Tibet Tibet!

Posting an article that I wrote for the local Asian weekly. The Dalai Lama visited Seattle recently and the city is in furor. The debate's been narrowed down the dichotomy of "Free Tibet" activists and staunch Chinese nationalists who shout "Tibet has always been part of China!" Both have their own chauvinisms that make the liberation of the Tibetan people, simply an objectified fetish in a racist, imperialist game.
There is straight up colonialism going on in Tibet and Xinjiang, no doubt, but the (racist) loopholes of the Free Tibet camp, consisting mainly of liberal Buddhist wannabes, is contributing to the "white-washing" of the Tibetan struggle. A couple things. Most of these Free Tibet activists are hella racists -- the signs "Free Tibet Fuck China" are bad strategy at best, and racist at worst. How are you going to say "Fuck" to 1.2 billion Chinese WORKERS, MOST of whom do not benefit from the Chinese government's expansion into Tibet? No question that many of these migrant Chinese workers are used as settlement population in Tibet and Xinjiang, intended to overwhelm the areas with high Han ethnic population to wipe out, or erase the culture of the indigenous people there. There is no question again, that this is colonialism, and whether willing or not, Han migrant workers have allowed themselves to be props to Han supremacy.
Right now, the responses of the Free Tibet people are simply to say that Han people are colonizers. That is racist. What is happening in Tibet, as far as I know, is not the settler violence targetted at Palestinians, or the Native Americans. The ONLY means of armed violence is coming from the Chinese state. It needs to simultaneously squash Tibetan liberation movements as well as a strong class resentment against the state. Everywhere in China, quiet as it is kept, are riots and rebellions. Migrant workers arent happy w being exploited. The fact that Free Tibet people have no analysis, or no sense of having to interject a class analysis, a collaboration between the predominantly agricultural Tibetans and the working-class Han workers, is both a strategic error and a racist loophole. For Free Tibet campers, the idea of liberation is based solely on Tibet vs. Han racial lines, with no class analysis.
It is not surprising however, that there is this racist loophole among Free Tibet campers. The reality is that many of these Free Tibeters are liberal racists -- they are in the fad of saving Tibet cos its a beautiful and pretty Buddhist country (for which they can get free tourist passes in the future to visit), run by the jolly happy Dalai Lama -- who speaks with no pronouns just like any cute adorable smiling Asian...Truth be told. Buddhism is a Model Minority religion for white people, the Dalai Lama has become its representative and so has Tibet! These Free Tibeters will pander to the dumbass US state, the silly ol Congress (the same one btw that is rounding up undocumented immigrants IN THIS COUNTRY, that gave out diseased smallpox blankets to the indigenous people OF THIS COUNTRY, and killing MORE BABIES in Iraq...so much for anti-colonialism?!?!) All these feel-good Buddhists who see campaigning for Tibet as an extension of their eating a carrot a day to maintain their vegan lifestyles have NO IDEA of how Asian people CAN come together, how Asian people can FIGHT white supremacy AND Han Supremacy WITHOUT the missionary ethos of white liberal RACISTS.
I could go on and on about how mad I am at these liberal racist Free TIbet folks. They just made Buddhism into another white caricature, another fad that you can jerk off of... and yes. I am a Buddhist and I am mad cos everywhere I go to try to find a Buddhist community I come across these people who will only accept Buddhism as their vegan lifestyle but not respect the strong tradition of justice, that have been manipulated unjustly, and justly, that Buddhism has within it.

As for the staunch Chinese nationalists... I just pray for the day that the Chinese state is overthrown and these people have to learn to live side by side with other non-Han ethncities without the Chinese state covering their ass. Whether Tibetans, Uyghurs and Han people will be able to live side by side depend on the actions of working class Chinese people. They have to say no to Han imperialism because it does not serve their interests too. The same guns that are wielded against African workers in Chinese corporations, or Tibetans and Uyghurs, are the same guns that are targetted at Chinese workers rebelling on exploitative factory floors.


China loves Tibet?
Northwest Asian Weekly

“China loves Tibet,” Zhang, a Chinese graduate student read aloud from the multitude of signs. He continued, “But the question is, does Tibet love China?”

At the lively protest of up to 400 Chinese students and workers, according to UW Police Chief Ray Wittmier, held at the University of Washington convocation of the Dalai Lama, no easy answers were found.

In response to the violent protests that have taken place in Tibet over the recent weeks, chants of “No More Violence,” “No to Riots” and “We Want Peace” resounded from the long row of Chinese protesters who began their march from Red Square on the UW campus.

“I am here today because the U.S. media likes to sensationalize what is happening in Tibet,” said Xia Songtao, a Chinese national working at Microsoft. “It wants to portray China as irrational, as against peace in the world.”

