Governments react to new Tibetan-Chinese dialogue

On Tuesday, January 26, 2010, in Recent, by Todd Stein

The following is a list of  public reactions thus far (January 26) from national capitals on the announcement that the representatives of the Dalai Lama are in Beijing for the ninth round of their dialogue with their Chinese counterparts.

It is interesting to observe that the British and the Danes expressly  are calling for “meaningful autonomy” or “genuine self-rule” for Tibetans as a goal of the dialogue. By contrast, the U.S. and Canadians  are so far taking a more diffident approach by referring merely to “longstanding differences” or “outstanding issues.” Importantly, all of the statements express the desire for a resolution/results from the talks.

Of course, the U.S. statement will be put in context of the upcoming meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama, which the White House has said is “most certain.” And the Danish statement will be analyzed against the criticism it received for its pre-Copenhagen summit statement on the status of Tibet.

The Chinese government statement? Singularly one-sided: “We hope that the Dalai Lama will appreciate the opportunity and respond positively to the requests of the central government,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told journalists in Beijing.

U.K. statement

Representatives of Dalai Lama meeting Chinese authorities

25 Jan 2010

Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis welcomes the news that representatives of the Dalai Lama would meet the Chinese authorities.

On hearing that representatives of the Dalai Lama would meet the Chinese authorities on 26 January 2010, Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said:

‘I welcome the announcement of the resumption of dialogue between the Chinese authorities and representatives of the Dalai Lama.  I urge both sides to enter these talks in good faith and to make progress towards meaningful autonomy for Tibet. Peaceful dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama’s representatives is the only way to bring about a lasting and peaceful solution to the problems in Tibet. I made this clear during my own visit to Tibet and Beijing last year.’

Canadian statement

Canada Welcomes New China-Dalai Lama Talks

(No. 42 – January 25, 2010 – 4:30 p.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement welcoming the first meeting in 15 months between representatives of the Chinese government and of the Dalai Lama:

“Canada has consistently advocated substantive dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives. I urge the two sides to approach this new round of talks with a commitment to serious and meaningful dialogue aimed at resolving outstanding issues in a manner acceptable to both.

“The Government of Canada attaches a great deal of importance to the treatment of ethnic Tibetans in China, and to their ability to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, spiritual belief and peaceful protest.”

U.S. statement

Dalai Lama’s Special Envoys Meeting with Chinese Officials

Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

January 25, 2010

The United States was pleased to learn that the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoys arrived today in China for their ninth round of meetings with Chinese officials.  The two sides met in Beijing in November 2008.  The United States strongly supports dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives to address longstanding differences.  The Administration hopes this meeting will produce positive results and provide a foundation for future discussions to resolve outstanding issues.

Danish statement

Dialogue between Tibet and China

In connection with the resumption of negotiations between representatives of the Dalai Lama and China, the Foreign Minister states:

“I am very satisfied that the negotiations between representatives of the Dalai Lama and China have now been resumed after a 15 months break.  I therefore again call on both parties to engage themselves constructively in the negotitions and hope that the dialogue will be carried through to a result which ensures that Tibetans attain genuine self-rule, with cultural and religious freedom and respect for human rights within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Dialogue is the only way forward to a peaceful solution to the question of Tibet.”

Photo caption: Lodi Gyari Gyaltsen, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (L) and Du Qinglin, Director of the United Front Work Department (R) at the eighth round of Sino-Tibetan dialog in Beijing in November 2008.

China pulls Avatar: colonization theme hits a nerve?

On Monday, January 25, 2010, in Recent, by Leslie Butterfield

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Chinese authorities have removed the 2D version of “Avatar” from all 4,500 theaters in China currently playing the blockbuster movie (the 3D version will still run). I have a feeling that this move may have unintended results, similar to Chinese officials’ attempts to pull “The Sun Behind the Clouds” from this month’s Palm Springs Film Festival, which turned out to be an ideal promotion for the Tibetan film.

Some commentators speculate that the Chinese authorities were scared that the film’s success – in its first week “Avatar” grossed $44 million in China – was drawing revenues from home-grown films, noting that authorities are replacing “Avatar” with a state-sponsored biography of Confucius due for release on Thursday, January 21. Recalling the Chinese government’s frequent cries of protectionism directed at the Obama Administration, this move is likely to raise some eyebrows among Hollywood’s allies in Washington.

It’s quite possible that Chinese officials did not care for the “subversive” political message featured in the film. In “Avatar,” the Na’vi people struggle to protect their land from greedy colonizers looking to suck out all of the “Unobtanium” from below the sacred Na’vi home-tree. For some Chinese bloggers, there is a connection between the Na’vi and the many Chinese kicked out of their homes by property developers.

When I saw “Avatar” with my 3D glasses on, I could not help but draw parallels between the plight of the Na’vi and the current cultural and environmental crises facing Tibetans.  While the Chinese government’s methods do not (yet) employ giant robot men and enormous bomb-dropping spaceships against Tibetans, their exploitative policies have fueled deep resentment among Tibetans. After a half century of mineral extraction, heavy logging, damming and nomad resettlement in Tibet, not to mention cultural repression and assimilation, it is not surprising that “Avatar” could touch a nerve.

Subversive or successful, for whatever reason, the film will no longer be shown in 2-D. Ironically, this announcement did not come fast enough to stop Google from purchasing over 200 tickets for its Chinese employees and giving them the afternoon off last week to see the film, in a gesture in response to their announcement that they could leave the China market.

