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Dalai Lama — Freedom Fighter
or just a great Salesman

by Yau-Man Chan, Mar 15 2009
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Waiting ...

Earlier this week, on my way to lunch, I had to weave my way through throngs of students queuing up to try to get tickets to see the Dalai Lama who will be speaking at the university (University of California, Berkeley) in April. This is the 50th anniversary of his exile from Tibet — when the Chinese government annexed his country.  The Dalai Lama, his family and his “court” escaped and are now all living in exile in Dharamsala, India. With no country to run, his full time job is now the chief propagandist for the Tibetan government-in-exile, and by all accounts, he is really good at it.

As attested to by the long line of admirers waiting to get tickets to hear him, some of whom camped out overnight to be guaranteed a spot up front, his message of non-violent resistance to the Chinese occupation struck a chord with idealistic young students.  In my casual conversations with a few random students in line, it became quite apparent that none of them really know anything about Tibet, her history, her culture or what happened 50 years ago.  All they know about the Dalai Lama is what is reported by an uncritical press which succeeded in cultivating enormous respect for “His Holiness.” But how is he deserving of this adoration?  Is it just pity for having lost his mountain feudal kingdom that he is accorded this unearned respect and privilege?  The Western presses have by and large been willing propaganda tools for the Tibetan government-in-exile since day one, 50 years ago.  When it comes to total lack of objectivity in reporting, cuddling the Free Tibet movement is as bad as it can get.  It also helps to have Hollywood on their side too!  Hollywood stars and starlets may not know who Gordon Brown is or even the name of our Vice-President but they all know the Dalai Lama.

It is certainly easy to see how the Dalai Lama can be such a lovable figure. He is quite good looking — as a young man he was very handsome and now in his 70’s, he still has the face and smile that everyone wants in a grandfather.  He speaks passable English with a hint of Oxford-British accent which further endears him to American audiences.  In the U.S., press on both the right and the left end of the political spectrum incessantly fawn over him and never even pretend to cover him objectively.  He is a poster-boy for the right — any victim of the evil Chinese communist bully gets a free pass in any political discourse with this crowd.  He is easily the darling of the political left — his plea for a non-violent resolution of his homeland dispute with the Chinese government brought out the Gandhi-complex among Hollywood elites weened on the anti-war movement which in turn helped command the attention of the celebrity obsessed press.  His latest book “The Universe is a Single Atom” (2006) upped the ante for New-Agers, bringing respectability to all manners of “quantum reality” woo.  With so much pseudo-science packed in one volume, he can make Deepak Chopra’s works read like real physics.

My fellow blogger Brian Dunning has done a podcast recently about Tibet which included some reality of Tibet and Tibetan society not commonly reported, so I will not repeat many of his points here.  But call me a curmudgeon, for I have a less charitable view of the Dalai Lama. Every time I run into people demonstrating to help free Tibet or ask me to sign a petition to “Free Tibet”, I usually stare at them and ask them “Free Tibet for what? To go back to their feudal system with slaves and let the Dalai Lama lord over his minions?” Of course, whenever I bring this up, I’m accused of being a stooge of the Chinese government or worse.  Just to set the record straight, I am a very severe critic of the Chinese regime as there are a lot to criticize them for — both my father and mother have lost members of their family to that regime for no other reason than owning enough properties to be considered capitalist dogs during the Cultural Revolution. However, the one-sided reporting of all the goings on in Tibet raise the skeptic ire in me.  Every time there is a demonstration in Lhasa, especially when bloodshed is involved, it’s always the Chinese Government’s fault and the Dalai Lama has nothing to do with it. Really?  Did the Western press just reprint press-releases from the Tibet Government-in-exile and did they actually check to see if he or his minions cooling their heels in luxury in Dharamsala may or may not have encouraged an uprising?

How many heads of state are addressed as “His Holiness?”  Actually according to the official Tibet government, his full title is: Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom ! Aren’t such flowery honorifics reserved for leaders in totalitarian states like North Korea (“Dear Leader”, “Great Leader” etc.)  or reigning monarchs with no real powers like the Queen of England?  Is it possible that being addressed as “His Holiness” is important for a politician who wants to get a free pass from a cynical public.  When he repeats the oft quoted figure of 1.2 millions Tibetans killed by the Chinese during their brutal annexation exercise, “His Holiness” does not have to provide proof or cite sources and no one in the popular press found it necessary to check up on those figures. Given that the population of Tibet in 1950 was 1.5 million from Chinese sources and 4 million from Tibet government-in-exile source, the 1.2 million casualty number has to be highly suspect.  (The 1994 Report of the Conference of International Lawyers on Issues Relating to Tibet cited a population of 1.8 million in 1964 and 2.1 million in 1990.)

He was selected as the re-incarnation of the Buddha when he was TWO years old.  In 1950, at the age of 15 — yes — fifteen — as in 1 — 5 — he was installed as the political head of state and government — not just a titular head like some baby monarch of the past but one with real power.  In 1954, when he was 19, he went in person to engage in peace talks with Chinese Chairman Mao Tse-Tung and Premier Chou En-Lai.  Did he really think that these two seasoned revolutionaries and survivors of years of political struggles and now undisputed leaders of the most populous country would take him seriously?   Just imagine if the Iranian government were to send a teenager to negotiate with the U.S. to try to reestablish diplomatic relations, we would be highly insulted and the rest of the world would laugh — and deservedly so.  Well, of course “His Holiness” was not a teenager then, he was re-incarnated, so he was already really a few hundred year old even though his chronological age was only 19. No really! This is what happens when a group of people actually believe fantasies of their own making and assume that everyone else will play along.

Accurate reporting of the Dalai Lama and Tibet is very rare — even in the age of Internet communications. Almost all articles not written by the Chinese Government are Pro-Dalai Lama. Any articles critical of the Dalai Lama are immediately suspected as being propaganda of the Chinese.  There is definitely a conspicuous absence of articles describing the conditions of the Tibetan peasants, or comparing pre and post-Chinese occupation Tibetan society. Whether it’s Times, Newsweek, Harpers, New Yorker or National Review, popular magazines in the U.S. all paint a rosy picture of a smiling avuncular Dalai Lama driven from his peaceful Utopian mountain paradise and appealing to the world to help him return. (“Help” usually means “send money.”) It is not until the curious readers get their hands on more academic publications like Foreign Affairs or Asian Journal of Political Science that a more studied picture of the real Tibet can be understood in context with its history, religion and culture.  Among popular press, this UK Telegraph’s article from last year, Myth and Reality in Tibet is a rare exception. The March 2008 article opened with this observation:

The myth, of course, is an outgrowth of Tibet’s former inaccessibility, which has fostered illusions about this mysterious land in the midst of the Himalayan Mountains — illusions that have been skillfully promoted for political purposes by the Dalai Lama’s advocates.

And for a peek into the lives of the serfs under the old regime, this from historian Michael Parenti’s Friendly Feudalism is most telling:

Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from their peasant families and brought into the monasteries to be trained as monks. Once there, they were bonded for life. Tashì-Tsering, a monk, reports that it was common for peasant children to be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. He himself was a victim of repeated rape, beginning at age nine.  The monastic estates also conscripted children for lifelong servitude as domestics, dance performers, and soldiers.

Parenti’s well documented account of conditions of women under the Lama-regime will outrage any of the women students standing in line waiting for tickets to hear “His Holiness” expound on the rights of men and pleas to “free” his country:

Not all Tibetan exiles are enamored of the old Shangri-La theocracy. Kim Lewis, who studied healing methods with a Buddhist monk in Berkeley, California, had occasion to talk at length with more than a dozen Tibetan women who lived in the monk’s building. When she asked how they felt about returning to their homeland, the sentiment was unanimously negative. At first, Lewis assumed that their reluctance had to do with the Chinese occupation, but they quickly informed her otherwise. They said they were extremely grateful “not to have to marry 4 or 5 men, be pregnant almost all the time,” or deal with sexually transmitted diseases contacted from a straying husband. The younger women “were delighted to be getting an education, wanted absolutely nothing to do with any religion, and wondered why Americans were so naïve [about Tibet].”

That there are so few articles in the popular press with a more balanced evaluation of post-occupation Tibet is certainly the Chinese government’s own fault. Their heavy-handed censorship and mishandling of the foreign press have time and again backfired on them. If the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile have done everything right in cultivating the Western press, the Chinese government has done everything wrong — antagonize and alienated them and worse, alienated the Western media consumers.  Suppose CBS were to do an honest 60-Minutes feature piece and highlighted some positive aspects of Tibetan peasants especially that of women today as compared to the abject feudal days of the Lamaist rule, no one would believe them — or worse, accuse the producers of being propaganda tools by only interviewing pro-Chinese peasants.

By all accounts, Tibetan society before being “liberated” and occupied by the Chinese, was a dastardly backwards serfdom run by monks, monasteries and feudal lords. If the very uptight Chinese government will just let the world press free run of the country, Western media consumers might just find out how much happier the Tibetans are with their lot in life now compared to before “liberation” when the ruling feudal lords and monastic authorities literally “owned” the peasant population. But because the Chinese government’s credibility among the Western press is practically nonexistent, no one would believe them or any reports from the field as to the satisfaction with life from ordinary Tibetans today. The Chinese government, by their own repressive press policy, denied themselves a great opportunity to tell their side of the story to the world while the Dalai Lama jets around the world merrily cashing checks from a naive un-skeptical American public who found a hero figure in him.

Is it important for the young people standing in line waiting for tickets to adore His Holiness know a little bit more about Tibet? Yes, because naively, I like to belief that they are the future leaders of this country and it is time they stop seeing the politics of the world in black and white.  40 years ago, we found ourselves entangled in the Vietnam War and lost tens of thousands of lives without understanding what it was all about.  It was a lot more than just the “good guys” democracy-loving South Vietnamese versus the evil Commie Vietcong — it was nationalism, it was ethnic Chinese urban intelligentsia versus indigenous rural natives, etc.  Then 30 years later we repeated this exercise in ignorance with Iraq, again not understanding that it’s a lot more than just Saddam the “bad guy” versus the “good guys,” the Iraqi people.  We are now mired in it because we were clueless as to the depth of hatred for each other among the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurd and other minor factions — all of whom we ignorantly lumped together as “the Iraqi people.”  I doubt if we will ever go to war over Tibet but we all have the responsibility to not be cheerleaders for every cause that make us “feel good.” The least we can do before we write checks to every freedom fighter that descends on our campuses is to make sure that he/she is not just a slick salesman.

