Recent Events

I’ve been following the recent events in Tibet on all major Western news outlets and on YouTube. One YouTube comment succinctly states my reaction:

Destory[ing] private property and killing innocent civilian is not protest; it is organized crime [and] shall be restrain[ed] by security force. “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” — Ronald Reagan

What’s happening is ethnic violence in its purest, most deplorable form. Original words from a blogger in Lhasa whose photo was selected by the New York Times, but apparently not his observations.

I want to make one thing clear because all of the major news outlets are ignoring a very important fact. Yes, the Chinese government bears a huge amount of blame for this situation. But the protests yesterday were NOT peaceful. The original protests from the past few days may have been, but all of the eyewitnesses in this room agree the protesters yesterday went from attacking Chinese police to attacking innocent people very, very quickly. They appeared to target Muslim and Han Chinese individuals and businesses first but many Tibetans were also caught in the crossfire.

For an account that tells the side of the story often ignored by other Western media, see L.A. Times: Tibet witnesses describe “mayhem everywhere.”

Comments (13)

  1. aquariusmoon

    erm well, those Western media are just reporting what they are supposed to report, which can be quite unrelated with fact.

  2. Emily

    Ultimately media are always telling stories from their own vantage point. Have you by the way noticed the subtle changes in the way Chinese media are dealing with this? Will be interesting to follow too.

  3. E.K.

    I think this article from the Washington Post is relatively neutral

    What They’re Really Fighting for in Tibet


  4. Long Time Reader

    I can see where most of the anti-western-bias anger are coming from. However, one should also note that all the western media did not deny the violent nature of the protest, and you can see pictures and videos on CNN about the violent scenes – many directly edited from CCTV.

    “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

    Completely agreed. However, we must also reject the idea that because protesters resorted to violence, we can deny there are deeper social and political wrongs that caused such protest.

    We must further reject the idea that because western media did not say things we want, our government can block any media access in Tibet, and keep all the government actions there in darkness. You think this will help improve understanding? This kind of action is stupid, backward, and for sure will cause even more suspicions.

    As many Tibet scholars pointed out, China’s Tibet policy has serious problems which directly caused the hatred among Tibetan.

    1. Disrespect of Tibetan unique religion and culture. Unlike other nations that worship abstract figures such as God, Tibetans worship living figures such as Dalai Lama. Despite all the government propaganda, Tibetans still pay high respect to Dalai Lama. Dalai once made a speech saying that monks should not wear animal furs on their clothes, which is a Tibetan tradition (some argue that such furs are like Gucci bags to Chinese), overnight, millions of animal furs were burned by Tibetans. Even the Manchurians in Qing Dynasty knew that in order to rule Hans effectively, they had to respect Confucian thoughts. But Chinese government flatly ignores the Tibetans’ dignity, and believe that economic subsidy will conquer any religion faith (because we have no faith, we think it should be easy for others to give up theirs, with the right incentives). Before the violence took place, the government launched a massive campaign forcing the monks to publicly denounce Dalai Lama, which aroused their strong anger.

    2. Refuse to talk with Dalai Lama. Chinese media painted Dalai as a separatist. However, any person with some Tibet knowledge would know that Dalia Lama does not support Tibet Independence. In fact, he only asks for more autonomy rights, and more representative rights of local Tibetans in the government. He repeatedly announced in public about his quest of peace and talk with Chinese government. But his “middle road” policy got no response from Chinese government. He is getting old, the Chinese government just want to wait till he dies, hoping that way Tibet will lose a powerful spiritual leader, therefore the Tibetan government in exile will loose its influence. Chinese government clearly knows that Dalai is not responsible for the radical violence of some younger generation dissidents, but the current propropaganda still blame all faults on Dalai, why? Because the government fears about much more than the radicals. Radicals can e easily handled by armies, but Dalai’s moral power and international influence is much more powerful. The government hopes that by painting Dalai as the organizer of the violence, he will lose his moral power. But, is that hope realistic? At least the international media is not buying the story – although some stupid Chinese nationalists do, as they are educated to see the world in black and white.

    3. Rely on small group of local Tibetan party officials to rule Tibetans. The central government is indeed generous in giving money to Tibet, local Tibetan officials kept asking money from central government, and telling them that as long as you give me more money, i will keep situation in control and play down Dalai’s influence. The central government never really know the true situation in Tibet. Local party officials did not want peace, and will try their bst to stop Dalai from coming back to Tibet peacefully, because by then they will lose power, and lose leverage to ask for m ore money from central government. current situation is exactly the result of the local party officials’ blackmail policy.

    Will Tbet issue go away after Dalai died?

    The government certainly wishes so. However, many other scholars disagree. In fact, it is predicted that before or after Dalai died, there will be even more violence in Tibet, because Tibetans think it is because the Chinese government’s policy that Dalai could not return back to Tibet. The radicals can easily incite millions of Tibetans to go on the streets by using Dalai’s death.

    I once asked a Tibetan how Tibetans feel about Chinese media calling Dalai Lama a “wolf”, and “a devil with human skin”, he said, it makes Tibetans blood boil.

