By Thubten Samphel, Tibet Policy Institute
When you run out of arguments, you resort to name-calling. China is doing just that. It compares His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Hitler and the Tibetan proposal to regulate the flow of Chinese settlers onto the plateau as a Holocaust, an act of the Nazis. This was splashed on the 24 March edition of China Tibet Online and other state news organs. Mighty China, the next superpower, bristling with military hardware and awashed in hard cash, equating a lone exile to Hitler, the man who started World War II, made international news.
In a way comparing the Tibetan leader to Hitler is a bit of a demotion. Earlier on, Zhang Qingli, the previous party secretary of the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ famously called the Tibetan leader ‘a devil with a human face and a heart of a beast.’ In terms of name- calling, you can’t rise higher or stoop lower than that.
In any struggle, name- calling is a political tool. It serves two purposes. It paints your opponent in the blackest light. It is like giving a dog a bad name and hanging it. People are warned. They are served notice that the two sides have irreconcilable differences. Associate with the other side at the risk of your own life. Who wants to side with the devil or Hitler? We don’t know about the devil, but Hitler lost the last world war.
Name-calling serves another purpose. It shifts blame and responsibility. While all Tibet is burning, why is the Chinese Communist Party screaming? The party’s scream distracts attention away from its massive policy failure in Tibet. After more than 60 years of China’s ‘liberation’ of Tibet and more than 50 years of its crushing of the Tibetan uprising in 1959, why are individual Tibetans willing to make fiery sacrifices for the idea of freedom and the return of their most revered native to his homeland?
Running out of arguments and policy options, the party points fingers and indulges in the blaming and shaming game. Instead of discussing the real issue of why so many Tibetans are setting themselves on fire, name- calling gets people side-tracked. Is the Dalai Lama really like Hitler? And did he actually force so many young innocent Tibetans to set themselves on fire? Did the Dalai Lama do long- distance hypnotism on these young, benighted souls? How interesting? How intriguing? In this way a burning issue that needs serious discussion and review is reduced to a mere gossip and idle chatter And this is further muddied by thousands of paid party hacks who on blogs insinuate, berate, confuse and insert the party line on Tibet and collect their due from their paymaster.
Deflection is an art. Reducing a serious problem to flippancy is another. The Chinese Communist Party excels at both. This art is also a sign of weakness. It means you’ve lost control. Having lost control, Chinese Communist Party brings in the big guns to suppress and goes on a propaganda blitz to justify that repression to the Chinese people and the world.
The Tibetan leader might be a convenient scapegoat for all China’s Tibet problems but refusing to acknowledge these serious problems and take hard decisions today does not solve these problems. It postpones them to the next generation of leaders, who might be even more hampered than those governing China today. This kind of passing the buck to the next generation of leaders is no way to govern China.
The writer is the Executive Director of Tibet Policy Institute of Central Tibetan Administration.
(The views expressed here are that of the author and shall not be regarded as views and policies of Central Tibetan Administration.)