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Amid the Chinese government stepping up claims that the Dalai Lama wants to foment a violent uprising in Tibet – including allegations today that they discovered an arms cache in a Tibetan monestary (link: http://www.reuters.com/article… ), the Dalai Lama gave a forceful reply last Friday.
He didn’t call them the Evil Empire. He didn’t say they were members of the Axis of Evil.
He said, “we are not anti-Chinese”.
The full interview can be found at MSNBC’s website here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21…
In fact uh soon after crises happen. I express now, of course the expression of uh defeating is the freedom of expression or speech. However, we must carry these strictly non-violence. If people indulge violence, and violence become out of control, then my option is, my choice is, I resign.
You resign as Dalai Lama?
uh, Dalai Lama I don’t know. (LAUGHTER)
Resign as what?
Resign from responsibility of our struggle. As early as– ’87, ’88 I remember, is– one of my close friend, Jonathan Mirsky. I think, London Observer, sort of correspondent. He, at that time, ask, “If things become more violent, then what do you do?” And I immediately responded, “If the violence become out of control uh there is no other choice except, resign.” I told. So, this once more I repeated this. And it makes uh seems to some effect, some Tibetan. Uh then (pause) then also uh I appeal Chinese community all over the world, and particularly in mainland China. We are not anti-Chinese. We always respect and admire this Chinese civilization and Chinese people. And, as a Tibetan, almost 2,000 years we live side by side. Occasionally, some unfortunate event also there. But most cases we live happily. So, therefore, and also, as a Buddhist monk, I always consider our Chinese Buddhist brothers, sisters as a elder student of uh Buddha. We are younger. Whenever I give some teaching to our Chinese brother, sisters, I always firstly, sharing my respect. I’m junior, or younger student. Or, occasionally, I also make joke. Maybe as I knowledge is concerned, junior student may be little better. (LAUGHTER) So. So, emotionally, also you see, they very close. I always admire. And then, in– as a matter of fact, some people from China– most populated nation.
So, we must respect. We must accept that reality. Some kind of negative feeling towards them is useless, unjust. And then, also, they, what say they, what what call they uh Olympic Game. Right from the beginning, I support that ancient nation, most public nation, now, really deserve to host for this uh world famous Olympic game. And then after now this well, what do you want to call uh Olympic to, tore– torch.
Admiration for the people of China. Respect for their ancient culture. This isn’t the sabre-rattling the world is accustomed to.
But if China isn’t the enemy, who – or what – is?
In order to understand that, a small background on the nonviolent mindset is in order. Most practitioners of nonviolence see problems, and indeed all facets of human existance, as inter-connected. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr.
“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
That mindset produces two outcomes. The first is the recognition that injustice is systemic, it does not occur in a vacuum. King saw most injustice as a combination of what he termed the Triple Evils of racism, poverty and war (or violence). Therefore, when a practioner of nonviolence sees the riots in Lhasa and subsequent crack-down, and the arrest of Hu Jia for the crime of posting essays on his blog, and when you read reports of people – including ethnic Chinese – being forceably evicted from their homes to make way for Olympic construction, and see the suppression of religion and abuses against members of Falun Gong, you look at this situation and see the common thread of systemic injustice binding these events.
Then you dig deeper and notice the lack of an independent press that can challenge the government without fear of reprisal, the censorship of information available on the internet to common citizens, and the harrassment of journalists as chronicled here by Human Rights Watch, you see one of the underlying causes of these abuses:
Chinese journalists continue to risk severe repercussions for pursuing stories that touch on officially taboo subjects or threaten powerful private interests. Miao Wei, former executive editor of Sanlian Life Weekly, confirmed in April that he had been demoted in connection with a cover story on the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Lan Chengzhang, a reporter with China Trade News, was murdered in January while investigating an illegal coalmine in Datong, Shanxi province. In mid-August five journalists, including a reporter from the party mouthpiece People’s Daily, were interviewing witnesses to the Fenghuang bridge collapse in Hunan province when plainclothes thugs interrupted the interviews and kicked and punched the journalists, who were then detained by police.