“The U.S. media simplifies what is happening,” said Xia, speaking in Chinese, referring to the conflict between ethnic Tibetans and ethnic Han, who make up the majority of China’s population.

“For historical reasons, the Cultural Revolution did contribute to the destruction of Tibetan culture, but it is not the only reason for the Tibetan-Han tensions,” he said. “This tension is based partly on uneven economic development. Some people are upset that they cannot benefit economically from the improvements in technology and transportation. This discontent gets read in religious terms.”

Citing the example of ethnic Tibetans who live in the bordering regions of Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan, Xia continued, “The Han ethnics have higher educational qualifications than many of the local Tibetans and so there is resentment between them.

“The media portrays Tibetans as oppressed, but in reality, life is improving for many Tibetans. There used to be only religious institutions in Tibet, but now there are close to 100 institutions of higher learning. It is an astounding number.”

Who bears the burden of destroying Tibetan culture, however, remains an open question.

With the stated purpose of clearing myths propagated by the U.S. media, a female spokesperson of the protest asked, what about the McDonalds and the Starbucks that are found in Tibet? Is globalization also cultural genocide? Is the loss of Tibetan culture in the march toward development a deliberate form of cultural genocide carried out by China?

For some, the suppression of Tibetan religion and culture is more straightforward. “The rights of Tibetan people are fully taken away,” said Jill Corey, a Seattle resident attending the Dalai Lama’s convocation. “Tibetans aren’t allowed to practice their religion. They cannot even have pictures of the Dalai Lama.

“The Dalai Lama should be reinstated and assume his religious authority in Tibet now,” she said.

Not all, however, see the return of religious authority as an expression of Tibetan freedom.

“Tibet used to have a hierarchical social structure,” claimed the female spokesperson in the protest. Slaves made up the majority of the population under the religious hierarchy, she said. “Why didn’t Dalai free his people then?”

Some saw the UW convocation of the Dalai Lama as a reflection of U.S. institutions’ interventions into China’s internal politics.

“The U.S. is using Tibet for its own political reasons to tear apart China,” said Wei, a student at the University of Washington who gave his first name only and spoke in Chinese. “The CIA used to fund the Tibetan resistance in the 1960s,” he claimed. “China, like the U.S., is a multicultural country, with its own set of race affairs and tragedies. Why does the U.S. want to intervene in China’s internal affairs?”

For some Chinese students, these perceived interventions have their loopholes. “If the U.S. is speaking out against oppression of Tibetans, why isn’t it also supporting the resistance in Muslim-dominated Xinjiang? Why is it still in Iraq?” asked Jing, speaking in Chinese. A graduate student at UW, she asked to be identified by first name only. She is from the Xinjiang region of Western China, where, as in Tibet, protests against Chinese rule have also recently taken place.

“Buddhism has become a feel-good religion for Americans. Everyone loves the Dalai Lama even when they don’t understand the politics. Islam is too political for the U.S.,” she said.


husunzi said...

Yeah, the "Tibet question" is a complex issue that the left - American, Chinese, anywhere - has not been dealing with very well. You've either got to be pro-Chinese state repression or anti-Chinese people, pro-Tibetan theocracy with ties to US imperialism. I'm glad you've voiced a different position about this, and even published it in a popular newspaper! I tried to think through the issue here, but I hope people who know more about the complex Tibetan situation can develop a more complete analysis and coherent position on it.

jomo said...

Have been corresponding w some friends over the internet about whats going down in Tibet and China. Here are some comments that I thought were really helpful in thinking the issues out:

...[I]n the late capitalist global market (where the
"international community" buys, sells, exploits, invades, judges,
"liberates" and "helps," etc.), the capital circulation has such a
radical power to erase local particularities. American, Korean,
Chinese or Tibetan, we are under the reign of the same network of
interlocked oppressions, and our liberations are mutually dependent.
Thus, it is very important and urgent for activists working in the
west to reach the awareness of your group, the awareness that you are
not the liberators of those third world folks, but need their help,
support and solidarity to reach your own liberation that cannot be
separated from theirs.

