Friday, March 21, 2008

Now Begins the Silence?

Like you, I've been following the news from Tibet with a very heavy heart, with much anxiety. Of course I'm mainly disturbed by the unfolding events, but another part of the reason for my distress is seeing the press distortions. The "spin" as it's called. It is supremely disheartening to see the reports that deny ordinary Tibetan people any local agency, the ones that refuse to see how people power can rise up and move mountains. That's right. Our minds are not in the control of those purportedly ruling over us, even when governments may attempt to limit our powers of expression. This is something we all know. Sometimes we need reminding.

I've been too busy following what people are writing (not to mention the photos and videos) that I haven't had a chance to write much of anything myself.

I never thought of Tibeto-logic as a current news site or an editorial page. It's supposed to be about human culture and its history, not politics.  Not really.

But today I'd like to steer you toward reading what I believe is a very significant story that you may have otherwise overlooked.  In most recent news we hear of huge convoys of elite paramilitary (probably PLA) troops headed for the Tibetan plateau.  Now it's been reported that the last two remaining foreign journalists have been forcibly evicted from Tibetan inhabited territories.

A story I just read helps explain why we may not be getting much news in coming days that has much to do with what is actually going on.  Or most of the stories will be about the lack of reliable information, about the frustration of the news people.

Read it, weep, and understand something about the nature of repression in a country that lacks several basic human freedoms, fair trials, freedom of expression, the ability to receive accurate information. Weep for Tibetans. Weep for Chinese. I'm thinking today would be a good day to curse the whole damned world we live in, perhaps curse ourselves for quite apparently wasting our feeble lives in unsuccessful efforts to make it better, more truth-full, more just, more equitable, more compassionate. Weep for us all. Just don't waste any more time weeping for yourself and your own personal concerns.

Authorities obstruct foreign journalists, step up controls and propaganda in Tibet

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the methods being used by the Chinese authorities to obstruct foreign journalists trying to cover the situation in the Tibetan regions, and calls for the immediate and unconditional return of the foreign press to Tibet and to nearby provinces with a sizable Tibetan population.

Please do not hesitate to go to the full story by pressing firmly on this word.


  1. Those calling for "Free Tibet" without also calling for the return of the land to Natives of America, Canada, South America, South Africa, Australia,Siberia....etc are hypocrits and racially discriminating.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I disagree with the validity of your generalized comparison of Tibetans with any other "natives," but perhaps you can explain to us why you believe it is valid. I see a great deal of uniqueness in their history and present situation. I also see that many of those you call "Free Tibet" advocates (by which I assume you mean those of the non-Tibetan kinds) are in fact seeking justice for other colonized and oppressed peoples in the world. They are not in fact hypocritical at all in my experience. However, I do see amazing manifestations of cultural chauvinism on the part of some Chinese, particularly these days on internet postings, which often seem to be designed to be utterly offensive and hurtful to Tibetans. These people have certainly been closing themselves off from ever knowing that Tibetans have any thoughts and feelings of their own. If any comparable level of repression is going on with any of those other "natives" as you call them, I'd sure like to know about it. Please inform me. Together we'll do our best to oppose that too.


  3. Re the comments of the first "anonymous" above, this analogy with U.S. treatment of Native Americans or African Americans was started by the PRC in around the mid-90's. The charge of hypocrisy on the part of Tibet political activists seems to go along with this analogy most of the time.

    If we were to admit for the sake of argument only that this charge of hypocrisy was valid and could be made to stick, what about this uncomfortable consequence?

    If you will admit the plight of these other "native" peoples is a result of colonialism, then your analogy flies right back in your own face. If you are saying that only non-Chinese are capable of colonialism and imperialism, then the hypocrisy is yours. You've just tried and sentenced yourself.

    And please, don't come back with the defense that China is some great historic victim of imperialism and therefore cannot itself be a perpetrator of the same. The rest of us just won't buy it. Times have changed. The economic clout and consequent powers are China's right now. Don't be surprised if the rest of us are concerned how you are going to use it on us.

    And cut the "China's internal affair" comeback. It never did impress anyone. Right now China is very clearly meddling in the internal affairs of other countries -- in certain countries of Africa in particular, but also when Chinese embassies warn politicians and academics not to meet or even see His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Join the global village and get used to it. It's not all that hard, and not all that bad after all.

  4. Now the news is that Woeser is under house arrest. Since it would appear that this news comes from her own husband, I think it's very probably true. Just another, perhaps relatively small, sign of the silencing. It will be interesting to see if she keeps on blogging, although I imagine she will. Just have a look at the "Middle-Way" blogsite more than half way down my list of blogs. It's worth seeing, and you don't have to know Chinese to appreciate it, although it is mostly in Chinese. While you're at it have a look at Chang Turtle, too.

