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Chinese Economy vs Tibetan Culture

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 05/07/12; July 12, 2005.]

Renato Palmi
Mail & Guardian Online, South Africa
12 July 2005

To the Tibetans and their supporters across the globe, Tibet remains the world's largest colony under Chinese occupation. Conversely, Beijing sees Tibet as an inalienable "part of China". Today the question is no longer one of mere politics: for the People's Republic of China, the focus centres on maintaining and increasing Chinese economic dominance in Tibet. For the indigenous and exiled Tibetans, the struggle is to ensure that such economic dominance does not marginalise them any further.

On the ground, the struggle for a free Tibet is more complex. The global Tibet support groups (TSGs) are in conflict with one another. Some reject the Dalai Lama's appeasement approach while others upport the Dalai Lama's "middle-way" approach.

The international Tibet movement has, over time, gained worldwide moral support for its united call for religious and political freedom, and the upholding of human rights in general for Tibetans.

However, one should question whether the momentum for a freedom movement that advocates non-violence could be sustained purely on the grounds of moral obligation and ethical conduct, in a world where economics patently overrides ethics.

The accessibility of the Dalai Lama to Western audiences has implanted a moral calling for some Western Buddhists to become involved with the cause of a free Tibet. Unfortunately, many South Africans choose not to link the Tibetan political struggle, and even the Dalai Lama’s personal call for "action", with their adopted religion of Buddhism. They appear oblivious to the fact that they are privileged to enjoy the space afforded to them by the Constitution to exercise their rights to practise freedom of religion, to peaceful protest, to speak out against the atrocities taking place inside Tibet and to monitor corporate South Africa's relationship with the People's Republic of China.

Growing globalisation and the Chinese economic development inside Tibet has forced the Tibet movement into conflict with global organisations, international governments and multinational corporations, targeting the context of China as the New Empire the military and economic colonial force that is exploiting Tibet's natural and human resources.

The Dalai Lama turned 70 on Wednesday. Has the time arrived for him to relinquish links with the Tibetan freedom movement? The Chinese government's primary ammunition, when denouncing the Dalai Lama's credentials as both spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, is always encased in the accusation that His Holiness is "a politician in exile, disguised as a religious figure, who engages in separatist activities against China".

There are fears that China might permit the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet in order to woo international favour and conveniently muffle the pro-Tibet movement.

Yet, it seems naïve to believe that the Chinese Communist Party would permit the Dalai Lama to roam Tibet as a free man. Were it indeed to do so, one wonders what concessions the Dalai Lama and his exiled government would have to make.

The Tibetans need to look beyond the West for progress in their struggle, and to analyse why so few developing countries, particularly those in Africa, have supported their cause at governmental level.

The Tibet government-in-exile and TSGs worldwide need to re-examine and re-strategise their alliances, communications and policies to address China's embracing of capitalism without democracy.

Renato Palmi founded the Tibet Society of South Africa 10 years ago.

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