It is basic human nature to accuse, name-call and use strange analogies when you have an internal crisis that cannot be solved. Beijing has been under the spell of this abnormal behaviour for a long time. The problem is that it does not want to look for a permanent cure. Instead it wants to remain in this irksome state.
First it was Zhang Qingli, the Party chief in Tibet, who called the Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk’s clothes, a devil with a human face.” Zhang was, perhaps, seeing the world’s revered icon through skewed glasses issued by Beijing. In May 2009, while speaking to a large crowd at MIT in Boston, the Tibetan leader formed two horns with his fingers and said, “A demon with compassion is not bad after all.” Laughter boomed across the hall.
On November 12, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, described the Nobel Laureate as “the former head of a slave state.” “In 1959, China abolished the feudal serf system just as President Lincoln freed the black slaves,” he said.
Let’s get what Qin is saying — the PRC is analogous to Abraham Lincoln, and Old Tibet comparable to the slavery of black Americans.
Before China’s occupation in 1959, Tibet was neither the ’Nectar-filled Shangri-la’ of foreign fantasy nor a total serfdom as Beijing claims. It was a viable independent nation with its own army, legal and taxation systems. Like any other nation, it had problems too — such as lack of modern education and economic infrastructure.
It is also true that many Tibetan peasants worked on estates of the rich land-owning families and monasteries, for which they were paid, and they enjoyed freedom and had comfortable rapport with their employers. It was a relationship quite similar to today’s workers at large factories. If such a system is called serfdom, as Beijing does, and compared with black slavery in America before 1865, then pretty much the whole world practiced a kind of slavery.
President Abraham Lincoln’s War of Independence and eventual abolishment of slavery in the US was based on the principle of basic human equality and the urgent need to assert such rights. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and later made the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which “officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.” It was adopted on 6 December 1865.
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” Lincoln said.
China’s coming into Tibet was neither a war of independence nor ’liberation’ from the onset. It was an illegal annexation of an independent country. Beijing’s gifts were the death of over a million Tibetans, destruction of thousands of monasteries and making the Tibetans sign the 17-Point Agreement under duress.
Beijing’s record in China is not much brighter. In Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday estimate that over 70 million people died in China by 1976. To add to this are the mauling of its students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the countless crackdowns on poor rural people, and the execution of political prisoners in Tibet and East Turkestan (Chinese: Xinjiang).
Despite its economic growth, today’s China is no fairer than the serfdom that Beijing is loudly shouting about. In The Dark Side of China’s Rise, Minxin Pei writes that Beijing oversees a vast patronage system that secures the loyalty of supporters and allocates privileges to favored groups. “The party appoints 81 percent of the chief executives of state-owned enterprises and 56 percent of all senior corporate executives.”
In recent times there were cases of ugly racism in China, where individuals were targeted because of their skin colour. The Wall Street Journal reports Hung Huang, a publisher, writer and one of China’s most famous media personalities as saying, “It pains me to see that a people who themselves were discriminated against by the West and called ’the sick man of Asia,’ would have such short memories, and start discriminating against groups that are in a disadvantaged position.”
Lincoln said that blacks had the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and his legacy is putting an end to slavery and giving the blacks a permanent freedom in the US.
The opposite can be said about China’s record in Tibet, which includes the denial of basic rights resulting in the 2008 peaceful protests in Tibet, arbitrary arrests, and the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama Gendun Nyima and writer-blogger Kunga Tsangyang among many others. Qin Gang’s analogy about slavery and Lincoln is a new addition to China’s long list of propaganda designed to hide the fact that “beyond the new high-rises and churning factories lie rampant corruption, vast waste, and an elite with little interest in making things better.”
For a “former slave owner”, the Dalai Lama is doing very well. Apart from being a Nobel Laureate, the Tibetan leader is a respected spiritual teacher and tirelessly works to promote non-violence and equal rights based on respect and genuine compassion.
Qin said, “So we hope President Obama more than any other foreign state leader can have a better understanding on China’s position on opposing the Dalai’s splitting activities.”
Obama, being a man of conscience and a new Nobel Laureate, has the power to stop Beijing’s meaningless lectures.