April 9, 2008

Free Tibet

Filed under: Politics — Bob Gifford @ 8:35 pm

Friend and colleague Ed Murphy spent today in San Francisco protesting for a free Tibet. He invited me to join him, which I considered, but ended up demurring not because it’s not a worthy cause, but it just isn’t my cause. But to assuage my guilt, let me address a question my son asked me last night: why should we protest for Tibet?

It is a simple issue of self-determination for a people suffering under ethnic, cultural, economic and religious oppression. From Chris McGowan, writing at the Huffington Post:

The Tibetans are ruled by the Beijing government; they have no freedom of speech, political autonomy or self-determination. The “freedom of religious belief” line is equally ludicrous, and somehow it doesn’t harmonize with Tibetan Buddhist monks being forced to attend “re-education” classes that (surprise) denounce the Dalai Lama and praise Chinese rule.

Abrahm Lustgarten, also at the Huffington Post, puts it this way:

China has consistently pursued a policy of “taming” its far-flung western regions through economic and ethnic assimilation. It has crafted tax incentives to encourage Han business owners to move west from eastern cities and has loosened migration rules. “Go West, Young Han” is the clarion call of the times. Chinese state-run firms have staffed large construction projects such as the railway and even local road building with Han Chinese contractors and crews, who send their earnings home.

All the expansion and wealth that has streamed into Tibet has benefited Tibetans very little. Even after decades of investment, the illiteracy rate remains four times that of neighboring Sichuan province, and there are one-fourth fewer vocational schools per capita than in the rest of China.

Tibetans have been resisting this state of affairs recently, resulting in a harsh crack-down by the Chinese military. In the words of the Dalai Lama:

I am very much saddened and concerned by the use of arms to suppress the peaceful demonstrations of Tibetan people’s aspirations that have resulted in unrest in Tibet, causing many deaths, and much more casualities, detention, and injury. Such suppression and suffering are very unfortunate and tragic which will reduce any compassionate person to tears.

Read the Dalai Lama’s full statement regarding the current situation in Tibet and beyond here.

Our American principle of political, economic and religious freedom is meaningless if we look the other way when it is denied to others.



  1. Free tibetan … from his Holiness!

    How his holiness treat tibetan (from independent media):



    Comment by Min — April 9, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  2. The ability of leveraging China to move in a more humane direction is one of the benefits of having diplomatic relations with the most populous nation in the world. We should not, and must not abdicate our role on the world stage. There is an old saying that “the road to the East runs through the West.” If the United States uses the clout we now have on the world stage, and in conjunction with our European allies, we can set again a tone and series of expectations about Chinese foreign policy. There are rules that govern civilized nations, and the world community.

    We have the ability to do this, since our primacy on the world stage is not in doubt today. But with China growing in economic and military power, that chance will not be forever ours to take. By banding together with leaders such as Prime Minister Brown, and French President Szarkozy we have an opportunity to make a statement about what we think is most important in the world. As China rises as a world power it does so at a time when open and democratic nations rule the world. To not coerce China to play by the international rules will set up a world struggle that we will soon regret.

    Comment by dekerivers — April 11, 2008 @ 8:14 am

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