Finally, to point out the motes in the Dalai Lama’s adoring fans eyes is not to say we endorse the Chinese actions in Tibet 50 years ago. But by the same token, romanticizing the old misogynistic aristocratic theocracy of the old Tibet and ignoring the social and civil progress post-occupation, and blindly supporting the figurehead of the old regime, would be equally counterproductive.

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Dalai Lama — Freedom Fighter
or just a great Salesman
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85 Responses to “Dalai Lama — Freedom Fighter
or just a great Salesman”

  1. howtoplayalone says:

    Brace yourself for some comments.

  2. Edgard says:

    I agree with you… I’m from Colombia and as you may know we have our own “freedom fighters” who travel the world making public relations… and it’s really sad to see that there’s people so willing to buy a fantasy just to feel good with themselves… as Penn once said “it’s easy to feel like a hero. It’s harder to be one”

  3. I have never quite understood this mindless fawning over Tibet and the Dalai Lama by the west. On the other hand, I don’t think that he, well traveled and respected by the west as he is, would want to bring back to Tibet the medieval and misogynistic society you speak of. He has always brought forward science and modern education, alongside the Buddhist spiritual tradition, as a means for allowing Tibetans to move forward.

  4. Chris Kavanagh says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your criticisms of the popular portrayal of Tibet & the Dalai Lama. However, while I think your own portrayal is undeniably better informed at the same time I think it leans too heavily in the opposite direction; emphasising the evils of the old Tibetan regime and downplaying the evils that the Chinese government continue to commit in China.

    Taking a more objective approach to the Tibet issue would mean not only clearly recognising the atrocities carried out both by the old Tibetan regime and the Chinese invasion in the 1950′s but also that alongside the undeniable benefits the Chinese occupation of Tibet has provided it has also resulted in great harm to the Tibetan populance.

    I have to head out now so I’ll provide a more detailed reply later along with some relevant references. Oh and I also think you should reconsider the argument that the Dalai Lama was a very handsome young man… I’ve never noted that impression being a common reaction to early photos of the man.

  5. Max says:

    “Free Tibet for what? To go back to their feudal system with slaves and let the Dalai Lama lord over his minions?”

    False dichotomy. Would China go back to a dictatorship or a feudal system if not for the Communist rule? Is Taiwan still a dictatorship like it was in 1950?
    Will Iraq go back to its Ba’athist dictatorship? Tibetans are better off now, but Iraqis aren’t?
    Cheney wasn’t so ignorant about Iraq, judging from his 1994 interview.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YENbElb5-xY

  6. Doubting Foo says:

    A few questions: I thought he wasn’t the reincarnation of Buddha, but some other dude? Didn’t Buddha reach nirvana, so he wouldn’t reincarnate after that?

  7. D R says:

    Maybe true. Maybe true.

    However, the only numbers you present are not exactly helpful to your case. Why should we expect that over 26 years, the population of Tibet grew less than 0.6 percent per year? Even if we assume zero population growth from 1979-1990, that’d be barely 1 percent per year from 1964-1979 in a country where women were “pregnant almost all the time.” Or was there another factor in play? Why does Tibet’s population growth look more like Europe than, say, Latin America?

  8. Becca Stareyes says:

    Part of it also is that part of the American culture is a reverence for home rule versus the foreign imperialists. All other things being equal, I’d guess that we’d sympathize with the locals — it’s not foolproof (witness tales of our own history with the Native Americans), but even if the Tibetan government-in-exile said nothing, Americans would probably take their side. It does seem to conflict with the ‘democracy, yay!’ meme of Americans, though.

    All right, if they hear about it at all without Tibet being outspoken about it. We’re a bit inward focused, to be honest.

    I’d think that one could want self-determination for the people in Tibet, while wanting governmental reform (read: it’s 2008, you can come up with a better system of government than absolute theocratic monarchy) and advances in the treatment of women and the poor. (Similarly, one could respect Tenzin Gyatso as a good speaker and seemingly learned person, while raising questions about the system that put a man like him in charge based on who he was supposed to be in a previous life.)

    Doubting Foo @ 6 Wikipedia says that the Dalai Lama is believed by Tibetan Bhuddists to be a particular person who had reached nirvana and was voluntarily staying in the death-and-rebirth cycle to teach others.

  9. Becca Stareyes says:

    Oh, wanted to add:

    I do think it’s interesting that a lot of media coverage seems to be dictated by the ‘established stance’ of ‘do we like this country? y/n’. I’d say it’s not just a case with China, but also in the Middle East and… all over*. Shows the need to be skeptical of the lens of the reporters.

    * Though Africa and South America don’t get much news coverage period.

  10. Cambias says:

    You make the unwarranted assumption that an independent Tibet would automatically look like it did during the 1940s. Given how much all the other nations in that region of the world have changed, that’s unlikely. After all, the Dalai Lama has spent his life traveling the world rather than living cooped up in a palace-monastery like his predecessors. So that’s a bogus argument.

    And the short answer is, why not? Why not let the Tibetans live as they wish to, rather than as the Chinese Communist Party wishes them to? If they prefer theocratic feudalism to pseudo-Marxist colonial rule, at least they are making their own mistakes rather than being the victim of other people’s.

    • lil says:

      How do you know that Dali Lama can represent the will of all Tibetans?
      Such a absurd statement.

      In fact, Tibet is much better than before under the rule of Dali Lama in slavery. And not all Tibetans want to be “freed”.

      Why should the Western World to care about Tibet anyways, why don’t you just leave them alone. That’s none of your bussiness.

      The U.S. just wants to split the nation of China apart, as they did to Yugoslavia. That’s why they rise Dali Lama as their tool to achieve their goal.

      Please see this Video and know some truth about Tibet:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke_IlfnV1NA&feature=fvw

  11. Cambias – The reason is that Tibet is completely dependent upon Chinese aid. Tibet has virtually no economy of its own, and all of its infrastructure is paid for by China.

    This dependence is the reason why Hollywood celebrities are the only ones ignorant enough to plead for a “Free Tibet”. The Dalai Lama does not want a Free Tibet; it couldn’t support itself. Instead, he wants it changed from an Autonomous Region to a Special Administrative Region. Doesn’t sound as good on a protest sign, I know.

  12. Bob says:

    Right now I’m hard-pressed to find any pro-China news reporting (save for Chinese news) from any country. I’m interested to know which countries’ governments are more supportive of China, because it really seems like it’s the world v. China on the Tibet issue. Does anyone know?

    That said, I did find a few recent (within the past week) news stories about France’s foreign ministry stating that they do not support Tibet’s independence.

    I wish that celebrities and politicians here in the U.S. would raise awareness of both sides of this debate.

    (cynical) Maybe someone should write a book titled “Tibet: Liberated by China” and go on Larry King or Oprah! It could spark the debate.

  13. Shiv says:

    Another point that people miss is that if the free Tibet movement succeeds it will set a dangerous foreign policy precedent. just because Tibetans and their leader have a more non violent movement than other struggles and have been taken in by the media as their pet project the fact it Tibet is not the only place in the word wanting freedom from the home country. from Kashmir to the basque to even some guys in the deserts in Montanan want freedom from their home countries.
    if Tibet was to get freedom all the freedom movements would be emboldened leading to more violence.

  14. Max says:

    Brian Dunning said, “Tibet has virtually no economy of its own, and all of its infrastructure is paid for by China.”

    And the USSR had taken over Estonia’s economy. Estonia wanted economic independence before demanding full independence. After instituting economic reforms, it now has a strong economy, despite a lack of natural resources.

    At least Tibet’s and Estonia’s economies don’t depend on drug trafficking, like Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Latin American countries.

  15. Max says:

    Shiv,
    If Tibet’s non-violent movement emboldens other movements to be non-violent, that would be nice.

  16. ticktock says:

    It’s not the Dalai Lama’s fault that he was born into a feudal society. What has he personally done to deserve such a bitter article? You attack him, as if he personally had some responsibility for an ancient culture that he inherited by some twist of fate. He ruled Tibet when he was a kid, so cut him some slack. He has done nothing but promote peace and happiness in the face of having his mountain nation turned into shopping malls and military bases.

    Was Tibet an independent nation? If so, and I notice that this has not been challenged in the article, then the Dalai Lama and Tibet deserve justice. You aren’t even saying that the occupying nation is morally better. Certainly, they weren’t morally better fifty years ago, and they haven’t changed much since then, as you stated. So, all things being equal on those terms, give respect to the peaceful holy man who was forcefully booted out of his country of pacifists.

  17. tudza says:

    From what I have read, Tibet was indeed an independent nation, but perhaps as independent as Taiwan is now given that the British (!), Russians, and Chinese all wanted a piece. So, China rolled into an independent nation and claimed it for its own and started systematically importing non-Tibetans to make it more Chinese.

    Not sure why you find it necessary to bad mouth a leader who objects to this.

    You complain about things not being black and white, but certainly there are well accepted definitions for what it means to be a real country. China invaded one and you say we shouldn’t call them on it just because the main representative for the other side is a priest that isn’t as priestly as you would like?

  18. MadScientist says:

    Great article Yau-Man Chan; I’ve always marvelled that the Dalai Lama seems to have a greater and more fanatical following in the USA than in either Tibet or China. There have been some horrible things done by people on both sides, perhaps more on the side of the Maoist army, but I see China as having a largely positive influence on Tibet even if I don’t believe the party line that “Tibet has been a part of China for hundreds of years.” Anyone pining for the “good old Tibet” may very well miss the Good Old Dark Ages.

