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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2584

Crocodile tears over China's role in Tibet

By Janaka Perera

Colombo, 24 March. ( We need to have a glimpse at South Asian history to understand Beijing's current role in Tibet. China's policies on this issue are deeply rooted in the events of the last two centuries. Many have forgotten that Britain during her imperialist adventures was using Tibet to undermine China when latter was a helpless sick giant. She was then at the mercy of the gunboat diplomats – the ancestors of today's `human rights' champions.

Tibetans are the most widely distributed ethnic groups in the People's Republic. In addition to Tibet, they also inhabit Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces. The Tibetans are one of China's 56 'nationalities' as Beijing calls them. They are spread over one fourth of the country's land area. Therefore Chinese governments have naturally treated Tibet too as part of China, although not under Beijing's direct rule during some periods in history. Problems in the mountain kingdom accelerated only after the entry of Western imperialists into Asia.

In the 16th century when the Portuguese were encroaching on Sri Lanka they were also creeping into Tibet. There too they used Christian missionaries as vanguards to hoodwink the natives. But unlike in Sri Lanka the missionaries' work made little progress as Buddhism was very deeply entrenched in Tibetan society. Since 1745 there have been no records of foreign Christian missionaries in Lhasa.

In the following century Britain expanded her aggression into Kashmir, Ladakh and the western part of the Himalayas. This was on the eve of the first Opium War which the British unleashed on China in 1840. Consequently, Tibet's frontiers were exposed to the enemy's inroads. After an armed attack on Tibet in 1888, Britain imposed two treaties that jeopardised China's sovereignty and allowed Britain to control Tibet's economy and interfere with its internal affairs.

In 1911 when China's Manchu Dynasty was overthrown in a popular uprising, the British seized the opportunity to sever Tibet from China. Luring the 13th Dalai Lama into this conspiracy Britain declared in 1913 'independence' for Tibet - all the while trying to erode China's sovereignty and holding on to colonial possessions in South Asia.

In July 1947, Tibet's then rulers sent a trade delegation to the United States without the Chinese Government's approval. Then they flew to London where British Prime Minister Clement Atlee received them. Throughout the trip they voiced separatist ideas. Their ulterior motive was to win international sympathy for Tibetan independence. However their separatist attempts proved futile following the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

After the PRC was established in 1949 the U.S. stubbornly refused to recognize it and continued to treat Taiwan's Chiang Kai-shek regime as China's legitimate rulers. It was left to former U.S. President Richard Nixon to finally face facts in 1971.

Now we see history almost repeating – in the name of Tibetan 'independence.'

When people with long criminal records accuse others of wrong-doings (no matter how factual they may be) who is prepared to accept their criticisms? It is the same when the West, especially ex-colonial powers and the U.S. pontificate on human rights violations in Asia and elsewhere. So it is a small wonder that the China behaves the way she does on the issue of Tibet, regardless of the controversial nature of her actions.

But have any of the white "human rights crusaders" ever admitted their past crimes or apologized profusely to Asians for them – including the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? No, never – because these arrogant, self-righteous 'democrats' have no sense of shame. So they continue preaching to others – China, Russia, Myanmar,
Sri Lanka etc.

Although the Dalai Lama has reportedly said that he is prepared to settle for a Tibetan State under Chinese supervision, Western media has already projected him as the symbol of Tibetan independence. Needless to say this image of him strengthens – rightly or wrongly - China's suspicions of his real motives.

Instead of seeking Western support for Tibetan 'independence' the Dalai Lama should have spent most of his time in India and sought Delhi's diplomatic backing to soften Beijing's stance on the issue and make the situation more flexible. After all today Sino-Indian ties have improved far more than they were 40 years ago.

Perhaps India would have then mediated and helped to bring about a better understanding or compromise between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government – in the same way Sri Lanka intervened to help in bringing about a ceasefire between China and India during the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962. (Incidentally, Britain was responsible for this crisis too. In July 1914 British and representatives of 'independent' Tibet created the McMahon line demarcating the Eastern section of the Sino-Indian boundary and ceded 90,000 square kilometres of Chinese territory to British India.)

The possibility of Washington trying to create another Kosovo out of Tibet can never be ruled out (despite the fact the only 32 countries have so far recognized Kosovo's 'independence') But this dubious Western strategy has miserably failed in Taiwan where the pro-Beijing Party led by Chiang Kai-shek's grandson has won the elections.

Many have forgotten that in the early days (1951-1960) of China re-establishing control over Tibet the Beijing Government did not criticize the Dalai Lama but treated him as a victim of an anti-Chinese conspiracy. We can understand the Dalai Lama's opposition to Mao Ze Dong's hard-line communism and his red guards going on the rampage in Tibet during China's disastrous 'cultural revolution' (These came under the severe criticism of even the former Soviet bloc).

But why did the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan exiles failed to reach a compromise after China began pursuing more liberal socio-economic, cultural and religious policies during the past 30 years? The answer could possibly be that Western governments - which always want to fish in troubled waters - did not want Tibetan exiles to warm up to Beijing.

Sri Lanka which has been observing all these developments for the past several decades naturally shares China's apprehensions on threats to a country's territorial integrity. So to our government, recognizing Tibetan 'independence' is absolutely out of the question.

As long the West and their agents try to manipulate crisis situations to it own advantage and sow discord in the name of human rights there can be no hope of real stability or genuine peace in the world.

- Asian Tribune -

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