Monday, March 24, 2008

Tibetan History - A Summary

Many Americans are watching the events in Tibet unfold and feeling supportive of a people revolting against occupation, but don't quite know what it's all about. Of course, the Chinese government doesn't mind that one bit.

What it comes down to is that Tibet was a sovereign country, with its own distinct language and culture, until 1950, when Mao's army invaded it. Since then, the Chinese government has enacted a program of deliberately exporting Han (ethnic-majority Chinese) to Tibet to dilute its people and culture, and simultaneously tried to buy the loyalty of Tibetan officials in its puppet government. The Dalai Lama has become the de facto spokesman for the exile Tibetan government in India. There is at least one revolt (that we know about) in 1959, on March 10 - when the resistance began this year.

I've never been to Tibet, but I've been to Nepal, and I can tell you the exile community in Nepal is large. Tibetans put butter in everything, so you can tell by the scent of butter that you're in a Tibetan village or neighborhood. And walking around Kathmandu, you smell a lot of butter.

There's also a pretty big Tibetan community in the Bay Area. (The gal who makes my Subway sandwiches is Tibetan. By the way, she wants you to support freedom for Tibet.)

The Chinese government line that you'll hear Chinese diplomats and Xinhua repeating is that Tibet was always a part of China, and that the current revolts are entirely internal Chinese matters; that Tibetans are barbarians anyway and the Dalai Lama is an evil liar (watch the news for soundbites of China's official reactions - you'll recognize this line). Two generations have grown up hearing this bullsh**, so if you know or work with Chinese people who repeat this line, it might just be that they've never heard the facts.

But hey, don't take my word for all this - look it up online and make up your own mind. That's one piece of advice you won't get from Chinese officials. Of course, all the stiffly-worded Chinese propaganda sites will tell you otherwise. Fortunately they're pretty easy to spot. When they talk about "the highest restraint", or anything called "The People's", that's a big hint. (When they get really irritated they lose it and start talking about "resolutely crushing" things.)


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