade ago after traveling to the country in question. She reached two conflicting but not necessarily contradictory conclusions:
1. Cultural genocide was indeed taking place as Chinese flooded into the area. This was despite some Chinese administration laws that provided financial and social services benefits to native Tibetans in varied ways, akin to Canadian benefits to First Nations people who live on reserves. The young generation of Tibetans that had never known their own independent country were undoubtedly assimilating into the Chinese nation.
2. China has been a modernizing influence to Tibet. The old days of the religious theocracy are long-gone (albeit replaced by a geriatric Communist dictatorship), along with superstitions and an aversion to technology. Economically, Tibetans are far, far better off than they would have been under the old system. In a land where freedom is measured differently than in the West, improvements in economic status can be akin to improvements in personal freedom — not quite democracy, but not something to be sneered at.
Wong is just one commentator. But her words, particularly coming from a perspective that initially wanted very much to condemn all aspects of the Chinese occupation (consistent with Wong’s awakening to the horrors of the Chinese dictatorship), still carry weight for me.
To be sure, Chinese interference in the ancient land of Tibet is a tragedy. Tibetans have been killed, tortured and imprisoned for struggling for their nation’s freedom. Right now, the odds of Tibetans regaining their independence through anything short of a total collapse of the Chinese central government look slim.
Canadian political commentator and author Terry Glavin notes when talking of hope that humanity may have when dealing with the larger questions of our long term survival as a species that one can never totally discount the possibility of dumb luck, sheer chance, and the unbreakable tenacity and ingenuity of human beings. So long as hearts desire it, hope for Tibet springs eternal.