    I do not understand this obsession with culture either – culture changes. To never change is to be like the wild beasts. To insist that it is any great tragedy that any particular set of beliefs or practices or even languages becomes extinct and is forgotten is ridiculous. In the USA I am always enraged by people who want to keep the “injuns” living in the past, perhaps to bolster their pathetic ideology of a “gentle savage”. The native Americans deserve all the freedoms and opportunities that any citizen of the US enjoys and should not be treated like animals in a petting zoo.

    Back to Tibet – well, things change – get with the groove and stop defending a romantic past which never existed.

  19. Simon says:

    I too have noticed that a lot of people who happily chant “Free Tibet” are quite ignorant of its history.

    And yes, the idea that we’re all meant to pretend that the Dalai Lama is some kind of luminous reincarnated religious being really bugs me. If some guy started up a religion here in the US and went on TV claiming any such thing, he’d be the laughing stock, but because this is (cue reverential tone) the Dalai Lama, and it’s … you know … *Tibet* … well, it’s all fascinatingly wonderful, isn’t it?

    I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that here in the West, we love things that help us paint China as an oppressive and violent bully. And it’s true that there is plenty we can criticize about China’s leadership, but we also need to consider how far it has come in such a short time. It’s unrealistic to expect a total overhaul of China’s political system in the space of a few decades, and the last thing China needs right now is some kind of bloody revolution or uprising.

    China has already come so far since the end of the Cultural Revolution. The next major change will be a generational one.

  20. MadScientist says:

    @dubting foo:

    The question is: *which* buddha?

    ‘buddha’ is nothing more than a title – imagine all those silly people in the UK called ‘sir’, ‘lady’, and ‘lord’. In fact the title doesn’t come from the buddhist religions (buddhism takes its name from the title), it is part of the Hindu religious traditions. Anyone can be a buddha.

  21. MadScientist says:

    @DR: High mortality rate – extremely high. Visit Tibet in winter and see what a difficult environment it is to live in. Hell I wouldn’t even call it ‘paradise’ in the summer, but people do live there and they love the only place they’ve ever known.

  22. MadScientist says:

    @Cambias:

    You make an absurd assumption that Tibetans are living the way “the Chinese Communist Party wants them to.” Please go to Tibet, do a survey, then report that it is in fact the case that the vast majority of Tibetans are living the way the commie government tells them to and not the way they wish. Don’t forget you need to make a case for a significant distinction in the Tibetan case and, say, the case in the USA where all the citizens are forced to live the way the Big Bad Federal Government wants them to live.

  23. MadScientist says:

    @Bob:

    It is significant that no government says it supports a “Free Tibet” even though no government says it supports China’s control of Tibet. After all, why would anyone waste time saying they support the status quo? Support for the status quo is implicit in not actively opposing it. On top of that, anyone who looks into the matter (even ignoring China’s military power just so the thing remains purely philosophical and not influenced by the threat of the military) cannot sensibly support a “Free Tibet” because there is absolutely no substance (or sensibility for that matter) to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

  24. ticktock says:

    @Madscientist

    You’re asking someone to go to a communist country and do a “survey” to see if whether the people live free or under the control of the government? This is the same country where you aren’t allowed to have more than one child, right? The same country where you can’t choose your leaders? The same country where their olympic gymnasts are dragged to a gym camp and forced to practice all day because a recruiter thought they looked petite and limber?

    • F.F. LIN says:

      Get your facts right before you make any comment. Yes, there is a One-Child Policy in China but it is ONLY applicable to Han Chinese. Minorities, including Tibetans are exempted therefore they can have numerous children. In fact the Chinese Government gives poor Tibetans free education (including free food, accommodation, medical care and etc..)in the Tibetan and Chinese languages. China also built a University in Tibet headed by Tibetan professors. Han Chinese have to score much higher marks than ethnic Minority students in order to enter the same university at all locations throughout China.

      Critics of China, why don’t you take a trip to Tibet to see for yourself, after all so many other Americans and Europeans have done so. When armchair activists or armchair political commentators become national political leaders they tend to be a danger to their own and other people’s countries as a result of making intrusive and destructive decisions based on mis-information.

      “Free Press” is not as innocent as it looks; in fact it is a double-edged sword that has the capacity to ruin countries and politicians depending on which side they support. Remember that “Free Press” is no charity; it is big enterprises fighting for rating and profit.

  25. Courtney Franklin says:

    Ticktock you forgot, about the Dalai Lama promoting homophobia, sex strictly for baby making and anything else being bad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igIBSeaJ9YI

    You should read up on the history of Tibet and then ask neighboring nations about Tibet’s peaceful pacifists.

    Also the same can be said for pro tibet/anti chinese articles (survey) are they being positive for Tibet because they are anti Chinese?

    also your posts are pretty much ignoring what Yau Man Chan was talking about.

    • Kelsang Dorje says:

      In addition, no-one has mentioned the Tibetan Government in Exile’s mistreatment of religeioius minorities within the Tibetan exile community.
      Ask any practitioner of Dorje Shugden what they think of the Dalia Lama.
      Ask any of the thousands of Ordained people thrown out of the only homes that they have ever known, prevented from using services and from being granted travel documents simply because the Dalai Lama had a dream in which he discovered that they worship an “evil spirit”.
      Ask the people separated from their families, threatened with violence and murder because of their religeous beliefs.
      Ask the westerners subjected to hate campaigns simply because the would not compy with the Dalai Lama’s wishes.

      They may tell you an interesting story or two also.

      I am no supporter of the Government of the PRC; I certainly do not support their treatment of Tibetans. I also support the Tibetan people’s right to self determination, but that does not mean that I slavishly belive that the previous rulers of Tibet were benign. Nor is there any real evidence that the current government in exile would behave any different when it returned, than it did before it ran away.

  26. Ian M says:

    Is the Dalai Lama part of the “Free Tibet” movement? Free Tibet seems to call for the independence of Tibet, which he does not. He’s only looking for a degree of self determination, like what Hong Kong has.

    How the Chinese rule of Tibet operates has an undeniable edge of Han racism. Was reading the other day that the defacto martial law in Tibet is affecting mostly the Tibetan areas. What about the basic right to self-determination of a people? You can’t just ignore this by attacking the messenger.

    I agree he isn’t much of a freedom fighter. Imagine if he did want to be one, how much pain and suffering that would’ve caused. Being the great salesman that he is shows a lot of restraint. I don’t see the problem with this.

  27. Paul Caggegi says:

    Great article, showing just how one must be a skeptic. While I am opposed to war, unjust occupation, etc, I believe you sold me on “Free Tibet from WHAT?” It is certainly a worthy question to ask, and something I hope will lead to more investigation into getting better facts out of the whole occupation issue.

    Not condoning China’s invasion or draconian censorship, but we do need to be aware of more facts before we write our “Free Tibet” signs and fighting for a cause we know virtually nothing about.

  28. euclid says:

    Ah yes, Michael Parenti, the guy who thought that Stalin was just a nice, misunderstood guy, and maliciously undermined by “reactionary forces”, but otherwise did a ‘world of good’ for the Russian people. He also defended Miloscevic as hero and nice guy, never mind the barbarism he unleashed and conducted from Belgrade with his Serb henchmen.
    Though Stalin is recognized as the most prolific mass murderer and tyrant in all of human history, besides Mao that is, Parenti finds plenty to adulate this heinous criminal for; never mind the 65 million who perished under this tyrant’s reign of terror and the unspeakable horror and suffering he brought upon the subjugated masses of the USSR.

    Since the demise of the Soviet Union Parenti has turned his attention to the other great “worker’s paradise’ the CCP’s very own version of a totalitarian, communist prison state.

    Here he just picked up where the most barbaric of all regimes, the CCP, has blazed an unprecedented path in depravity for the denigration of an oppressed people.
    The Han Chinese have systematically smeared, maligned and denigrated the Tibetan People to pave the way, and ‘justify’ their barbaric atrocities, and indoctrinated their Han Chinese henchmen and foot soldiers on the ‘inferiority and backwardness’ of the occupied people in Tibet.

    There seem to be 1.3 billion feeble little Han minds filled with the wanton propaganda lies by the CCP, and a whole lot of every so proud sceptics, who are ready to commit, and defend, even the grossest of atrocities by their Han Chinese Communist masters against the subjugated Tibetan People.

    It’s the oldest trick in the book, denigrate the oppressed race, make them inferior, even subhuman, and you get your own flock to commit any crime against these hapless people.

    Hitler used it successfully against the Jews, Mao made it into an ‘art form’ against all overrun and occupied races in ‘China’, and Hu Jintao has extended this depravity since the March uprising by turning events completely upside down, and incited ever more hatred amongst their constituency, the Han Chinese, against the oppressed Tibetans.

    • lil says:

      What’s your point?

      Get some proof, man!

      You are talking with ignorance, there is no racism against minorities in China; in fact, the monorities such as Tibetans enjoy many privileges over the majorities, Han Chinese.

      I believe China is better than U.S. at this point, where the native people are treated badly in North Americans.

      Find something truth about the riot in 2008 in Tibet, all the attackers are Tibetans, and approximately 100 Han Chinese are cruciablly killed. Many private and public porperties are damaged by the so called peaceful protestors. They even set fire at schools. (See “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke_IlfnV1NA&feature=fvw” for more information)I am pretty outraged that the West Media denies this fact, beautifing the image of Tibetans and uglifing the image of the Chinese government at the same time.

  29. ticktock says:

    @Courtney

    Yau Man said “But how is he deserving of this adoration? Is it just pity for having lost his mountain feudal kingdom that he is accorded this unearned respect and privilege?”

    The question was ‘how is this man deserving of respect’. Not the country itself. Not the feudal society in which he was raised. Yau Man is actually saying that the Dalai Lama doesn’t deserve respect because he was born into a society that isn’t modern. Then he goes into a non-sequitur + ad hominem saying that a likely reason the Dalai Lama is respected is because he is charming and handsome. No, it couldn’t possibly be that he is a world leader, a religious icon, an expert on Buddhist culture, an excellent author, and a nobel peace prize winner.

