China is living in interesting times. So, let’s visit their current problems…
A US-trained former Tibetan guerrilla who waged a long campaign against the Chinese says peaceful protests and international pressure are the only ways to end the deadly unrest in Tibet.
“The Dalai Lama will never change his ‘middle way’ (of more autonomy but not independence) and or the path of non-violence,” 73-year-old Norbu Dorje, who was trained by the CIA nearly half a century ago, told AFP.
“Most Tibetans will follow what the Dalai Lama says, but there are many young people who want to demonstrate violently. But this will not work,” he said.
Which leads to the current protests in Tibet and China’s response…
Led by Buddhist monks, protests had begun peacefully in Lhasa early last week but erupted into rioting on March 14, drawing a harsh response from Chinese authorities.
Hundreds of paramilitary troops aboard at least 80 trucks were seen traveling along the main road winding through the mountains into southeastern Tibet. Others set up camp and patrolled streets in riot gear, helmets and rifles in the town of Tiger Leaping Gorge, a tourist attraction in Yunnan province bordering Tibet.
Farther north, the largely Tibetan town of Zhongdian, renamed Shangri-la a decade ago, was swarmed by 400 armed police. Many carried rifles and what appeared to be tear gas launchers. Residents walked freely among the military, and there was no sign of a daytime curfew.
The troop mobilization was helping authorities reassert control after the broadest, most sustained protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule in decades. Demonstrations had flared across Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces in support of protests that started in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
China has also blocked any foreign media coverage and their state run tv has portrayed the protesters as violent and out of control from the beginning. We really don’t know what is going on over there right now in any true detail.
Tibetans have struggled for many decades to achieve independence from foreign domination. Although demonstrations have occurred before, resulting in no apparent change in the status quo, the difference this time can be attributed to the age of the protesters.
They are members of a younger generation, who, having grown up during an era of stepped-up Chinese suppression of Buddhism, have not been properly exposed to its tenets. Which explains the use of violence, which is against Buddhist teaching.
Restraint from killing is the first of 10 precepts that a Buddhist undertakes as a vow during his ordination.
“But it is not only school but the form of upbringing itself,” Mr. Tsering said. “And all qualified Buddhist masters were educated before 1959, and that generation is passing away.”
A slight period of leniency was allowed in the late 1980s, “but we now are back to Cultural Revolution days,” he said, referring to Mao Zedong’s violent campaign in the late 1960s to enforce strict ideological conformity to his rule.
Breaking the line of direct master-to-disciple spiritual teaching means that younger Buddhists “don’t receive full instructions, and when you miss them, you can’t get them back,” said Marilyn Goldberg, chairwoman of ancient studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who has helped found the Tibetan Buddhist Center on Capitol Hill.
China is actually reaping the fruits of it’s own policy.
“There is an irony here,” Mr. Tsering said of the sporadic violence by the youthful protesters. “While some of the incidents that have taken place can be said to be non-Buddhist, they do it for the promotion of their faith. At the collective level, they are doing it out of desperation.”
Ill treatment of monks spurred them on, he said.
Buddhism, which is more often seen as a philosophy and way of life than a religion, has at its root the belief that acts have consequences. Virtuous actions affect the environment positively, and negative or violent acts cause suffering, in what is known as the law of karma, or fate. The attainment of enlightenment, or state of grace, can only be achieved through virtuous acts that then can influence the course of a person’s life and hence benefit the world.
“You talk to some lamas, and you hear them say Tibetans are reaping karma from their past feudal system,” said Ms. Goldberg. She suggests that even suicide is considered a “nonvirtuous” act in Buddhist teaching.
“The idea that you are willing to take on bad karma in doing something nonvirtuous means you obviously are choosing the most skillful means to achieve an end despite the fact you are incurring negative karma.”
Ritual practices in Buddhist teachings are “quite distinct” among various schools, said Lucinda Peach, associate professor of philosophy and religion at American University, but “the everyday ethics are the same.”
It’s important “to recognize there often is a disparity between the ideal of religion and practice on the ground,” Ms. Peach said. “We have many examples of this: when violence by monks in Burma got out of control, and similarly in Sri Lanka. It happens when peaceful methods have been tried and failed and nothing has changed.” That is when people’s sense of dispossession and lack of alternatives wins out, she said.
“Tibetans are people, too, and people can only be pushed so far before they pick up a gun and fight back,” said writer and social activist Maura Moynihan. “Buddhism is about peace and nonviolence, but there is only so much you can stand. It’s all very complicated … the Dalai Lama says, ‘I can’t tell people what to do.’ ”
“If the situation goes beyond control, I don’t think His Holiness will have any qualms about stepping down,” Mr. Tsering said. “He has three commitments. The first being promotion of human values, the second promotion of interreligious understanding, and the third is Tibet.”
Another interesting turn of events caused by the protests and China’s reaction is the candidate from the opposition ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Frank Hsieh, has gotten a lift in his presidential election bid, who previously seemed headed toward a humiliating defeat.
Beijing’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters has given the ruling-party candidate a chance to portray the Nationalists as pro-Beijing weaklings who could not defend the island’s sovereignty.
Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan a renegade province and hopes to one day reunite it with the mainland.
“As we look at Tibet, we must think about our own fate,” Mr. Hsieh said this week. Yesterday, he suggested that a vote for more-China-friendly Nationalists could make Taiwan “a second Tibet,” Reuters news agency reported.
Mr. Ma’s party advocates eventual unification with China, while Mr. Hsieh’s seeks independence.
Mr. Ma warned against comparing Taiwan to Tibet, which has just elected Taiwan’s opposition candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, which is promising to expand economic ties with China while protecting the island from being swallowed up politically by its giant communist neighbor.
Ma and Hsieh have both said they want a less confrontational relationship with China. But they were divided on how best to deal with Beijing, which presents both a huge opportunity for the island’s powerful business community and a looming threat to its evolving democracy.
Ma has based his campaign on promises to reverse the pro-independence direction of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian and leverage China’s white-hot economic boom to re-energize Taiwan’s ailing high-tech economy.
He has proposed a formal peace treaty with Beijing that would demilitarize the Taiwan Strait, 100-mile-wide waterway that separates the two heavily armed sides. But he has drawn the line at unification, promising it would not be discussed during his presidency.
Economically, he wants to lower barriers to Taiwanese investment on the mainland – it already amounts to more than $100 billion – and begin direct air and maritime links between the sides.
Ma is particularly interested in expanding the China-Taiwan high-tech connection, which every year sends billions of dollars’ worth of Taiwan’s advanced components to low-cost assembly plants along China’s rapidly developing east coast.
That interest resonated with businessman Wang Wen-ho, who cast his ballot for Ma at a Taipei high school.
Taiwan and the mainland split amid civil war in 1949, but China still considers the island to be part of its territory. Beijing has threatened to attack if Taiwan rejects unification and seeks a permanent break.
Taiwan is concerned china might try the same thing with Taiwan that they are doing in Tibet. However, even if they are thinking about it, I believe they would wait until after the Olympics.
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