“Dalai Lama As A Slave Owner”
By Bhuchung D. Sonam
It is basic human nature to accuse, name-call and to use strange
analogies when you have an internal crisis that cannot be solved.
Beijing has been under the spell of this abnormal behaviour for a long
time. The problem is that it does not want to look for a permanent
cure. Instead it wants to remain in this irksome state.
First it was Zhang Qingli, the Party chief in Tibet, who called the
Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk’s clothes, a devil with a human face.” Zhang
was, perhaps, seeing the world’s revered icon through skewed glasses
issued by Beijing. In May 2009, while speaking to a large crowd at MIT
in Boston, the Tibetan leader formed two horns with his fingers and
said, “A demon with compassion is not bad after all.” Laughter boomed
across the hall.
On November 12, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang,
described the Nobel Laureate as “the former head of a slave state.” “In
1959, China abolished the feudal serf system just as President Lincoln
freed the black slaves,” he said. Let’s get what Qin is saying − the
PRC is analogous to Abraham Lincoln; and Old Tibet comparable to the
slavery of black Americans.
Before China’s occupation in 1959, Tibet was neither the ‘Nectar-filled
Shangri-la’ of foreign fantasy nor a total serfdom as Beijing claims.
It was a viable independent nation with its own army, currency, legal
and taxation systems. Like any other nation, it had problems too − such
as lack of modern education and economic infrastructure. It is also
true that many Tibetan peasants worked on estates of the rich
land-owning families and monasteries, for which they were paid, and
they enjoyed freedom and had comfortable rapport with their employers.
It was a relationship quite similar to today’s workers at large
factories. If such a system is called serfdom, as Beijing does, and
compared with black slavery in America before 1865, then pretty much
the whole world practiced a kind of slavery.
President Abraham Lincoln’s War of Independence and eventual
abolishment of slavery in the US was based on the principle of basic
human equality and the urgent need to assert such rights. Lincoln
signed the Emancipation Proclamation and later made the Thirteenth
Amendment to the United States’ Constitution which “officially
abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude,
except as punishment for a crime.” It was adopted on December 6, 1865.
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is
wrong,” Lincoln said. China’s coming into Tibet was neither a war of
independence nor ‘liberation’ from the onset. It was an illegal
annexation of an independent country. Beijing’s gifts were the death of
over a million Tibetans, destruction of thousands of monasteries and
making the Tibetans sign the 17-Point Agreement under duress.
Beijing’s record in China is not much brighter. In Mao: The Unknown Story,
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday estimate that over 70 million people died
in China by 1976. To add to this are mauling of its students in
Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the countless crackdowns on poor rural
people, and the execution of political prisoners in Tibet and East
Turkestan (Chinese: Xinjiang).
Despite its economic growth, today’s China is no fairer than serfdom, Beijing is loudly shouting about. In The Dark Side of China’s Rise,
Minxin Pei writes that Beijing oversees a vast patronage system that
secures the loyalty of supporters and allocates privileges to favored
groups. “The party appoints 81 percent of the chief executives of
state-owned enterprises and 56 percent of all senior corporate
In recent times there were cases of ugly racism in China, where individuals were targeted because of their skin colour. The Wall Street Journal
reports Hung Huang, a publisher, writer and one of China’s most famous
media personalities as saying, “It pains me to see that a people who
themselves were discriminated against by the West and called ‘the sick
man of Asia,’ would have such short memories, and start discriminating
against groups that are in a disadvantaged position.”
Lincoln said that blacks had the rights to “life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness” and his legacy is putting an end to slavery and
giving the blacks a permanent freedom in the US.
The opposite can be said about China’s record in Tibet which includes
the denial of basic rights resulting in the 2008 peaceful protests in
Tibet; arbitrary arrests and the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama
Gendun Nyima and writer-blogger Kunga Tsangyang among many others.
Qin Gang’s analogy about slavery and Lincoln is a new addition to
China’s long list of propaganda designed to hide the fact that “beyond
the new high-rises and churning factories lie rampant corruption, vast
waste, and an elite with little interest in making things better.”
For a “former slave owner” Dalai Lama is doing very well. Apart from
being a Nobel Laureate, the Tibetan leader is a respected spiritual
teacher and tirelessly works to promote non-violence and equal rights
based on respect and genuine compassion.
Qin said, “So we hope President Obama more than any other foreign state
leader can have a better understanding on China’s position on opposing
the Dalai’s splitting activities.”
Obama, being a man of conscience and a new Nobel Laureate, has the power to stop Beijing’s meaningless lectures.