Friday, March 21, 2008

tibet

Unless you get all your international news from some version of The Forecaster or The Daily Shopper, you're probably at least aware that some shit is going down in Tibet right now. The amount of press coverage in the last week probably surpasses the accumulative coverage of the last half century. Protests in Tibet against Chinese rule, which erupted anew ten days ago, have turned violent. According to Tibetan exiles, at least 80 people have been killed and more than 325 injured in the subsequent Chinese crackdown, and posted on walls and buildings throughout Dharamsala (where the Dalai Lama now lives in India and home to several thousand Tibetan exiles), are graphic and disturbing photographs of Tibetans apparently killed by Chinese police or soldiers. This quote comes from a story filed to the Belfast Telegraph and picked up by BBC by reporter Andrew Buncombe, who is in Dharamsala:

"It's horrible. There are many bodies. The Chinese are holding the bodies," claimed Tenzin Thangh, who was participating in a candlelit vigil through the main street of the town – a procession that has become a nightly occurrence. "The soldiers are going into all parts of Tibet."

According to the Chinese government, they have a head count of sixteen deaths. Of course, this is the same government that calls the Dalai Lama "a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast" making him sound less like the Buddha of Compassion and more like Ghengis Khan. The same government that claims he is orchestrating this violence from his exile post in India. You don't have to be a Buddhist to see how preposterous that accusation is. Give me a break. The Dalai Lama won't even kill a cockroach.

Nancy Pelosi, who has been an outspoken supporter of Tibet's fight for freedom, met with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala yesterday. Last week she issued a statement on China's handling of the protests, calling the ''violent response'' by the Chinese police against peaceful protestors ''disgraceful''. Canada is weighing in, Great Britain, and others.

So while it's good to see world leaders speaking out about Tibet, words are not action. I doubt there would be much attention at all if the whole world wasn't about to hang out in Bejing at the Olympics and pretend that all is just plain fabulous in China. Certainly these recent eruptions in violence would not have been enough to get world leaders on a plane to India for a heart to heart with the Dalai Lama. All hell has been breaking loose in Tibet since 1950, and in spite of an extraordinary effort by the Dalai Lama to educate the world about it, the fact is, there is no oil in Tibet and everybody wants to play nice with China and so aside from some squishy photo ops, the Dalai Lama's pleas for help have been pretty much ignored.

I can't begin to describe how much. it. offends. me. that the Olympics will be held in that country. The atrocities, the human cost of China's occupation of Tibet...well, it's genocidal, and you don't have to take my word for it, and I don't need to editorialize about it. I'll just let the facts speak for themselves, and leave it at that. For now. Oh, and by the way, these numbers only take into account events up to 1995. Um, yeah.

from http://www.freetibet.org/index.html:

Reprisals for the 1959 National Uprising alone involved the elimination of 87,000 Tibetans by the Chinese count, according to a Radio Lhasa broadcast of 1 October 1960. Tibetan exiles claim that 430,000 died during the Uprising and the subsequent 15 years of guerrilla warfare.

Some 1.2 million Tibetans are estimated to have been killed by the Chinese since 1950.

The International Commission of Jurists concluded in its reports, 1959 and 1960, that there was a prima facie case of genocide committed by the Chinese upon the Tibetan nation. These reports deal with events before the Cultural Revolution.

Chinese Justice: Protest and Prisons Exile sources estimate that up to 260,000 people died in prisons and labour camps between 1950 and 1984.

Unarmed demonstrators have been shot without warning by Chinese police on five occasions between 1987 and 1989. Amnesty International believes that "at least 200 civilians" were killed by the security forces during demonstrations in this period. There are also reports of detainees being summarily executed.

Some 3,000 people are believed to have been detained for political offences since September 1987, many of them for writing letters, distributing leaflets or talking to foreigners about the Tibetans' right to independence.

The number of political detainees in Lhasa's main prison, Drapchi, is reported to have doubled between 1990 and 1994. The vast majority of political inmates are monks or nuns. A political prisoner in Tibet can now expect an average sentence of 6.5 years.

Over 230 Tibetans were detained for political offences in 1995, a 50% increase on 1994, bringing the total in custody to over 600.

Detailed accounts show that the Chinese conducted a campaign of torture against Tibetan dissidents in prison from March 1989 to May 1990. However, beatings and torture are still regularly used against political detainees and prisoners today. Such prisoners are held in sub-standard conditions, given insufficient food, forbidden to speak, frequently held incommunicado and denied proper medical treatment.

Beatings and torture with electric shock batons are common; prisoners have died from such treatment. In 1992, Palden Gyatso, a monk who had been tortured by the Chinese for over 30 years, bribed prison guards to hand over implements of torture. The weapons, smuggled out of Tibet, were displayed in the west in 1994 and 1995.

Despite China having ratified a number of UN conventions, including those relating to torture, women, children and racial discrimination, the Chinese authorities have been repeatedly violating these conventions in China and Tibet.

Nearly all prisoners arrested for political protest are beaten extensively at the time of arrest and initial detention. Serious physical maltreatment has also been recorded in a significant proportion of cases. In the period 1994-1995, three nuns died shortly after release from custody as a result of ill-treatment and torture in detention.

The Chinese have refused to allow independent observers to attend so-called public trials. Prison sentences are regularly decided before the trial. Fewer than 2% of cases in China are won by the defence.

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