Ninth Question [Lofthouse]:
What is your opinion on Tibet as part of China and how would you describe the Tibet issue?
Westerns tend to idealize Tibet and know little about its history or society. I wonder how many readers are aware, for example, that Tibet was invaded by Britain in 1903, with the British killing 3,000 Tibetans and sending the Dalai Lama fleeing to Mongolia.
Tibet remains an acutely backward society, filled with superstition, quackery, sorcery…. Until recently, mutilation was considered a valid punishment.
Tibetan history is riddled with violence; Tibet was once an ambitious military state. Tibetans often fought against, and defeated, the Chinese. They toppled China’s emperor in Xian in the eight century, illustrating that the mighty Han were really limp wristed. The Tibetans withdrew after the Chinese acknowledged the Sino-Tibetan border, etc., but the Chinese never forgot how the long-haired barbarians caused them to lose face. Revenge is such a potent element in Chinese culture; an ever-present theme.
Savage-brimming “borderlands,” like Mongolia, Tibet, and Taiwan would have to be Sinicized. Taiwan got away. Mongolia became a Soviet suzerainty in exchange for aid. Tibet, which had swapped its martial tradition for Buddhism, was ripe for the picking. With the Korean War, larger powers were distracted. There were several reasons for China’s invasion and annexation of Tibet, but the paramount one was revenge.
Chinese rule in Tibet vacillates between cultural suffocation and cultural genocide. Oh, and murder. It isn’t known how many Tibetans have died under Chinese occupation. Thousands, tens of thousands…. Nobody is sure, and estimates from Dharamsala have been unreliable. Tibetans are forced to sign conduct agreements; life in Lhasa is closely monitored by the police; there are informants, spies; Tibetans who aren’t deemed patriotic citizens are jailed, tortured…. It’s a shitty situation.
Probably the saddest part, beyond the death and repression, is that Western governments have been reluctant to act. UN resolutions are useless, too. The West criticizes China’s involvement in Africa, accusing the Chinese Communist Party of doing business with any two-bit thug-state, but China represents the biggest thug-state on Earth, only its leaders often wear nicer suits and have American PhDs.
For further reading, see Patrick French’s Tibet, Tibet and Ma Jian’s Stick Out Your Tongue.
In October 1885, Robert Hart wrote a letter to his London agent saying China did not want Tibet exposed to Western trade and influence.
Then in a 1903 letter, Hart mentioned the 2,000 British troops that invaded Tibet. Since China claimed Tibet as its territory, the British were warned to leave or risk war.
As for claims of cultural suffocation and genocide in today’s Tibet, anyone that reads the article in the October 1912 issue of National Geographic Magazine by a Chinese medical doctor sent to Tibet in 1907 would discover that Tibetans are better off today.
If Tibet returned to the situation Dr. Shaoching H. Chuan described in National Geographic [including many photos], it would be an inhuman act. Under the CCP, the quality of life in Tibet has improved dramatically from that feudal culture where 99% of the people were slaves to a dogmatic religion and rich landowners.
Final Word [Parfitt]:
Stick Out Your Tongue, which should erase any idealized notions of Tibet, was blasted by the CCP for failing to depict “the great strides the Tibetan people have made in building a united, prosperous, and civilized Socialist Tibet.”
Yes, China has made improvements in Tibet. Even the Dalai Lama admits this.
Canada is less advanced than America. Canadian news stories sometimes conclude: ‘Unlike the US, Canada doesn’t have a law/committee/policy/plan to deal with ‘subject.’ But I don’t think America should invade, force the government to London, destroy the hockey rinks, ban national institutions, torture new and ungrateful “American citizens,” or put them in front of firing squads – to rescue them from their own ignorance.
If China hadn’t invaded, Tibet might have gotten assistance from the West. But China’s concern about Western influence in Tibet was one reason it invaded.
It was not for Tibetans that China annexed Tibet.
Continued on December 7, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 11 or return to Part 9.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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