Sat, Oct 22, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Tibetans are happy, aren’t they?

Alfred E. Newman, famous for his “What, me worry?” outlook on life, appears to be popping up all over the place these days in Taipei. Or maybe it’s just because President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is looking as goofy as Mad magazine’s famous mascot that people are confused. Ma seems to have about as much grasp of modern history and politics as Newman, given his remarks this week about the differences between Tibet and Taiwan.

The president derided his rival in January’s presidential election, Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), for criticizing his proposal of an eventual peace agreement with China by using Tibet’s 1951 peace pact as an example of what happens when you sign such a deal with Beijing.

It was a ridiculous example, Ma said, adding that Tsai was only hurting herself with such “self-belittling comments.”

China treated Tibet as a province when it signed the 17-point pact in 1951, but Taiwan, as a sovereign nation, would not be in the same position, Ma said.

Hasn’t the whole problem from the very beginning, even before the Presidential Office was even a gleam in Ma’s eye, been that Beijing considers Taiwan a province — “a renegade province” as the international wire agencies like to say whenever they mention cross-strait affairs?

The whole charade of having the Straits Exchange Foundation talking with China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits stems from Beijing’s refusal to talk to Taipei on a state-to-state basis because of the whole “there is only one China and that is us” that both sides use.

“If the mainland refuses to accept our principles, then we would put the peace agreement on hold ... there is no timetable for such a pact,” Ma said on Thursday, careful to use the term “mainland” instead of China to ensure that no one could possibly think there might be “two” Chinas.

Principles do not count for much when the other side plays by different rules.

Beijing promised autonomy, freedom of religion and preservation of Tibetan culture in the 1951 pact, a deal signed under duress because the People’s Liberation Army troops were right outside Lhasa.

Ma apparently believes that a deal the Tibetans signed at gunpoint cannot possibly be compared with Taiwan signing a peace deal with Beijing with more than 1,500 Chinese missiles pointed this way and an economy that is increasingly dependent on Taiwanese companies’ production lines in China and Chinese trade.

The Sino-Tibetan pact worked so well that the Dalai Lama was forced to flee his country in 1959; the 10th Panchen Lama, between stints in prison, was forced to become a shill for Beijing; the 11th Panchen Lama, recognized by the Dalai Lama, disappeared so Beijing could enthrone its own candidate in 1995; scores of temples were destroyed, thousands of religious artifacts were stolen or melted down; the Tibetan landscape has been raped and denuded of flora and much of its wildlife; and Tibetans were kept from publicly practicing their religion until two decades ago.

The Chinese might have abolished serfdom and brought more roads, electricity and now a railway to Tibet, but the cost in terms of the Tibetan way of life and Tibetan lives has been far too high.

Ma complains that it is unfair and unreasonable for people to distort his efforts to seek sustainable peace, but it is not his critics that are distorting historical reality, it is Ma.

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