The Dalai Lama touched on this underlying cause later in his interview:
Now, there’s Hu Jintao uh very much emphasis– the importance of uh build harmonious society. That is, I think, very sort of I think, very– I think, very right, according to new reality. Now, economy, prosperity, these things are– and going well. Now, important is this get rich and poor, reduce. And then also, the different ethnic, including Tibetan, including national, I don’t know, whatever you call, the unity, harmony is very essential. Now, for that, they equality. I think, the harmony, very much based on trust. Without trust, we fear. Harmony is impossible. A trust must develop. For trust, more freedom, more equality. Let them speak. Or, Chairman Mao, see, often used to say the Communist Party, without self-criticism, and criticism from other cannot survive. Like fish without water. Once, says Chairman Mao, only he himself not very sincerely practice these things. But I think, these are really wonderful.
Like any good twelve-step program, weaning ourselves away from those systems that propagate injustice means acknowledging the problems exist, and that cannot be done in an environment where public discussion of these problems is taboo, forcing them into the whispered world of rumor and gossip. A society can only solve its problems when clear facts about these problems are available, otherwise it will continue flailing in the dark, unable to find any way forward.
Now, Americans, fellow Westerners, let’s not pat ourselves on the back. With all of our openness human rights abuses still occur in our democratic society, most notably in Iraq and Gitmo. We also – through our business practices – bolster these same human rights abuses occuring in China right now. We have not been the leaders in demanding workers protections and environmental protections in our trade agreements, and even when demanded we have been lax in enforcing these parts of our trade agreements. As this report from Human Rights Watch clearly states:
Finally, the examples presented here indicate that many companies have not yet ascribed to business standards addressing human rights or disregard codes of conduct or company commitments to social responsibility, where they exist. Taken together with the rest of the analysis in this report, the clear conclusion is that existing efforts to address the impacts of business activities on human rights are insufficient.
Our country’s stubborn refusal to allow any regulation of business by a supranational body just aids and abets the human rights abuses arising from poor business practices. And let’s be clear, as Americans we benefit from all of this by cheaper consumer goods.
And all of that American money flowing back into the Chinese government underwrites the genocide in Darfur.
It is time for us to put our money where our mouths are.
But I digress.
All of this illustrates the second outcome of a nonviolent mindset. Again, quoting Dr. King:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We must speak out against injustice as it occurs. We must seize the time when events allow us to demand that the injustice end, so a true peace – a true harmony – can be achieved.
The situation in Tibet is a symptom of a larger problem. And it isn’t just a problem of the Chinese government, it is also a problem of American foreign and economic policy.
Many of us who are speaking out against the injustices in Tibet don’t just want a Free Tibet. We want a Free US. A Free Europe. A Free World. This isn’t about separating Tibet from China, this is about a true peace, a true harmony, existing both inside Tibet and China, and having that harmony reverberate across the countries of the world.
Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.
UPDATE The International Federation of Jounalists is traveling to China to try to intervene on behalf of members of the press having the freedom to report on the events happening in Tibet and China:
“In the last few weeks, the political heat has been turned up over Tibet and the Olympics and journalists have found themselves in the crossfire,” said Aidan White, general secretary and leader of the 10-member mission.
“Our aim will be to take journalists out of the firing line and help them to do their job without interference.”
The group said in a statement that some foreign journalists “have found themselves threatened in the wake of Chinese anger over foreign media coverage of disturbances in Tibet and the Olympic torch rally.”
“Our aim will be to get China to deliver on its promises of ending repression of journalists in the country and to open itself to independent media coverage around the Games.”
The IFJ said its mission will discuss with the Beijing Olympic Committee how to ensure journalists can be protected and exercise the right to report without interference during the Games.