Colonialism in Tibet

Regarding the Sept. 24 opinions column, “Democratic propaganda blinds all in Tibetan controversy,” it seems Diana Fu got some historical facts wrong. First, Tibet was independent before 1951 and was never a part of China. Even during the height of the Qing imperial influence in the 18th century, Tibet was treated as separate by both Tibetans and Chinese. Tibet and the Manchu Qing Dynasty had a unique relationship called the “cho-yon,” or priest-patron relationship. China and Tibet saw each other as equal allies, not as a superior and subordinate. By the 19th century, there was little Qing influence in Tibet. Tibet fought its own war with Nepal and even signed a treaty in 1856. Tibet defended itself alone during the British invasion of 1904 and signed several treaties with England thereafter. Tibet even fought border wars with China and signed a treaty with the Republic of China in 1918.

Tibet was not partially independent as Fu alludes, but fully independent in all ways. Tibet had a separate territory, government and population from China, and Tibet handled its own foreign affairs. The myth of Tibet as a part of China actually began with Sun Yat-sen in 1912, at a time when China had no control over Tibet. Before that, not even Imperial China viewed Tibet as part of its territory.

Unfortunately, it seems Fu is a victim of Han chauvinism and a Middle Kingdom mentality. She constantly points out that the Chinese strongly view Tibet as belonging to China, in the same way Americans see Texas and California as a part of the United States. But Fu fails to take into considerations the views and desires of the Tibetan people. We Tibetans do not view Tibet and China to be one nation. We see China as a foreign power that occupied our homeland. We view China as a colonial regime that discriminates against Tibetans and exploits our natural resources. We do not wish to be under Chinese rule and if China ever allowed Tibetans to exercise our right of self-determination, the world would know Tibetans want to be free from China.

Fu also seems to be victim of paranoia. She blames the United States and Cold War mentality for the friction between the West and China over Tibet. But the Tibetan freedom struggle did not begin in the West. It originated with Tibetans, the moment the People’s Liberation Army of China invaded our country in 1949-1950. It continues to this day because of the oppressive, and often racist, policies of the Chinese government. If Fu truly wants to improve China’s image in the West, which seems to be her motivation for this article, she should look to China, not the West, for change.

If Japan had won World War II and ruled China today, would Fu say the feelings of the Japanese people should be taken into account? No, she would likely say that the Chinese want to be free and Japan should get out of China. Japanese imperialism during World War II was wrong, but Fu seems blind to Chinese imperialism today.

No matter how long China may rule Tibet, it is still colonialism. Colonialism is evil and we should all oppose it.