    How quickly have we forgotten the pain of Japanese invasion? Unique ethnic groups have their pride, which cannot be bought by money. Japanese invested huge money into China’s Dong Bei, the infrastructures then were even better than those in Japan. But will Chinese be happy to subject to Japanese ruling? Even Japanese would establish a puppet Nanjing government ruled by Chinese, why we could not recognize Tibet’s special situation and grant certain degree of autonomy? Hu Yaobang’s soft policy was in fact much better than today, and were more accepted by Tibetans. Hopefully, China will have the political wisdom to resolve Tibet issue peacefully.

    BTW, sometimes I am just amused to see a lot of overseas Chinese, who became even more nationalistic then they were in China. They wasted all their education in the U.S., because they still did not learn to see things in different angles. It is indeed sad.

  5. democracy

    I totally agree with the opinion of long time reader. Different nations have different faiths and religions. Never force others to do what they hate to do. Communist Party should be smarter!

  6. Xiao

    hi, littlenorth, I have always been seriously troubled by what “good citizenship” means for those Chinese people who are rational, consciouentious, yet deeply affectionate towards their country. It is easy to live happily if one is concerned with his/her small world. Yet it is so hard to be a righteous person, a “junzi” who lives his belief and philosophy, especially for a Chinese.

    Just some random thoughts. Hope u understand what i am talking about.

  7. Long Time Reader











  8. littlenorth

    To LTR: I read the same news articles and editorials as you do so there is no need to enlighten me with regurgitated or straight quotes from pieces that you buy into. To use a radical analogy, the difference between you and me, my friend, is that while you have renounced the old faith that was imposed upon you and wholeheartedly embraced a new belief, I’ve become an atheist and learned to be skeptical of both the old and the new. What’s “indeed sad,” is that one can simultaneously tout the “different angle” while not tolerating others who have an angle that’s different from his own.

    Re: Tibet issue. I have no intention of going into a debate on the Tibet issue proper. What I wrote above was an observation on the purportedly neutral observers. In the West, it is all too easy and even fashionable to demonize an unpopular figure such as the Chinese government (or Microsoft, or Bush), but I happen to believe that there is no right side in the recent violence. Any discussion that proceeds upon a romanticized version of Tibet and a caricatured image of the Chinese government will be inherently biased and unproductive.

    To Xiao: I think I know what you are talking about. I think that there are at least two types of people who are equally righteous and deserve to be called “junzi.” One type of people criticize the game as unfair and suggest constructive and intelligent ways to improve it; the other type join the game themselves and hope to rise to a position that empowers them to change the rules of the game for the better, often upon the advice of the former. The former is called scholars, the latter calls themselves politicians. Then there are also those who do little more than crying foul from afar. They are called dissidents.

  9. Xiao

    Then a dissident I am. It’s just so hard to be the other two kinds. Frustrating, isn’t it?

  10. littlenorth

    no, xiao, you are not, and it is not hard, and it doesn’t have to be frustrating. it has to do with our level of expectation. it may be hard for any single individual to change the whole institution, so don’t expect that, but it is still relatively easy to make small, incremental improvements within our individual capabilities. but then it is even easier to fingerpoint and badmouth without doing anything constructive and substantive. if JFK’s famous quote can be butchered to adapt to the Chinese situation, it should read: ask not what your country has done you wrong, ask what you can do your country right.

  11. Long Time Reader

    Little North, I was not trying to enlighten you (if I was, I apparently failed). I was trying to speak out from a different or under-represented angle. I did not deny the violence you mentioned, nor did I say the so-called “new belief” is perfect, which you always seem to assume I did.
    Your point is that violence is wrong, no matter what. My point is that there is a deeper wrong that caused the violence, and called for a wiser reaction by the government in the future. I also said I felt sad that some overseas young Chinese failed to see these points (I was referring to an angry Youtube video posted by a Chinese student in Canada about “Tibet was, is and will always be part of China”, if that’s what upset you). Maybe that’s what you always know but didn’t bother to say, but there is nothing wrong for me to say it. In fact I further disagree with you that talking n these issues are useless.
    No need to enlighten you that we as human being all feel the impulse to express ourselves (the reason for your blog) and freedom of speech is an integral part of democracy. The more important point is that before making any systematic changes, a society needs to allow open discussion of the problems it has, and build a consensus on how to act. Sure we cannot “talk away” the problems, without free and open discussion of the issues, there can never be a real solution acceptable to different interest groups. The danger as I see now is that Chinese government kept playing the violence video on TV and blocked all media investigation, which only blurred the real issue, increased hatred between Han and Tibet.
    Allow my unsolicited “enlightening” again by an example; two brothers were fighting hard to split one orange, each arguing he deserves to get all of it. Finally, they had to split in half. After they went back to each’s home, the bigger brother used the peel to add flavor to his drinks and thrown the fruit away, the younger brother ate the fruit and deserted the peel. Had they allowed exchanging information about their intention in the first place, each could have got far better results. This small story represents many problems China is facing today.
    On several occasions you seem to be implying that others just “fingerpoint and badmouth without doing anything constructive and substantive”. I found it interesting. Are you implying you are the one doing all the “right things” for the country, and others disagree with you are just regurgitating garbage? Based on what facts you draw such an arrogant conclusion, your “prestigious” Michigan diploma, or your well-paid NYC law firm job to-be? Is this the toleration you praised, or is this unfair demonization of your opponents in a debate? If talking and sharing of information is of no use, why did you raise this issue in the first place?
    Tibet issue. “In the West, it is all too easy and even fashionable to demonize an unpopular figure such as the Chinese government (or Microsoft, or Bush).”
    You failed to mention why Chinese government is unpopular. Again there is an information asymmetry here, we Chinese saw the violence of Tibetan beating up Han, Tibetans and western media have seen too many scenes of Chinese police shooting Tibetans, and reported case of political suppression in Tibet. Each now have a different perspective on things. I was offering an account of the other side of the story, and calling for a constructive dialogue.
    “I happen to believe that there is no right side in the recent violence. Any discussion that proceeds upon a romanticized version of Tibet and a caricatured image of the Chinese government will be inherently biased and unproductive.”
    I was not “romanticizing” Tibet, just pointing out the deeper reasons of violence and call for better solution. I am also not caricaturing Chinese government. All I said or quoted are factual assertions, which can be further investigated or debated. One may disagree by raising contrary facts/arguments, but it does not help to just labeling it as “caricatured image”. You think Tibet issue will go away if the western media can be “neutral” toward Chinese government? Your smart comments only served to suppress serious discussion on the real issues. Perhaps that’s what you want – you “have no intention of going into a debate on the Tibet issue”.

