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China and Tibet History Revealed

March 23, 2008

The verbal attack on the exiled Tibetan leader, accused on Saturday of colluding with Muslim Uighur separatists in China’s western Xinjiang region, was part of an intense propaganda and security drive to stifle anti-Chinese unrest before the Games.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has in recent days criticized the violence and said he wants talks with China to negotiate autonomy, but not independence, for his homeland.
Beijing’s efforts to isolate the Dalai Lama could become a sticking point with Taiwan’s President-elect Ma Ying-jeou, who said the exiled leader would be welcome on the disputed island, and that an Olympic boycott was possible.
“The Dalai Lama, if he wants to visit Taiwan, he’d be more than welcome,” Ma told a news conference in Taipei on Sunday, a day after his landslide election win.
“If the situation in Tibet worsens, we would consider the possibility of not sending athletes to the Games,” said Ma — who wants closer economic ties and political dialogue with China.
Taiwan’s new president is faced with a huge dilemma. He supports the Dalai Lama, but wants to encourage closer ties with China. This is a precarious balancing act Ma is trying to achieve. China considers “Taiwan a breakaway province that must accept reunification.” “Tibet is an inseparable part of China. In the history of the world there has never been a country or a government that has ever recognized Tibetan independence,” Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme was quoted by Xinhua as saying on Sunday. The 86-year-old is a vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body to parliament. He represented Tibet in 1951, signing the surrender agreement with Beijing a year after Chinese troops took control of Tibet for the Communist winners of China’s civil war.

This is true. In the course of history, Britain, Russia and China have tried to control the Tibetan plateau, and its people. Tibetans evolved from a slave economy into a targeted Buddhist civilization. Most Tibetans don’t want to return to the slavery system, “before Mao liberated Tibet“. Tibet’s history paints a somewhat different picture courtesy of Historian Michael Parenti.

Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet,” writes one western Buddhist practitioner. “History belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and nonviolent goodwill. Indeed, the situation was quite different. Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counterreformation.” 5 In the thirteenth century, Emperor Kublai Khan created the first Grand Lama, who was to preside over all the other lamas as might a pope over his bishops. Several centuries later, the Emperor of China sent an army into Tibet to support the Grand Lama, an ambitious 25-year-old man, who then gave himself the title of Dalai (Ocean) Lama, ruler of all Tibet. Here is a historical irony: the first Dalai Lama was installed by a Chinese army.

Religions have had a close relationship not only with violence but with economic exploitation. Indeed, it is often the economic exploitation that necessitates the violence. Such was the case with the Tibetan theocracy. Until 1959, when the Dalai Lama last presided over Tibet, most of the arable land was still organized into manorial estates worked by serfs. These estates were owned by two social groups: the rich secular landlords and the rich theocratic lamas. Even a writer sympathetic to the old order allows that “a great deal of real estate belonged to the monasteries, and most of them amassed great riches.” Much of the wealth was accumulated “through active participation in trade, commerce, and money lending.” 10

50 Years In Tibet: Both Tibetan and Han records from the Tubo Dynasty detailed slavery. Zambo kings bestowed ministers with slaves and after the death of Zambo and officials, slaves were buried alive as a funerary object. During religious ceremonies slaves were killed as celebration. Others were forced into hard labor.
This showed that in the Tubo Dynasty Tibet practiced slavery.
In 869, an unprecedented uprising by slaves broke out, which lasted nine years and forced the eventual collapse of the Tubo royal court. Tibet fell into a turbulent and divisive period which lasted until the middle of the 13th century when, with help from central government of the Yuan Dynasty, the Sakya Regime restored order.
From the early 10th to the middle 13th centuries, Tibet basically finished its transition from slavery to feudalism. In the 700-odd years from middle 13th century to 1959, that feudal system was practiced in Tibet.

On Saturday, a group of 29 Chinese dissidents urged Beijing to end the bitter propaganda, allow United Nations investigators into Tibet, and open direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

As for a history of slavery … no religion is free from owning slaves in the past. Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists all had slaves or operated in a feudal system. Time passed and a more democratic approach that included ‘human rights’ was accepted as appropriate. To dredge up past, historical transgressions from a religion or country to justify present actions is what ignites world violence today. So, all of us must decide if the “sins of the father” must be a part of modern decision making. Do the “sins of the father” make it alright to mistreat their descendants? The world is in a lot of trouble if this is true!

