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Monday, October 26, 2009

Why is China scared

A special ritual of life in Dharamsala is welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to his exile home. A victory banner is strung over the road as a multinational crowd pours into the lanes of Mcleodganj and down Temple Road to His Holiness’ residence, waiting for a glimpse of the great spiritual master and honorary citizen of India, waving from the window of a vehicle escorted by a crack team of Indian commandos.
The Dalai Lama never seems to rest; he just returned from North America, to commence a week of teachings on the Diamond Sutra and the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. It’s impossible to find a hotel room — Dharamsala quivers from the weight of tourists and pilgrims from five continents who have come to this refugee town in Himachal Pradesh to touch a piece of old Tibet that fell upon this hillside 50 years ago.
There is disquiet among Tibetan refugees and their supporters over escalating Chinese repression in Tibet and Beijing’s success in pressuring world leaders to back off from the Tibet issue.
Last month United States President Barack Obama declined to meet the Dalai Lama as it would upset the Chinese Communist Party bosses in Beijing. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said: “The stronger relationship that we have with China benefits the Tibetan people.” A statement so credulous, or cynical, it seems to have been crafted expressly by the Beijing bureau of propaganda.
The grim reality of life in China’s Tibet is told in every corner of this refugee town, especially at the Gu Chu Sum Society created by ex-political prisoners from Tibet. The office stairwell is lined with drawings depicting the torture Tibetan nationalists endured in Chinese custody. One man was hung by his ankles for hours and whipped with barbed wire. Another had his legs and arms broken, was tossed into a sewage pit and pelted with rocks. A Buddhist nun was repeatedly raped with an electric cattle prod.
This is how China governs Tibet, and the most dangerous outcome of Mr Obama’s refusal to meet the Dalai Lama is the message it sends to the Chinese Communist Party: that their barbarous rule in Tibet can continue without impediment, that they can proceed with the plunder of Tibet’s lands and the yoking of Tibet’s rivers.
China has made the mere mention of Tibet so toxic that delegates at last month’s climate change summit in Bangkok refused to address climate change on the Tibetan plateau and its deleterious effect on the rivers of nation states in south and southeast Asia, hardly a small matter.
Control of the Tibetan plateau and its vast riches is a priority for Hu Jintao’s government. Since March 2008, China has mobilised an estimated 50,000 troops along the Tibet-India border, while protesting against visits by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh and excising Kashmir from India in a new map and website. China is supplying Nepal with aid and weaponry, which fuels the advance of Maoist insurgencies across India. Himachal This Week just ran a two-page story on Chinese spies working in Dharamsala, with a timeline of a decade of arrests and confessions of agents with plans to attack the Dalai Lama.
Why does Beijing so fear this gentle Tibetan Buddhist master and purveyor of the Gandhian legacy of non-violence? On October 1, 2009, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated 60 years of one-party rule with a Cold War parade of massive weaponry and Maoist sloganeering. On October 2, India paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 140th birth anniversary with an inter-faith service at New Delhi’s Gandhi Smriti. Dr Singh sat upon the grass amid citizens and guests as prayers from all religions were read and sung, then scattered rose petals on the site of the Mahatma’s martyrdom with quiet dignity.
These twin ceremonies just a day apart reveal the vast gap between Mao’s and Gandhi’s visions of power. His Holiness the Dalai Lama calls Gandhi his political guru and has steadfastly pursued the path of ahimsa with the Chinese Communists who call him “an incestuous murderer with evil intentions”. But the Dalai Lama has not been broken. Witness him upon his lama’s throne, imparting the wisdom of the Buddha into the golden light of the Kangra Valley, to students from Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos, whose sanghas were laid waste by the Communists, who regard him as the Living Buddha.
“Look how much power China has, and they are so paranoid, they take such desperate measures to keep politicians away from the Dalai Lama,” says celebrated Tibetan poet Tenzing Tsundue. “The Dalai Lama has no aircraft, no money, he’s a refugee. China has weapons and banks, but they are terrified of this simple monk who wants to make peace with them. It shows their great insecurity. Our power lies in our faith in non-violence. The Tibet movement is still here after 50 years. We continue to inspire the people of the world who are looking for solutions to violence and conflict.”

* Maura Moynihan is a writer and Tibet expert who has worked with Tibetan refugees in India for many years. Now based in New York, she is researching a book on America’s
failed China policy.

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