    Yau Man goes even further with the fallacies by poisoning the well, saying that the honorifics before the Dalai Lama’s name are equivalent to those of dictators. Of course, a reasonable article would have noted that the Buddhist honorifics are also passed down from generations of cultural tradition.

    I don’t disagree with the point that Tibet was not a Shangri La, but how did Yau Man go from that to attacking the Dalai Lama as a slick salesman. Is it not possible that the Dalai Lama’s desire to return to Lhasa is justified and honest, and also that he once lived in a repressive feudal society in the 50s when he was a teenager? Why does he have to be made into a monster because of an inherited culture?

    I also don’t think that it was a valid argument to comment on the Dalai Lama’s youth during negotiations with China. Whether he was a teen or not, he did not deserve to have his land and people taken by force. To me, it shows that he was quite brave and deserving of respect. Yau Man disagrees, I guess.

  30. justis says:

    This article treads the same conniving, hackneyed old ground that has long since been debunked by serious historians.
    But it is always a ‘good’ read to knock anyone who dares defy Chinese communist hegemony of mind control and their nauseas “truth” dissemination.
    Every single aspect of Tibetan society, its history, its culture, its language, its people, everything is being distorted, inversed, reinvented and used as a propaganda tool.
    Tibetans have been systematically denigrated, from every conceivable angle, at every conceivable opportunity by their Han Chinese occupiers.
    In order to achieve this the CCP completely fabricated and reinvented Tibetan history, add on top their arrogance and delusions and a complete lack of any conscience, plus the most massive mind control and propaganda lies machinery plus intimidation and threat of economic repercussions if there is a mere mention of Han Chinese atrocities in the west.

    Indeed, the Han Chinese Communist occupiers would want to have it both ways.
    On the one hand they claim that they “owned” Tibet all along, controlled it, and was “part” of “china”, and on the other they claim it was “feudal, barbaric and backward”.

    Some elucidation to this.

    Why was this “barbarism” allowed to go on if they “owned, governed and controlled” it? In fact Tibet was nothing like this, a pure fabrication, aided and abetted by such infamous hacks as AL Strong, I Epstein, S& R Gelder, AT Grunfeld and more recently Parenti, Nebe, J Wang, Li Tieh-tseng etc., all of which have and had Machiavellian ulterior motives for their mendacious distortion of the historical facts.
    These lackeys and the CCP have concocted a version of Tibetan history in an incestuous orgy of referencing off each other which bears no resemblance to historic reality.
    It is a Machiavellian ploy, the denigration of your adversary, and in the CCP’s case the ‘justification’ of their illegal occupation of a county.

    The reality is that Tibet was no worse at the time than its neighbours and particularly china, which has an appalling record of human rights. And today, in the 21st century no less is practicing policies of institutionalised torture, discrimination and disenfranchisement of the Tibetan people on a scale unimaginable.
    In fact the whole Tibetan nation has been enslaved under the Han Chinese tyranny.

    Discrimination on every level, but then having the temerity to send out Propaganda Lies soldiers with concocted stories of “privileges” for the Tibetan people – problem is that if you try and verify all these propaganda lies on the spot in Tibet you’re met with menacing intimidation, instant expulsion, or jail, being charged with spying and infringements of state secrets!
    State secrets indeed; for the official line bears no semblance to the stark reality Tibetan people face every day under Han Chinese occupation.

  31. Gordon says:

    “………..showing just how one must be a skeptic……….“
    It is noteworthy that this article appeared on a sceptic’s site.
    Perhaps this, more than anything else ever could, shows how much any dogma, fashion, belief or ‘non-belief’ can become a religion, and as in this case, a meme, just because it caries the label of their religion – “sceptic”!
    As noted above by other commentators, this thinly disguised piece of mendacious ccp propaganda perpetuates a libellous slur against the Tibetans and is pure myth.
    Tibet was one of the first countries to abolish the death penalty and corporal punishment was outlawed in this “feudal” society.
    It would be a very welcome relief for the Tibetans if even only they could go back to their old society, but this of course is pure CCP propaganda smear tactics to suggest that the Tibetans are ‘today so much better off’ under their abhorrent tyranny than under the old feudal system run by the “devil in monk’s robes”

    The writer of this diatribe had all the sceptics duped; must admit though, this Propaganda Lies Soldier’s approach is somewhat more sophisticated than most what is spread by other CCP hacks on the internet!
    Well done Yau-Man Chan you deserve a promotion!

  32. MadScientist says:

    @ticktock: Visit China for yourself and see what it is like, then visit Tibet (well, if the Chinese army lets you; at the moment I believe foreigners are being denied travel to the area “for their own safety” [chinese soldiers might shoot you]). The Chinese government rules with an iron fist, but that only means you need to think a bit before acting when you visit the region. It’s no different than visiting Iran or various African nations – it’s not impossible to get information; you just have to be sensible or there may be a trail of dead bodies behind you. Despite the brutality of the Chinese rulers, Tibet is in fact better off now than 50 years ago just as China is better off now than 50 years ago. For all the horrors of Mao’s regime, the Chinese government in all has managed to improve things a bit. Being rid of the dynastic tyrants is a big deal; it’s really bizarre though because many Chinese still have a horrible imperial attitude: you’re either master and treat others as you wish, or you are a nobody who can be beaten and enslaved for others’ amusement. I can’t imagine any way in which modern China is worse off than it was during the period of foreign occupations and dynastic rule. If you look carefully, you will see that both Tibet and China enjoy far greater freedom of speech under the communist government than they had in the past 2000 years, so oddly enough there is some tiny amount of truth when the party says people enjoy freedom of speech – just don’t imagine it’s anything like what we enjoy in the USA.

    Now as for families only being allowed to have one child, that is absolute nonsense. The state will only give families benefits if they have one child and may reduce or remove benefits if a family has more than one without the state’s permission, and families can obtain permission (although my guess is you’ll have no success if you’re not a card-carrying commie). I happen to think that the chinese have a sensible policy; without it the population would increase at a far greater rate and they would have far greater societal problems.

    @euclid: how can you expect anyone to take you seriously when you can’t even differentiate between the Leninist/Stalinist ideals of the USSR and Maoist China. That’s like saying the Sunni and Shiite are the same.

  33. andy says:

    no comment no possible

  34. Cambias says:

    MadScientist:

    If I’m not allowed to have opinions about Tibet because I haven’t been there — how much time have _you_ spent there?

  35. MadScientist says:

    @Cambias: I haven’t been there, but I’m not saying you’re not allowed to have an opinion because you haven’t been there, I’m criticizing your opinion for not being based in reality. I have been through many Asian nations including parts of China and what you see hyped in the news really doesn’t match reality. Perhaps you have the more infrequent and extreme historical events in mind like the massacre at Tiannanmen Square, but these things do not happen on a daily basis. You’re far more likely to be whacked by a bad driver than shot by a soldier. China has numerous problems, but in general neither the government nor the people are the evil monsters that people like to believe they are.

    Your comment that the people in Tibet are living the way the communist party of China wants them to is especially egregious. Let’s go back to basics – take a map and draw a border around this place you call Tibet. Can you draw a border around Tibet? If you can, you’re the only person who can do so.

    Setting aside the fact that there was never really an established border, there has been some semblance of centralized rule over areas in that region over the centuries. However, for the most part that region of the world resembled Afghanistan around the time of the Soviet invasion rather than the kingdoms of Europe 300 years ago. Basically you had warlords demanding recognition from the neighboring regions. If you think that the region was ever like the mythical Shangrila you need to look at a history book that predates the rise of communism – that way there is no communist bias to the reports (although you do have to be careful about bad authors). In the modern world, the good old Tibet that people long for resembles Nepal or Burma – nothing like this idyllic mountain paradise stolen by the evil commies. But if you’re so keen on a Free Tibet, I’d genuinely be interested to hear how the Free Tibet differs from the current mountainous area which people unthinkingly call ‘Tibet’ and how society will be so much better off than in the hands of their current, sometimes cruel, overlords. I’ve always found the claim of the Dalai Lama being peaceful rather amusing; surely this can’t be the same Dalai Lama that you see in stock news reel from 50 years ago. The peaceful bit is a nice gimmick – and who knows, maybe as he grew older he did genuinely start to believe in peace.

    Whatever you choose to believe, the fundamental questions are these: What changes does the Dalai Lama want and how will the people in that inhospitable mountainous region benefit from it? If you can answer that, then you would have moved beyond the warm fuzzy feelings of love for an Eden which never existed and taken a step towards understanding contemporary problems and thinking about how to improve things over time.

  36. euclid says:

    @Mad Scientist
    Its rather amusing to read your flippant remarks, don’t know how you’ve come to your ‘conclusion’ about the gist of my post!
    You seem to be the local defender of the faith here, so please perhaps you could elucidate everyone on how it differs to die for a Leninist/Stalinist ideology to a Maoist one. I’m sure the hundreds of millions of victims who perished at the hands of these two tyrannies very much care ……………

    I don’t mind standing corrected if you have anything worthwhile to contribute, but your condescension and blanket putdown does nothing for your own credibility and smacks of “don’t like the message – shoot the messenger”.
    Parenti has amply been discredited and we don’t need to cover this ground here again, suffice to say that his motives aren’t of the purest kind and my remarks as to his admiration for such abhorrent tyrannies reveals a lot about his mindset, his motivation and his credibility.
    But you don’t like having aired such background information about the proponent of the core tenet of the blog in discussion here, nor it seems can you tolerate anyone else who has a differing viewpoint.
    The ccp has managed to spread their version of history into every facet of the world’s information network, and the facts have not just become blurred, but their brutal treatment of dissent, and economic and military clout has cowered every Tibetologist, Researcher, news outlet and politician all over the world into some servile compliance with their version of this invented history.

