‘Big Brother autonomy’

| November 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

pic 1Separating Tibet from China is the equivalent to severing an arm from a body, according to chairman Zhu Weiqun (pictured below), China’s chairman for ethnic and religious affairs. And there’s no chance of that happening.

Zhu 2

“Every inch of Tibet is important to us,” Weiqun told EU Reporter. “We will not allow any of part of China to be separated from China or occupied by foreign forces.”

Tibet has long been politically controversial, however, China’s political stance remains resilient. And with countries contemplating the Asian superpower as a future creditor to ease their economic woes, it is unlikely that its ethnic policies will be challenged.

The United Kingdom, for example, decided in late 2008 to officially accept Beijing’s rule over the Tibet region. A move that Weiqun considered brought the UK “in line with the universal position in today’s world”.

Critics, however, maintain that the official recognition by former prime minister Gordon Brown was an attempt to bring China into a new world economic order.  A clear indication of how western nations are willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in return for economic favour.

Hence, it has been left to human rights groups to pick up the Tibetan case against China. And the list of accusations is long.

Most recently Amnesty International reported on an incident in early October in which Chinese authorities opened fire on Tibetan protesters in the town of Driru, injuring over 60 people. A further 40 Tibetans were later detained with their current whereabouts still unknown.

“Due to the vast differences in situations in the European Union and China we have to choose our own paths,” Weiqun said.

‘A bad word whispered echoes a hundred miles’

Weiqun will point to all the positives China has brought to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) such as rapid GDP growth, rising tourism and infrastructural modernization in high altitude.

“This is an indication of how well ethnic groups have been handled,” Weiqun said. “Otherwise, such economic success in Tibet, and China as a whole, would not have occurred.”

China will feel that hard facts salute their Tibetan policy. But the message of 120 Tibetans who have set themselves alight since 2009 suggests otherwise. Coupled with reports of human rights abuses from from the EU Special Representative on Human Rights and the US Congressional Executive Commission on China, it paints a very different picture.

“Instead of addressing the grievances, the Chinese authorities strengthen a security crackdown based on the premise of ‘stability maintenance’ that infringed on Tibetans’ freedoms of expression, association and movement,” according to the US annual report on China.

The October shooting in Driru on demonstrators is an indication of what these reports allure to; a confrontation that ensued as a result of Tibetan refusal to fly the Chinese flag on China’s national day on October 1. A level of disobedience that was met with the arrival of thousands of Chinese troops forcing locals to raise the Chinese flag, according to US government backed Radio Free Asia.

An incident that Weiqun refutes.

“There have been no arrests over flag disputes,” Chairman Weiqun said. “This has not happened. Tibetan people want to fly the flag because they are proud to be part of China.”

However, Weiqun did mention that if in the event ‘there are people who deface the Chinese flag deliberately, then they will be dealt with as the law demands; regardless of what ethnic group they come from’. A statement that seems to coincide with reports coming from the Tibetan village of Mowa, where Chinese flags were dumped into a river prompting arrests and military occupation.

‘A nation is easier to rule than a child’

“In China we practice autonomy in religious regions,” Weiqun said. “These regions can formulate their own development and rules. That means they have flexibility in their own development.”

Chinese autonomy, however, is not a flexible term. When asked to elaborate on how autonomous Tibet will be allowed to be, Weiqun said that people could exercise their rights, as long as they abide by the constitution.

The reality of Tibetan self-rule is one that is exercised under Chinese supervision. Anything else, such as suggested by the Dalai Lama, is only met with Chinese suspicion.

The Dalai Lama’s version of autonomy, in the eyes of China, is a two-step process of separatism, then independence.

“Our understanding of autonomy is one that can not be initiated within a high or low context,” Weiqun said. “It is consistent, and won’t change.”

‘A rat who gnaws at a cat’s tail invites destruction’

Western nations will disagree with China’s guide to autonomy. But they will disagree quietly.

A report by Human Right’s Watch lamented the weak efforts of EU member states to impress human right concerns on Chinese leaders. Especially considering that EU foreign ministers adopted a sweeping package of new policies in June 2012 that committed the EU to ‘throw its full weight behind advocates of liberty, democracy and human rights throughout the world’.

A valid criticism perhaps, but one that will go on being ignored as it is not in the interests of nations to poke the dragon.

China holds $1.3 trillion of American debt alone and has been buying up European debt as well. For example, the Asian superpower is one of the biggest foreign owners of Spanish sovereign debt, with around 10% of total foreign holdings.

So when a Spanish court decided in October to issue an indictment for former Chinese President Hu, over his human rights record against Tibet between 1989-92, one cannot help but feel that the Spanish government was left squirming uneasily.

Especially when Chairman Weiqun reacted to the indictment with: “In history some western countries have never treated China in a legal manner. They wanted to occupy Chinese and burn our houses. Now they can no longer do this, so they turn to indictments to try to hurt us.

This kind of indictment is ridiculous and laughable. These people will only be left humiliated. A Chinese proverb says: ‘Come at us if you want. If you have the guts’.”

Copyright on images: First image, International Campaign for Tibet, third image Amnesty International.

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Category: A Frontpage, China, Politics, World

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