On a day when a global action for Tibet was launched just what are we to make of the following comments made by the exiled Prime Minister of Tibet’s administration, Lobsang Sangay. Referring to the recent series of self-immolations inside occupied Tibet, which since March has seen eleven Tibetans setting themselves ablaze. including today Ms Palden Choetso, who died after her fiery protest
Harvard educated Lobsang notes:
“We do not encourage protest inside Tibet or for that matter self-immolation because we know the consequences,” Sangay told a news conference. “If you protest in Tibet, more often than not you get arrested, or beaten up, sometimes tortured; sometimes you disappear, sometimes you die.”(emphasis added) Associated Press November 2, 2011
(Editors Note: We have an archived copy of that Associated Press report, as curiously we have noticed over the years how certain items seem to be retrospectively removed from the internet)
Does the exiled Tibetan authority have any other advice or message of support for Tibetans as they endure China’s vicious occupation, witness the ruthless exploitation of Tibet and colonizing erosion of Tibetan culture? Are Tibetans being asked to suffer in silence, be pacifist observers to the destruction of their land and traditions? Or are these comments designed more for the ears of China’s regime, which consistently rages that protests in Tibet are supported, or engineered, by the exiled Tibetan Administration? What next? May we expect Lobsang Sangay to issue appeals to his fellow Tibetans to cooperate with China’s paramilitary forces in Tibet and conform to the dictates of China’s regime?
It’s understandable and compassionate reasoning of course, that your compatriots are not abused and tortured, but in the absence of political activism what alternative form of dissent is Lobsang offering? Should Tibetans sit in blissful meditation, as their national identity and culture is attacked and marginalized? Can we imagine the exiled French Government of De Gaulle urging his French brothers and sisters to comply with the Nazi Occupation of France, in order to avoid the terrors of the Gestapo? Would the leadership of the African National Congress have appealed to the oppressed township of Soweto, not to demonstrate against the brutal injustices of Apartheid, for fear of the consequences? Did the leaders of the resistance movement of East Timor warn their countrymen against demonstrating against Indonesian occupation, worried by the likelihood of violent crackdown?
Nobody wishes to see Tibetans exposed to any further suffering, but we should remember that protest against China’s illegal occupation of Tibet remains the right of the Tibetan people, it is their freedom to determine the nature and course of that struggle. Living directly under the jackbooted realities of China’s rule they know, far more acutely than Lobsang Sangay, the terrifying consequences of opposing China’s tyranny. Yet despite that ever present danger Tibet’s people continue to demonstrate for Tibetan independence, the return of the Dalai Lama and their national and cultural identity.
These facts are obviously known to Lobsang, his compassion and love for his people, and wish that they are not subject to more violence, though entirely understandable, should not be expressed to the exclusion of supporting their courageous and inspiring resistance against China’s tyrannical occupation of Tibet. His comments, issued on behalf of an administration, would have been acceptable, if framed as a personal view, qualified by asserting respect for the decision of Tibetans who take the individual and collective responsibility to protest.
As observed by Irish patriot,Padraig Pearse: “There’s many things more worse than bloodshed and slavery is one of them” clearly Tibetans, after 61 years of Chinese rule, are as determined as ever to break free. While the spectre of torture and prison is a harrowing thought indeed, without political protest Tibetans in Tibet become little more than a complicit, docile ethnic minority of China, but then is not that precisely what their exiled administration is willing to accept, as it seeks minimum autonomy from China?