Update on Tibet


From what I can piece together from a distance, it appears that during the violence that broke out in Lhasa two weeks ago, a mob of mostly young Tibetan laypeople did kill and injure Han Chinese. However, I don’t believe monks were involved in that.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in exile for 49 years. My understanding is that younger Tibetans may still revere him, but they don’t necessarily listen to him.

There’s a good background article on Tibet in the Wall Street Journal. Basically, Chinese government officials are idiots.

It should be no surprise that beatings of monks and closings of monasteries naturally stimulate civil unrest, or that civil unrest, spawned in this way, can turn violent.

Why aren’t these simple truths more obvious? Phuntsog Wanggyal, a Tibetan now retired in Beijing who for years was a leading Communist official in Tibet, has observed that a doctrine of “anti-splittism” has taken root among Chinese government officials who deal with religion and minority affairs, both in central offices in Beijing and in Tibet. Having invested their careers in anti-splittism, these people cannot admit that the idea is mistaken without losing face and, they fear, losing their own power and position as well.

Their ready-made tag for everything that goes wrong is “hostile foreign forces” — an enemy that justifies any kind of harsh or unreasoning repression. When repeated endlessly, anti-splittism, although originally vacuous, does take on a kind of solidity. Careers are made in it, and challenging it becomes impossible.

Sounds a lot like the Bush Administration. Who needs reality when you’ve got a good talking point?

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  1. felicity  •  Mar 28, 2008 @12:52 pm

    There’s an article in the latest New Yorker on the Dalai Lama. It offers a somewhat more ‘nuanced’ analysis of the Tibet problem and a fairly complete profile of the man.

  2. maha  •  Mar 28, 2008 @2:06 pm

    felicity — thanks for the tip. That’s a really good article.

  3. joanr16  •  Mar 28, 2008 @5:01 pm

    Good old New Yorker. I hope my issue comes tomorrow!

  4. yeshe_choden  •  Mar 28, 2008 @9:56 pm

    I got this from a woman in my Seattle sangha, who is married to a Tibetan man:

    “This recently came through the tsg-list, and we have a few professional photoshop people double checking it’s authenticity; initial word back indicates this is an original photo. A number of people in the group are working on global mainstream media publishing, and hope you too can try to get some coverage.

    [link removed]

    Beijing orchestrating Tibet riots

    Just in case you wondered why these “Tibetan monks” were so violent in Lhasa….

  5. maha  •  Mar 29, 2008 @6:18 am

    yeshe — Had you read the post you would have seen that the violence wasn’t committed by monks, but by laypeople. And I think the notion that Beijing orchestrated the riots us utterly absurd. It’s the absolute last thing the government of China wanted to happen. I removed the link because I don’t allow this blog to be a conduit for nonsense.

  6. yeshe_choden  •  Mar 29, 2008 @3:58 pm

    maha – I am concerned myself about the authenticity or contemporaneity of the photo, but as to whether the idea that the PRC government would pull something like this, well, please check with Tibetans or Tibetan monks, nums and lamas about that.

    I e-mailed further with the friend of “Marguerite,” my sangha sister, looking for more confirmation, and got this reply.

    My friend received from Marguerite, separately:

    “The photo is authentic according to a number of photoshop professionals who have put it under the scrutiny. However, as the day rolls on some within the TSG community are questioning if this is an older photo. We are also aware of a number of telephone conversation with relatives in Tibet where accounts during the protests run like this:elder monks asked the “violent” monks to stop, sit down, and when spoken in Tibetan the “violent” monks did not understand the language. These accounts are unfortunately unprovable and unpublishable in mainstream journalism.



    my friend continues:

    “I have heard from a number of people here in the Tibetan community that their family in Tibet is telling them the same thing, or variations on that theme. Does “maha” have connections in Tibet? I am a bit reluctant to send it [my question] on to Marguerite, as she sounds as if she is pretty frantic right now. I will watch for developments on the list and send you anything that I do see. I should add though, that my friend who is Chinese confirmed that this is precisely the kind of thing that the Chinese do and have done. And Dagmola made some interesting comments about some of the things that the Chinese did when they initially invaded Tibet to demoralize the Tibetans that also involved this kind of “nonsense”! The Chinese military would overwhelm a monastery and then force the monks to change their robes for Chinese uniforms and then send them out to be killed by their fellow Tibetans who naturally thought that they were killing the Chinese invaders, and when they discovered their mistake they were so horrified that much of their resistance was gone.”

    I also checked in with my temple’s Rinpoche – he was a monk as a child, grew up in a labor camp being secretly taught by the other prisoner lamas, then served his monastery under the PRC eye. He said this kind of trick was a common thing seen in the military, although he has no way of confirming this particular photo.

  7. maha  •  Mar 29, 2008 @5:05 pm

    yeshe — FYI, I’m the same person who blogs here, and I do have contacts here and there. It has been long believed that China has planted phony monks in the monasteries to act as informants. However, the claim that Chinese dressed as monks carried out the riots makes no sense, because (1) monks weren’t the ones who were rioting; and (2) this is absolutely the last thing China wanted to happen now.

    Get a grip.

  8. yeshe_choden  •  Mar 29, 2008 @5:14 pm

    Just sending on the reports of Tibetans who were there, and who lived through the PRC invasion and occupation.


  9. maha  •  Mar 29, 2008 @5:54 pm

    And I also have reports of Tibetans who were there, and who lived through the PRC invasion and occupation. What you are suggesting is an insult to them.



  10. unclead  •  Mar 30, 2008 @12:33 am

    I don’t see the real separation, between. And who cares. I try to look beyond all “spririts” and look at myself. The Dalirama is nothing more than what I have forgotten, and what people in the future will remember, what difference is it? It is all powerful and very forgettable. It only makes sense when you think about it!

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