“In Tibet we freed the serfs, and how are American friends not able to understand this? This is also a human rights issue. If you look at it from Lincoln’s point of view, he would have approved of China overturning the serfdom system in Tibet.” Minister Yang Xiaodu at China’s 19th Communist Party Congress. Reuters Report October 19. 2017
Let’s introduce some key facts to counter this fallacious falsehood peddled by Mr Yang Xiaodu
Firstly while no analogy is ever truly perfect, a comparison between Tibet and the plight of Africans who were enslaved, transported from their homelands and brutalized as slaves in the United States is thoroughly inaccurate and cannot be sustained in any logical fashion. President Lincoln in bringing to an end slavery was returning freedom to a people which had been forced into that misery by colonial powers, African traders and of course European colonizers of North America. Who while viciously exploiting black people were waging a war of cultural genocide against the First Nations!
Since Mr Yang Xiaodu appreciates drawing parallels he would be be on safer ground to examine the similarities between the plight of native peoples (who were slaughtered, enslaved and marginalized by aggressive and greed driven colonialist invaders) and Tibetans, who since China invaded in 1950 have been subjected to a program of cultural genocide and assimilation.
Regarding this notion of ‘serfdom’, it has to be said, that beyond the unquestioning automata of China’s regime, there exist an interesting minority of folks who appear uncritical believers of China’s propaganda line on Tibet as some supposedly backward and oppressed culture, ruled over by an exploitative elite. Subscribers to that thinking may consider, in subscribing to such claims, themselves as firmly planted upon an objective middle ground between the odious realities of China’s rule in Tibet and the alternative narrative offered by those dismissing such as crude propaganda. That position though is a delusion, as with tyranny and the illegal occupation of a nation, there is no ‘golden mean’ of understanding.
Nor is China’s invasion of Tibet, and subsequent vicious assault upon Tibetan culture, justified by arguments drawn from colonialist attitudes, concealing the expansionist aggression and injustices of the invading imperialists with a hogwash of lies about improving the lot of the ”natives’! The same ‘reasoning’ would no doubt be used by the ignorant or misinformed in defense of the treatment dished out to the indigenous peoples of the USA, Canada or Australia!
Tibetan culture like all others had inequalities, it was centered upon Buddhism, moreover traditionally its population was almost entirely nomadic, with families enjoying a high degree of freedom across the vast Tibetan landscape. Yes, there were obligations concerning tax to monasteries, beggars could be seen on the streets of Lhasa, and it’s true to say that political power rested with an elite. However no country yet has evolved a system of governance or economy in which social stratification or disadavantage is absent.
As a Minister of the Chinese regime Mr Yang Xiaodu will be acutely aware that, given the immense hardships which are suffered by millions across China. He should know also that while no do doubt injustices and corruption occured in Tibet, when comparing the misery, death, oppression and atrocities generated by his beloved communist Chinese ideology, with the Buddhist culture of Tibet it’s not difficult to regard Tibetan society as being based upon values of compassion and individual freedom. That does not claim any perfect society but one that cannot, unlike communist China be held responsible for the deaths and suffering of untold millions.