Sadly, most "Free Tibet" activists do not show this awareness yet.
They deserve a significant share of blame for the present situation
that has quickly developed to a duel between imperialism and
nationalism, a duel that can produce nothing but more violence, hatred
and exploitation. For example, the environmental advocate and Olympic
torch bearer Majora Carter, when removed from the San Fransisco relay
for carrying a Tibetan flag, repeatedly shouted: "Free Tibet! Because
we are America, we can do that!" I would suppose, as an environmental
activist, Carter must be opposing the Iraq war. But it was precisely
at moments like this that pro-Tibet protesters allied themselves with
those imperialists in the white house, who justify their invasions and
world-wide exploitations with the very same American supremacy.
Shouldn't Carter think again who rudely pushed her off the street? It
was three San Fransisco cops in their "peace-keeping" battle array.
Throughout the world we see how police machines of the "international
community" mercilessly do their "peace-keeping" jobs against pro-Tibet
protesters. Videos circulating on the Internet show vividly how
American, British, Belgian, French, Indian and Nepalese police
violently beat and arrest those protesters. Did they become like this
all of a sudden because "the CCP evil regime" is involved? Or are
they just continuing their regular way to suppress any protestors way
before some of them could turn violent? It is ironic that so far
available video evidences can testify police violence against Tibetan
activists in every involved nation EXCEPT for China. But that seemed
to be not bothering at all to the whole Western media network,
including relatively porgressive media outlets like Democracy Now,
that acted so swiftly to single out China as the human rights
violator, even using Indian and Nepalese police violences as false
evidences. Not a single voice against any police machine other than
the Chinese one has been heard. And quickly the politicians followed
up to exploit the yet-to-be-seen Chinese "bloody crackdown" of Tibetan
protests to whitewash their own hands. Was not Iraq treated in the
same way? What but narrow, defensive nationalism could the
"International Community" wearing such a thin veil of human rights
gain from the general Chinese public? As long as the western
activists do not stand aganist their own "human rights" propaganda
machine, continue to blindly assume the supreme Euro-American (read
exploitative) freedom, and keep lingering on their imaginary high
moral ground, their activities are doomed to perpetuate imperialism
and the domestic oppression upon themselves.

All the flaws of the "Free Tibet" movement make me appreciate your
voice more. You are more than welcome to interview me and listen to
what I have to quibble on the Tibet issue at any time. I'll go witness
the protest and Jian Ge will be in the BLOOD of America Arena to read
Dalai's face. But I would suggest you interview us some other time,
and take the chance to interview other Chinese folks out there and
listen to what they have to say. Not that I'm for their nationalism,
but it's important for more people in the West to understand what
produced this nationalism. Almost twenty years ago when people took
to the streets in China, they used to trust voices from the West so
much. But what has the West done to discredit themselves in these two
decades? It is such a shame that so many people here simply use the
magic "Communist brainwashing" to relieve themselves of the duty to
think further on this issue. Plus, after all, I guess it's more
important for a reporter to know what the majority are thinking. Jian
Ge and I are not on either side, so we are truly, in CCP's official
pejorative term, "a small handful of people." :)

BTW, for the record, this is one example how the western media
discredit themselves,


jomo said...

and another...


Seems like things are heating up again in Xinjiang? Is it correct to assume that when the Chinese government reports a handful of "splittists" trying to "trick" the people into protesting that there was actually some sort of mass action they are trying to explain away while they supress it? Jian Ge, have you heard anything from folks there?

This article says the Uighurs were inspired by the recent Tibetan protests and are also trying to use the Olympics as strategic leverage to get international attention for their cause.

The problem is, they're never going to get the same kind of sypathy from white liberals in the U.S. who are planning on boycotting the Olympics. After all, they are Muslims and the Chinese and U.S. goverments BOTH have an interest in portraying them as part of that murky network of caves in Central Asia that contain nothing but Ak-47s, Osama bin Ladin, dragons, and Satan.

In contrast, the Tibetans have a warm and fuzzy nonviolent leader who has met with everyone from the Pope to the U.S. state department and seems comitted to keeping his people from rising up in full insurrection (though apparently he's having trouble doing that recently).

The leaders of U.S. imperialism love to demonize China for it's human rights abuses because it helps them try to make the U.S. look clean and unbloodied by comparison. But when the people getting tortured are Muslims it's harder for them to build sympathy because they are also currently engaged in a public debate about whether or not it's okay for them to torture Muslims and they don't want to send mixed messages.

And besides, most white liberals think Buddhism is a more fun religion than Islam. Dalai Lama books, screen paintings, and maybe one of those miniature rock gardens with the flowing water you can buy at the mall are all nice accessories to a well rounded and balanced lifestyle. Qur'ans and hijabs are definately not!


Hannü said...

'“Buddhism has become a feel-good religion for Americans. Everyone loves the Dalai Lama even when they don’t understand the politics. Islam is too political for the U.S.,” she said.'

Some Americans who've adopted Buddhism don't even know there are plenty of non-Tibetan buddhists in China and the rest of Asia.

Read about how the Tibetans view buddhism and the Han in:
Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han - a travelogue