Monday, May 23, 2011

Communist China and Democracy

Though sad, certain historical ironies tend to make me smile.
On May 23, the People’s Republic of China celebrates the 60th anniversary of the ‘Liberation’ of Tibet. According to Beijing, on that day in 1951, Tibet was ‘liberated peacefully’.
In October 1950, the Second Field Army of Marshal Lui Bosheng and Deng Xiaoping, his Political Commissar, entered Eastern Tibet and captured the city of Chamdo. That was a forced ‘liberation’.
On May 23 1951 in Beijing, a Tibetan delegation had no choice but to sign an “Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”; the Tibetans later said that they had to affix ‘under duress’ fake seals prepared for the occasion by the Communists. Even the China-enamoured Indian Prime Minister wondered in the Lok Sabha, ‘liberation from what, from whom, it is not clear?’
And now the irony: on the day Beijing celebrates the strange ‘liberation’ of Tibet, the Tibetan community in exile will undergo its largest ‘democratic’ experiment. A National General Meeting of a few hundred exiled Tibetans is held in Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh.
On May 21, the Tibetan website announced: "418 Tibetans from various parts of the world gathered at the Tibetan Children Village school auditorium for the second Tibetan General Body Meeting which had been called by the Tibetan Parliament in exile after the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama announced his decision on March 10 this year to devolve his 'political authority' to an elected leadership."
This enlarged consultative group comprises of ‘senior’ Tibetans, serving and former officials and eminent members of the civil society.The meeting will ‘democratically’ discuss a draft for amending the Tibetan ‘constitution’ (known as ‘Charter’) which will provide the legal framework for the Dalai Lama’s proposed retirement.
The Meeting is also supposed to advise Dr Lobsang Sangay, the newly elected Prime Minister. Sangay born 43 years ago in India and educated at Harvard Law School will be Kalon Tripa (or Prime Minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile) for the next 5 years.
Already one month before the results were announced, an editorial of The People’s Daily assailed Sangay: “In 1992, Lobsang Sangay rose to fame and became the youngest leading member of Tibetan Youth Congress, a terrorist organization in nature. …The crimes made the organization look like a kin member of Al-Qaida, Chechnyan armed terrorists and ‘East Turkistan’ separatists.”
The fact is that the democratic process started by the Dalai Lama (which culminated in his retirement) exasperates Beijing. The very word ‘democracy’ makes the Communist leadership see red.
In a recent interview, Zhu Weiqun, Executive Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee and interlocutor of the Dalai Lama’s Envoys asserted: “The Peaceful Liberation of Tibet not only marked the crash of the attempt of the imperialism and a minority of Tibetan reactionary upper class to separate Tibet from the whole country, but also realized the complete liberation and reunification of the whole China.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Zhu, 60 years later, Tibet is not peaceful.
On 16 March 2011, the self-immolation of Phuntsok, a Tibetan monk belonging to Ngaba Kirti Monastery in Sichuan province triggered violent protests by several thousand monks in Eastern Tibet.
According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy: “Chinese security forces have cordoned the monastery and additional contingents of armed security forces (estimated to be around 800) have been brought in on 9 April 2011 to reinforce security clampdown in Ngaba County. The movement of the monks is totally restricted with no one being allowed to go in or come out of the monastery.”
Since then, more depressing news has emerged: the presence of Chinese security forces in all Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan has increased; several monks have been arrested and tortured while Communist cadres roam around villages ‘talking about harmony and patriotism’.
Interestingly, modern Chinese historians concur to say that the Tibet issue has been the factor which provoked the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict in NEFA and Ladakh. After having ‘liberated’ Tibet in 1950, Mao and his colleagues could not swallow the fact that, in March 1959, Tibetan masses revolted against the Chinese occupiers and the India gave refuge to the Dalai Lama.
In November 1962, in a long diatribe, The People’s Daily accused Nehru of having “instigated and backed up the treason and rebellion of the reactionary clique of the upper social strata in the Tibet region”. The fact that the so-called ‘upper strata’ was mainly composed on ‘common men’ was hard to digest for the Communist Party.
China has now decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ‘Liberation’ of Tibet. Sixty years, a full circle in the Tibetan (and Chinese) calendar makes the commemoration highly symbolic.
The Communist regime however keeps its aversion for democracy; one of their arguments is that democracy is an American invention.
The Communist publication Red Flag Manuscript recently analyzed what it terms ‘the chaos of democracy’ in most Asian countries: “The expansion of democracy that the US promotes has not brought about an economic boom or social development in these regions. On the contrary, it has led multiple countries or regions to fall into political instability and even chaos. In some areas and countries, with the progress of so-called democratization, ‘chaotic symptoms’ have developed such as ethnic conflict, splitting the nation, social turmoil, massive corruption, and an unstable political situation.”
For Beijing, these countries have blindly used Western democratic values without taking into consideration the local social and cultural environment.
Beijing is also unhappy with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a recent interview, she dared to make a parallel between the recent turmoil in the Arab world and China's tough response to its opponents (a ‘fool's errand’, Beijing was attempting to stop the course of history, she said).
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu reacted strongly. She accused Clinton of using inappropriate language: the US had no business “to put China on a par with countries in Western Asia and North Africa."
Already on April 8, after the release by the US State Department's 2010 Annual Human Rights Report, Beijing had asked Washington to stop being a self-styled 'human rights preacher'; the Chinese leadership then went on to criticize the US human rights record.
Is it not a good tactical move to defame an opponent on his Achilles' heel?
Huanqiu, a publication in Chinese language answered the Western countries' criticism of Beijing's arrest of artist Ai Weiwei: “The interference in Ai Weiwei’s case is a total negation of China’s law”. Huanqiu described the Law in China as “the skeleton of this country”.
The harsh treatment inflicted on those who do not support the Communist Party (such Weiwei or Lui Xiabao, the Nobel laureate) is a sign that the ‘harmonious society’ often mentioned by President Hu is still far away in Communist China, which prefers to keep quiet on the ‘Indian experiment’.
We all witnessed the voters’ enthusiasm during the recent Legislative Assembly’s elections. It demonstrated once again that the people of India are not scornful of ‘democracy’. And the astounding results, particularly in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu vindicated the vibrant ‘system’; ultimately is it not by ‘democratically’ getting rid of the villains (at least temporarily) that one can hope to create a more harmonious and contented society?

No comments: