ISN'T THE BEIJING OLYMPICS OUR PARTY, TOO? SHOULDN'T WE SPEAK OUT?--A View from India
By Kevin Stoda
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What should we do about the Olympics set for Beijing in September 2008? Should we go to Beijing for the opening ceremonies, as many of the leaders at the current Hokkaido G8 summit are planning to do?
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After the earthquakes in China this spring, have we stopped listening to the cries for justice eminating from Tibetans in their homeland (or from exile around the globe)?
As the Olympics nears, people all over the world are trying to decide (a) whether to support or (b) how to support the Olympic movement in China. It is not surprising then that students here in India are discussing what to do, too.
This particular 4th of July, I arrived in Manali township in Himachal Pradesh. HP is a land of monasteries and fruit orchards in the midst of many Himalayan mountains of around 20,000 feet. The following morning morning, I went for a walk in the nature reserve across from my hotel and found that Students for Free Tibet http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/ were just wrappinga 5-day conference on the topic of the 2008 Olympics to be held in neighboring China within two months.
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One of the Indian students approached me and encouraged me to get the word out about the campaign which they are currently running. http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/article.php?list=type&type=9
These Indian youth and others in Students for Free Tibet movement are currently running an "Athlete Wanted Campaign" . http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org/ This particular campaign from Students for Free Tibet includes the posting of a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and in newspapers around the world stating: "At every Olympics there is one athlete who ends up inspiring the world with their courage and their character. We are hoping that athlete is reading this."
The Students for Free Tibet's message concludes with this thought: "With the Olympics beckoning and the world looking to be inspired by your heroism we remind you that 6 million Tibetans look to you for the very same thing. You can be there for Tibet, they cannot. You can speak up for Tibet, for they have been silenced."
In other words, the Students for Free Tibet are telling tens of thousands of athletes, their trainers and there families from all over the planet to not be silent. Students for Free Tibet say that this responsibility to speak up is "the torch" that each athlete will carry into the stadiums of this 2008 Olympiade in Beijing.
SPEAKING OUT IN INDIA
As a whole, since 1962 (when India basically lost a border war with China), India has had a poor self image of itself. It sees itself politically as a weak nation state--even though it can hold its own against nuclear Pakistan and has its own nuclear arsenal.
This self-perception is one reason India tends to speak softly and hardly ever carries a big stick with its notorious neighbors, China and Burma.
Moreover, since its inception, India's historical position has been to act as a non-alligned nation. This has led it to follow a more isolated path of diplomacy, more isolated than either the U.S. or European states would have liked to have seen it do during the Cold War-era (and even in the current war on terrorism). This seperate path to international diplomaccy has led, for example, India to stay out of international treaties on nuclear arsenals,
This is one reason that the Indian Left is ready to walk out of the ruling government in India currently.
In a short article in EXPRESS INDIA entitled "Don't Bow to the U.S.: Left to UPA", it is made clear that not even the possiblity of having the U.S. support India's nomination to receive a permanent seat on the U.N.Security Council is enough to satisfy leftist- and non-alligned interests for the stalled U.S.-Indian nuclear treaty before years end.
Those opposing the new treaty with the U.S.A. state: "“Giving in to the US on such vital issues will be counterproductive and will actually detract from India’s credibility as an independent power which necessitates its representation in the Security Council."
On the other hand THE INDIAN EXPRESS posted another article with a very similar title on the 4th of July: "Don't Bow to China on Tibet".
According to reporter Hemlata Verma, "The issue of Chinese government's claims on Tibet and some bordering portion of the Indian Territory in Arunachal Pradesh dominated the celebrations of 94 years of Indo-Tibet Border Conventin that had resulted in demarcation of McMahan Line in 1914."
At the occasion of the Indian-Tibetan anniversary signing, Lok Sabha Khiran Rijiju stated, "China's claims on Tibet are baseless as history shows that Inida never shared border with China", i.e. prior to the time China completely took control of Tibet in the 1950s.
Rijiju, speaking at the same convention in Shimla in Himanchal Pradesh, emphasized that "India's safety and integrity was connected with peace in Tibet." (NOTE: China is still claiming a large chunk of Indian sovereign territority in the Himalayas.)
Another speaker, Karma Chopal, explained that for centuries "Tibet and China have been at war against each other and many times boundarieswere defined but China continues to violate them."
Finally, Chopal also expressed the view, "Tibet is self-sufficient to survive as an economy and to protect their tradition and culture." In other words, Tibet never was nor ever will be a so-called failed state.
