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The crux of the Tibetan problem
Harry Wu
3/19/2003



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It's been almost fifty years since China "liberated" Tibet, crushing its government and army, and forcing the Dalai Lama into exile. Since then, tens of thousands of Tibetans have fled to all parts of the world. However, they haven't given up Hope. They have not been wiped-out or deemed irrelevant, and I suspect they will never be. To most Han Chinese, they are an uncivilized, ignorant, filthy and superstitious people, who needed to be liberated by the CCP. Yet, all throughout the world, they stand with pride.

Exiled Tibetans all over the world live together in peace with the locals of their adopted nation, receiving much more respect and welcome and trust than Chinese immigrants. They maintain their religion, culture, dress and customs, as well as their own government in-exile, with an unmistakable dignity. Among their younger generation, many obtain high-level academic degrees, and become well-known scholars. They may have lost their land, but they are reaching toward the heavens.

Recently, Beijing received a high-level delegation to restart negotiations with the Dalai Lama's government in-exile. Regardless of Beijings motives for holding these talks or if the negotiations have any real success; at the very least, the negotiations make one thing clear: despite being exiled for over 50 years, Beijing can't ignore the Dalai Lama. The exiled Tibetan government does not enjoy any military or any economic power; it doesn't even have any diplomatic relations. Yet they still matter. As everyone knows, the CCP's political power is based on physical strength. Yet, the facts prove, although often drowned out by wickedness and greed, justice and truth eventually prevail.

There are two key factors influencing Beijing's Tibet policy: First, most Han Chinese are prejudiced against Tibetans, and believe they need economic, cultural and other assistance. Second, most Han Chinese believe that Tibet was never an independent country, and was always a part of China. As a result, most Han Chinese agree with Beijing's policies.

Some ask: Isn't Han Chinese culture is better than Tibet's? Don't Tibetans have an unhealthy, harmful lifestyle? Don't they want a theocracy? Doesn't the Tibetan religion block economic and cultural development, etc.? These questions are important to evaluate and discuss. However, the first thing we should address is this: who has the right to not only judge from right and wrong, but also use physical force to implement such a judgment?

If a culture fails to respect another people's right to self-determination, then itself has no right to self-determination. Yet, this is what is happening in China. If the Han Chinese are in the process of seeking democracy, freedom and prosperity, then it should respect other's right to do the same. The CCP's autocratic government should change its Tibet policy. Tibetans have the right to seek their own political future, societal structure, religious beliefs and culture.

If most Han Chinese start to believe they should respect Tibet, and give them the choice of freedom, I believe Beijing's current policy would become untenable. When a majority of Han Chinese express this type of sentiment, this will represent a significant shift in thought among the Han Chinese.

Canada's Quebecquois have been seeking independence for years. Quebec, a former French colony, has never been an independent country. Yet Quebec's independence movement has not been suppressed by the Canadian government as "seditious," or "unpatriotic," etc.

The world is changing. In the face of a rising tide of globalization, liberalization, democratization and human rights, petty excuses for injustice, such as colonialism, racism, Communism and even nationalism, are becoming weak and indefensible. Sooner or later, they will all be thrown into the dustbin of history--and good riddance!

*Harry Wu is the founder of Laogai Foundation based in Washington, D.C.

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