During recent years Tibet has attracted increasing worldwide media attention, due largely to the tireless efforts of the Dalai Lama, and also the courage and spirit of those inside Tibet, who resist Chinese rule in the hope of an independent Tibet. The story of how Tibet has lost its freedom and now faces virtual cultural annihilation has been the subject of numerous films and television documentaries, while leading national and international newspapers and journals regularly feature the plight of Tibet. Increasingly, the flow of material to news desks can be traced to the Tibetan administration and the international Tibet movement. Such information is now instantly available thanks to the phenomenal expansion of mobile technology and the Internet, which journalists and Tibet supporters alike use as an invaluable resource. There can be no doubt that these technological and social innovations development have dramatically increased exposure of Tibet and raised awareness.
Yet as any who look carefully at the seemingly endless stream of Tibet-related information that appears on Websites and Blogs can notice, such platforms adhere to a set of common themes: political prisoners; environmental issues; population transfer, or suppression of religious practice. Of course such reportage has a highly positive impact in promoting the Tibetan cause, however, amidst this digital collective effort to save Tibet a major issue appears to be ignored with a consistency that raises some alarm. Namely, the appalling subject of forced sterilizations and forced abortions which have traumatised the lives of countless women across China, Tibet and East Turkestan. Apart from the longstanding campaigns from Tibettruth, the Tibetan Women’s Association, and Tibetan Youth Congress, there has been a virtual silence from the massed ranks of Tibet supporters concerning China’s coercive birth control policy. Admittedly, there has been some limited movement from one or two organizations (and that only after several years of intense pressure), yet there still appears to be a marked reluctance to campaign on this gross abuse of human rights.
One would surely expect this issue to be embraced with commitment and passion at major gatherings of Tibet supporters, such as last week’s meeting of the Asia International Tibet Support Group Network in Dharamsala, India. Not so! Instead, it is often greeted with indifference or evasion. Consider the following case. Despite repeated calls to organizers for this issue to be given prominence, successive meetings of European Tibet Support Groups have failed to give China’s coercive population program serious attention. As indicated by the minutes of such meetings it has been overlooked or, at best, sidelined to a fringe session with little action taken. How can it be that such atrocities are consistently ignored and marginalised by people who claim to be champions of human rights?
The International Tibet Conference in Bonn (2000) witnessed one of the largest and most influential meetings on Tibet. Apart from an address by the Dalai Lama, speakers included Samdhong Rinpoche, exiled Tibetan Prime Minister, Kalon Tashi Wangdi (recently nominated as candidate for the post of next Tibetan PM) and Mr. Tempa Tsering of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Subject-after-subject was explored, from the effectiveness of lobbying the media, to campaign strategies. Much to the annoyance of the communist Chinese regime the meeting advocated (albeit in restrained terms) the freedom of Tibet and condemned human rights abuse, environmental destruction and population transfer. However, once again there was no meaningful discussion on forced sterilizations and abortions of Tibetan, Uyghur or Chinese women. Had it not been for a last minute appeal by a supporter of Tibettruth, not a single word would have been raised on this matter. What is it about this issue which seems to cast such a spell of silence over Tibetan officials and many supporters?
Once this shameful omission could have been clouded by excuses about insufficient material on the subject, that is no longer the case. Reports from the US State Department, US Executive Committee on China, Amnesty USA, British Medical Council, television documentaries such as England’s Channel Four’s ‘Undercover in Tibet’ (2008) Publications such as ‘Tears of Silence’ (Tibet Women’s Association 2009) ‘Orders of The State’ (Independent Tibet Network 2000) ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’ (Dr. J. S Aird AEI Press 1991), and ‘Children of Despair’ (M. Moss Independent Tibet Network 1992) have exerted a profound and highly significant influence and exposed governments, human rights agencies women’s groups and the media to the violations and suffering of China’s population program.
However, despite the detailed documentation and continuing evidence emerging from China, Tibet and East Turkestan, not only Tibet Support Groups appear to have little interest. even leading members of the Tibetan administration appear to have been stricken with silence. Observe the many speeches given in India and abroad to note an apparent unwillingness to engage this issue. During various Tibet related conferences exiled Tibetan government figures consistently fail to give exposure to the horrors of coercive birth control in Tibet and the unimaginable suffering it has meant for Tibetan women. Quite rightly such individuals speak out against the usual catalogue of concerns: suppression of religious practice; torture of political prisoners: environmental destruction, and population transfer. Yet these distinguished and articulate officials utter not a single protest against the appalling abuse faced daily by women across Tibet, East Turkestan and China, who have no choice but to submit to a population program characterised by coercion and brute violence. It is perplexing to fathom why leading Tibetan politicians seem unwilling to invest this issue with the prominence it surely demands.
In conjunction with population transfer China’s population program in Tibet seriously imperils the development of a stable Tibetan demographic profile. It must be remembered that Tibet has lost nearly a sixth of its population since 1950, which means that coercive practices have been imposed upon an already severely diminished population level. Meanwhile, women continue to be sterilized en masse, with reports of entire villages being subject to birth-control ‘surgery’. The scale of such operations is staggering and one only has to study official Chinese documents to realise the danger posed to Tibet by what has been termed China’s ‘Final Solution’. In his excellent work the late Dr. Jonathan Aird, drawing upon Chinese and other sources, calculated that between 1971 and 1985 ALONE there were some 100 million coercive ‘birth control’ operations in China involving forced abortions and forced sterilizations. in 2010 that figure has risen and the exiled Tibetan Government and its supporters must surely be asking how many of those have been inflicted upon Tibetan women?
It is incredible that apart from a few notable exceptions the Tibet movement has consistently appeared to have overlooked and marginalised these terrible atrocities. Unless vigorously and collectively campaigned against the world will never fully realise the awful truth of what is happening to women across Tibet and how China’s coercive birth-control program forms a chilling role in China’s ‘Final Solution’ for Tibet. There has been some progress; however. this has been largely achieved in the face of staggering apathy and indifference from many Tibet related bodies. Surely efforts to oppose these violations should be harmonised and a concerted plan of action be adopted by all supporters of Tibet. This article is a call for such a strategy to be implemented at the earliest possible opportunity, Tibetans and their supporters will look to those within the exiled Tibetan Administration to take a lead.
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