  1. April 19, 2008 3:45 pm

    Poi, I have been trying to illuminate the complexity of this situation. I have pointed out the original historical precedents that created an autonomous region under China’s control. I have also tried to explain the introduction of western interests before, during and after WWII. The British started the obsession with Tibet in the 1700s and 1800 during their colonial period. This was related to their India occupation and the Opium Trade that the Chinese Emperor banned. The First & Second Opium Wars were British. The USA began it’s interest in Western China as a resource for cheap labor after the Gold Rush. The US did not get interested in Tibet until the romantic novel “Shang Ri La”. In the years after WWII, the US interest in Tibet was directly related to political events in China. This is where the OSS & CIA were injected in Tibet’s history. I have not been able to verify that intelligence agencies of any kind are still active on the Tibetan Plateau. But, the CIA seems to be everywhere.
    As for how the Tibetan version of Buddhism deals with their rocky past and rocky present, behavior is reactionary, no matter what religion you name. Tibetans are humans before they are Buddhists. Chinese are humans before they are Communists. We are watching human issues being manipulated by politicians. This causes strife. This causes unfair and abnormal behavior on both sides. Each side claims to be the injured party. This is why it is necessary to mediate.

  2. Poi permalink
    April 19, 2008 1:55 am

    The historic animosities and rivalries between Tibetans and Chinese are so complicated they need to be bridged by much cooler haeds and approaches of pragmatism than this shouting match. Pro-Tibetan agitators who are genuine about solving the problems might want to consider the act that Tibet sits on the 2 most important rivers of China, its economic lifeblood, and what this would mean for China should a CIA-supported Dalai Lama regime return to power. Will an “independent” Tibet under him open US bases for the purpose of fighting “terrorists” in neighboring Afghanistan? China is fighting for its national security, the exiled Tibetans are fighting for their return, can they truly compromise when one completely undermines the other? It is only when Tibetans show they are not enemies of China that both peoples will sit down and agree on a framework of co-existence and governance, Meanwhile, the lies of genocide and propaganda from the exiled Tibetans and the CIA-backed NGOs, their instigation of an uprising and pogrom against non-ethnic Tibetans in Tibet, their efforts at humiliating the Chinese wrt The Olympics, these all further hatred between the 2 peoples, surely in contradiction to Buddhist tenets. It is time to c9onsider the complexicities of the grey areas instead of believing only one side of the story.

  3. March 25, 2008 8:53 pm

    Todd, some Americans know our sordid history, many do not care to know. This is common for most countries. It saddens me that so few dig deep enough to find those missing parts of history that are conveniently left out. I agree that China is at the heart of controversy, but there are more reasons than the obvious. America has lost its grip. Americans are jealous of China’s growing economy. It threatens the inflated image we have of ourselves. Reality is a sharp pin and our balloon will pop. America’s economy is teaching us important lessons by scaring the shit out of us.
    Americans are disillusioned, but the world does not want to see Americans become desperate …
    Americans will become introspective and isolationist for a while, hopefully, we will outgrow that stage and return a better nation for it. America will have to earn the respect it has lost … it will take some time. Scapegoating is but a symptom …

  4. Todd permalink
    March 25, 2008 2:16 am

    A useful article:

    I’m glad to see a slightly more educated forum where at least people are actually seeking something of the truth rather than, as someone else put it, asking Richard Gere for quotes on geopolitcal strategy. A country that voted in a president who didn’t win the popular vote, scuttled the Kyoto Treaty, launches unjust invasions, legalizes torture, and WHOSE ENTIRE COUNTRY IS FOUNDED ON LAND STOLEN FROM THE NATIVE AMERICANS and who continues to marginalize them on reservations is hardly in a position to lecture others on human rights. But then again, this whole thing is about shifting the white man’s guilt by finding a scapegoat which is China. Give back native land and go back to Europe and then maybe white Americans will be in a slightly less bigoted and hypocritical positon to even fathom commenting upon China and Tibet, a concern which began nearly a millenia before your country was founded by expropriating natives with money made off the backs of slaves.