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Humility, amongst other thoughts…

On Friday, January 15, 2010, in Recent, by Heidi Minx

Guest Blog by Heidi Minx

ICT staffers provide the content for ICT’s blog, but we occasionally like to offer space to others in the movement to share views and ideas. This guest blog is by Heidi Minx, entrepreneurial punk rock chick, designer (for her own clothing line, Franky & Minx), and now founder of one-woman charity, Built on Respect. She lives in New York City and Dharamsala. Visit her websites at www.PunkRockDomestics.com and www.BuiltOnRespect.com.

Humility, amongst other thoughts…

Dharamsala, India

Humility and selling don’t always go hand in hand. I know, totally strange sentence to start a blog with, but it was what came to mind after Monday’s occurrences.

On Monday I went to the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics to teach English; homework had been a short essay on 9/11, and the problems that hate and racism cause. I’m totally fascinated with the thoughts I read in their essays.

At the end of class, Geshe Yonten gave me a DVD, asked me to watch it, and said he had some questions. On my mid-day break, I watched it, it was a movie. The best summation is by the film maker:

“Two Buddhist monks fulfill their pledge to the Dalai Lama by leading a group of 17 poor children aged 4-12 on a journey from Zanskar in remote northwest India through the Himalayas. To seek an education: On foot. On horseback. By jeep and bus — whatever it takes. These children won’t see their families again for 10-15 years. 30 years ago, when they were children, these monks walked the same path themselves. Friends close to His Holiness led them from the Tibetan plateau to monasteries in southern India. Now, it’s their turn to lead the next generation — to keep the flame of Tibetan culture alive. But it won’t be easy.”

To see the film trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdkCMqqrlww – it’s narrated by Richard Gere, the Chair of ICT’s Board of Directors.

Hence, the humility. In our first class, Geshe-la had not mentioned this project, though my first question to them was, “Tell me about yourself.”

It made me think, a lot. I talk about everything I do here, a LOT. The aim is to spread awareness, to bring faces to people on the other side of the world who are working for change: to keep culture alive, to keep art alive, to regain independence, to fight political oppression — to gain educations.

While I might be here now 6 month out of the year, I am still in a safe country. I watched the full movie, and couldn’t begin to put myself in that situation — hiking the mountain passes, responsible for 17 children’s educations, and lives.

So, as usual, I said, what CAN I do? I called Geshe-la immediately, and we met extensively yesterday.

It is odd to me. I never thought my skills, mostly communication, could be as useful as they are. I can’t build a house, I can barely build a fire, I have no idea how to climb a mountain, or grow my own food — I would be useless in a rural village. But somehow here, knowledge is a strong currency. I can share my skills with a very amazing man — one who is accomplished not only as a professor of Buddhist philosophy, but who is taking responsibility as an individual for making a positive change in the lives of so many people.

Yet again, I continue to learn. That was several months ago. Now, the film has been completed, a FaceBook fan page has been started, and I have completed Geshe-la’s website for his work.

To add the page on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Save-Zanskar/192649739740?ref=ts

To learn more: www.SaveZanskar.org If you are interested in learning more, please email minx@builtonrespect.com.  We will have a copy of the film mailed to you for free.  A small screening with friends is a great way to raise awareness!

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A Google alert, indeed

On Wednesday, January 13, 2010, in Recent, by Todd Stein

By now, the news that Google has decided not to censor the Chinese version of its search engine in China and has threatened to pull out of the Chinese market in response to cyberattacks has made it around the world and back again.

ICT welcomes the announcement as a positive development in the quest for internet freedom.  (As tangible proof, users of google.cn in China were briefly able to view the iconic picture of the Tiananmen tank man.)   The reactions from other human rights groups has been similar (see Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in China, Reporters Without Borders, and Canada Tibet Committee).

We are cautiously optimistic that a rationale for Google’s announcement was the realization by this big technology company that complicity with censorship regimes, especially one that is state-sponsored and as nefarious as the PRC’s, is bad for business in the long run.

The timing is interesting. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is scheduled to speak in front of a conclave of the U.S. House Democrats tonight. And he recently met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (read her statement) on internet freedom, which is the subject of a speech she will deliver on January 21. Let’s be hopeful that governmental pressure had an effect on this corporate decision.

There is room for cynicism, of course.  The rationale given by Google – the recent discovery of cyber-attacks on their clients and other companies – is puzzling.  As every Tibet support group knows (not to mention most businesses and government agencies having anything to do with China), hacking from suspected Chinese sources is a lamentable fact of life.  So what did Google discover that’s new?

Likewise, the threat to leave the Chinese market (for which its share, 31%, is relatively small but not insignificant) defies conventional business wisdom.  Here is a blog with a cynical view: Doubting the sincerity of Google’s threat.

For Tibetans, the criminalization of free speech is acute and real.  ICT has documented a trend of Tibetans being given harsher sentences for passing on information about protests than for participating in them.

Whatever Google’s motivation behind their decision, the reality is that they’ve set a standard (of non-censorship by Internet companies) that we hope Google will stand by, and that other technology companies will feel pressure to meet.  We hope Secretary Clinton will use the opportunity of her January 21 speech to solidify that standard, and give high priority to anti-censorship efforts as a key element of U.S. human rights AND commercial policies, and as a reflection of non-negotiable American values.

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