Tibet, all of Tibet, the region called “autonomous” as well as the historical Eastern border enclaves of Kham and the Amdo in the provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai – is once again closed to foreigners until the end of March or April, despite peremptorily re-iterated official affirmations that calm reigns on the roof of the world. During the events of Spring 2008, an as a form of warning, heavy sentences were passed on 76 “agitators against public order”, including 9 monks from Samyé. Just before Losar and above all, before the fateful date of 10 March. A few prisoners in a pitiful state were released for fear they would die in prison. Tibetans in rural zones were forced to “participate” in the New Year’s festivities under the threat of being fined or victimized, although their heart was not in it. Without forgetting the decision, adding insult to injury, of instituting 28 March as a holiday to remember the “day of the liberation of serfs”. Photos were surreptitiously taken, proving the existence of a reinforced and heavily armed military presence in Labrang, in front of the Jokhang in Lhassa, and in other monasteries. There were hundreds of “preventive” arrests (nearly a thousand), warnings and explicit threats – if all this information does not illustrate the daily life of a country not “under control” (as says the official propaganda) but simply occupied, it is a sign that words, which name things, are singularly devalorized. One cannot say more.
And during this time, the United Nations Council for Human Rights, the famous PUE, intended to make a “Periodic Universal Examination”, proudly brandished as a panacea to all the wrongs that caused the discredited Commission for Human Rights to founder, is reviewing the Chinese dossier. An exercise so futile that the Human Rights Watch did not hesitate to call it a failure. Remember that the above-mentioned test is based on reports and documents prepared and provided by the government of the country in the hot seat. The “pairs” are the other members of the Council, that is to say the mandated representatives of member states of the honourable (?) institution. Other members and NGOs can ask questions and present their points of view, which are resumed by the functionaries of the Secretariat of the Council for Human Rights, intended for participants in the debate, of which the number is strictly limited, as well as time allotted for speaking.
Right away, it is apparent that the dice are loaded as far as the examination of the China dossier is concerned; there is no reference in the presentation of the dossier to precise questions from NGOs, while any remark judged (by whom?) as disagreeable from certain (too rare) governments has been removed. So well, that the habitual choir of various dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, now leading the dance at the Council, have all the time in the world to sing the praises of the Chinese regime, after having blissfully listened to the Beijing emissary spelling out the benefits of the regime and creating the happiness of the people and civilizing the “minorities”.
Not a treacherous word on Tibet or the Ouïghours, or imprisoned dissidents, or the unfortunate people deprived of free expression, or the obstinate who still dare to lift their heads; they do not exist. Move on, there’s nothing to see. The silence of democracies – or those that still exist – has become deafening.
And during this time, the Son of the Heaven – excuse me, the Communist Party – on service in Beijing, Hu Jintao in person (he who was called the “butcher of Lhassa” because of his policy of repression in Tibet at the end of the eighties) peacefully made an official tour in a few friendly countries. He started with Saudi Arabia (this other champion of Human Rights, above all those of women), and on the eve of his departure, the official Chinese spokesman hastened to specify that “this journey has had nothing to do with oil, it has been entirely a friendly visit”. That which goes without saying, goes better by saying it. All this did not stop the Chinese friend from signing a pretty contract (nearly three milliard dollars) with his friend the King, for the construction of a monorail in the holy town of Mecca, in order to make the journey of pilgrims easier…
So much for the Managing Director of Alsthom who at the beginning of the year complained about Chinese attempts to export “foreign technology”, contrary to contractual commitments signed with large consortiums, of which his company was a member. The rest of the African journey took place on red carpets in conquered countries, because of course, friendship dos not have a price… At the same time, good old Mr. Raffarin forced himself to coax and wheedle his hosts in Beijing in order to soothe definitively (?) the wounds of Chinese pride and to re-establish “cordial links” between the two countries. And waiting for the next faux pas of “badly informed” public opinion, or a foolhardy official that His Imperial Majesty in Beijing hurries to call to order?
During his recent brief journey in Europe – Rome, Venice and Baden-Baden – the Dalai Lama said, in replying to a question, that the situation was “tense” in Tibet and that trouble could ensue. Beijing reacted a quarter of a turn by accusing him of stirring up trouble, and creating disorder and insecurity. In order to justify the coercive measures announced, the prohibition of journalists going to verify facts on the spot, and an attempt to make people believe in a minutely orchestrated propaganda, without any proof?
A book entitled “We Saw Spain Die” has just been published in the United States. Sixty years of occupation, fifty years of exile and even passive resistance have ALL woven a solid canvas of Tibetan existence for many long years, with the target of the hope of a return put off for too long a time. More than ever, time is flying: endurance, hope and solidarity are necessary to get to the end of the road. So that no one can tomorrow put together a compilation with the title “We saw Tibet Die…”
Claude B. Levenson, February 2009