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Tibet and the "Long Walk to Freedom"


Friday 26 February 2010

It has been twenty years now since Nelson Mandela walked out of Robben Island prison and won the freedom for South Africans. The struggle against discrimination had gone for more than a century and under the African National Congress (ANC), it took on a more urgency and action. Civil disobedience action such as the Defiance Campaign propelled the people to show their strong disagreement and their grievances. One waits for a day when such a large movement would occur inside Tibet. The recent Losar boycotts as well as other forms of boycotts and non-violence activities, should be the next step for the Tibetan movement if China arrogantly thinks that the issue will die off after passing of His Holiness.For exiles to encourage this sort of movement inside Tibet might sound selfish and unthoughtful for the risks Tibetans might face but I think we have little alternatives left beyond talking the talks with ongoing dialogue.

At this stage of the Tibetan struggle, further pushed by the 2008 March protest, we should form a greater unity, an inclusive and a re-energized movement. A recommended book to read for those  wanting to make a difference would be the autobiography of Nelson Mandela’s, Long Walk to Freedom for it teaches us valuable lessons and strategies that could be applied in the struggle and encouraged inside Tibet. The fight against injustice in South Africa took various forms and included actors ranging from the Communist party, the Indians, the Nationalist and other multiracial groups such as the Youth Leagues under ANC- all struggling for one common objective of Freedom. If the current Chinese government becomes more arrogant, repressive and fails to address the grievances, it might be recommended that Tibetans start a collaborative movement with the Uyghur’s or any other movements/groups in exile and China who face similar threat to their freedom- be they culture, identity, human rights etc. Reporters often ask rhetorically , why Uighurs don’t get as much support as the Tibetan and they often point to the Muslim religion and fanaticism,but this should not influence Tibetans not to struggle together. We face the same discrimination and injustice,similar to the many groups in South Africa who eventually ended apartheid in a common struggle. Is it because we fear the label of “terrorist” or the Muslim "Fundamentalist" that we become so careful to engage with such groups?

 Is it the Buddhist faith that we take a less aggressive stand. One is reminded of how Christian Liberation theology had been a powerful force in addressing various social-justice issue in Latin America,especially the struggle with the military juntas as well as the Black and Feminist struggle in America. Have a time come where certain aspect/themes of the Tibetan Buddhism could be used for greater struggle against injustice rather than being merely a passive factor of our struggle?  I think one can use religion suppression not only to get sympathy for a cause but also as a tool to fight for a good and just cause. This is only a hypothesis I  bring here but we never know if it is never discussed.

Lastly, with the increasing power of China in the world wide stage and its ‘carrot and stick’ approach to every country that tries to associate with Tibet issues, it might be time to rethink out goals and strategies. The recent failure or uncertainly after the 9th Round of Dialogue and its inability to bring even a meager change proves that we’re either wasting our time/resource or just don’t have any idea on what to do next.


Tashi is a Tibetan student in Canada.

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