Fifty years, a half-century – how many days, how many nights can be counted in the long hours of exile? And for how long? The mobilization of groups of
sympathizers lit a spark of hope throughout the planet, demonstrating opportunely that a bruised and battered and muzzled Tibet is not forgotten, and will not be forgotten. To the great displeasure of Beijing, the flag with the snow lions has been flying high under various skies, at Town Halls, individual windows, and above the heads of demonstrators; and this, in spite of the warnings issued with neither restraint nor diplomacy by the spokespersons of the Chinese government. Could it be that the present tenants of the Forbidden City are afraid - of whom? of what? - to have got to that point?
In any case, one is obliged to observe that it is indubitably a reaction of fear that has caused the Chinese authorities – so badly – to hide the deployment of military forces in the Region called autonomous as well as in the historic districts of Tibet. The Tibetan territory in its entirety is hermetically forbidden to foreigners – in particular to journalists, specialists, UN experts or travellers, tourists curious about local realities. A few foolhardy people risked a demonstration, either on their own or in small groups, and were immediately and unceremoniously thrown into jail. No foreigner present, or very few, to talk, testify, or shout to the skies, faced with appalling indifference. Was it an effect of “the Great Wall against separatism”, baptized by the present Chinese President? Not long ago, he was called “The Butcher of Lhassa” for having gained his stripes within the Communist Party because of the implacable repression during the protests of 1988/1989. Could he have forgotten - a curious and foolish mistake - that the famous Wall was constructed to protect the empire from “Barbarians”, and to prevent the raids of “Mongol and Tibetan bandits”? A reminder - the construction started before the present era, and its present-day form dates from the 17th century. A proof, if one was needed, that Tibet has not been part of China for very long time, and that this Region called autonomous is in fact an occupied country…
In mid-March, in Lhassa, the Chinese forces of law and order carried out systematic searches in the Tibetan area, looking for “suspect individuals”, whilst the telephone lines and web servers were cut. In additions, Westerners, Chinese from Tai Wan, Hong Kong or Macau, as well as non-resident Tibetans actually there, were strictly banned by force from the area. Monasteries – useless to talk about them; they are so well guarded that no one, neither monk nor nun nor lay person, can get in or out. And propaganda continues to yell out “it is the fault of the Dalai and his clique…” Which does not hinder the Chinese authorities from choosing this moment to announce their plan for a “modern transformation” of Lhassa (nevertheless already unrecognisable so much does it look Chinese). A certain Mrs. Wang, Director the Water Company 5100 of Tibet, situated in the Dangxiong district, boasts of wanting to create a Chinese Evian-les-Bains. And this lady explains that her enterprise is located near Nam-tso (the lake of heaven), just as “Evian-les-Bains is a little French town with its spa at the foot of the Alps, which has been transformed in a venue and a celebrated brand-name.” This is a very encouraging example for the inhabitants of Tangxion (spelled two different ways in a Xinhua newspaper, and also bearing the Tibetan name of Damshung) as “an economic model, shining example for the north of Tibet”. This must give much pleasure to the inhabitants of the two shores, French and Swiss, of Lake Geneva.
Another facet of the French example was the declaration of 13 March from the Spokesperson of the Quai d’Orsay (French Foreign Office) replying to a question at a regular Press Conference: - “We are not favourable to the independence of Tibet. Our position is absolutely unchanged, and will not change. I would remind you of our support of the territorial integrity of China, and our refusal of secessionist perspectives, or support for the independence of Tibet.” Excellent determination and faultless fidelity to principles; it is not the position that changes, it is the Ministers. Human rights and the right of people to self-determination can all be forgotten, including several recent scathing history lessons. The present holder of the post would doubtless explain that the preparation of G20 in London at the beginning of April - where the French and Chinese Presidents will cross each other’s paths, even meet - has to be carefully handled.
Whilst the official Press Agency Xinhua revolts against “the amnesia and ignorance of the Members of the European Parliament who interfere in Tibetan affairs” (the European Parliament adopted a new Resolution on Tibet on 12 March in Strasbourg), a handful of Nobel prize-winners, represented by Bishop Desmond Tutu and followed by various celebrities, demand in an Open Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that he should go to Tibet accompanied by journalists and other observers in order to personally evaluate the situation in situ, in order to present a detailed report to the international community.
And during this time, at the Council for Human Rights Ordinary Session in Geneva, the Chinese delegates, on the lookout for trouble, saw red whenever anyone - diplomat, representative of a country or an NGO – dared to pronounce the dishonoured name. Thus, according to the official report of the meeting of 17 March, Madame Yang Jirarong “vigorously rejected the accusations made by the Czech Republic in the name the European Union and by Amnesty International concerning her country. “These allegations are based on ignorance and prejudice”, and more precisely, “in her country, there are numerous people who work for the well-being of the population and the activities of the defenders of human rights are protected.” In conclusion, the honourable delegate expressed the wish that “these delegations get back into the right path and practice self-criticism.” A language that has echoes of the Cultural Revolution and a curious resonance at the UN Palais des Nations…
Let Hope Remain!
All the same… In Prague, Vaclav Havel awarded the «Homo Homini» Prize that crowns the combat for human rights to the lawyer representing Liu Xiabo, still in prison, and to those who signed the Chart 08. The operation of luxury trains for Lhassa foreseen for next April has been delayed for a year…perhaps waiting for the climate to improve? New generations of Tibetans have begun to get used to the modernity imposed by those whom they consider as occupiers, without relinquishing the right to be themselves. In spite of the grief awakened by the recent photos smuggled out of Tibet, a Tibet in a Chinese straitjacket, it is in the darkest hour of the night that one has to believe in the light. And that of the High Plateau is indestructibly joined to the body and the heart of Tibet. If we must realise that time is pressing, that “there are enemies who have no desire to bow to conciliation” (as a friend said to me) neither should it be forgotten that the wheel is turning, that a grain of sand can always jam the best-oiled mechanism, that everything remains possible – the worst as well as the best – and that there is a Springtime for every hope.