  37. D R says:

    @Mad…

    Really? Show me. Is Tibet really so much worse than Nepal, Mongolia, or Bhutan? Call me, er, skeptical.

  38. Chris Kavanagh says:

    What a trainwreck.

    Those who are suggesting the Tibetans prior to the Chinese invasion were some kind of pacifists living in a country of peaceful mountaintops REALLY need to read some history books. Tibet was not Shangri La and to portray Tibetan’s in this way denigrates them to an exotic Western fantasy. Read Donald Lopez’s ‘Prisoners of Shangri La’ for a good scholarly work on the history of this fantasy.

    As for Tibetan history being misrepresented it’s true, this has happened. However, to suggest that all scholars studying Tibetan history and revealing aspects that we would judge negatively are complicit in promoting Chinese propaganda is ridiculous. There are many excellent scholars of Tibetan history and as one would expect of a feudal society there are many aspects which most people living in modern democracies would judge as deplorable. That’s reality though and you can’t change it just because it doesn’t match your political beliefs. Sorry!

    On the flipside though it’s simply impossible for any impartial observer to not recognise that China continue to carry out policies that are clearly not in the interest of the Tibetan people. The status of the Tibetan language in Tibet is a good example of this, in that, it’s practically impossible to enter a political position in Tibet without speaking Mandarin. Similarly, any chance of getting a decent job requires Mandarin ability. This is a remarkable change and certainly not a positive one from the Tibetans position. Similarly, the new rail line built into Lhasa touted as an incredible boon for Tibetans is used almost entirely by Han Chinese and other non-Tibetans. One need only consider the protests in Tibet before the olympics to recognise that the situation in Tibet is not one of a satisfied people happy with their situation. When the riots broke out it was also mostly Chinese shops that were targeted, this no doubt is in part due to simple opportunity. However, I strongly suspect that such targets highlight the frustration Tibetans feel with their own country increasingly being developed into a Chinese territory with a Tibetan minority.

    As someone who grew up in a Catholic family in Northern Ireland I can understand well the frustration and disempowerment that many Tibetans undoubtedly feel as a marginalised people in their own country. And it is this aspect that I think Yau-man is seriously underestimating. Tibetans are undoubtedly happy about the various material progress that is occurring in Tibet however that does not mean that given the chance they would welcome back the Tibetan government in exile. There’s a small chance they wouldn’t but to be honest it’s a mute point because it’s clear that the CCP would never permit such a vote to be carried out. Essentially I think the argument that China has developed Tibet therefore it is a better government than what Tibetans would develop themselves if given the chance fails on the same grounds that justifications for colonialism fails. Hong Kong certainly seems like a successful territory but I wonder if Yau-man or Brian would argue that Hong Kong’s success legitimises British rule of colonial territories?

    Oh and just to provide some context to my comments I studied Tibetan language for 2 years and have spent 5 years at university studying East Asian religions including Tibetan Buddhism. So I’m not coming at this from a kneejerk position. I honestly think that the extremes of both Hitchen’s and Richard Gere’s portayals of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism are both inaccurate with the truth lieing as it often does, somewhere in the middle.

  39. Bai says:

    Having delved into some of this in one of my classes, I completely agree that going back to the way things were before the occupation is not reasonable. I have one really hard core Free Tibet friend who understands all of this as well, although I haven’t heard her particular viewpoint on the issue of a post occupation Tibet. Here is what I think.

    Because the Dalai Lama has opened his side up to the world as much as he has, becoming a celebrity, it would be impossible for a Tibet run by him to be out of the media spotlight. Any attempt to go back to a feudal monk ruled society with such anti-human policies as the ones you detail above would be highly resisted by the rest of the world, which is so used to the idea of a perfect Tibet. I’m not saying that this would result in a more Free “Free Tibet”, but it would likely make going back to the way things were more difficult for Tibet, especially if foreign powers were involved in decoupling it from China.

    Again, just my two cents. Regardless of what regime ends up controlling Tibet in the long run, I think the Dalai Lama will have to be more responsible to his current image than to his historical position.

  40. Nate Gains says:

    Ah, finally an article on Tibet that chimes with my feeling entirely. National Geographic did a great piece years ago about Tibet that pointed out the situation before and after.

    Also, whenever I’m confronted by people who say ‘Free Tibet’, I always ask “What about everyone else in China? Don’t they deserve freedom?” I guess they don’t have the Beastie Boys onside though.

  41. Chris mankey says:

    “Also, whenever I’m confronted by people who say ‘Free Tibet’, I always ask “What about everyone else in China? Don’t they deserve freedom?” I guess they don’t have the Beastie Boys onside though.”

    Yeah, they do. What is your point?

  42. Max says:

    Chris, I was about to say the exact same thing word-for-word before I saw your post.

  43. MadScientist says:

    @D R:

    I think you misunderstood the post. I’m not saying Tibet is worse than Nepal, etc, I’m saying that region had a societal structure and problems similar to what we see in neighboring contemporary societies. Without the Chinese occupation I would imagine that region being very much like Nepal and I really can’t imagine that such a situation would somehow be better than what they have now. We have to be very careful about prescribing cures for the world’s ailments. Iraq, despite all political spin, is an unmitigated disaster – a very good example of the sorts of things you can expect when bringing ‘freedom’ to people. My own opinion is that China will continue to evolve; they have made huge changes since the reign of Deng Xiaoping. As long as China continues to bring up the level of education of the general populace, things will improve for China in general and also for Tibet.

  44. D R says:

    @Mad…

    No, I think you misunderstand my concerns. You attributed the low population growth to a very high mortality rate on account of the winters there. Yet there are similar countries with very difficult winters that have not such slow population growth, so I find your explanation dubious.

  45. Tako Nigiri says:

    Penn & Teller had a great segment on the Dali Lama on their B.S. show on Showtime. That was the first time my eyes were opened to the horrible conditions of the people before China took over. Well written article. Thanks!

  46. FACT ONE: Tibetans practiced a spiritual form of medicine. One of the more bizarre beliefs, were the mystical healing powers lamas possessed. Just being able to touch a holy person was enough to cure a raft of diseases. And for those unable to get close to a deity like the Dalai Lam, the god-man came to them, in the form of urine and excrement (the later was dried & made into a pill, for swallowing)Spittle from a lama was similarly treasured for its healing powers.

    FACT TWO: Without basic sanitary conditions, hygiene, rubbish-collection, running water, modern medical care like hospitals & preventive medicines, pre-Chinese Tibet was beset with chronic health problems. Small pox was rife enough for the 13th Dalai Lama to suffer its rages. Cataracts, leprosy, tuberculosis were also prevalent. But, the most widespread affliction suffered by the general population was venereal disease.

    FACT THREE: Infant mortality was around 1 in 2 (one set of figures put it as high as 3 in 4)The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (born 1935) tells of his mother giving birth to 14 children, 6 of which died as babies.

    FACT FOUR: The old Tibetan word for woman is Kiemen (or kye-mi) The literal translation of this is ‘inferior birth’ of ‘lower birth’. Tibetan Buddhists believed only males could achieve ‘nirvana’. A Buddhist prayer commonly recited went along the lines “may I reject a feminine body and be reborn a male one”.

    FACT FIVE: Prior to the Chinese invasion there were only two small schools operating in the whole of Tibet (using the term school in the modern secular interpretation of the word) These schools educated teenage boys starting at age 14. Eligibility was confined to nobility, families of high ranking monks and government officials.

    FACT SIX: At any one time 15 to 20 per cent of the male population were monks. Rendering a large percentage of the work-force effectively ‘redundant’ was a large economic burden on an already fragile economy. Feeding and clothing this vast monastic empire fell to the serfs & peasants who were not only subservient & bound to the local monastery, the state, but also the aristocratic lord, whose lands it was, they were tenant-farming.

    FACT SEVEN: Serfs, who made-up around 80% of the population (again figures vary) were ‘tied to their master’s’. Under the Tibetan feudal system, peasants were rendered virtually powerless. They couldn’t travel, marry, trade etc, without permission or consent of their masters. About 500 families controlled 80% of the countries wealth.

    FACT EIGHT: With so few jails operating, a more summary form of justices was employed, which may have been a blessing considering the Government Jail operating in Lhasa was part cesspit, part prison, from which inmates were released from their squalor for just two days a year. At the disposal of the law administrators (read; rich lords, religious fraternities and government officials) were a whole range of crude medieval type torture devices: manacles, red hot irons, implements to gouge eyes out, hanging by thumbs, crippling, sewing the guilty party into a sack and throwing them into a river, spikes under finger-nails, forcing pepper into the eyes – were all a realities of the pre-invasion justice system for the ‘docile’ Buddhist peoples of Tibet.

    FACT NINE: An indication of how backward & uneducated Tibetans were in 1950 – most people thought the world was flat.

    FACT TEN: Travellers & adventurers to Lhasa (translated as ‘Place of the Gods) were not only overawed by the sight of the city and the magnificent Potala Palace, they were also overcome by its stench. In his time there, the current Dalai Lama made constant mention to his entourage about the ever-present smell & dirt caused by lack of proper sanitation, rubbish collection & absence of a sewage system. The National Geographic expedition of 1904 described the streets of Lhasa as ‘narrow and filthy’. A year earlier a Swedish explorers said of Lhasa “everything from top to toe is filthy”. Popular British Journalist, Edmond Candler, renowned for his literary depictions of his travels in the region, gave his readers this mental image of Lhasa in 1905 “We found the city squalid and filthy beyond description, undrained and unpaved”. Indeed descriptions of Tibet as a whole also mirrored these views. German traveller Theodore Illion going as far as telling his readers “Tibet ranks amongst the most filthy countries in the world”. We see similar depictions of pre-1950 Tibet amongst virtually all the writers. “On the sides of the roads were heaps of rubbish”. “Revoltingly filthy”. “Dark and Ill-Smelling” etc etc.

