Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Donít forget Tibet


"One Tibetan monk who is now close with me came (to Dharamsala) in the early '80s [and] joined with me. He [had] spent more than 18 years in a Chinese prison labor camp. So we used to talk, and he told me [that] on a few occasions he really faced some danger. So I asked him, 'What danger? What kind of danger?'—thinking he would tell me of Chinese torture and prison.

"He replied, 'Many times I was in danger of losing compassion for the Chinese.'

"That's marvelous, isn't it?"

—The Dalai Lama

In the past three years, more than 20 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest of the lack of freedoms, the lack of basic human rights and the repressive, punitive policies imposed on them by the Chinese government. That is, they soaked themselves in gasoline and set themselves on fire to protest their treatment by the Chinese, to draw attention to their situation and to encourage the other nations of the world to persuade China to change its tyrannical policies that are nothing less than the cultural and actual genocide of Tibet.

China has shown no indication that these protests are causing it to consider changing its brutal, totalitarian policies and actions toward Tibet and Tibetans, and an editorial in The Global Times, a Beijing newspaper with ties to the Communist Party, reads: "China's Tibetan region has been affected by outrageous political influences under the name of religion. The selfishness and ruthlessness of the Dalai group are carefully packaged by the West [and] the fact is the more self-immolations happen in Tibet, the more comfortable the life of the Dalai group becomes."

Such a statement takes political/public relations spin to new realms of velocity and, in truth, darkness, even to jaded observers of the bleak, mind-numbing spin of the current American presidential campaign whirlpools. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet more than 50 years ago to save his own life 10 years after the Chinese invaded his sovereign nation. A national uprising against the Chinese precipitated the Dalai Lama's escape to India, and more than 100,000 Tibetans fled their homeland at that time. In the two decades following, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans died in Tibet as a consequence of China's policies. Any Westerner who has visited Tibet (or, for that matter, China), studied the history of Tibet and China, followed the work of the Dalai Lama on behalf of his country and countrymen, and who reads that the Chinese government insists that "the Dalai group" becomes more comfortable with each self-immolation of a fellow Tibetan can readily understand that even a Buddhist monk could be in danger of losing compassion for the Chinese.


It is, in truth, as the Dalai Lama observes, marvelous that compassion can and should take precedence over several other possible responses to China's subjugation of its neighbor, Tibet. It is but one of many obvious reasons why we should not forget Tibet. And it may be the primary reason that those who might wish to forget Tibet will never be able to do so. Though China makes every attempt to sweep Tibet behind a curtain of secrecy, Tibet is not going to go away, because, among other reasons, neither Tibet nor Tibetans are going to lose compassion.

And neither should we.

Last Wednesday was Losar, the Tibetan New Year, traditionally celebrated with music, chanting, brilliant costumes and pageantry. This year was different. Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan prime-minister-in-exile, asked Tibetans throughout the world to refrain from celebration but to somberly observe traditional and spiritual rituals "for all those who have sacrificed and suffered under the repressive policies of Chinese government" and because of the "grim news" that continues to stream out of Tibet. Instead of celebrating Losar, the entire Tibet government-in-exile, including the Dalai Lama, fasted. Sangay has encouraged Tibetans to continue to protest "nonviolently and legally," especially on March 10, the 53rd anniversary of the first Tibetan uprising and the flight of the Dalai Lama.

"We once again fervently urge the Chinese government to give serious consideration to our legitimate demands and appeals we have made so far," a Tibet government-in-exile statement said.

The world knows that while the Chinese government has invaded, conquered, subjugated and brutalized Tibet and its people, China does not and never will represent them, speak for them or force them to lose compassion for all people, including the Chinese.

Government officials from the United States, Germany, Britain, Australia, Canada, Poland and the European Union have all spoken out in protest of China's repression of Tibetans. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We have made very clear our serious concerns about China's record on human rights. ...We continue to call on China to embrace a different path."

China's record on human rights in the past 60 years is among the worst in human history. The U.S. and the other nations mentioned should, in my view, do much more than make very clear their concerns about Tibet, and one hopes they will do more than talk about it. Meanwhile, do not forget Tibet. A country and people whose leader recognizes that it is marvelous to not lose compassion for those who lack compassion have, in addition to the right to live in peace in their own country on their own terms, much to teach the world.

Do not forget Tibet.

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