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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Free Tibet Speech

Below is a short speech I made on Tibet at the University of the Witwatersrand last week. Btw, I'm not a Buddhist, died black in materialism.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Tibetan Photo Exhibition hosted by Students for a Free Tibet. Thank you for coming, and I hope that you enjoy these excellent representations of Tibetan culture.

My name is Tristen Taylor, and I am a South African human rights campaigner. I have been asked by the Office of Tibet in South Africa to briefly discuss human rights abuses in Tibet.

The situation in Tibet continues to deteriorate in regards to the basic human rights of the Tibetan people and the prospects for self-rule or independence are still remote.

In 1950, the People’s Republic China invaded the independent nation of Tibet, with the public aim of abolishing feudalism within Tibet. It was assisted in this invasion—an invasion that killed between 400,000 and 1.2 million Tibetans—by Tibetan communists, also seeking to end serfdom within Tibet. In a sign of the repression that has come to dominate Chinese oppression, many of these Tibetan communists were arrested by the Chinese for advocating a free and independent Tibet.

In 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was forced to flee from Tibet, and throughout the reign of Mao Zedong the predominantly Buddhist religious and cultural institutions of Tibet were systematically attacked and destroyed; approximately 6,000 monasteries were destroyed. Detention, forced labour in re-education camps, executions, torture, forced relocations and extra-judicial killings became depressingly commonplace. These crimes are still being committed today. Right now, as I speak to you, it is a crime to possess a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibet.

Today, several key human rights are being violated in Tibet by the Chinese Government.

The right for workers to organise and assemble is denied to Tibetans and other Chinese workers. There is one trade union in Tibet, subordinate to the Chinese Central Government, and its current aim is to facilitate business, not stand up for the rights of workers. Tibetan workers must be allowed to form their own independent trade unions.

The right to religious freedom is being denied on a whole-scale and systematic basis. Monks are permitted to practice Buddhism only if they do not challenge China’s rule of Tibet, renounce the Dalai Lama, and stay within proscribed boundaries. Recently and in a widely distributed film clip, Chinese soldiers shot and killed monks as they were attempting to flee to India. Tibetan civil servants are not allowed to practice Buddhism.

And, Tibetan Muslims have been forced into exile for practising their faith as they see fit, not as Beijing wishes Islam to be practiced. Tibetans must be allowed to practise their religions as they desire.

Tibetans human rights are being violated by China’s current policy of forced land evictions and the destruction of the Tibetan herding economy. Tens of thousands of Tibetans have been forced off their land, forced to slaughter their herds, and relocated to Chinese built and controlled urban settlements, where they have sunk into poverty and dislocation. This Chinese policy aims to reinterpret Tibetan society into a more acceptable society; i.e. turn self-sufficient Tibetans into low-wage construction and service workers, marginalised and dispossessed. Over 350 people a day die in Chinese factories.

The right to a clean and healthy environment is being made a mockery of by the Chinese State. Currently, China uses Tibet as its industrial backyard, locating heavy and polluting industry within Tibet. In particular, aluminium smelters are poisoning harvests and grasslands with fluoride emissions. With over 150 millions tons of oil located in the Tibetan basin and one-third of China’s copper reserves, China is seeking to exploit Tibetan natural resources for use in China’s eastern provinces. This is an example of the brutal colonialism that we Africans only know too well. China will exploit and use Tibet’s resources to enrich itself; little of this wealth will remain in Tibet.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has pointed out, there is a form of Apartheid existing in Tibet. The Chinese Government brings Han Chinese migrants into Tibet, drastically changing the demographic dynamics, and favours Han Chinese in the business and political realms. For example, the powerful Central Communist Committee of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is dominated by Han Chinese. An overclass of Han Chinese has emerged in Tibet; a racial power relationship eerily similar to Apartheid.

At the heart of all these human rights abuses is the fervent desire of Tibetans to democratically administer their own country. This right is well-recognised within international relations. If Kosovo, Palestine, Ireland, Catalonia and Kurdistan can all have either independence or self-rule, why not Tibet?