    All this information was available to me courtesy of one afternoon at my local public library & access to a photocopy-machine. In short, I didn’t have to look far. Given all the glossy ‘warm fuzzy’ stuff which is written about Tibet, one thinks more journalists should perhaps avail themselves of the details of pre-invasion Tibet, sitting on their dusty library shelves. Now you have a better insight in to the ‘real Tibet’ – don’t you agree?

    Given what you now know about the real history of Tibet, do we really want to support a cause which would see the return to powers of a religious neo-medieval dictator and his rich cronies?

    I say, no.

    Paul.

    Note: More articles on Tibet on my blog and by the way I was a member of a Free Tibet group here in New Zealand. So I’m far from being an apologist for the Chinese Government, I decry their brand of politics.

  47. Max says:

    I bet what China really fears is that a free Tibet would embolden the 9 million Uyghurs in the neighboring autonomous region, Xinjiang, which covers over one sixth of China’s territory. You don’t hear “Free Uyghurstan” too often. Guess they need a photogenic spokesman.

  48. D R says:

    Yeah. I have little doubt it would have been an ugly life in Tibet circa 1950. You know what? It was an ugly life in 1950′s Korea as well. It’s an ugly life in much of the world today.

    So I am in agreement in as far as pre-occupation Tibet has in all likelihood been romanticized. And yes, I can hardly have any beef with those who would express skepticism about that.

    However, there are two areas in which I think this article falls on its face. First, as I have stated, the author makes a numerical argument which, absent explanation, seems not to pass the smell test. (If I were trying to defend the population growth statistics, I might look to the refugee population– though I myself have no idea if the population is large.) In any case, the author disappoints here. The other aspect of this article I find disappointing is the business about the supposed ignorance of those waiting to see the Dalai Lama.

    Had I been in line and asked if I wished for a restoration of the lama theocracy, I might be taken aback as well. Why? Because that’s a wholly false choice. Whether or not the Dalai Lama romanticizes pre-occupation Tibet is irrelevant. In 1992, he said “Personally, I have made up my mind that I will not play any role in the future government of Tibet, let alone seek the Dalai Lama’s traditional political position in the government…. Moreover, if Tibet is to survive as an equal member of the modern international community, it should reflect the collective potential of all its citizens, and not rely on one individual. In other words, people must be actively involved in charting their own political and social destiny.”
    (http://www.tibet.com/future.html)

    One could always be skeptical and offer that this is merely a facade for a future theocracy. Maybe the man is a liar, and given his romanticism of Tibet’s past, perhaps one might be disinclined to believe anything he says. That’s surely the author’s right. (I’m inclined toward forgiveness on the romanticism– does anyone think the Dalai Lama got a fair perspective of the country in his time there?) It another thing entirely to go around implying those wishing to support a Free Tibet might desire (even if out of ignorance or naivete) a theocracy led by the Dalai Lama when the man says outright he won’t even be in the government.

    For my part, though, I desire an answer to the first part. Should we really be skeptical of the claim of 1.5 million massacred? Maybe, but I fail to see how that citation of the 1994 Report serves as evidence against a massacre.

  49. florian says:

    Yes, the Dalai Lama is a peaceful man. He condemned the violence of last year’s protests… although only after it had already taken place, while he did nothing to prevent it in the first place and kept quiet regarding the role organisations of his “government” in-exile played in provoking it…
    and yes, the Dalai Lama promotes women’s equality… though not in his own order where women until today are not allowed to become priests…
    and yes, the Dalai Lama is a man of science… although his organisations make a fortune by selling useless and often dangerous Tibetan “medicine” to the world…

    Maybe it would help judging “his holiness” by his actions and not by his words, which he is able to pick quite carefully to please the crowd – whatever the actual crowd might be.
    My favourite quote:
    “Socialism is a truly happy order of society and Tibet will go no other way.”
    Dalai Lama, 1956/04/24 in Lhasa

  50. florian says:

    and I’m not a supporter of the Chinese Government but sometimes the discussion reminds me of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”:
    What have the Chinese ever done for the Tibetans? I mean except the irrigation systems, the schools, the health system, the roads, the abolishment of slavery, equal rights for women, electricity, alphabetisation…
    What have they really ever done for the Tibetans?

  51. Kee says:

    It is interesting to note, a Taiwanese, Li Ao, has commented on the Dalai Lama in his talk show before.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFSS826ETlk&feature=PlayList&p=EBE4639F308C0049&index=0

  52. MadScientist says:

    @DR: Sorry about that. I don’t know all the causes and I didn’t mean to imply that it’s only the winters – the area is very remote and it is a harsh environment (although of course you can say the same for Nepal and the altitudes are roughly the same in places). Mao’s crazy reform helped to keep the population low for perhaps a decade as well; tens of millions of Chinese and hundreds of thousands of people in Tibet died of starvation. Since the population of the mountain regions was estimated to be relatively low to begin with, that was pretty bad. All that extra stuff not withstanding, the mortality rate is still extremely high; even estimates of infant mortality rate in the past decade is often in excess of 100 per 1000 live births – 10% – if you can trust these unofficial estimates. Aside from that of course, ‘pregnant all the time’ may just have been used as an expression but not literally intending all the time. Why the mortality rate remains high is anyone’s guess; the communist government doesn’t release any information which it believes might make it look bad. (Don’t ever mention the Tiannanmen Square massacre while in China.) Nepal had absolutely abysmal infant mortality rates as well but many people, for example the explorer Edmund Hillary, worked hard over the decades to try to improve life in Nepal.

  53. D R says:

    @Mad… Is that a defense? The population growth has been slow not from massacre, but from starvation and stifled progress as a result of the occupation?

  54. bill babishoff says:

    The only reason Tibet didn’t get taken over by another government prior to China was because of it’s remote location. Was China liberating the people of Tibet? Doubtful, but that’s how the USA would phrase it if they were the invading force. The reality is simply this, if a country cannot protect itself from foreign invaders it won’t survive. Just ask the native Americans. What happened to Tibet is part of the evolution of the human race, it has happened everywhere around the world from the beginning of time. Only the strong survive.

  55. Bob Tannenbaum says:

    grass that does not bend in the wind breaks.
    the people of tibet that fought the chinese invasion were given weapons or sold weapons from the american cia. most of the people who died would not have died if we didn’t give them weapons they didn’t even know how to use. no good deed goes unpunished.
    as a teacher i always resented the destruction of every buddist temple in tibet, as that is where all the education went on. kill the teachers and kill the counter revolutionaries. if they thought that the world was flat, they were as naive as americans who believe there is a god.
    and as a side ironic note, ho chi min wrote a letter to f.d.r. in 1943 asking for assistance to throw france out of vietnam, the way france gave assistance and money to throw the british out of america. f.d.r of course, sided with his fellow imperialists.
    milo minderbender is alive and living in every country in the world. the rationale: if i don’t bid on a contract to sell microwave systems to canada that will kill kids by giving them cancer, someone else will and they will make the money….so it is, and so it will be until the human race is wiped from the earth. there is a very thin veneer of civilization covering up our brutal atavistic tentencies.

  56. Say what you will, Beijing has a vested interest in the prosperity of both Tibet and Xinjiang, home to another ethnic minority. Over the years, it has invested billions in roads, schools, hospitals, railway lines, reforestation, dams, wind farms, low-income housing and other infrastructures. It has exempted both provinces from income tax in a bid to stimulate faster economic growth.

    Sure, both suffered during the Cultural Revolution but so did the rest of China. Likewise there were genuine demonstrations in the 1980s over inflation and falling real incomes, as elsewhere in China. What happened was that the Free Tibet insurgents grafted their agenda onto the demonstrations and that’s when the police broke it up.

    Apart from photos of lamas getting beaten up in Nepal but captioned as happening in Tibet, the media never mentioned that all the dead were Han and Hui Chinese (Hui are the main Muslim minority) — thus leaving readers to infer they were Tibetan. Last year’s “uprising” was what we call in Brooklyn New York a “race riot”.

  57. I’ve always wonder what percentage of Free Tibet! bumper sticker warriors could even locate the place on a map.

  58. Chris Kavanagh says:

    @Arthur Borges

    I wonder where you got your information from if the media never mentioned it. Personally I find the likelihood of what your suggesting to be very low. I also recall a number of youtube videos purporting to show how many pictures of the riots were not actually from China however I found there arguments about as persuasive as 9/11 conspiracy videos.

    That China has economically developed Tibet is beyond doubt, that this has been of particular benefit to most Tibetans is.

  59. Steve says:

    There seems to be a glaring omission from this article. It *assumes* that the Dalai Lhama intends to return Tibet to what it was before Chinese rule. But a simple search on Google reveals that to not be the case.

    The article asks “Free Tibet for what?”. The Dalai Lhama has outlined exactly that.

    The official position of how a transition from Chinese rule, and what would be established, is stated here:

    http://www.tibet.com/future.html

    It states that Tibet be made independent under his terms, he would not hold any official office, and that Tibet would be made a constitutional democracy, with an entirely elected parliament, with freedom of speech, religion, and pretty much all other fair and equal rights enshrined in other democracies.

    One point I’m sure most Americans would quibble with (though I am less opposed) is that land would be redistributed under more or less socialist terms. But knee jerk reactions against socialism would be just that – knee jerk. More importantly, if the constitutional democracy were instituted, the people could vote to reform land policies if it didn’t suit them (at least in theory).

    As far as his religious teachings go, the Dhalai Lhama is believes a lot of unfounded new age “woo”, which should be dismissed like any other mystical silliness.

    His historical views gloss over the hardships of living in Tibet’s theocratic rule previous to Chinese occupation. He can definitely be criticized for that.

    But, so far as I can see, his political aims are reasonable. If his official statement on the transition of power is to be believed (and of course we should only be completely convinced when we see it), his future ambitions for Tibet are fair enough and should be supported.

  60. shahar lubin says:

    China had declared march 28 as “serf emancipation day”. Or at least were going to. I was in Beijing a few days ago and it was very interesting to see their version of the news.

