Barack Obama’s White House meeting with the Dalai Lama sparked the requisite protests from Beijing, in what has become a completely choreographed political spectacle. Press accounts (AHN, PTI, July 18) inform us that “Obama stressed that Washington recognizes that Tibet is a part of China” even as he “stressed the importance of protecting human rights of Tibetans in China.” Not appeased, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Obama’s meeting with “the Dalai has grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, hurt the feelings of Chinese people and damaged the Sino-American relations,” expressing “stern objection” and adding: “We demand the US side seriously consider China’s stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces that seek Tibet independence.” The Dalai Lama also met with US congressional leaders, including the reactionary House Speaker John Boehner.
The “Free Tibet” activists in the US overwhelmingly tend to be political liberals, yet do not seem disturbed by their hero’s schmoozing with the very politicians they love to hate. Their opposite numbers in the Dalai-demonization camp are, of course, even worse, their denial of reality and contempt for the truth often reaching near-hallucinatory levels. We’ve noted before Pakistan’s strategic alliance with Beijing. Now one Dr. Jassim Taqui writes for the Pakistan Observer that Obama dealt Beijing a special snub “by meeting Dalai Lama in the Map Room, which is traditionally reserved for visiting heads of states. This is a serious way of treating a permanent member in the UN Security Council.” Whoops, dead wrong. As the BBC News noted after Obama’s last White House meeting with the Dalai Lama on Feb. 18, 2010: “The closed talks were held at the White House’s Map Room instead of the more official Oval Office, in an attempt to signal to China that it was a private, not a political meeting.” But, hey, who cares about facts in the permanent paranoia set? Dr. Taqui also writes, with strangely idiosyncratic syntax:
Dalai Lama maintains a well documented contacts with the CIA, which helped him escape from the Tibet in 1959. In his book, “The Dalai Lama’s Great Escape,” Stephan Talty established that Lama is a CIA project run by a special CIA unit called “Tibet Task Force.”
We have also noted CIA support for the Tibetan armed resistance in the 1960s—which the Dalai Lama always disavowed. But Dr. Taqui obviously has not read Stephan Talty‘s book, which is actually called Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama’s Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero. He apparently only read a review of it, which was entitled “The Dalai Lama’s Great Escape,” and appeared on several Tibet solidarity websites earlier this year! If you’re going to cut corners, you should be more careful with the details, Dr. Taqui.
We haven’t read Talty’s book either, but we’d be very surprised if it “establishe[s] that Lama [sic] is a CIA project.” What does that even mean? The first Dalai Lama ascended to power in 1577, which was rather before the establishment of the CIA. Even if we are to cut Dr. Taqui some slack as a poor writer, the more modest thesis (which he presumably meant) that the Tibetan resistance movement is “a CIA project” is almost equally deluded. However much the CIA sought (and the State Department now seeks) to exploit the Tibetan struggle, the TIbetans manifestly have plenty reason to be angry at Chinese rule over their homeland, which will inevitably result in resistance.
China’s Global Times said in its editorial on the Tibetan leader’s White House meeting:
The Dalai Lama is played as a card by the US government. But this is a useless card as long as Tibet remains stable. Separatists in exile, including the Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer, will be increasingly marginalized as long as Tibet and Xinjiang maintain steady stability.
Except that Tibet and Xinjiang are not stable, and there is no reason to believe that the unrest and ferment in these de facto internal colonies will go away any time soon. The Tibet solidarity website Phayul reports July 18:
Two Tibetan girls, both in their teens, are being described in serious condition after they were severely beaten and arrested by Chinese security personnel for carrying out anti-China protests in eastern Tibet.
Talking to phayul.com, Lobsang Dhondup, a monk from Sera Je Tehor Khamtsen in south India said that the two girls, Tashi Palmo, 16, and Pema Yangzom, 19, were from Kardze region’s Norzin village and studied at the Kardze Middle School.
“On July 12 at around 4 o’clock in the evening, Tashi Palmo and Pema Yangzom carried out a peaceful protest in Kardze town calling for Tibet’s independence and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Dhondup said.
“Eyewitnesses confirm that both the girls were mercilessly beaten by Chinese security personnel before they were arrested,” Dhondup added.
Both the girls suffered serious injuries from the beatings but have been denied medical treatment.
“The girls are in critical condition but Chinese authorities have denied any medical attention to the girls. We are worried for their lives,” Dhondup told phayul.com.
That’s just the most recent in a string of such incidents. Beijing has meanwhile sealed off the Tibetan region to outsiders, fearing protests around the near-simultaneous celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, the 60th anniversary of the annexation of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday. In addition to the ban on foreign visitors in place since June, even the number of Chinese travellers to the region has been greatly restricted until the end of July, reports AFP. (Tibetan Review, July 18)
On July 12, Nepal arrested six Tibetan men, aged 16 to 27, for illegally crossing its borders from Tibet. According to AFP, local police apprehended them before dawn in a village in Lamabager, Dolakha district. Deputy Superintendent of the area Umesh Raj Joshi said that they would be handed over to the Immigration Department in Kathmandu shortly.
Having crossed the Himalayan border area on foot, the escapees are now held in custody at the District Police Office in Charikot, with their files already transferred to immigration authorities.
US embassy cables, exposed by WikiLeaks last year, suggest that Chinese authorities are paying Nepalese police to detain Tibetans, but the police declines to reveal exact numbers of Tibetans arrested in Nepal.
An estimated 2500 Tibetans flee from China into Nepal every year though this is the first confirmed case in a year. Home to around 20.000 Tibetan refugees, thousands more are believed to live there as undocumented migrants.
And, as VOA reported July 6, Nepal has banned public ceremonies to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Interestingly, so has Hungary, Tibet Post International reports July 18—due to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiaobao’s visit to Budapest. Hungarian immigration authorities also harassed Tibetans living in the country, ordering them “to go to the Immigration Office without any reason” on the day of Wen Jiaobao’s visit—moves protested by the opposition LMP party (Lehet Más a Politika, “Politics Can Be Different”), whose leader Dr. András Schiffer said they smacked of the suppression of dissent by the former “pseudo-left-wing” governments of communist Hungary.
As for the Uighurs of Xinjiang, the New York Times reports June 18 that at least four people were killed that day in the desert town of Hotan after a group invaded a local police station, set it on fire and took hostages. The exile-based World Uyghur Congress said the invaders were local Uighurs angered by a wave of arrests of young Uighur men. So much for “steady stability.”
So yes, it is sadly telling that the Dalai Lama chose to spend his 76th birthday in Washington instead of among his own people in Dharamsala. We have warned before that he has allowed himself to be used as a pawn in the imperialists’ Great Game for control of Asia (and the world). Despite attempts to (literally) deify him, he is a human being, and, like all human beings, a political animal. But the attempts to demonize him (and the Tibetan struggle) are no more realistic or honest. They fail to grasp the critical difference between imperialist creation of a national liberation struggle (as if this were possible) and imperialist exploitation of a struggle which has its own mandates and merits apart from whatever cynical games are played in the corridors of power.