  5. March 23, 2008 5:44 pm

    Andrew, thank you for your input. I agree, the Dalai, like other leaders, might have a “greater” agenda. If, as you say, he is out for a bigger piece of China than he speaks about, his public lectures do not reveal that to me. Perhaps I have only seen what has been made available through public channels. Will you share your sources so I can better describe this story?
    As for terrorism, yes, that form of expressing frustration must be dealt with quickly and severely. But, I find it difficult to dismiss the numerous stories of abuse and suppression coming from Tibet. If only the UN could go in and do an assessment. I can’t think of any other world authority that would be credible.
    I really want to be objective about this complex situation. It is sad that stories provided about all this lean heavily for or against Tibet’s autonomy and it’s people’s rights. Honestly, I do like the Dalai Lama, for the Buddhist thought process of considering all sides before making a decision. This is why I am attempting to shed light on all sides of the story. Passing judgment is not my goal. Shedding light is my goal. We all pieces of the truth that are made available to us. No one can claim to know all of it.

  6. Andrew permalink
    March 23, 2008 4:17 pm

    Thanks for the report and I can sense you are a kind Westerner with good intentions and I truly appreciate it.

    That said, it doesn’t mean you truly understand what’s the ulterior motive behind our Dalai Lama’s words. He said he wanted GREATER autonomy and what he meant by that is to carve out a much bigger portion of China than the “Tibetan Autonomous Administrative Region”, including many areas where Han Chinese are dominant. He will preside over this 1/4 of China as the spritual overlord or Buddhist Pope or something like that. Holy man or not, I don’t want my fellow Chinese under the rule of a Theocracy, just like you wouldn’t want your fellow country-men under the rule of a Roman Cotholic Pope. I know Daila Lama has won the accolade of so many Western media and he is deemed as the Holy man in modern times, but for most of the Chinese, he is nothing more than a globe-trotting political monk wearing very expensive Guicci shoes. Do you know that in order to become Dalai Lama, he is required to deflower a 12-or-16-year-old virgin as part of the religious ceremony? You may say this is all part of the culture and we should respect this. Then how about Human Rights for this little girl? Does she have a choice? I don’t know about you, but I consider it barbaric and cruel and we should do everything in our power to get rid of this theocracy.

    Speaking of Theocracy, you know why Chinese are so against religious interference from the West?
    Because China had her fair share of the religious persecution from the West (or should I use the word cultural genocide to quote from some of the western media). After the humiliating Opium Wars, Western pastors or ministers were allowed to go to China to spread the gospel, thus destroying the indigenous Confucianism or Daoism. What’s wrong with worshipping their own ancestors and treating them as Gods in Heaven? Those western powers use GUN and Bible to proselyze a lot of Chinese and that’s what triggered the Boxers’ rebellion in which all Westerners were targets in a mob riot. Unlike Barack Obama, China has disowned these Boxer rioters for indiscriminate killing and looting and I think our Holy Man Dalai should do the same.

    As an aside, pls allow me to say something about Nancy Pelosi, who is from our congressional district in San Diego. That’s the reason why I switched to FoxNews from CNN. At least those conservative Republicans are honest about what they want (money and oil). Democrats always talk about social justice and moral highground. Well, remember Eliot Spitzer, Obama’s Wright pastor? Our Democratic friends have become so hypocritical that Nancy Pelosi would spend so much time hobnobing with
    our big llama instead of getting the Iraqi mess sorted out ASAP.

    Honestly speaking, this whole Tibet rioting is more like the 1992 L.A. riot, where emotionally disaffected (or angry) and socially disadvantaged African Americans looted the heck out of those Asian storekeepers out of jealousy and ignorance and social hatred. What did the U.S. govt do? Sent in the National Guard and restored law and order by force. Sounds familiar? Disadvantaged or not, you are not allowed to act like Terrorists and that’s the bottom line of the War on Terror. I cried when I saw the second plane rammed into the World Trade Center, and my heart went out to those who suffered under the heinous acts of Terrorism. In this case, my friend, why not show some solidarity with the Chinese people?


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