March 25, 2008 ☼ China ☼ Communists ☼ fisking ☼ Foreign Affairs ☼ India ☼ international relations ☼ Left ☼ Maoists ☼ media ☼ politics ☼ Security ☼ Tibet
This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.
As expected, the The Hindu has published an entirely one-sided editorial supporting Beijing and condemning the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans. Why it took so long to come might not even be a mystery, in this age of instantaneous international communications, considering that Beijing decided to go on the media offensive after an initial period of censorship and silence. Now that The Hindu should take a pro-Beijing editorial line is acceptable, even if it is extremely disagreeable.
What is especially flagrant about the newspaper’s recent coverage is an insidious, misleading and grossly flawed attempt to cast China’s repression of Tibet favourably in comparison to various political conflicts in India.
If you go by western media reports, the propaganda of the so-called ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’…Tibet is in the throes of a mass democratic uprising against Han Chinese communist rule…The reality is that the riot that broke out in Lhasa on March 14 and claimed a confirmed toll of 22 lives involved violent, ransacking mobs, including 300 militant monks from the Drepung Monastery, who marched in tandem with a foiled ‘March to Tibet’ by groups of monks across the border in India…There was violence also in Tibetan ethnic areas in the adjacent provinces of Gansu and Sichuan, which, according to official estimates, took an injury toll of more than 700. [The Hindu]
There’s intellectual dishonesty right from the start. The editorial begins by conflating the uprising with non-violent protests and implies that because there was violence, reports of an uprising are mere propaganda. The earliest international media reports, filed by The Economist’s James Miles, who ‘just happened to be in Lhasa’ reported violence. Acknowledging this, the Dalai Lama himself has gone to the extreme of threatening to step down if violence continued. The fact that the protests turned violent is not disputed. What the The Hindu needs to explain is that if the Tibetan protests were not for freedom then what were they for? Surely, the violent, ransacking mobs were not out on the streets protesting against inflation!
As evidence accumulates, the realisation dawns that it is too much to expect any legitimate government of a major country to turn the other cheek to such savagery and breakdown of public order.
Another deliberate miscasting of the issue: few would disagree with the notion that the governments have a duty to maintain law and order. So the issue is not that China put down the protests, but how it did so. Were ordinary riot police used or the armed police called in? Were batons, water cannons and tear gas used, or were real bullets used? The Hindu does not tell its readers. Neither does Beijing.
So there is a shift in the key demand made on China: it must ‘initiate’ a dialogue with the Dalai Lama to find a sustainable political solution in Tibet.
But this is precisely what China has done for over three decades. The framework of the political solution is there for all to see. There is not a single government in the world that either disputes the status of Tibet; or does not recognise it as a part of the People’s Republic of China; or is willing to accord any kind of legal recognition to the Dalai Lama’s ‘government-in-exile.’ This situation certainly presents a contrast to the lack of an international consensus on the legal status of Kashmir.Here The Hindu is contradicting itself—if not a single country disputes Tibet’s being a part of China, how does a “shift in the key demand” come about? The demand on China has always been that it should honour the pledge of autonomy it made after it annexed the territory in 1951. The Hindu’s attempt to cast China as a victim of the changing demands of the international community simply does not wash.
It was unnecessary to drag Kashmir into this discussion. As pointed out in a recent post, the analogy is bogus. But it is still pertinent to directly counter the point about why there is international consensus on the legal status of Tibet, but not on that of Kashmir. That is simply because India does not claim Tibet as part of its territory, as Pakistan claims Kashmir. International consensus has got more to do with competing claimant states rather anything else. In any case, perhaps The Hindu could tell its readers the names of countries that recognise the government of “Azad” Kashmir?
The real problem arises from two demands pressed by the Dalai Lama. The first is his concept of ‘high-level’ or ‘maximum’ autonomy in line with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. The Chinese government points out that this is applicable only to Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, and that the kind of autonomy that the Dalai Lama demanded in November 2005 cannot possibly be accommodated within the Chinese Constitution.
This is a fantastic argument. Simply put, The Hindu argues that Tibet cannot have autonomy that Hong Kong and Macao have, because the Chinese government says so!
Secondly, the 2.6 million Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which constitutes one-eighth of China’s territory, form only 40 per cent of the total population of Tibetans in China. The Chinese government makes the perfectly reasonable point that acceptance of the demand for ‘Greater Tibet’ or ‘one administrative entity’ for all 6.5 million ethnic Tibetans means breaking up Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces, doing ethnic re-engineering, if not ‘cleansing’, and causing enormous disruption and damage to China’s society and political system. This demand too is ruled out, as any comparable demand to break up States in India would be.
The Hindu doesn’t look back at recent history and tell you is just how Tibetans came to be split among so many Chinese provinces in the first place. And looking ahead, it defies imagination that an argument for an autonomous province should automatically lead to ethnic cleansing. There was no ethnic cleansing in Hong Kong and Macao.
The argument about breaking up Indian States being ruled out is so bizarre that it’s amazing that it should even be made. Looking back, in 1956 at a time when China was ‘civilising’ Tibet, Indian States were reorganised on a linguistic basis for the some of the same reasons as Tibetans are fighting for. And it was only a few years ago that Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand were created—again to fulfill local aspirations. Political pundits predict that there will be more such States in the decades ahead. If anything, the Indian model demonstrates clearly that ethnic and cultural aspirations can be fulfilled under a federal set-up. Why, Jammu & Kashmir not only enjoys special status, but will continue to do so as part of the eventual settlement of the peace process. It is deeply disturbing that the editorial board of a once-respected publication, that calls itself India’s national newspaper, should have such a poor understanding of Indian history and political values.
So what does The Hindu have by way of policy suggestions: “The time has come for India to pressure (the Dalai Lama) to get real about the future of Tibet — and engage in a sincere dialogue with Beijing to find a reasonable, just, and sustainable political solution within the framework of one China”. To use a phrase from the editorial: “but this is precisely what India has done for over three decades.”
Related Post: N Ram’s earlier hatchet job on the Dalai Lama
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