We have reached that time of year when supporters of Tibet turn slowly towards preparations to commemorate the Lhasa Uprising of March 10, 1959, which witnessed the loss of thousands of Tibetan lives, a courageous resistance against Chinese rule, and the escape of Tibet’s political and spiritual leader into exile. Central to this event are rallies, and down-town marches, affording an opportunity to express solidarity with the people of Tibet, and remind the world what Tibet’s cause is all about. That objective is realized by the display of Tibet’s national flag, along with banners and placards demanding independence, and chants calling for a free Tibet, such events attract considerable attention from passers-by, and on occasion the Media. Unfortunately not all those who assert themselves as supporting Tibet will be promoting such objectives.
If past occasions are any guide, rather than advocating the Tibetan people’s demand for Tibet’s independence, we can expect some to distort (and some may argue betray) the political aspirations of Tibet’s struggle. A number of organizations will assiduously avoid any mention of Tibet’s independence, the emphasis instead will be upon His Holiness, negotiations with China, or declarations about language or other human rights issues (not though the subject of China’s forcible sterilizations, another taboo subject). All valid areas of course, yet such a diluted presentation is a considerable distance away from the heartfelt demands and inspiring sacrifices of Tibetans inside Tibet. Who risking torture and prison, take to the street to assert their nation’s freedom. For those new to Tibet’s cause this must appear a troubling difference, and people are right to ask why it is that Tibetans inside occupied Tibet are struggling for national freedom, while supporters enjoying freedom in the West are presenting a message which runs against the very aspirations Tibetans are being viciously abused and oppressed for.
There are two areas of influence that have long been thought responsible for this unfortunate schism, firstly, the exiled Tibetan Administration, which is engaged upon a course of appeasing China’s regime to encourage talks on so-called ‘meaningful autonomy’. It is entirely intolerant towards Tibet’s independence, which it regards as a barrier to progressing negotiations, and through a developed network of contacts, and aided by a conformist and largely compliant exiled Tibetan society, finds it a relatively easy task to deflect, control, and influence protests, to ensure the desired message is displayed. Evidence for such orchestration manifests itself on March 10, as supposedly committed international supporters of Tibet will attend rallies at which there will be virtually no allusion to national freedom for Tibet. Yet, the great majority of individuals participating in support of Tibet maybe completely oblivious to such manipulation, unaware that the central messages of such protest are at odds with the objectives and courageous sacrifices waged by Tibetans inside occupied Tibet. The same cannot be said however of groups who assume responsibility for arranging political events on March 10. Such organizations are acutely aware of the nature of the Tibetan struggle inside Tibet, and cognisant that Tibetans face vicious reprisals for demanding their national freedom, yet have resisted China’s tyranny to assert that right. It is difficult to understand why such bodies would meticulously assemble protests, and yet consistently fail to give any prominence to the common political aspiration of Tibetans in occupied Tibet. Unless of course they are complying to an agenda, one opposed to any reference to Tibetan independence?
Another disabling and corrosive influence is that thought to be exerted by foreign governments, with a invested and vested political and economic interest in maintaining positive relations with Beijing. Implacably opposed to the notion of an independent Tibet, such authorities as the United States would not welcome a unified, forceful struggle for Tibetan nationhood. A prospect that would be considered an injurious distraction to relations with China’s regime. Having followed a policy that submits to China’s bogus claim of sovereignty over Tibet, and urged Tibetans to concede to Chinese rule; in exchange for so-called meaningful autonomy, the State Department has long rejected Tibetan independence. An issue it knows full well is a subject of extreme sensitivity to China, such considerations require those agencies to maintain an interest in the wider movement for Tibet, and in particular to exert, where possible, an influence to dilute or silence any actions supportive of Tibet’s national freedom. Nowhere is that more acutely observed than in England.
Though there are UK groups which seem to have a stated aim of Tibetan independence, at rallies, marches or other political events, the message offered to the public is always careful to avoid any mention of independence. This troubling state of affairs is all the more curious when noting the degree of influence and control that seems to extend from Parliamentarians and the Foreign Office (who like the State Department are opposed to an independent Tibet) over a number of Tibet-related groups.. Many have asked over the years if such associations, along with the ‘autonomy agenda’ of the exiled Tibetan Administration, conspire to manipulate Tibet protests in England.
Without considering the stifling agenda of those opposed to Tibet’s national freedom it is difficult to identify a reason why, at preparations for such protests, organizations so regularly choose to exclude even the slightest reference to Tibet’s independence. If pressures are being applied to avoid and suppress that issue, it denies people, who in all good faith and innocence participate in such protests, an opportunity to serve as a conduit for the genuine political aspirations of Tibetans in occupied Tibet. On March 10th, a date of primary importance for Tibet’s people, to deliberately marginalize or conceal the very goal of Tibetans suffering China’s tyranny is an act of callous deception. If you are attending such protests please consider the struggle inside Tibet and express your support by having a placard, banner, or flag that informs people what is being sought, Independence for Tibet!
Images:courtesy of RTYC-MN