    I believe the point of this article wasn’t to claim the tibetian right movement, whether towards independence or self rule or a whatever better legal situation inside china they want. The question is whether the Dalai Lhama is even promoting that or is he a slick sale’s man. To me he looks like a woo pusher with very good PR who lives quite well by using a fictionalized version of Tibet’s history and china role in that. Things in Tibet might not be good and bad things might have been perpetuated, but not his account of them.

  61. Jon says:

    Freedom fighter or salesman? Bit of both I’d say, like all involved in political endeavours. Remember Gandhi?

  62. Dear Chris Kavanaugh @ Posting. No. 58.

    I get my information off the Internet and from six years of residence in China, where I teach at an university.

    If you want inside information, you have to seek it from the inside but much is published in English. Here’s a start:

    http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html

    Needless to add that there is no shortage of low-income Tibetans; needful to add that there is no shortage of low-income folks all over China. This is a _developing_ country and crossover into a market economy has widened the income gap after forcing termination of many social benefits. These benefits are only now starting to come back online, largely thanks to “Harmonious Society” policy, which is all about raising living standards and welfare benefits. However it takes time and resources. If the money is being made available thanks to an economic stimulus package equal to USD 500 billion for an economy way smaller than that of the USA, there are issues of “corruption” and finding the right human resources.

    I’m always surprised that Westerners don’t realize the Dalai’s “Free Tibet” amounts to 1/4 of China’s entire territory and, if granted, would cut off what’s left from Xinjiang Province, which amounts to another 20% of China. Note that his Free Tibet has a total population of 100 million or so and that there are tops 10 million Tibetans in China altogether. The Tibet Autonomous Region you see on a map has about 3.9 million people, of which 90%+ are ethnic Tibetans — the rest are mostly Han and Hui (Muslim Han). So one thing the Dalai is correct about is that “Tibetans are a minority in their own country” and it is only correct if he assumes, without telling anyone, that he’s talking about 25% of China.

    Tell me now, Chris, can you imagine Washington handing over 1/4 of the USA to Pat Robertson or Downing Street handing over 1/4 of Great Britain to the Grand Mufti of London?

    Do read a bit of Michael Parenti before answering?

  63. Jimmy says:

    And don’t forget the Dalai Lama’s ban of the practice of Dorje Shugden and the problems that is causing — it seems relevant to this whole discussion:

    http://www.dorjeshugden.com

    and/or

    http://www.wisdombuddhadorjeshugden.org

    (or Wikipedia).

  64. Tommy says:

    No doubt another Chinese dude writing against Dalai lama, i think I am obsess with those person writing him off all time but in vain… All the system in these world has its good and bad side but i think he writing from the chinese side. one should know there are thousand of people on around glode who are paid by chinese government to write articles against Dalai lama and his people. I’m not saying he is one of them.

    And about the monastic system, as i said before it has good and bad side as same as every social system in this world… like every coin there are two stories and i think he shouldn’t look with his one eye shut…

  65. Oh I am indeed paid by the Chinese Government, but only to teach English, Tommy. Because you call me “dude”, the city you live in is surely more fashionable and cosmopolitan than my little Zhengzhou, with a mere seven million inhabitants.

    On the Dalai, do note that Michael Parenti reports he was asked what he thought of the invasion of Iraq only a year or two ago, and he just said it was “too early to tell.” Given the subsidies he receives from the National Endowment for Democracy, his was a wise answer indeed.

    His answer is nonetheless surprising. According to Tibetan Buddhist doctrine, the Dalai has three eyes, with which to see the past, present and future.

    So how come that last third eye gets dysfunctional when it comes to answering about any wisdom or folly behind the invasion of Iraq?

  66. Or is it the first eye that is out of service till further notice?

  67. Dave says:

    A few comments on this interesting debate:

    I spent a few months in 2002 backpacking around China, focussing on the Western side including Tibetan areas but not within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is interesting to note that most Tibetans live in China proper outside the autonomous region. It seems many people think that what happened in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution is what has happened in Tibet throughout the last 59 years. Of course the Cultural Revolution was a terrible thing, but it caused havoc throughout China not just in Tibet. And it ended a long time ago.

    These days, the Tibetan monastries I saw have been or are being renovated and they seem quite vibrant. Pictures of the exiled Panchen Lama were openly on display. Talking secretly with monks they would say “we like Mandela and the Dalai Lama” (I’m South African). Clearly there is resentment amongst Tibetans towards the Chinese government which differs in form to the milder resentment expressed by Chines (Han) people. The average Chinese person appreciates what their government has achieved which is an unprecedented reduction in poverty in a short time (those who study development will tell you that within Development Studies, China is treated as a special case as its achievements are on a scale so far beyond anything achieved any where else, ever). But the Chinese people do find their government overly paternalistic and meddling in daily life. Certainly there is no sense of fear of police/government violence by the average citizen UNLESS you want to get involved in politics or organised religion (e.g. Falun Gong). It seems in China you can do what you want as long as it doesn’t involve politics.

    The Tibetan perspective is different. I think they also appreciate the huge material advances that Chinese occupation has brought – roads, schools, clinics, etc. BUT one cannot escape the fact that this comes with the guaranteed destruction of their culture and way of life. Tibetan monastries are full of loud, shouting (& spitting) Chinese tourists eager to find out about Tibetan culture but without a scrap of holiness in their bodies (not necessarly a bad thing – I’m a skeptic after all!). Similarly, one feels that Tibet is ultimately on the path to become a hybrid between a Tibetan Disney World and another normal Chinese city… And I think this is what creates the unhappiness amongst the Tibetans: the inevitable destruction of their culture/way of life (however mythologised that may be). Your way of life cannot be bargained away in exchange for a clinic or a school.

    For me, the ideal solution would be one whereby the Chinese govern Tibet with a special consideration for what impact any development is having on the Tibetan way of life. This would necessarily mean that Tibetans must be part of this government. I’m sure that Tibetans would exchange independence for a vibrant Autonomous Region which has the benefits of Chinese economic and social development BUT retains its unique, vibrant Tibetan culture. It would be sad if Tibet became just another generic Chinese area… which seems inevitable with the massive migration of Han Chinese to the area.

    Some other points:
    * I read in the Lonely Planet guide book that the 1 child policy doesn’t apply to Tibetans.
    * If one wants to Free Tibet, does that mean one also advocates that all European colonisers must Free North America, Free Australia and Free South Africa and return to Europe? How long does one have to occupy someone else’s land before it no longer justifies being Free’d?

  68. Dave,

    There are two panchen lamas, neither of which is in exile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchen_Lama.

    Some Chinese think the government meddles; others think it doesn’t care enough. The only certainty is that Asian societies in general consider family and harmonious social relationships as supreme values. After that, whether you interpret a neighbour’s question as a show of personal concern or an insulting invasion of privacy, well, it’s up to you.

    As some blogger noted, Tibetans want the Dalai back in Lhasa but they don’t want his government of cronies, all ex-land & slave owners.

    Tibet does enjoy special treatment. It is one of 55 officially recognized minorities, all of which are exempt from the one-child policy and enjoy other affirmative action, e.g. university admission with lower entrance exam scores.

    As the Red Guards learned during the Cultural Revolution and the US still has not discovered in Afghanistan or Iraq, culture does not die out that easily. It does however adjust, if only because culture is a living fabric, so to speak. Turning Tibet into some sort of bantustan or game reserve will not isolate it from globalization; indeed, independence would only put it at the mercy of the IMF and World Bank, who would open it up to wholesale colonization of its economy by multinationals who, um, pull out as soon as their shareholders are no longer getting a joyride out of a country while Beijing has a long-term stake in the region and its future.

    On the local Buddhism, there are four main schools: Gelug, Kagyu, Nigma and Sakya. Opposition to Beijing comes from the Gelug, traditionally the warrior monks; had the Kagyu held sway, there would have been an amiable arrangement with Beijing long ago — they are the translators by tradition. The remaining two schools get on with full focus on their religious duties.

    Now the Dalai is calling for regime change in Beijing. That’s too funny: is he trying to outdo George Bush or Osama b.Laden? See: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KE21Ad01.html

  69. F.F. LIN says:

    ticktock,

    Get your facts right before you make any comment. Yes, there is a One-Child Policy in China but it is ONLY applicable to Han Chinese. Minorities, including Tibetans are exempted therefore they can have numerous children. In fact the Chinese Government gives poor Tibetans free education (including free food, accommodation, medical care and etc..)in the Tibetan and Chinese languages. China also built a University in Tibet headed by Tibetan professors. Han Chinese have to score much higher marks than ethnic Minority students in order to enter the same university at all locations throughout China.

    Critics of China, why don’t you take a trip to Tibet to see for yourself, after all so many other Americans and Europeans have done so. When armchair activists or armchair political commentators become national political leaders they tend to be a danger to their own and other people’s countries as a result of making intrusive and destructive decisions based on mis-information.

    “Free Press” is not as innocent as it looks; in fact it is a double-edged sword that has the capacity to ruin countries and politicians depending on which side they support. Remember that “Free Press” is no charity; it is big enterprises fighting for rating and profit.

  70. Eric Wolf says:

    Great article! I find the whole Free Tibet thing trendy and annoying.

  71. Vasili Petrovich says:

    Let me start by stating that I abhorre the communism ideology, and I think that while the current government of mainland China is somewhat more beneficial to its people, it’s still kind of illegitimate. I believe that the real China is the Republic of China, that is democratic and nationalistic China, meaning Taiwan (if you don’t think that Taiwan is China just look at the results of the last elections: the pro-unification Nationalist Kuomintang Party — the one that fought with and lost to the communists in the first place — won a landlslide victory in Taiwan). So anyways, bottom line is I would like the current government of mainland China to be replaced.
    HOWEVER, who can argue that Tibet was EVER a sovereign independent nation.

    Please, you geniouses who claim that Tibet was independent, please, show me ONE, just one map of Asia, the World or China, just one map, produced in any Western country, any WESTERN country (not China), produced in the 18th, 19th or 20th century that shows Tibet to be an independent nation. Please: just one map manufactured in the West. Just one.

