Over the last few days President Obama was in China to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and to participate in a bilateral meeting with the leader of China’s Communist Party, Xi Jinping. While China was hosting these very important political events, it must be noted that it did not make any effort to diminish its anti-US and anti-western rhetoric. To the contrary, right after the US mid-term elections the Global Times, a state run Newspaper, mocked President Obama on the eve of his trip to China. For a country that has been run for over 60 years as a dictatorship as a one-party system without competitive elections, the rule of law, or democracy, it was certainly a bold statement. And yet it was not surprising, since it is in line with the increasingly aggressive behavior that China is assuming overall internationally. As reported by the New York Times, China’s rhetoric against the “West” is increasing, as are the sizes of its economy and of its military, which, in the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy, are used as tools to gain more political leverage around the world. The nationalistic and oppressive policies implemented in Tibet, coupled with huge infrastructural investments (on which ICT just today issued a very important report), show that China is using Tibet to strengthen its position in Asia, both through the control of natural resources and an enlarged military. This is why ICT asked our members to urge President Obama to raise the issue of Tibet while meeting Xi Jinping. I want to thank the thousands of ICT members who took the time to take this action. The President did respond to this call and in the public press conference he reiterated the US position that China needs “to take steps to preserve the unique cultural, religious and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.” More coordinated action among governments will be needed internationally to counter these very dangerous policies. If our governments would fail to do so, it will endanger not just Tibet, but world peace itself. Matteo
Matteo

Is China’s political system better than democracy?

On Thursday, October 23, 2014, in A Free Tibet in a Free World, by Matteo Mecacci
At different times over the last decades there have been a number of authors, professors, politicians, and intellectuals who have supported the view that the “West” should be more considerate and respectful of the “different” political systems existing or emerging in the world, and to not assume that democracy would be the best deal for other peoples and even our own. This was certainly true at the time of the Soviet Union, when a huge number of intellectuals supported the view that "The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government," as stated in 1983 in an interview by Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes, summing up a book titled After Brezhnev, in which he collected essays from 35 experts on the Soviet Union. Nowadays the ranks of China’s supporters (or apologists) are rapidly rising, and we might see more coming. But what is their reasoning today? Although the Chinese Communist party has lost the appeal of its communist ideology, it is praised nonetheless for its “pivotal status, competence, meritocracy, legitimacy and efficacy.” These are the words used by Mr. Martin Jacques in an op-ed published in the Financial Times on October 23, 2014, which in essence states that the Chinese government is developing a more efficient social political system than democracy. I don’t claim that democracy is a perfect political system, and I strongly believe that all democracies (including the more established) must be constantly monitored to make sure that the laws that exist on paper are effectively implemented in the real life of citizens. But, I also believe that claiming, as Mr. Jacques does, that the Chinese Government “has presided over rapidly rising living standards and enjoys a great deal of popular support” is a highly misleading statement. While nobody can deny that China has been able to hugely increase the size of its economy and also the general living standards of the people, how can anybody credibly claim that the Chinese people support the Communist party? Are there any reliable opinion polls to which Mr. Jacques can refer us? Is Mr. Jacques aware that the Communist party cannot be publicly criticized in China, and if that happens, the offending individuals are punished? (It’s very similar to happened during the fascist regime in my country of birth). Does Mr. Jacques know that China ranks number 175 out of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index? Does Mr. Jacques know that in order for the public to be able express its view on a system of government, a space for public and free debate must be created? Finally, does Mr. Jacques know that the images of the dozens of thousands of Hong Kongers who are demonstrating for democracy (yes, just democracy, capitalism is already present there) cannot reach mainland China because they are censored? It is in the interest of the Chinese people to ensure that intellectuals, writers and politicians are able to freely criticize a government, and since those living in China are not allowed to do so, it is even a bigger responsibility for those who live abroad and have access to major news outlets. No government can last forever without the genuine support of its people. They can try to break the spirit of people by jailing those who try to defend their fundamental rights, as they do in Tibet and in China, but the aspiration to freedom and to express opinions cannot be silenced indefinitely. Matteo
Matteo
Since you’re reading this blog, you already know my answer. No, this cannot be allowed and we, as citizens of the so-called “free world,” have a clear responsibility to call on our governments to expose the Chinese government’s policies in Tibet, and not to shy away from doing it. On Wednesday, we at ICT issued a new report, which documents the actions taken by China to further militarize the Tibetan plateau, as part of an extensive counterterrorism drive undertaken by China over the last months. Large military drills have been organized in Tibet to combat “self-immolation, vehicle collision, arson attacks, and mobs”, to make an “exercise of anti-terrorism and stability maintenance combat” and to combat “thugs”. If it were not tragic, it would be ironic to see this mobilization of force by the Chinese government, despite the absence of any incidents taking place in the region, neither against civilians nor against Chinese authorities. Counterterrorism trainings continue inside Buddhist monasteries in Tibet to have police “combat ready”; the teachings of the Dalai Lama have been defined as incitement to ‘hatred’ and ‘extremist action’, and self-immolations are equated to “terrorism” and “acts of significant evil”. It is not the first time that an authoritarian government has labeled any dissenting opinion about its policies as “terrorism”. What is striking is how quiet the democratic countries seems to have become when it comes to reacting and denouncing such outrageous statements like those that we have documented. Labeling a Tibetan self-immolator as a “terrorist” is the ultimate offense to people who have sacrificed their life, harming no one except themselves, to raise the attention of the international community on the plight of the Tibetan people. We at ICT will never forget that and we will never stop demanding justice. Matteo
Matteo

China’s bullying backfires in South Africa

On Wednesday, October 8, 2014, in A Free Tibet in a Free World, by Matteo Mecacci
Last month the government of South Africa, for the third time, denied an entry visa to the Dalai Lama. This time he had planned to participate in a meeting with his fellow Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town. Previously, Reverend Desmond Tutu had invited him. Clearly, in all cases, there was no legal basis for these decisions, as demonstrated by the ruling of a South African Court where a dear friend of Tibetans, Hon. Mario Ambrosini (who recently passed away Obituary: Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, South African MP and a strong supporter of the Tibetan People) had lodged a complaint. Although the South African Government denies it, denying the Dalai Lama a visa was an accommodation to China and so it is an act of arrogance by Beijing implemented in Cape Town. But while other times the decision did not backfire, this time was different. The difference was that the Nobel Peace Laureates could not remain silent in front of such outrageous injustice perpetrated against one of their own. Moreover, having South Africa, the country that defeated apartheid and decades of discrimination, align itself completely with an authoritarian country that goes around the world to bully exiled Tibetans, was too much for everybody. At ICT we expressed our view immediately (South Africa’s denial of visa to Dalai Lama undermines Nelson Mandela’s legacy). Our view is that politics cannot be reduced only to trade and business deals and relations, which we know are important. Politics is about caring for the people who need help. Solidarity among nations and peoples is a moral value that cannot be dismissed in the name of money. If it is dismissed, it means that a democracy is already losing its soul and the foundations of its legitimacy. All democratic countries must remember this while they are facing the aggressive rise of China on the international stage. The more you appease a bully, the more it will bully and damage you. So, bravo to the Nobel Peace Laureates who stood up and decided not to attend the meeting and bravo to the committee for suspending it. The town of Cape Town should also be lauded for standing firm to those very principles that brought freedom to the South African people. Also for China there is a lesson to learn. The Chinese government cannot impose unjust values on other peoples and nations and not to expect a reaction from their civil society. Be careful: not everybody is for sale on this planet, even in the country that you think you control. Matteo
Matteo