Wouldn’t it be nice to live in an ideal world with no violence or brutality, where every individual is free and responsible, where every nation can choose its fate and alliances? Where people such as the Dalai Lama did not practice the
kind of feudalism and oppression inherent in all religion? A world where China, the oldest and largest continuous civilisation on earth, would become the only country to truly care about the wishes of all of its inhabitants, offering independence to those who would ask for it?
This is not the world that I know. Almost all the countries on earth do everything they can to crush independence movements, preventing ethnic groups and occupied territories from gaining self-governance. Particularly in the Asia Pacific region, brutality often knows no boundaries.
After covering conflicts all over the world , I am stunned to witness the hysteria and viciousness with which the world press is attacking China for "oppressing independence movements in Tibet". This is not to defend Chinese actions. It is only to attempt to bring the issue back where it belongs: in the context of the 21st century.
Just over ten years ago I witnessed the aftermath of mass rape by the Indonesian military in a small mountainous town of Ermera, in East Timor. Almost all the men were arrested. The military moved in, raping the female population from very young girls to grandmothers. Eventually I was arrested for being in the area. When I finally managed to reach safe shores, I contacted several major newspapers and television channels in the West. There was no interest in my story or in the plight of the tiny occupied nation. After all, the occupation of East Timor had occurred with the blessing of the United States and Australia.
Several years later I was given information by a government minister in Papua New Guinea about mass rape of small children in occupied West Papua. PNG’s cash-strapped Ministry of Education was supposedly running camps for the children who managed to escape the horror across the border. I tried to raise funds and investigate, but I found no interest in the major media outlets in the West. Eventually, the government official indicated that "the issue was settled with Indonesia". (A journalist friend in Port Moresby explained what this meant: Indonesian officials had simply bribed him).
So far, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 West Papuans have died in the brutal occupation by Indonesia. Almost nobody abroad is pressing Jakarta to allow a referendum on independence. Fear and oppression in Papua is not comparable with anything that is happening in Tibet: in Papua it is total, the area completely closed to foreign media.
But Indonesia is, according to common wisdom manufactured by the mass media, a democracy.
So is the Philippines. Anyone who has visited Mindanao cannot forget the poverty and oppression. In Sulu and Basilan men suspected of being rebels or rebel sympathisers disappear and their bodies turn up decapitated and mutilated. The US calls it "The Second Front in a War against Terror". There are American troops still taking part in joint military actions, violating Philippine laws. The Philippines may be one of the most dangerous countries on earth for journalists (56 killed since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001), but it is, after all, a "democracy".
There is also Thailand, of course: where the King can’t be criticised. The same King reigned over the country that was burning alive its left-wing opposition in oil barrels; he reigned over the country that was fully participating in covert and extremely brutal wars against its neighbors Laos and Cambodia, as well as in Vietnam. And he is still a monarch of the nation where minorities — not being Thai by blood — have virtually no rights and no citizenship. He is a veteran of 18 coups, which he either opposed or supported (depending on his personal interests), but definitely survived.
The same Thailand that sacrifices more than 2000 mostly innocent people in its "war on drugs" and which is holding to its Southern provinces despite increasingly bloody civil conflict.
Thailand can hardly be criticised. It was our staunch ally from the Vietnam War. It killed enough Communists to gain our respect — and a "democracy" sticker. Its Government opened whorehouses in Pattaya for our soldiers and it never doubted market fundamentalist theories. That places Thailand, together with Malaysia and Singapore, well above China.
And then there is us, of course. We; the brave Western front of morally corrupt nations presently fighting two neo-colonial wars; we who prevented dozens of Latin American nations from choosing their own political, social and economic destiny; we, who joined forces with oppressive religious forces and governments in the Middle East and North Africa in order to destroy all progressive movements there.
Forgive me, but I do not believe our intentions are genuine when it comes to Tibet.
No matter how inhumane, how horrible the social system in India or Indonesia; we in the West have to make sure that we portray China’s as much worse. Even if Japanese and Singaporean companies do business in Burma, we have to assure that the only country associated with doing business with Burma is China. The same with Sudan: do we ever hear about Malaysian oil investments in that country? Or do we boycott Malaysia for playing footsies with Khartoum?
We need China to be "terrible" — in Tibet and elsewhere — because we don’t want to be the only ones defined as oppressors, as colonialists: we need to convince the world (and ourselves) that China is part of the club. So that we can say, as we always did, that brutality is common to all men, no matter what culture they belong to, no matter what economic system is ruling their lives. If Chinese foreign policy is not as terrible as ours, we have to make sure that we make it look like it is. Otherwise, what would justify our star wars and surveillance measures?
What would justify the slaughter of millions in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea, Algiers, East Timor, Papua, Nicaragua, Salvador, Chile, and Dominican Republic and in so many other places? Tibet is our new hope.
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