  5. I find it very interesting that among the "foreign journalists" evicted from the plateau were quite a number of reporters for Hong Kong news organizations. This clearly indicates that Hong Kong is not, or not yet, a part of China. Or is it?

  6. I find it very polite of the authorities that they evict journalists so that they are spared the sight of all those evil and aggressive Tibetans (with big knives and deadly mantras such as oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ) burning and looting and what not.

    Also take a look at this:

  7. Dear PSz,

    Thanks for writing. I'm in no mood for humor these days, but like just about everybody I guess, I'm very weary of having my mind twisted this and that way by the news suppliers, especially Reuters with their "riot" headlines (big surprise since they have so much business with PRC) and others (I'm not speaking of Xinhua which goes entirely without saying, although isn't it curious how so many journalists think they have to weigh its information against creditable and credible news sources).

    The PRC defenders are pointing out how western newspeople are so stupid they can't distinguish demonstrations in India and Kathmandu from demonstrations in Tibet (happens more on video news, but I've seen several examples in different media, and I know that on this point those comrades are refreshingly dishing up non-disinformation). I've been hearing about the cyber attacks on Tibet activists (one of a number of PRC targets that include Falun Gong, and Chinese dissidents in particular) for years now. It's really something to be concerned about, since they are just awesomely top-of-the-tech. The whole world is affected by what goes on in China today, which makes me only laugh with scorn every time the PRC gov't says "Mind your own business" when Tibet is brought up. Tibet and China are very much our business — what happens inside, and what they are doing outside. Governments all over the world have already decided the next time Beijing complains about meeting H.H. the Dalai Lama, they'll just say, "Our meeting with H.H. is an internal affair of our own country,so MYOB." Well, guess I'll go back to minding my own business. But what would that be?"

  8. Dear Dan,

    It's not humour, it's bitter sarcasm born out of incapability to do anything constructive about this. I guess minding our own business would be to stay as objective as possible and continue being reporters of the past. Even this is so difficult to do nowadays without any emotional involvement.



  9. I read you loud and clear PSz. But I also think at this moment that preserving objectivity (which could be, although I'm not saying it is in your case [most definitely not], an excuse for non-involvement) is not nearly so important as telling the unreasonably skeptical world that Tibetans possess their own subjectivity, their own "agency" to use the cool academic term that is in favor. The ways news agency talking heads both east and west frame the current events in Tibet are often both ill informed about cultural and historical matters, but so often ethnocentric. History matters because, like Buddha must have really said, Things come from causes.

  10. As this blog is also about Tibeto-logy, I wonder whether the IATS (perhaps represented by its board members) is willing to deliver a statement. This may have happened and I may have overlooked it. However, I very much doubt that there will be anything along the lines of even slight criticism as several leading and powerful members of the community have been collaborating with the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences (TASS) and other government agencies since long. Obviously some of the projects carried out rate among the most fascinating for anyone working in the field of Tibetan Studies. But TASS is a state-run institution. Admittedly a truely difficult situation. On the other hand there can be very little doubt that serious research on Tibet can be carried out without even visiting this occupied land. I do understand that this applies to the philological approach based on textual sources freely available outside Tibet, not to anthropological fieldwork. But this is really not my problem. And all those who make it their problem seem to be in a major dilemma for which I have little sympathy. Well, see you then on the 13th IATS conference in Beijing, 2013...

    Arno Nym

  11. Dear Arno,

    I imagine some of those Tibetologists will be seriously rethinking their wisdom in allowing the PRC to make use of them in the ways that they often have been used, for propaganda purposes. Some thought they could play the Common Fronting game, but it's a little like playing Goh for the first time with an old master. I don't judge them, and many have accomplished very good things not only in terms of research, but also some successful projects to preserve art, architecture and written records. I've been to Tibet, but never engaged in research projects there thinking the ethical costs too high. So Beijing 2013 it is. I'm hoping this time it will be blessed by having H.H. the Dalai Lama as plenary speaker. I don't think it takes too much imagination to make it happen.

  12. Hey Dan. I was recently teaching at an orphanage on the plateau. I can empathize with your disappointment and frustration...

  13. Dear Anon,

    Thank you for writing.

    And thank you for the link to the "Teacher Gorilla" blog. Fascinating.

  14. Mr Nym,

    Have you heard? The IATS 2013 won't be in Beijing. It's going to be in Ulan Bator. Your prediction may have been a close one, but I'm not awarding any cookies for it.



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