    Tibet was certainly part of the Yuan Dynasty, which, might be argued was Mongolian in blood (but not in its institutions and eventually culture), was clearly a vassal tributary to Ming Dynasty (though Ming didn’t have effective controll) and since the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1664) Tibet has continuously been part of China, of Qing till 1912. And of the Republic of China since 1912. Now in 1949, the forces of the Republic lost the Chinese Civil war to the Communists on the mainland keeping only Taiwan and proclaimed their own “People’s Republic” of China (which is now generally recognised as “China” by most states, but that recognition only dates back to the 70′s). Between 1912 and 1949 Tibet was certainly de jure part of the Republic of China as any map would show you (although admitedly under British political and economical influences, but at that time everyone had a chunk of China). Tibet has NEVER EVER had any INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION. If you state that yes then when and by whom if I might ask. So how can you call Tibet and “independent nation”.

    The fact is that in 1950 the Communists didn’t have control over all of China yet and Tibet was enjoying a large de facto autonomy as a part of the Republic of China (whose legitimate forces were now confined to Taiwan). So the Communists, at that point not having their “People’s Republic” recognized by anyone, MOVED their troops INTO the Tibet region and took effective control of it. As at the time the only China that the international community recognised was the Republic of China (now confined to Taiwan), the international media termed the troop movement “invasion”. Now that was no more an invasion than the invasion of Jiangsu or Guangdong by the communist forces [Jiangsu and Guangdong are provinces of China inhabbited by ethnic Han Chinese, mostly] and I have to admit, the invasion of China by the communist forces of Mao WAS an invasion.

    But that says nothing to whether Tibet was independent. In fact between 1912 and 1949 the international community has consistenly RECOGNISED the fact that Tibet was under the sovereignity of the Republic of China. Between 1949 and the 70′s the same international community, while condemning the “invasion” of the Tibet area by the communist forces recognised the Republic of China from Taiwan as the ONLY China, having sovereignity over all the Chinese territory, INCLUDING Tibet. Now, from the 70′s the same very “intelligent” international community decided to switch recognition from the Republic of China in Taiwan to the communist People’s Republic of China on the mainland and they do recognize it as China (unfortunately), with all it’s territories, including Tibet.

    Now, the fact that the Communist takeover of China was utterly unlawful changes NOT the fact that LAWFULLY Tibet was part of China de jure since AT LEAST 1644.

    And all the geniuses, since hearing the word “invasion” (the use of which I have explained) started thinking that Tibet was once an independent sovereign nation. If you think that please, please:
    1.Show me one map, produced in the West (not China, because you might think chinese maps might be biased) in the 18th, 19th or 20th century that shows Tibet as an independent nation (and I mean a printed map in an atlas, printed by a more or less reliable and respected printing house)
    2. Tell me which country has ever given recognition of Tibet as an independent nation and when? Please, if you can find this information, I will eat my hat!
    Seriously now… commies: a bad stock. “Tibet was free” movement: an ignorant stock who didn’t read ONE history book.

    You see, you say that Tibet should be free beacause you think it would be better off than under communist rule. True. It would. In fact all of China would. BUT if Tibet were to become free just because its inhabbitants would vote as the person they consider a GOD would tell them to (no bias there), then what would happen if tommorow the the state of California would want freedom, because 51% of the Californians would say, if asked, that they think this should be better.

    A free Tibet would not only legitimize any such endeavour ANYWHERE undermining the very idea of government of any country. It would, amongst othet things LEGITIMISE THE SECESION OF THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERATE STATES in AMERICA over the unlawfulness of which the Union constructed its CASUS BELLI. It would be an utter disaster that would result in the end of International Law as we know it and the undermining of national Constitutional Law in many places around the world.

  72. Um, Vasili, the Republic of China based in Taiwan also officially claims Tibet is an integral part of China.

  73. Vasili Petrovich says:

    Yeah, exactly. Was there something in my post that says otherwise. I was just explaining where the whole “invasion” thing came from. If Tibet was so independent in 1912-1949, then why did Tibet knowingly acknowledged Chinese sovereignty (and it did) by sending delegates to the Drafting Committee for a new constitution of the Republic of China in 1925, then to the National Assembly of the Republic of China in 1931, then to the fourth National Congress of the Kuomintang in 1931, then to a National Assembly for drafting a new Chinese constitution in 1946 and then to another National Assembly for drafting a new Chinese constitution in 1948? q.e.d

  74. KC says:

    “When he repeats the oft quoted figure of 1.2 millions Tibetans killed by the Chinese during their brutal annexation exercise, “His Holiness” does not have to provide proof or cite sources and no one in the popular press found it necessary to check up on those figures. Given that the population of Tibet in 1950 was 1.5 million from Chinese sources and 4 million from Tibet government-in-exile source, the 1.2 million casualty number has to be highly suspect. ”

    Indeed. This figure is even disputed by none other than a former director of Free Tibet Campaign in London. Please read this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/22/opinion/22french.html

    “…For example, the Free Tibet Campaign in London (of which I am a former director) and other groups have long claimed that 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese since they invaded in 1950. However, after scouring the archives in Dharamsala while researching my book on Tibet, I found that there was no evidence to support that figure.”

  75. While on population figures, the last census enumerated 5,000,000 or so, of which 90%+ were Tibetan in the Tibetan Autonomous Republic yet the Dalai keeps repeating “The Tibetans are a minority in their own country.”

    Well, um, yeah but he doesn’t specify he’s referring to his Greater Tibet of yesteryear when, by politics and force of arms, Tibet spanned 1/4 of China’s national territory today, running all the way up to the Russian border. Today, 100,000,000+ folks live there, mostly Han and Han Muslims, aka Hui.

    He wants all of that to govern???

  76. Jed says:

    You make some great points and I think your criticism is well warranted. But again, being quick to point out naiveity in others’ thinking usually glosses over our own naiveity. The Chinese mask the truth, the Tibetans mask the Chinese mask of the truth (not really just saying the truth themselves), and we have to be careful not to add another layer of masking by being too certain about what others do or don’t understand. For example, you incorrectly call the Dalai Lama the reincarnation of the Buddha, which he is not, but a supposed incarnation of another Bodhisattva. I agree, this is a minor point, but if you have not done enough research yourself to understand this basic tenent of Tibetan Buddhism, where else may your own naiveity be creeping in? Again, I find no fault with your arguments above, and it shows objective research, but then again, we don’t know what we don’t know. And so I remain skeptical of your conclusion, as I think you should remain of your own conclusion, for clearly, though small, you show a lack of a complete understanding of the topic, a complete understanding which you are critical of others for not having.

  77. Mark says:

    I personally have been very touched by the Dalai Lama’s work and wisdom. Tibet is a cold, desert-mountain country. The people there have lives structured specifically in light of their environment which is hard. The guy was made who he is before he could speak much of anything. He has done a great job and should be respected for that.

    Desmond Tutu, a monumental force in South African and indeed, world activism and a brilliant and beautiful spiritual leader himself, can’t have the Dalai Lama at his 80th birthday party. The South African government just couldn’t get him a visa in time? An old and hard-working man meeting another is not a threat to the security of a country. There can be no way of justifying a failure to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a friend’s birthday.

    Especially in light of what he, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has to say.

  78. Sharon Presley says:

    Almost all of the article dealt with how bad Tibet was in the past, how much better off the people (allegedly) are now, but almost nothing about the Dalai Lama himself. The title of the article is inappropriate and misleading. It sounds like it’s going to be a criticism of the Dalai Lama per se but that is not what it really is. The fact that Tibet may have had an authoritarian culture in the past does not necessarily mean that’s what the Dalai Lama is advocating returning to–we don’t know from this article because nothing is said about what the DL is advocating, other than freeing Tibet. I think we need to be skeptical of the skeptics. I was left feeling this was as much a smear job and innuendo as critical analysis.

  79. Dave says:

    Good article. Shame you couldn’t take as much care checking other titles as you did digging out the DL’s though. The “Queen of England”?

  80. Prem from Nepal says:

    I don’t Know whether this man is real Buddha or not but I can assure you he is a Politician and not clear what he want in Tibet and more what Majority of Tibetan People Want ?.

    He is good at supporting government who support him like “When question was ask where Gautam Buddha was born because there is serious debate between India and Nepal about Buddha birth place since Indian propaganda birth place to be in their land in Boudhi gaya,Bihar(actually place where Prince Siddhartha receive Nirvana, Kapilvastu,Nepal is Birth place) and many Indian Newspaper as well as Diplomats still stating same. You know what did he told?.I still freaking don’t believe in this Statement. “No need to argue where Buddha was born ,he was universal god.It is waste of time to argue about it.”.

    I am still wondering Why he simply can’t say “Buddha was born in Nepal, receive Nirvana in India and died in Afghanistan “. It is simple truth but instead he choose to answer politically.
    As someone above in comment section Stated ” It is easy to feel Hero but very difficult to be one” will be true for Mr. Dalai Lama. Maybe just he is more Spiritual leader. What Tibetan as well as whole people of different country need is their leader thinks from Brain and Work by heart.
    “I believe any …cracy is BS until and unless leader is good at brain and pure at heart.”

  81. Robert says:

    Having seen the Dalai Lama speak, and having read several of his books, I think it should be considered that he is very pro science, and openly so, which is unusual for a Tibetan leader. His famous quote “If a particular religious precept is disproven by science, then the religion will have to change”, says it all in that regard.

    I have to think that if he was ever returned to actual political power in Tibet, Tibetan society would change in some very dramatic ways, due to his scientific education as a teenager, and his exposure to the societal structures of the West. Yes, Tibet was worse off in the past, but so were most other countries on Earth. That doesn’t mean that having China release totalitarianism control of Tibet would mean that things would return to the way they were in the 1940s.

    He seems to be popular not just for his role as spokesperson for Tibet, but for people looking for spiritual insight, which are completely compartmentalized and separate things.