China tries to justify occupation of Tibet

HUMAN RIGHTS: A lengthy white paper on China's half-century of rule over the region proclaims Beijing has `cleaned up the filth and mire' of old Tibetan society


Fri, Nov 09, 2001 - Page 1

China yesterday chose the arrival in Beijing of UN human rights supremo Mary Robinson to issue a strident justification of its occupation of Tibet.

A white paper on China's 50-year rule over the Himalayan region -- decried by critics as a catalogue of repression, rights abuses and cultural extinction -- insisted Tibetans had seen improvements in wealth and freedoms under Chinese rule.

Robinson is in China for a two-day visit to attend discussions on human rights education and will also meet President Jiang Zemin (江澤民).

The 16,000-word Tibet document issued yesterday morning by China's Cabinet, the State Council, was aimed at "clearing up various misunderstandings on the `Tibet issue' in the international community," it said.

"The society of old Tibet under feudal serfdom was even more dark and backward than in Europe in the Middle Ages," it proclaimed.

However Chinese rule had "cleaned up the filth and mire left over from the old Tibetan society" and brought the region's grateful people into the modern era.

"To sum up, the development history of Tibet in the past five decades since its peaceful liberation has been one of proceeding from darkness to brightness, from backwardness to progress, from poverty to prosperity," the paper concluded.

It also repeated sweeping condemnations of the "Dalai Lama clique," based around the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader who fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The Dalai Lama represented "the retrogressive religious culture of the theocratic system and the interests of the dying privileged few of the feudal serf-owner class," the document said.

Beijing has displayed consistent exasperation with international criticism of its annexation of Tibet.

China's government -- and many ordinary Chinese -- see the five decades of Beijing's rule as an act of benevolence to improve the health, welfare and freedoms of Tibetans.

However, critics point to the severely authoritarian nature of China's rule and its ruthless crushing of political or religious dissent, coupled with a huge influx of ethnic Han, as an attempt to annihilate a separate culture.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, director of the French Center for Research on Contemporary China, said there was little doubt a lot of resources had been poured into Tibet.

"That is certainly true. However, colonies are often not profitable for colonizers," he said.