Isabel Hilton on China and the Dalai Lama

She’s long been one of my favorite commentators on human rights issues, and she’s making an interesting claim here: that as the 2008 Olympics approach, China is becoming increasingly worried that simmering discontent in Tibet mght mar the spectacle of a jubilant and harmonious China they are trying so hard to promote. Thus the recent attempts to reach out to the Dalai Lama to reach some sort of reconciliation. As always, Isabel tells her story with haunting power.

When the first cracks appeared in the concrete base and bridges of the Qinghai Tibet railway, just weeks after the carefully staged, triumphal opening on July 1 (the 85th birthday of the Chinese Communist party), they were not the only sign that all is not well with China’s policies in Tibet. The cracks seem to be the result of the unstable geology of the Tibetan plateau. Equally worrying to Beijing, shifts in Tibetan political geology have caused cracks in the official Chinese narrative of unity and harmony between Tibet and China.

There had been sporadic unrest for several months: in November last year the monks of Drepung monastery in central Tibet staged a sit-down demonstration against “patriotic education” – the government’s enforced propaganda campaign. The demonstration was echoed in other important monasteries in the region.

Then last January, in a religious address delivered in India, the exiled Dalai Lama called on Tibetans to stop wearing wildlife skins to save animals from extinction. The results were dramatic: from Lhasa to Gansu, Tibetans gathered for public fur burnings. Confronted with this evidence of his continuing influence, the government accused the Dalai Lama of promoting “social disorder” and responded, bizarrely, with a pro-fur campaign in which TV presenters were ordered to wear fur on air.

Read the rest to see why, even though he’s thousands of miles away, the Dalai Lama remains a force for China to reckon with.

(Note: I am no great advocate of the Free Tibet movement or the Dalai Lama. I just want to make that clear in advance.)

The Discussion: 7 Comments

Who is this isabel hilton person? (Because I can’t find the energy to drag my cursor all the way to the Google search box…)

August 23, 2006 @ 12:44 am | Comment

She’s actually a pretty well known journalist who writes for the UK Guardian and lots of other pubs, usually about tyrants and oppression.

August 23, 2006 @ 12:50 am | Comment

I’m a fan of her as well. I thought the CCP’s response to promote the use of furs for TV presenters was something one would see on a British sitcom…

August 23, 2006 @ 2:52 am | Comment

How about we declare open season on the PLA occupying force in Tibet? Taiwan? Tibet? Where else is China going to stick its incompetent neck before taking care of its massive problems at home? Oh that’s right, they are going to the moon. Sounds like a well known American TV sitcom……one of these days, Hu, just one of these days….POW…..right in the kisser!

August 23, 2006 @ 5:13 am | Comment

“(Note: I am no great advocate of the Free Tibet movement or the Dalai Lama. I just want to make that clear in advance.)”

I’m curious to know why discussion of Tibet on TPD is always prefaced with this sort of disclaimer. I know that Tibet’s feudal history is somewhat whitewashed in the U.S., but that hardly excuses the PRC’s myriad crimes against the people of Xizang “province.”

August 23, 2006 @ 10:55 am | Comment

TV presenters wearing fur on-air? That’s as childish as Freedom Fries in the Capitol cafeteria, but at least potatoes aren’t an endangered species.

August 23, 2006 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

Liu Yixi, it’s because I don’t want readers to jump to silly conclusions as they often do. I hate many of the things China is doing and has done to Tibet, but I also don’t like the Dalai Lama cult and the often brain-dead whining of the Free Tibet crowd, which sees Tibet as a scene out of Lost Horizon and bogs itself down in a sea of ignorant cliches.

August 23, 2006 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

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