Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, an anniversary that, sadly, will go unnoticed in most parts of the world.
More than 30 Tibetans have set themselves alight in the past year in protest against Beijing’s repressive and destructive rule in the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region and other areas.
Many of these immolations and protests have occurred in Aba prefecture, Sichuan Province, in what is euphemistically referred to as “predominantly Tibetan areas.” What most wire agency reports fail to say is that these areas were traditionally part of the Kham region, whose people, the Khampas, started armed resistance against Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule in 1956, after their region was merged into Sichuan Province in 1955.
Free Tibet, the International Campaign for Tibet and other rights groups say the escalation in self-immolations shows the growing desperation and despair of the Khampas and other ethnic Tibetans under Chinese rule. That rule became even more draconian after the huge anti-Han, anti-Beijing riots of 2008, in which hundreds of Han-owned establishments and government offices were torched and hundreds of people killed.
Beijing tried for decades to suppress Tibetan Buddhism, barring Tibetans from practicing their faith. This prohibition was gradually eased in the 1980s, as Beijing realized how profitable it was to let foreign tourists into Lhasa and some other areas of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. However, many Tibetan areas, especially in Sichuan, continue to remain off-limits.
When suppressing religious practices failed to quench the Tibetans’ support for Buddhism, the Dalai Lama and preserving their way of life, Beijing turned to another method — flooding Lhasa and the Kham regions of Sichuan with Han migrants — just as it has done in Xinjiang to make Uighurs a minority in their homeland.
It has also continued its campaign to break Tibetans’ ties with their culture through pro-Mandarin policies. As Free Tibet noted on its Web site on Sunday, up to 700 Tibetan students protested upon discovering that their history, biology, chemistry, math and other textbooks, which had been in Tibetan, had been replaced by Chinese-language texts.
The CCP recently launched a “patriotic education campaign” for temples, which have been asked to display the portraits of former leaders Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), instead of the Dalai and Panchen lamas and other religious leaders.
Beijing has not only tried to demoralize and dehumanize the Tibetans by claiming to have “liberated” them from the oppressive policies of Tibetan rule, it has also done all it can to destroy the natural environment of Tibet through deforestation, strip-mining and the dumping of nuclear waste, turning much of the Tibetan plateau into an arid wasteland.
China’s rule over Tibet has made a mockery of its protests against Western imperialism and the destruction and looting of Chinese treasures by Western forces.
There will be a parade in Taipei today, starting at 2pm at the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station, to mark the 53rd anniversary of the uprising. Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Minister Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) has declined to take part because she is a government official, but anyone who values human rights and humanity should turn out for the march, or at least take time out from their busy day to spare a thought — and a prayer — for the Tibetans and their increasingly beleaguered existence.
The plight of the Tibetans — and the Uighurs — today could well be that of the Taiwanese tomorrow. If we don’t show we care about them, who will care about us?
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