Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Olympic Torch Dims Over Tibet

Chinese President Hu Jintao holds the Olympic Torch on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, 31 March 2008. The Olympic Torch arrived from Athens on a special plane and begins a worldwide tour on 02 April when it leaves Beijing, travelling 30 days overseas and 100 within China before lighting the flame at the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing on 08 August 2008. EPA

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

When the 11th Olympiad was held in Berlin in 1936, it provided Hitler with a grand opportunity to make Nazi German look good. He tried to project his Third Reich as a peaceful, non-aggressive, and a tolerant society. For two weeks, Germany and Nazism glowed in the limelight. But as soon as the Olympiad concluded, the Nazis were back at their old ways: persecuting the Jews and anyone whom they considered as "non-Aryan." Within a couple of years, Germany invaded its neighbors and sparked World War II.

The Nazis believed that the mythical Aryan race was real and superior to other humans. In 1938, Hitler sent a anthropological expedition to Tibet to search for the origin of the Aryan race. However, many believed that the expedition was more of a political nature than "anthropological." After all, the expedition was sponsored by no other than the second most powerful man in the Third Reich, Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was the leader of the dreaded SS and architect of the "Final Solution" which systematically annihilated more than six million Jews -- the worst genocide the world has ever known.

Christopher Hale in his book, "Himmler's Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race," revealed that the purpose of the expedition was "to examine Tibetan nobles for signs of Aryan physiology, undermine the British relationship with the ruling class, and sow the seeds of rebellion among the populace." Himmler was obsessed in his search of the remnants of the lost Aryan "master race."

A decade later, Tibet was once again in the limelight. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong took total control of mainland China and established the People's Republic of China. He then declared that the People's Liberation Army -- formerly Red Army -- must liberate all Chinese territories, including Tibet.

On October 7 the following year, Mao sent an invasion force of 80,000 troops to Tibet. The 8,000-strong Tibetan militia was no match against the battle-hardened communist troops. Within two days, Tibetan resistance collapsed. Consequently, Mao imposed a treaty that declared Tibet to be a part of China.

On November 17, 1950, the Tibetan National Assembly installed the 14th Dalai Lama --who was 16 years old at that time -- as Tibet's head of state as well as head of government with full political power. In April 1951, the Dalai Lama sent a delegation to Beijing to negotiate for peace. However, The Chinese told the Tibetan delegation to either sign an accord -- the "Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" -- or face a Chinese military offensive. On May 23, 1951, the Tibetan delegation, who were prevented by the Chinese from contacting their Tibetan government during the negotiation -- acquiesced and signed the agreement. As Mao once said, "Power comes from the barrel of a gun." Yes, indeed.

In March 1959, the Tibetans revolted but were brutally crushed by China. The Dalai Lama went into exile in Dharamsala, India. More than 80,000 Tibetans followed him into exile. It was at Dharamsala where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile.

For almost half a century, the international community has turned a blind eye to China's oppression of religion and genocide against the Tibetan people. Statistics show that more than 17% of the Tibetan people have been killed and 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed in Tibet.

With the upcoming 39th Summer Olympics in Beijing this year, Tibet is once again at the forefront of international debate. The term "Genocide Olympics" is being used by the "Free Tibet" movement to highlight their opposition to China's repressive rule and genocidal campaign against the Tibetan people and their culture. The issue is the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. Indeed, "right to self-determination" is the fundamental right of all peoples which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution upholding the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. It was reaffirmed in 1965. Various countries including the European Union have supported the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. It is sad to say, however, that all this expression of support for the Tibetan people is nothing more than lip service.

Recently, the Olympic Torch relay started in earnest. It was intended to circle the globe as a "symbol of peace and unity." However, instead of creating global harmony, it has ignited worldwide protests. Indeed, the Olympic Torch run has turned into an event that people use to express their support for the Tibetans' struggle for independence or to signify their abhorrence of China's human rights record in Tibet.

China was hoping that the Beijing Summer Olympics would give her the respectability that she wanted so badly. China put forth an expensive public relations and marketing blitz to show the transformation from a dreaded past into an economically progressive and peace-loving nation.

An ancient Chinese expression says, "Evil prevails when good men fail to act." Well, the good men (or people) of the world have long forsaken Tibet where evil has prevailed for almost half a century. Today, the Beijing Olympics has rejuvenated the "Free Tibet" movement. Inside Tibet, the young Tibetans are more vocal than their passive elders. The question is: would China see the light and allow the Tibetan people to exercise their right to self-determination? Or would China harden her stance and pursue a "final solution" to the prickly Tibetan problem? It's kind of weird, but somehow history always finds a way of repeating itself.