55 Years in Tibet

Tibetan Jampa Yeshi self-immolation
Reuters photo of 27-year-old Tibetan exile, Jampa Yeshi, setting himself alight near New Delhi protestors

After a half-century of occupation, self-immolations, the exile of an ancient spiritual community and its leader from their ancestral land, the cold-blooded assassination of pilgrims and monastics by Chinese soldiers, a million-strong genocide, and rampant political corruption, the Dalai Lama told AFP this week that he is in informal talks with the PRC that would allow him to return to Tibet.

This follows conciliatory gestures on both sides, Gyatso described President Xi Jinping as “more open-minded” than his predecessors, a statement that might have been inspired by the latter’s open congratulation of Buddhism’s prominent and positive role in Chinese society.

Our “leaders’” quietening silence however, as the PRC’s wealth grows, will be a source of eternal shame as pundits laud what they see as the success of one of the planet’s greatest human rights violators. The Chinese “communists” execute more people than the rest of the world’s governments combined, fill colossal prisons with men and women of conscience whose nobility won’t stop their organs being harvested by the state, the litany of crimes is almost as great as that of the imperial powers who enabled/enable them. But, if anybody can express solidarity with the political dissidents in China, as Gyatso has with the Uighur activists whose plight received none of the attention now showered on Hong Kong’s democrats, it is the Tibetans.

When people say “what about Tibetan feudalism”, as if a society that falls short enough of perfection deserves a brutal and prolonged military subjugation, should take a long hard look in the mirror. What about Palestine, you think Palestinian society was perfect before Zionist extremists arrived? You think the peoples of Africa had achieved utopia before Europeans raped their nations? Arbitrary solidarity is an ultimate betrayal of the international working class to which true leftists are always loyal, as it demonstrates an acquiescence to the anti-humanistic, imperialistic geopolitical agendas of their greatest enemies. Those without such an acquiescence, and who possess a sincere concern for the plight of Tibetan serfs under feudal theocracy, would never advocate its replacement with centralism or autocracy. As is perhaps always the case, the Tibetans stand a better chance of forging their own path to freedom than having it forced upon them, if that were even possible.

May the 14th Dalai Lama’s pilgrimage end happier than that of the forgotten dead in the Himalayan snows. In Rasley’s words… chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.

“Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear, cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world.” – Heinrich Harrer

About the Author
Writer and activist in the UK. Worked alongside the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Student Societies and various London-based organisations opposed to the political and religious right. Now, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's press officer for its Slough branch. My experiences - and that of my family in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands - continue to inform, rather than contradict, my position as a Jewish post-Zionist active in the international and domestic peace movements.
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