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
Dear all, It is good to be back in DC and continue to share with you more in detail some of the activities that we at ICT relentlessly continue to carry out. From publishing reports, to issuing press releases on urgent issues, from meeting government officials and members of Parliament to reaching out to Chinese people of good will. But let me start from the end: my visit to ICT Europe in Amsterdam. It was a weeklong series of meetings, where I had the pleasure to work side by side with a great and very committed team. It is led by a bedrock of the Tibetan movement internationally, my dear Tibetan friend and colleague Tsering Jampa, the Executive Director of ICT Europe, to whose leadership ICT owes a lot. The last day I was there, I had the privilege to have a public meeting and meet personally with dozens of ICT members and donors who for a long time (in many cases a lifetime!) have been supporting Tibetans. It was also a great opportunity for me to present to them how we are working to respond to the formidable challenge posed by China, not only to the preservation of a genuine and free Tibetan culture and identity in Tibet, but to the entire world due to its aggressive policies both internal and international. [caption id="attachment_5495" align="aligncenter" width="583"](Left) ICT Europe staff and a volunteer talk to our members after the meeting. (Right) Public meeting with ICT members in Amsterdam on September 5, 2014. (Left) ICT Europe staff and a volunteer talk to our members after the meeting.
(Right) Public meeting with ICT members in Amsterdam on September 5, 2014.[/caption] In the previous days, we also had a strategy meeting with other ICT European colleagues to prepare our advocacy work in the next weeks and months, based on the thorough documentation that we continue to gather from Tibet every day. As you might know, at the end of July ICT published a dramatic and very important Report "Acts of Significant Evil", that documents how 98 Tibetans have been convicted, detained or disappeared over the last few years, many for allegedly encouraging other Tibetans (usually their relatives, friends or fellow monks) to self-immolate. It might sound impossible to a reasonable person, but as an ICT supporter you know that this is the reality in which Tibetans live in Tibet. Only a senseless government can convict, without any sort of evidence or a fair trial, someone like Lobsang Tsundue, a monk from the Kirti monastery, to 11 years in jail for “intentional homicide,” after his fellow monk Phuntsog self immolated on March 16, 2011. This, and other forms of collective punishment that we have documented in the report, brings us back to the dark times when dictators punished entire communities to intimidate everybody not to challenge the ruling elites. Is this the China with whom our governments want to establish stable partnership? This was an issue that I raised also with Dutch government officials. This notwithstanding, we know that the spirit of Tibetans is still strong and it gives us an even stronger sense of urgency to work hard to push the international community and our governments to raise the issue of Tibet with China, because, simply, this behavior cannot find its place among civilized nations. I concluded my remarks in Amsterdam saying that we know that no government can rule forever without the genuine support of their own people and that even those who seem to be the strongest and most powerful can suddenly collapse or be forced to change. So, let’s keep up our work, we know that we are on the right side of history and that both the Tibetan and the Chinese people deserve a better future, and I look forward to share with you more news next week. Ciao! Matteo
Matteo