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Record Number of Tibetan Protesters Set Themselves on Fire

China is on the boil these days, and the ethnic tensions in much of the country are part of the picture. The Associated Press has a long piece worth reading in full, but here is a summary:

More than two dozen Tibetans, many in their teens or 20s, have set themselves on fire since early 2011 in an unprecedented series of suicide-protests. In the moments before they are overwhelmed by pain or tackled by Chinese security, they cry out for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, for an end to China’s crackdowns or for their homeland’s independence.

Fiery suicides among Tibetans represent a new kind of mass protest in a country that has seen more than its share of unrest in recent years. While the Chinese government is unlikely to be moved in the short run, these kinds of protests will leave an inexpungible mark on rising generations of Tibetans.

The western half of China including Tibet, the borderlands around it and the vast northwestern region of Xinjiang with its restive Uighurs and other minorities, poses questions for the Chinese government that don’t seem to have happy answers. The locals hate Beijing’s centralized authority and its reliance on importing large numbers of Han Chinese as a ‘solution’ to the development and political problems of these remote areas — but they lack the power to challenge Beijing’s grip.

Self immolation is about as sincere an act of public protest as one can imagine; it is infinitely more impressive morally than suicide bombing, and like almost nothing else it communicates a sense of the unbearable agony which victims feel.

The US is in no position to lecture other countries on how to handle restive indigenous minorities, but world opinion cannot help but be struck by the spectacle in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, one feels, remains the person with whom China reach an agreement that would keep Tibet in China while ending the unrest.  But His Holiness is growing old, and younger generations of Tibetans may not share the wisdom and the pragmatism that long years of exile have given the world’s most famous monk.

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  • J R Yankovic

    I guess there’s no pleasing some people. You’d think the Tibetans would be grateful to be flooded with unstoppable waves of Han Chinese drive, work ethic, enterprise and self-confidence.

    Also an eloquent reminder of what humane overlords the Chinese will prove to be should other regions of Central Asia (not to mention the Soviet Far East) become similarly “Tibetanized.”

    In sum, thank Heaven for those American and other Western Sino-optimists of the ’90s and early 2000s. Nice to see how, with every passing year, the Beijing Chinese are proving every bit as liberal and democratizing a rival as our earlier Japanese, Taiwanese and South Korean competitors.

    One question, though: How do you think our Sino-optimism will be remembered? As one last embarrassing vestige of “Blue model” economic thinking? As the first pioneering trade move of a bold new Post-Blue model? Or maybe even, on a deeper level, as one more instance of that blithely overconfident, global business-driven isolationism so recurrent among British and American idealists – perhaps best summarized under topical headings like “Trade not trust,” “Trade heals all things,” and “How to bind (oneself to) the strong man”?

  • Luke Lea

    Using Economic Interests to Pressure Western Countries

    From Epoch Times Commentaries on the Communist Party:

    Many people believe that trade with China will promote human rights, freedom of speech and democratic reform in China. After more than a decade, it is clear that this assumption is only wishful thinking. A comparison of the principles for doing business in China and the West provides a common example. The fairness and transparency of Western societies are replaced by nepotism, bribery and embezzlement in China. Many Western corporations have become leading culprits by further exacerbating China�s corruption. Some companies even help the CCP hide its human rights violations and persecution of its own people.

    The CCP behaves like the Mafia by playing the economic card in foreign diplomacy. Whether China�s aircraft manufacturing contract is given to France or the United States depends on which country keeps quiet on the CCP�s human rights issues. Many Western businessmen and politicians are driven and controlled by economic profits from China. Some information technology companies from North America have supplied specialized products to the CCP for blocking the Internet. In order to gain entry to the Chinese market, some Internet websites have agreed to censor themselves and filter out information disliked by the CCP.

    According to data from China�s Ministry of Commerce, by the end of April 2004, China has seen a total US$ 990 billion of foreign investment in various contracts. The huge �blood transfusion� to the CCP�s economy from foreign capital is apparent. But in the process of investment, foreign capital did not bring the concept of democracy, freedom and human rights as fundamental principles to the Chinese people. The CCP capitalizes in its propaganda on the unconditional cooperation by foreign investors and foreign governments and the flattery of some countries. By making use of China�s superficial economic prosperity, CCP officials have become extremely adept at colluding with businesses to divide state wealth and block political reforms.

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