Shielding the nation’s freedom of opinion

By Chou Mei-li 周美里  / 

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - Page 8

Over the past year there have been more than 90 self-immolations by Tibetans living under Chinese rule in their own country. Over the past two months these self-immolations — carried out in protest against suppression by the Chinese communists — have been becoming increasingly frequent, sometimes with as many as one a day. On Nov. 25, a 17-year-old Buddhist nun, named Sangye Dolma, set herself ablaze, leaving behind a photograph of herself with the words: “Tibet independent nation” written across her hand. Not long before this, on Nov. 7 — the eve of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 18th National Congress — a young monk, 16-year-old Samdrup, along with two others, also self-immolated outside a public security bureau station in Aba County, Sichuan Province.

He left behind a will that read: “I dedicate this most merciful blessing to my family, especially my parents. I have set myself on fire for Tibet. I pray that the Dalai Lama will live a long life, shining the light of happiness throughout these snow-covered lands.”

Tibetans are a peaceful people, and even in death, even when they are self-immolating, they do not display the slightest hint of anger, enmity or hatred. What they want is quite simple: freedom for Tibet, the return of the Dalai Lama and the release of the Panchen Lama.

Despite the simplicity of their demands, the iron rule of the CCP has forced them to resort to the drastic measure of self-immolating, of burning themselves alive, as a means to express their wishes. This is why the Chinese, who like to see themselves as an emerging superpower, find it so difficult to tolerate, and also why they are hell-bent on spreading negative propaganda about the Dalai Lama, Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism to the rest of the world.

In Taiwan there is a lot of anger and ongoing protest against the acquisition of parts of the Next Media Group’s operations in Taiwan. The China Times Group — owned by the Want Want China Times Group — is using this diversion to quietly and insidiously increase its offensive over Tibet.

When the government refused a visa for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, the Chinese-language Want Daily published an editorial praising the government’s decision as “[sending] the right political message.”

Within the space of a week, the Chinese-language China Times published a couple of submissions on the Dalai Lama, riddled with historical inaccuracies and ridiculously distorted misinterpretations of his religion, in an attempt to both influence — or indoctrinate — well-intentioned Taiwanese who sympathize with Tibetans, and to create conditions within society to promulgate Chinese hegemony.

The Dalai Lama first visited Taiwan in 1997, and back then public opinion was overwhelmingly respectful and well-disposed toward him. Times change, however, and now, within certain elements of the media, there has started to appear some rather distorted attitudes toward the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in general. Given this marked disparity, there are clearly machinations going on in the background.

Because of this, Taiwanese have to understand that, should the proposed Next Media acquisition be allowed to go ahead, the independence of the media will be threatened, and Taiwan will face a situation similar to that in Hong Kong, where it is difficult to express ideas that do not toe the official line.

Taiwan’s freedom is now in danger of being extinguished, like a flame flickering in a strengthening wind. Every Taiwanese should stand up and shield it.

Chou Mei-li is chairwoman of Taiwan Friends of Tibet.

Translated by Paul Cooper