China and Tibet: an honest quest to find the truth

The landscape of Tibet outside the Tibet Provence

Davey Meelker

When people in the West want to badmouth China, they will definitely point to Tibet. Ordinary Chinese have no idea why the West is making such fuss out if it, and doesn’t like its nosiness. As a Westerner I know the Western story best, but I am questioning if it is not just part of Western propaganda. Are we maybe exaggerating the human rights abuses? With this question in my mind I explored greater Tibet.

First I talked to many Han Chinese about the issue. Many didn’t really care, and stressed that Tibet is historically part of China. Others said that China liberated the Tibetans from a backward society ruled from the monasteries. The ‘unification’, as they like to call it, helped the Tibetans with economic growth and development. So maybe there are benefits for the Tibetans?

Nowadays it is difficult to go to the Tibet province. You need a permit, to travel in a group and with a special guide. Nevertheless, greater Tibet is much bigger than the province Tibet and so we travelled through parts of greater Tibet. One of my first encounters with Tibetans was in the sleeper train from Chengdu to Xining. Nobody spoke to them. They were not directly mistreated, but simply ignored. It seemed like two different worlds; Chinese and Tibetans were living separately in the same train carriage.

The Tibetans were studying in Xining, but came from the Tibet province and told us how much has changed, because of the Han Chinese who are encouraged to migrate to Tibet. Those Han Chinese get the good jobs. “So,” they explained, “although the economy in Tibet is growing, too many Tibetans live in poverty.” They further stressed that they are discriminated: “On the streets we are treated as second class citizens by the Chinese authority even though it is our country.” So, which stories are true?

I honestly don’t understand the argument that Tibet was part of tributary system hundreds of years ago and therefore part of China. The old tributary system still meant autonomy for Tibetans, so why should it be part of China now? Furthermore, China had many tributary states, like countries as Mongolia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Why are those countries not invaded? Here another important factor comes into play, namely that Tibet will be of huge importance for the Chinese water supply. The Tibetan mountains are the water supply for many Chinese rivers. In a country where clean water is becoming scarce, the Tibetan water sources are indispensible. It is not a legitimate reason to invade a country, but it gives an understanding of the real reasons behind it.

I also have doubts when people say that the Tibetans should be happy for the economic growth China is giving them and that they were just ruled from the monasteries. Sure Tibet was no democracy, but what is the alternative China is offering? A totalitarian regime. All Tibetans we spoke were very unsatisfied with the Chinese rule and wished that a form of old rule could be restored. Not one saw advantages with current regime. That says something. Some even go as far as burning themselves to protest against the Chinese, like last week at the start of the Chinese convention and many other times. Many Chinese on the other hand, hate the Tibetans for their protests and self-immolation. They see it as a sin, because they want destabilize the regime. Maybe the old way of thinking in terms of a tributary system, namely very hierarchical, is restored in Tibet. It is a system of double standards, where Han Chinese have other rights than Tibetans.

Furthermore, I saw with my own eyes is the Chinese aversion against Tibetans. It weren’t only the looks from Chinese in the train. You almost never see a Chinese or Tibetan engaged in a nice conversation. The Tibetans and Han Chinese live segregated lives. And with Han Chinese everywhere in power it is clear who are the losers. For example, we only saw Tibetans doing simple jobs and owning a shop was the best they could do. All the other jobs were for the Han Chinese.

So, my honest quest to find the truth ends with the conviction that Tibetan Human Rights are abused. I didn’t find the arguments of many Chinese convincing, while so many Tibetans are extremely dissatisfied with the regime. This mass dissatisfaction cannot be based on thin air. I heard stories about authorities refusing to let Tibetans to go to monasteries, random arrests, and the great inequality. With my own eyes I witnessed the discrimination. Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away the fact that Tibet is used as Western propaganda. In the same journey we visited Xinjiang province, home to the Uyghur. Those people are discriminated like the Tibetans, but I rarely hear the West complaining about that. You didn’t see mass protest to support the Uyghur during the Olympics four years ago. There are no Hollywood films made about them. Many Western people even never heard the name Uyghur before. Maybe the west has also double standards?

11 responses to “China and Tibet: an honest quest to find the truth”

  1. Lv says :

    Tibet has His Holiness the Dalai Lama to spread the cause of Tibet. That’s why China hates him and the West know more about Tibet and hence movies. The Tibetans also peacefully protest and although self immolation is a serious way to protest it doesn’t kill innocent bystanders.

    Xinjiang has been in the news a lot lately but they protest using extreme violence and have caused many deaths to innocent people. As a Westerner I have been to Tibet and witnessed first hand the discrimination and destruction of the beautiful environment and Lhasa turning into an ugly Chinese city. I have met Uyghurs too in China and I have seen how Chinese think they are all thieves. I wanted to go to go to Xinjiang but now I am not sure.

    It’s not the western propaganda but I feel more for Tibet and the Tibetan people due to how they have fight for their cause.

  2. athan9 says :

    what about the fact that tibetans had very good relationships with manchu who enslaved china for 400 years?

  3. BC says :

    And why are Uighurs not mentioned? Because they are muslims. No one cares about muslims. In fact, there were Uighur terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay. How do you think that would make United States look, giving independence to possible terrorists? same with Chechnya. Your blog claims finding truth but I don’t see any truths. You’re not very bright, are you?

  4. BC says :

    I think you should listen to the song “天路” by Tibetan artist 韩红 to get a different view.

    • BC says :

      I also want to point out the majority of western china is poor because they are not near the sea. They just happen to be largely minority group areas. Sure there is some discrimination involve but people also miss this point. It’s like “Northern Italy is richer than Southern Italy and Southern Italians are darker and therefore it’s discrimination.”

      Hello??? Please get a clue and don’t be so narrow minded.

  5. Sam says :

    Mmh when has America given back land belonging to Indians and Mexicans?

  6. lynnsag says :

    Besides, I know partly the reason of people’s indifference.We are grown and taught to obey all the time,so most of Chinese are used to nodding instead of showing their real feelings.Time after time, norm is becoming nature.We may know something is not good, but we hold the view that “just let it be, it’s none of my business,I don’t want to be a troublemaker” or “this is a national issue,what can I do for it ? I am too weak to make a difference.I will just be silent and mind my own business”.
    Young generation is rising.We have absorbed liberal culture and unwilling to nod and applaud all the time.Also,the progress takes time.

  7. lynnsag says :

    Thanks for showing me the side which I should had seen but unfortunately not .Speaking of discrimination,I think it stems from misunderstanding,or even non understanding.Different culture,language, policies,of course and long distance.Most of Chinese do not really know how Tibetans live, we are in the same country but not the same.Another gap may comes from their education level, my cousin who has lived in Urumqi for 13 years told me that the Uyghurs were always the worst students in the class,she regarded them as “uncivilized
    barbarians”.I can’t see a fat chance for any GREAT changes in foreseeable future.But I am quite sure that it is only a problem of time.Sooner or later.Because the gap between(ethnic groups) is not a fixable one,even after all these years.

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