MANALI MONESTARIES' WALLS SPEAK OUT
On visiting Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhist monestaries in and around Manali, I have often observed numerous posters concerning the need to boycott the Olympics or posters on the brutality of Chinese occupation of Tibet. At other times, torture and death in the Himalaya were summarized on other walls through pictures and newsclipping--from as recent as last spring's Tibetan uprising.
There was an especially tear jerking summary on a red wall concerning the ongoing search for the Panchen Lama, or the anticipated successor to the Dalai Lama. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tibet/china/panchen.html The real Panchen Lama and his parents had disappeared in 1995 in the hands of the Chinese regime, and they have not been heard from since.
Likewise, there was a fairly strong argument for the entire world community to join in a fight for Tibetan rights, freedoms, and sovereignty based on the historical injustices the Tibetans have faced over the past 50-plus years.
Here is what was written on that wall to the righ of one entrance to a monestary near downtown Manali, India:
"ATTROCITIES IN TIBET"
"Tibet, once an independent soverign state was forcefully occupied by China in 1959, in the name of liberation and progress. China has been systematically trying to wipe from the face of this earth the Tibetans as a distinct race and culture. The Chinese rule in Tibet is more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world. In 1960, the International Commission of Jurists found through intensive investigation that China had committed acts of genocide on Tibet. Over 1.2 Million Tibetans have been killed, more than 6000 monestaries and institutes of learning have been destroyed--and Tibetans are deprived of the basic rights of expression, speech, movement, religion, etc.Tibetan women are sujected to forced abortion and sterilization. Tibetan children are deprived of the basic childhood education, arbitrary arrest, repression, torture, & imprisonment have been the regular feature of this regime for the last 50 years. [Meanwhile] 7.5 million Chinese have been transferred to Tibet--making 6 million Tibetans in Tibet a minority in their own land."
"The question of Tibetan Independence is not only matter of Tibetans alone. It is directly related to Peace in Asia and the world at large. We, therefore, appeal to the world communities to help us in our struggle for complete independence."
This large-print text (or announcement) on that Manali monastery's entranceway was signed by the local TIBETAN FREEDOM MOVEMENT, Manali, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, and the Regional Tibetan Women Association.
In short, there are voices in India and from around the world in support of Tibet and in support of Tibetans anywhere, but what do we do about the Olympics and what should or could Olympians due to speak out?
First of all, we need to remember that protest requires imagination! (So, my suggestions below are not in any ways totally inclusive!)
Second, here some suggestions for athletes:
(1) Walk around singing bars from Alice's Restaurant--even on the podium when receiving your medals--perhaps fans can home along, too.
(2) Go out and demand that Tibetan food be served on your compound--demand it before your arrrival.
(3) Go out and enjoy Tibetan food while participating in the olympics and let all your friends, especially your blogger buddies and ESPN know about it.
(4) When doing stretching exercises, lay down in the grass and spell out Tibet or Free Tibet or even Dalai Lama--you will need teamwork for this and a camera.
(5) Be sure to visit Tibet or demand a visit to Tibet while in China! (Imagine what it would be like if 11,000 athletes said, "We want to see and meet Tibetans in Tibet before it's gone.)
(6) Write your Congressmen or government and let them no you want your own regime to protest in a loud voice on behalf of the people of Tibet!
Finally, non-Olympic participants, could do the same, i.e. sing along with ALICE'S RESTAURANT, demand Tibetan food be served in Beijing and Shanghai, visit Tibet, take photos of real Tibet, leave behind FREE TIBET grafitti everywhere, blog about it, put something about it on You-Tube, etc.
You can also write your congressman or send money to a Tibetan relief or organization, including one that supports temples ans society inside Tibet or in neighboring lands, like India.
In any case, let not a single day of these 2008 Olympics go by without doing something creative to help Tibet or going out of your way to financially, politically, and spiritually to support the Tibetan peoples.
Guthrie, Arlo, Alice's Restaurant
"Don't Bow to the U.S.: Left to UPA", http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=50586
Guthrie, Arlo, Alice's Restaurant
"MANALI: Land of Monestaries and Orchards", http://indiapost.com/article/travel/1447/
"Torture in Tibet", http://www.tibet.com/Humanrights/torture/torture.html
USAID "Tibetan Torture Survivors Program", http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/the_funds/vot/tibet.html
Verma, Hemlata, ""Don't Bow to China on Tibet", THE INDIAN EXPRESS, 4 July 2008, p.6.