On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile from Tibet, China has, once again, cracked down on Tibetan nationalists. Human rights groups say that 24 Tibetan activists have been detained by the Chinese government in the latest round of protest.
The move comes on the heels of calls to boycott new year festivities to protest the Chinese control of Tibet.
To be sure, this is nothing new: Tibetans have long suffered at the hands of the ruthless Chinese government. What’s unclear, though, is what China has accomplished from its heavy hand over half a century of oppressing Tibetan nationalists.
If it can be called such, Tibet has proved to be one of the most botched geopolitical public relations blunders of the 20th century.
That a semi-autonomous region—considered a provincial backwater by most Chinese—of less than three million people, a fraction of China’s total population, has become one of the largest delegitimizing forces of Chinese totalitarianism is, frankly, quite unsurprising.
For the world, Tibet was a reason to boycott the Beijing Olympics and is a rallying call to reject Chinese imports for many in the West. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton declared just last week that an economically vibrant China is fine, but its egregious human rights record on Tibet is unacceptable.
China cannot come to terms with Tibetan nationalism because the Dalai Lama undermines the consolidation of power into the Chinese central government. Even in exile, this hasn’t changed. Further, Tibetan Buddhism challenges the inculcation of communist propaganda—a kind of religious dogma itself.
China’s failure with Tibet is indicative of the larger ideological shortcomings of the farce of Chinese communism. Recent events suggest that it is more aptly called crony capitalism, where communism provides a shroud for totalitarian policies that enrich party members and their chums.
In the Tibetan freedom movement, there is hope that Chinese repression will continue to be challenged in the 21st century. March marks 50 years since the Dalai Lama left Tibet for India. It is to India’s credit that it has been a strong ally of the Tibetan people, encouraging Tibetan culture both here and abroad. If only the same could be said about China.
Tibet: Chinese policy blunder? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org