by Gonkar Gyatso (Tibetan artist, b.1961 Lhasa, now in exile)
One of the conversations happening among Buddhist groups is whether or not "protest," especially in the calls to boycott the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, actually benefits the Tibetan people. Is participation in protest dharmic? Social activism in the form of grassroots networking combined web 2.0 technologies has dramatically widened the definition of "protest" my generation participated in with the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement in the 1960's and 70's. Everyone can determine what they can bring to a cause, what "upaya" or skillful means they have at their disposal.
In recent days, several articles have appeared regarding Chinese human rights advocates response to both the Tibetan situation and China's involvement in Sudan which illuminate a broader public opinion than mainstream Chinese rhetoric would have one believe.
The following article, "Abuses Belie China Pledge on Rights, Critics Say" [NY Times, August 8, 2007], appeared on the first anniversary before the opening of the Olympic games in Beijing in August 2008. The article states:
Amnesty International said several political advocates in Beijing were under threat of close surveillance or house arrest. At the same time, authorities are persecuting Chinese journalists, the group said. And the police are sweeping up vagrants and other Beijing residents under a controversial policy that allows officers to detain people for up to four years without trial, it said.
The report described the detentions as part of a citywide “cleanup” operation to prepare for the Olympics.
Chinese Olympic officials have said that advocacy organizations should not exploit the Games to further their own agendas, but the government also appeared to be growing accustomed to criticism from a range of groups. On Monday, Jiang Xiaoyu, an executive vice president for the Beijing Olympic Committee, said that “we are mentally prepared that such voices will become louder in the future.”
"Tibet crisis: Chinese intellectuals Speak Up" [Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | March 23, 2008] gives the full text of the petition sent by Chinese intellectuals cited by the NY Times in yesterday's article on "Intellectuals in China Condemn Crackdown" [NY Times, March 24, 2008]
Leading Chinese intellectuals and writers have released a petition that suggests twelve ways to deal with the Tibet crisis. The petition, which indicates a major shift in the intellectual scene of China, has appeared on several websites.
According to a report, the petition states, "Chinese voices are being raised in China in response to the way Beijing [Images] has handled the protests that began on March 10."
The report added that the signatories include Chinese writers Wang Lixiong, Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie, Professor Ding Zilin from the pressure group Tiananmen Mothers as well as other scholars, lawyers and artists.
The creative Chinese petition states that the language used by the Chinese government to describe the Dalai Lama is not "in keeping with the situation, nor is it beneficial to the Chinese government's image."
"As the Chinese government is committed to integrating into the international community, we maintain that it should display a style of governing that conforms to the standards of modern civilization," the petition adds.
The letter is signed by 29 signatories and displays courage on their part. It urges the Chinese government to "stop the violent suppression" in Tibet, and appeals to the Tibetan people not to engage in violent activities.
It also urges the Chinese government to end the propaganda and news blockade, saying: "The one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity."
The petition also points out that the current protests are widespread, unlike the protests that erupted in March 1989.
The writers say: "This deterioration indicates that there are serious mistakes in the work that has been done with regard to Tibet. The relevant government departments must conscientiously reflect upon this matter, examine their failures, and fundamentally change the failed nationality policies."
The Chinese intellectuals want the government to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama to "eliminate animosity and bring about national reconciliation". They have also appealed for calm and reflection among Chinese people.
The twelve suggestions for dealing with the Tibetan situation are as follows:
1. At present the one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity. We call for such propaganda to be stopped.
2. We support the Dalai Lama's [Images] appeal for peace, and hope that the ethnic conflict can be dealt with according to the principles of goodwill, peace, and non-violence. We condemn any violent act against innocent people, strongly urge the Chinese government to stop the violent suppression, and appeal to the Tibetan people likewise not to engage in violent activities.
3. The Chinese government claims, "There is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organised, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique." We hope that the government will show proof of this. In order to change the international community's negative view and distrustful attitude, we also suggest that the government invite the United Nation's Commission on Human Rights to carry out an independent investigation of the evidence, the course of the incident, the number of casualties, etc.
4. In our opinion, such Cultural-Revolution-like language as "the Dalai Lama is a jackal in Buddhist monk's robes and an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast" used by the Chinese Communist Party leadership in the Tibet Autonomous Region is of no help in easing the situation, nor is it beneficial to the Chinese government's image. As the Chinese government is committed to integrating into the international community, we maintain that it should display a style of governing that conforms to the standards of modern civilization.
5. We note that on the very day violence erupted in Lhasa (March 14), the leaders of the Tibet Autonomous Region declared that "there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique." This shows that the authorities in Tibet knew in advance that the riot would occur, yet did nothing effective to prevent the incident from happening or escalating. If there was a dereliction of duty, a serious investigation must be carried out to determine this and deal with it accordingly.
6. If in the end it cannot be proved that this was an organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated event but was instead a popular revolt triggered by events, then the authorities should pursue those responsible for inciting the popular revolt and concocting false information to deceive the Central Government and the people; they should also seriously reflect on what can be learned from this event so as to avoid taking the same course in the future.
7. We strongly demand that the authorities not subject every Tibetan to political investigation or revenge. The trials of those who have been arrested must be carried out according to judicial procedures that are open, just, and transparent so as to ensure that all parties are satisfied.
