On April 28, His supposed 'Holiness' the Dalai Lama who would be better referred to as Tenzin Gyatso is arriving in Ottawa to give a lecture about ethics. How can this man have the audacity to lecture hordes of Canadians about ethics when he can barely practice what he preaches? This is the same man who told a Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington D.C. in 1987 that he would bar entry to Han Chinese in his independent Tibet, a policy that is both racist and puts in question the fate of the minority Han Chinese who currently live in Tibet. His teachings of non-violence resonate with many in the Western world even if they aren't true. After all he did support receiving millions of dollars in funding from the CIA to arm guerrilla fighters who trained in Colorado. For one who preaches non-violence he certainly does view violence as a means to an end.
Many of his followers support an independent Tibet akin to the one that existed before it became a part of the People's Republic of China. However I think it is important to examine how life was in independent Tibet. Until 1959, when Tenzin Gyatso left Tibet at age 23, the country remained as a feudalistic serfdom. Society was comprised of a wealthy, priestly class while the majority of Tibetans lived in poverty. I can understand why Mr. Gyatso would want to return to Tibet considering he lived in the 14-story, 1000-room Potala Palace. With that type of real estate who wouldn't want to go back, even if it is at the expense of others who will live in perpetual squalor. The seemingly calm and peaceful Tibet required no police force, perhaps because no one broke the law or in fact because it had its own army. This wasn't an ordinary army that was used in self-defense. Rather it was used to keep order, protect the property of the wealthy landlords who exploited their enslaved serfs. And just in case one of those serfs happened to escape, it was the army's duty to hunt them down. Punishment consisted of bodily mutilation, a practice that was supposed to have been made illegal in 1913 by the previous Dalai Lama; but in fact was in place as late as 1949 when some border guards were to have their ears and noses cut off. The last practice of eye-gouging took place in 1934. It should be noted that Tenzin Gyatso had no plans for large scale reform and if the country had remained under his rule many of these crooked policies would remain in place.
Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from their peasant families in order to be indoctrinated into becoming monks. Once there they would stay for life and it was common for them to be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. Young Tibetan serf girls were also exploited as they were usually taken by their owners to be used as they desired. The serfs would be taxed for everything from marriage to family births and deaths, even if they were unemployed; and if you were unable to pay your debts then you were at risk for being cast into slavery. Also, if a serf with debt died, then the debt would be passed down to the children who would also face the same fate, thus creating a cycle of slavery. For all it is worth I believe it is safe to say that such a system does not deserve to exist in the 21st century.
Tenzin Gyatso has a tendency to misrepresent the situation in Tibet as one where the Han Chinese are in the majority in order to sway public opinion for his own political motivations. Professor Barry Sautman of Columbia University has reaffirmed that none of the Han Chinese are subsidized and that about 85 percent of them who do migrate to Tibet, usually leave within 2 to 3 years due to their businesses failing. There are many unemployed Tibetans but virtually no unemployed Han Chinese because they leave when they can't find work. Emeritus Professor Colin Mackerras has also noted the discrepancies when it comes to the Tibetan population, which has increased since the 1960s and that modernization has brought about a greater standard of living and lowered mortality rates.
I recognize that the Chinese government is highly repressive and is deserving of much valid criticism. That being said, the Western perception of the current Tibetan situation is highly distorted and biased from a singular viewpoint presented by Tenzin Gyatso. The West shouldn't be fooled into thinking that Tibet was a utopia; it had a slave system in place that benefited the few in the priestly class, had a low life expectancy and had high mortality rates. Now Tibetans have running water and electricity, their population has doubled since 1950 and their GDP is thirty times of what is was before the takeover due to improved infrastructure. He is regarded as the “Laughing Lama” which is understandable considering he must be laughing to the bank with the money of ignorant Westerners.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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