Monday, March 17, 2008

Stop China; Go Eagles

I like the Olympics. In fact, I like most sports. (Incidentally, American University will play their first NCAA Division I tournament game ever. Go Eagles!) I try to catch at least some of the events every year.

Personally, I prefer the Winter Games to the Summer Games. There’s just something inherently thrilling about watching some brave soul sliding down an icy trench at something approaching the speed of sound. Regardless, I try to catch the Summer games and cheer for our athletes.


Thanks to a policy change at the IOC in the early 1990s, the Olympics are a biennial event these days with the Summer and Winter games alternating even number years. This year, the “People’s Republic” of China earned the honor of hosting the 2008 Summer Games.

Ever since Beijing was named as host city, the Chinese government has managed to dishonor itself time and time again. Regardless, the IOC is whining that a human rights boycott would only hurt the athletes. Pardon me while I throw up a little in my mouth. *spew* That’s better. Is one person’s desire to win a chunk of gold “proving” that he or she is the fastest person in a particular length of track more important than bringing to light the inhuman incarceration and slaughter of millions and repression of more than a billion people? And here’s what they are doing to the cats.

A boycott? Why not? We did it before. Of course that was a principled action against the Soviets for their invasion of Afghanistan. But, the Soviets did not trade with us in 1979. Once again, profit trumps principle. (It is also worth mentioning that the Soviet invasion set in motion a series of events that, for all intents and purposes, culminated with our current war there.)

The most recent human rights and open government abuses by the Chinese government are happening in remote Tibet. Last week in Lhasa, Tibetans began protesting the harsh and probably illegal rule of the region by China. The latest protests/riots (depending on your perspective) began on the anniversary of a similar uprising in 1959. For obvious timing reasons, the Buddhist monks leading the protests were not about to wait around for the 50th anniversary.

Right now, there are lots of unanswered questions, specifically because of the secretive nature of the Chinese regime. There are reports charging both the government and the protestors of various atrocities. For example, the protesters are being accused of killing and injuring ethnic Chinese in the region and torching their property. Meanwhile, the government has rounded up perhaps hundreds of protestors and, in at least on instance, paraded through the streets some of the protestors who have been “detained.” (Check out the slide show for a glimpse of what has been going on.)

I use the word “glimpse” with all due premeditation. An individual, institution, or government closes up when there is something to hide. China has closed the region to foreigners (read: reporters and anyone else who might actually report on actual events transpiring in Tibet). The government has also blocked access to youtube and foreign news services, effectively forbidding people from seeing what is going on in their own country. That went well last time.

And possibly the most horrific thing going on is the policy of granting “leniency” to anyone who surrenders. Those who rat out other protesters are promised even greater leniency and possibly rewards. Others will be dealt with “harshly.” All things considered, it might be more humane to just kill them now.

Tibet has a history and culture that is distinct from China, despite some periods of outside control. The outbreak of the First World War and subsequent internal divisions in China led to de facto independence for the region until 1951. Having just banished the nationalists to the island of Taiwan, the new People’s Republic (the authoritarian socialist one) promised to liberate Tibet and other regions in 1949…not that there was any particular power from which Tibet needed liberating. Incidentally, neither the mainland nor the Taiwan government has ever renounced its claim to the region.

After the farcical liberation, a resistance movement developed but it was crushed in 1959. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee and still heads a government in exile. However, sporadic resistance continued and was actually funded by the CIA until Nixon cut the funding in 1969. The next step for the PRC was revocation of most autonomy, suppression of Buddhism and Tibetan culture, redistribution of land, and economic development that brought in the ethnic Han Chinese in the first place. His Holiness has softened his calls for full independence to calls for true autonomy, particularly in cultural and religious matters. Normally, I like to avoid using Wikipedia as a reference, but this entry on Tibet seems very detailed and footnoted well.

On a related note, I have to agree with His Holiness on this one. I have to campaign for autonomy rather than full independence. I am really uneasy about Kosovo’s independence because it sets a dangerous precedent. Any region not happy with its level of autonomy has an argument for succession. This could exacerbate problems in places like Kurdistan, Basque Spain, Catholic regions of Ulster, Trans-Dniester, Thailand and the Philippines, and even Quebec. What should the United States do the next time South Carolina decides it wants to be its own country and China offers its support?

So my own half-hearted protest for Tibet autonomy is to avoid watching the Summer Games. Why should NBC profit from the rights to this wrong? I might check the medal counts in the newspapers. That’s about it. And no, I am not just bitter about this blog being banned in China.

Oh, and this image is banned in China. Display it proudly.



Wharf Rat said...

Hey, I don't wanna nitpick, but I think it's spelled Dalai Lama.

He should be calling for autonomy rather than full independence. Never forget that as much as I love his teachings, the Lama is a Monarch with all the trappings and privileges that go with that, funded by the commoner.

The Lama is a very wise, venerable old man and may even be the reincarnation of the Buddha himself but I can never support putting any monarch back on his throne.

Chris said...

Thanks for the catch.

And good call. Maybe they could follow England's lead and establish a parliamentary monarchy as a compromise.

Of course, if His Holiness ends up anything like England's royals, we would have endless press coverage of his wild night out drinking in Kathmandu...I mean his wild night of meditation.