8. We urge the Chinese government to allow credible national and international media to go into Tibetan areas to conduct independent interviews and news reports. In our view, the current news blockade cannot gain credit with the Chinese people or the international community, and is harmful to the credibility of the Chinese government. If the government grasps the true situation, it need not fear challenges. Only by adopting an open attitude can we turn around the international community's distrust of our government.
9. We appeal to the Chinese people and overseas Chinese to be calm and tolerant, and to reflect deeply on what is happening. Adopting a posture of aggressive nationalism will only invite antipathy from the international community and harm China's international image.
10. The disturbances in Tibet in the 1980s were limited to Lhasa, whereas this time they have spread to many Tibetan areas. This deterioration indicates that there are serious mistakes in the work that has been done with regard to Tibet. The relevant government departments must conscientiously reflect upon this matter, examine their failures, and fundamentally change the failed nationality policies.
11. In order to prevent similar incidents from happening in future, the government must abide by the freedom of religious belief and the freedom of speech explicitly enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, thereby allowing the Tibetan people fully to express their grievances and hopes, and permitting citizens of all nationalities freely to criticize and make suggestions regarding the government's nationality policies.
12. We hold that we must eliminate animosity and bring about national reconciliation, not continue to increase divisions between nationalities. A country that wishes to avoid the partition of its territory must first avoid divisions among its nationalities. Therefore, we appeal to the leaders of our country to hold direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama. We hope that the Chinese and Tibetan people will do away with the misunderstandings between them, develop their interactions with each other, and achieve unity. Government departments, as much as popular organizations and religious figures, should make great efforts toward this goal.
Wang Lixiong (Beijing, Writer)
Liu Xiaobo (Beijing, Freelance Writer)
Zhang Zuhua (Beijing, scholar of constitutionalism)
Sha Yexin (Shanghai, writer, Chinese Muslim)
Yu Haocheng (Beijing, jurist)
Ding Zilin (Beijing, professor)
Jiang Peikun (Beijing, professor)
Yu Jie (Beijing, writer)
Sun Wenguang (Shangdong, professor)
Ran Yunfei (Sichuan, editor, Tujia nationality)
Pu Zhiqiang (Beijing, lawyer)
Teng Biao (Beijing, lawyer and scholar)
Liao Yiwu (Sichuan, writer)
Wang Qisheng (Beijing, scholar)
Zhang Xianling (Beijing, engineer)
Xu Jue (Beijing, research fellow)
Li Jun (Gansu, photographer)
Gao Yu (Beijing, journalist)
Wang Debang (Beijing, freelance writer)
Zhao Dagong (Shenzhen, freelance writer)
Jiang Danwen (Shanghai, writer)
Liu Yi (Gansu, painter)
Xu Hui (Beijing, writer)
Wang Tiancheng (Beijing, scholar)
Wen kejian (Hangzhou, freelance)
Li Hai (Beijing, freelance writer)
Tian Yongde (Inner Mongolia, folk human rights activists)
Zan Aizong (Hangzhou, journalist)
Liu Yiming (Hubei, freelance writer)
In late February, prominent Chinese human rights activist, Wei Jingsheng, wrote an open letter to Ms. Mia Farrow commending her for her work on behalf of Darfur. Mia Farrow has engaged in a highly effective campaign to bring world-wide recognition to China's involvement in the Darfur crisis. In fact, if you want to know how to orchestrate a grass roots effort, Ms. Farrow's website offers a huge "to do" list. The full text is available on her home page at Miafarrow.org. One paragraph jumped out at me--. Mr. Jingsheng writes,
Wherever human rights are endangered, the speakers for the local authorities have a common tune: it is an internal affair, do not intervene. But you know the truth: human rights issues are never an isolated, local or internal affair.
The notion that China's internal affairs have no bearing on world events is no more realistic than justification for America's involvement in Iraq as a fait accompli response to the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9.11. What superpowers do with their aggressive policies takes a huge toll in human suffering for generations to come. Global citizens have the
right to question and analyze the intention behind these acts against humanity. When artists and intellectuals become engaged, the wheels are turning towards public exposure and greater awareness. If China were so sure of itself, why are foreign journalists not allowed inside Tibet to speak directly with informants? Why are Chinese oppositional voices and Human Rights advocates either jailed or harassed?
WHY DOES THE NY TIMES AND WASHINGTON POST CONSISTENTLY UNDERESTIMATE WHAT'S HAPPENING
GLOBALLY IN RESPONSE TO CHINA HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS? See Pointounterpoint
There's a different kind of torch being passed here than the Olympic torch that has more to do with universal harmony and goodwill--the torch of freedom of expression.
[A note on the Tibetan artist's vision in Angel.Gonkar Gyatso superimposes the well know Abu Ghraib figure on top of the central deity figure of Chenrezig rendered in traditional Tibetan tik-se line drawing. Employing a patchwork of multiple colors and textures, the artist seems to imply that the tortured individual is part of a greater whole or represents numerous others. Thus, those individuals who are tortured become not only the object of compassion but the very vehicle of compassion itself, as angels or messengers of compassion.]