50-year-old Tibetan freedom struggle still in limbo


By Himani Kumar
In 2001, women started going to school in Afghanistan and in 2005 the first free elections were conducted in Iraq. These events were viewed as major human rights accomplishments. Human rights seemed to be gaining ground. But more than 50 years have passed and nothing tangible has  been achieved by Tibetans, who are still under the Chinese rule. The Tibetan struggle to gain independence that started in 1959 is still in a limbo.

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake on April 14 that rocked Yushu yet again shows the plight of Tibetans. Yushu is in a  part of the Qinghai province bordering  the Tibetan Autonomous Region historically known as Amdo. Monks were not able to even discard their dead bodies which were left to be eaten by vultures.

Sixty-two years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, something still is missing and needs to be done. In the guise of development that China has promised to the Tibetans, Tibetans are being forced to give up their religion and culture with attempts to neutralize support for the Dalai Lama.

Although there is dearth of information on Chinese repression, media reports state  Tibetan nuns and monks, who dare protest or raise their voices have been imprisoned and  sexually harassed in jails and treated as animals.

Following Chinese army attack, Dalai Lama fled to India from Tibet in 1959 and took refuge in Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh. It is no wonder that Tibetans call India their “second home.” The March 2008 uprising was met with failure.

Although news reports about the earthquake claim that China is providing adequate and timely help, not much help has reached, and the situation is quite unlike Haiti.

According to an article in Newsweek dated April 25, 2010, the earthquake has made the Chinese learn more about Tibetans — about their poverty and humanity. “In general, Chinese don’t have a very healthy, full view of Tibet,” but the quake is helping change this, says blogger and social commentator Yang Hengjun. If the tragedy destroyed homes, it may also elicit a new sympathy that never existed before.

Bhuchung K. Tsering,  vice president  for special programs at International Campaign for Tibet, writes  on www. weblog.savetibet.org that although the Chinese media has expressed condolence by leaders around the world whose names the Tibetans in Yushu may not have heard of, it is silent on the message of Dalai Lama and about his prayers.

In February 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew fire for saying that human rights should not “interfere” with the US-China relations. President Obama postponed his meeting with the Dalai Lama when he came to the US in early October last year, and promised to meet him after his China trip, which he did.

Elliott Abrams, deputy national security director for democracy in George W. Bush’s second term and now a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, states, “It seems clear to me that the Obama administration has no human rights policy.”

For the freedom movement to be a success, Tibet needs strong support from the world community.  Tibet could surely have the last word.

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