We can understand this desire for freedom in Africa. For hundreds of years we have been exploited and colonised by foreign powers in the name of civilisation. Our resources have been stripped and provide the basis for Europe’s current development. Our labour, rubber, gold, oil, timber, and diamonds have made Europe wealthy and Africa poor. We have been trapped in foreign, illegitimate debt for generations; food and medicine has literally been stolen from our children’s mouths.

It is in the spirit of solidarity against repression and colonialism that all South Africans must support Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s call for China to recognise the inalienable right for Tibetans to administer their own affairs. Like millions of ordinary people across the world supported our struggle against Apartheid, we millions of South Africans should support the Tibetan struggle for democracy and freedom.

Thank you very much.



  • hey comrade, i mentioned this post on my Carnival of Socialism post. A collection i gathered of recent blog posts about equal rights and liberations.

    keep up good work

    By Blogger blackstone, At 3:23 am  

  • Thanks, and you too. Revolution in our time.

    By Blogger Tristen, At 9:29 am  

  • But what about the fact that tiny new countries often end up being pawns of corporations or of countries like China and the US who are very much about extending their imperialist influences? I offer that if/when Tibet does gain independence of China, this independence will really just be the freedom to choose some sort of big brother protector like the US who it seems has been courting and supporting Tibetan freedom fighters for decades. I find the thought of any powerful nation utilizing smaller, less resourced nations as pawns in battles for world supremacy disgusting, but do you think Tibet will be able to avoid being utilized in this way even if it does gain its independence?

    By Blogger Dark Daughta, At 2:15 am  

  • Hi there,

    Yes, I think that is a distinct danger, but one not unique to Tibet; happens throughout the developing world. Fear of new masters means that struggle, as in South Africa, has to continue on after liberation. In fact, the post-liberation struggle is harder, more difficult, and longer than the liberation struggle, as you are engaged against shadowy capital.

    By Blogger Tristen, At 11:01 am  

  • You are a retard. Tibet has improved a million times since China took over. Dont understand why you want Tibet to go back into slavery and poverty? Just so you can put it on your resume that you helped out on Tibet freedom? Get a really job!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 6:36 pm  

  • Thanks for the response, tristen.

    I agree with you that once a liberation struggle is defined as "post" then it becomes even more difficult for those who still struggle for liberation to have their issues dealt with. Human beings have been educated in a way that makes them want to read issues in really simplistic ways. Either it's this or it's that. There's no space for a reckoning with shades of grey...even though everything is grey.

    And even though, this isn't my blog, I just have to say...
    Anonymous, why do you have to be so disrespectful to tristen? Come out into the light and share your name and location why don't you? Why hide if you're so confident about what you're spouting?

    By Blogger Dark Daughta, At 8:24 pm  

  • WOW! This helped me a lot with my essay, i hope the info. is fact though...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 5:12 am  

  • Yes, the facts are right. For the idiot two comments, up, yes Tibet was a feudal society but that doesn't mean A) things have changed, B) that this is a valid reason for continued occupation. For a left analysis (proper left, not the capitalist communism of the PRC) see,

    By Blogger Tristen, At 9:21 am  

  • I always really resent the ways that people in industrialized societies insist on believing that history and societal transformation is simple, linear and traveling slways from stone age to capitalist "free" "civilization". They have used this simple understanding to justify the imposition of their values and religious beliefs on people all over the world. The belief that an industrialized culture or country is "bringing" another peopling into the present, "saving" them from their old and outmoded ways has been proven time and time again to be false and deeply damaging. I can't help but be conscious of the fact that I'm here tip tapping away discussing this as I am so clearly evidence of this sort of malformed imperialist colonization project in the flesh. It doesn't fucking work. It's harmful. It never leads to anything good.

    Tristen, I hope you don't mind long(er) comments.

    By Blogger Dark Daughta, At 3:28 pm  

  • dark daughta, I like what you say, so feel free to have a long comment.

    By Blogger Tristen, At 9:36 am  

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