Identity in Tibet

Diane Fu’s column “Democratic propaganda blinds all in Tibetan controversy,” (Sept. 24) almost makes a useful point, but then gets lost in a rant against U.S. government propaganda. She rightly points out that the Tibetans are a distinct people living under foreign occupation and repression. The Tibetans have so far held onto their strong sense of identity as a people to resist complete assimilation. Where Fu goes wrong is to suggest that after 50 years of some of the most brutal and systematic human rights abuses ever wielded against a people, the Chinese people have a right to claim the Tibetan land and people as part of their “identity.” The Chinese “claim” to Tibet is a creation of emperors and despots, both nationalist and communist, and not of the Chinese and Tibetan people, or of history and the law of sovereignty. Any belief that Tibet is rightly part of China is the result of the conqueror’s prerogative of rewriting history and, in the case of the people of communist China, of unrelenting propaganda.

The point Fu might have made, in calling on comparisons to the U.S. treatment of American Indians, is that independence, or some meaningful autonomy arrangement, is the only solution that will prevent the eventual extinction of the Tibetan identity. Arbitrary arrest, torture, suppression of religion, coercive family planning laws, population transfer and massive exploitation of natural resources, are all being used – increasingly acknowledged by Chinese authorities and scholars – to make Tibetans into compliant Chinese. For Tibetans, identity is resistance; therefore identity must go. Whatever myths may have been created in the decidedly unfree minds of Chinese people are irrelevant in the face of the Chinese government’s campaign and the Tibetan people’s right to survive.