  12. littlenorth

    LTR, this discussion is a prime example of how misunderstanding can occur even in the most unexpected places. We both agree the there is a side of the story that often goes unheard, and that it needs to be heard, but you seem to believe that Chinese government propaganda overwhelms the opposition everywhere. That may be true in China, and I am frustrated by that (and the ban on foreign journalists in Tibet), but that is not the case where we live. Here in the U.S. I see the situation reversed, with China getting the whole share of the blame on the recent violence (gladly, only until recently), and I don’t think it’s fair.

    It is not fair to condemn the government for breaking off the negotiations without mentioning Dalai Lama’s unrelenting demand for a greater Tibet that covers 1/3 of China, which, regardless of legal merits, is a political impossibility. It is also unfair to accuse the government of cultural and economic colonialism without accounting for the fact that economic development and modernization, which the Tibetans seem to want, comes as a practical matter with a change in the way of life that even the Han Chinese is not immune to. It is even more unfair to on the one hand advocate for freedom and liberty for all, yet at the same time lash out anger against the Chinese immigrants who exercised whatever little right they had to migrate within the border.

    I have no intention of going into a debate on the Tibet issue, because from what you wrote above I see you acting as an advocate for one side, and I have no intention of acting as such. There is no right side in a violence where each points to the other as the perpetrator and where both sides have some rational basis for their assertion (think Israel and Palestine). Anyone who thinks the Tibet issue is cut-and-dry good versus evil proceeds upon a faulty perception, but unfortunately the one-sided, good versus evil image is exactly what the Western media portrayed, at least in the first few days after the event.

    Regarding your comments on me personally: I hope what I conveyed was more about my frustration and skepticism rather than arrogance. I have very little ambition and do not expect to do anything extraordinary, much less claim to “do all the right things for the country.” What I do hope, however, is that when there is already a barrage of criticism leveled against the country, some less justified than others, our effort is better directed at something other than joining the chorus, because that would be too easy. People like us are advantaged in that we can make little things happen while few non-Chinese are able or even willing to do anything beyond talking and finger-pointing. If I come across as arrogant, I apologize; if you think I regard a Michigan diploma as prestigious, or that school prestige has any relevance in my personal universe, you are wrong; if you think a first job at a law firm is indication of one’s lack of commitment to the public good, you have just cast doubt on a good number of American law professors and government lawyers.

  13. Long Time Reader

    Little North,

    Regarding those substantive comments, I guess in the end, we can agree to disagree. Indeed as you said, we should hear both sides of the story (your information about greater Tibet demand from Dalai Lama was new to me), but I think the pre-condition to that, is to allow free flow of information. There is a difference between the western and China’s bias. The western bias is caused by ideology difference and lack of information. The bias in China is caused by suppression of information by the government.

    A society needs its dissidents. Their open discussion and criticism force the government to face the issue instead of covering it up. Without their criticism, the government’s power has no boundary. Since few internal dissidents can make themselves heard in China without heavy personal cost, a western media bias maybe a good external dissidents with low cost. These external dissidents may be wrong and biased sometimes, but things don’t go skewed too much as they also allow the other side to speak up, and treat them with basic civility and respect.

    As we were debating, Beijing allowed selected media to enter into Tibet. Regardless of how tightly they are monitored while conducting interviews, it is a progress. Such progress may not be voluntary, and might not even happen if not for the pressure from the western media and politicians. Same for Beijing’s active involvement in Darfur human rights crisis after international criticism.

    Re my comments on you personally, please don’t take it seriously, I didn’t mean it.

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