Half a century ago today, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces were launching their final assault on Lhasa, forcing the Dalai Lama and eventually hundreds of thousands of Tibetans to flee their homeland. Fifty years ago, Tibet as a free state was disappearing, engulfed by China, which expanded its empire dramatically.
During the last 50 years, the Dalai Lama has become a symbol of peace, religious wisdom and self-determination, welcomed by crowds and governments alike, praised and showered with honorifics.
Still, the reality is that the Dalai Lama’s charisma and universal appeal, as well as the peaceful resistance that he espouses, have failed. Today, generations of Tibetan exiles are no closer to going home than they were when the tanks first turned their turrets toward the old capital. In fact, the tanks are still there. Half a century of occupation and repression has taken its toll on symbols of Tibetan religion and culture, while society has become polarized between the subjugated and those who, out of self-interest or for other reasons, are now repeating the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) line that the PLA “liberated” Tibet.
Facing growing criticism within his ranks, the Dalai Lama has himself admitted that peaceful resistance — or the “middle way” — hasn’t worked, that the CCP has been a dishonest negotiator and that hope is dwindling. So humiliating has been Beijing’s lack of response to the Dalai Lama’s call for “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet that other, younger generations have been wondering if means other than pacifism might not be the solution. That this implies taking on China’s formidable tool of repression, the PLA, shows the level of desperation and frustration — and hope — that flows in their veins.
Despite its success in crushing rebellion and peaceful resistance, Beijing has failed to understand one precious lesson of history — “the indestructibility of man’s yearning for freedom,” as Soviet war correspondent and author Vasily Grossman, who was among the first to report on the Nazi extermination camps, wrote in his critique of Fascism and totalitarianism, Life and Fate.
A totalitarian or authoritarian regime’s ability to control the masses is contingent on the use of force or the threat of the use of it. Either it uses “eternal violence” until a point is reached where there is no one left to kill, or it dies of its own choosing by relinquishing its prerogative to violence. The CCP not only faces this challenge with Tibetans, but also with Uighurs in Xinjiang, Falun Gong practitioners, ordinary Chinese who strive for freedom and, should it come to this, Taiwanese.
By making force the principal agent of its legitimacy and its primary means to remain in power, the CCP is ensuring its eventual demise. For while it can use or promise “eternal violence,” the human thirst for freedom will always be stronger — as strong as life itself. It is this spirit of hope, of unremitting resistance to oppression even when the odds are bad, that we cherish today as we remember the terrible events of half a century ago.
“Man’s fate may make him a slave,” Grossman wrote, “but his nature remains unchanged.”
On a peaceful day in the open Pacific Ocean to the east of Taiwan, a US carrier and five accompanying warships were slowly sailing to guard the western Pacific. Another carrier battle group had just returned to its home port in San Diego. Suddenly, alarms went off as many intercontinental ballistic missiles were launched from the interior of China, flying toward Taiwan. Numerous Chinese warships, carriers, fighter jets, bombers and submarines were fast converging on the US ships. Not too long after, missiles, bombs and torpedoes were fired at the US carrier. The surprise to Americans was the number of
I was a bit startled last week when Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) suggested that the United States could extend official recognition to an independent Taiwan if China were to launch an invasion. While I think Speaker You is correct, I am not sure it is a helpful point of view. Naturally, there are contingency plans in Washington on diplomatic actions that could deter Chinese military action, but they contemplate the continuity of a democratic Taiwanese government that could survive offshore in exile if part or all of Taiwan is occupied by communist Chinese forces. China’s threat that “Taiwan
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) unscheduled visit to Tibet on July 20 attracted extensive international attention. Although Chinese media said that Xi’s visit was meant to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the accession of Tibet to China, Tibet has remained a politically charged issue for China as well as the international community. The genesis of the turbulent ties between Tibet and China dates back to 1951, when the Chinese regime annexed Tibet through a seven-point agreement. China has used this agreement as proof of its sovereignty over Tibet. Tibetans argue that they were forced to sign the agreement, leading them
The Tokyo Olympics will perhaps be remembered as one of the oddest Games in the event’s long and checkered history. Held amid a global pandemic, spectators are banned from most venues, leaving athletes to play out their feats of sporting brilliance in eerie silence. Meanwhile, furious Tokyo residents wave placards outside some venues, calling for the Games’ cancelation. Adding to the incongruity of it all, the entire Russian team is absent, banned due to a doping scandal. That the Tokyo Olympics went ahead at all has been extremely contentious in Japan. Critics fear a mass outbreak of the highly contagious Delta