Wouldn’t it be nice to live in an ideal world with no violence and brutality, where every individual is free and responsible, where every nation can choose its fate and alliances?
Where their association with feudalism and oppressiveness that usually comes with any religion would not burden people like Dalai Lama? And where China, the oldest and largest continuous civilization on earth would become the only country to truly care about wishes of all of its inhabitants, offering independence, with the broad smile, 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 Asia Pacific where China is located, brutality often knows no boundaries.
After covering conflicts all over the world (most of them fueled either by religion or nationalism, or both), I am stunned to witness 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: to the context of the 21st century.
Just over ten years ago I witnessed the aftermath of mass rape by Indonesian military (TNI) in a small mountainous town of Ermera, in East Timor. Almost all men were arrested and the military moved in, raping everybody from little girls to grandmothers. Eventually I got arrested for being in the area. When I finally managed to reach safe shores, I contacted several major newspapers and television channels in the US, Australia and Europe. There was no interest in my story or in the plight of tiny occupied nation. Occupation, after all, occurred, with the blessing of the United States and Australia, and Indonesia proved to be a good ally after killing almost all Communists as well as hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese and after destroying labor unions.
Several years later I was given information by one of the government members of PNG (Papua New Guinea), about mass rape of small children in the occupied Papua, right next to the porous border with PNG. The cash strapped Ministry of Education of PNG 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, "the issue was settled with Indonesia". (My journalist friend in Port Moresby explained what it meant: Indonesian officials simply bribed him).
So far, more than 100,000 Papuans died in the brutal occupation by Indonesia. Almost nobody abroad is pressing Jakarta for allowing referendum. Fear and oppression in Papua is incomparable with anything that it happening in Tibet: it is total, and the area is fully closed to foreign media.
But Indonesia is, according to common wisdom manufactured by mass media, a democracy. And so are the Philippines.
Whoever has visited Mindanao will not be able to forget poverty and oppression. In Sulu and Basilan, as well as elsewhere, men suspected to be rebels or rebel’s sympathizers, disappear, and their bodies turn up decapitated, mutilated, sometimes beyond recognition. 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. But who would care? Philippines may be one of the most dangerous country on earth for journalists (56 got killed since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001), but it is, after all, a democracy. Because we say so!
There is also Thailand, of course: Thailand where the King can’t be criticized (and is generally not criticized by our media). The same king reined 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 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 2.000 mostly innocent people in its "war on drugs" and which is holding to its Southern provinces (rightly or wrongly, but using Tibet argument, definitely wrongly) despite increasingly bloody civil conflict.
Thailand can hardly be criticized. It is our staunch ally from Vietnam War. It killed enough Communists to gain our respect and "good pet" and "democracy" stickers. Its government opened whorehouses in Pattaya for our brave soldiers and it never doubted market fundamentalist theories. That places Thailand, together with Malaysia and Singapore, well above China that still has sizeable amount of people who believes in dark-age things like social justice and alternative political and economic system.
And then it is we, of course. We – the brave western front of morally corrupt nations that is 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. We who basically choked and covered in blood any attempt to create alternative society, anywhere in the world.
Forgive me, but I do not believe in our genuine intentions when it comes to Tibet! We need to discredit China, as our own crimes and the crimes of our allies are so appalling that they don’t leave in peace at least some of our citizens.
We have to demonize China. No matter how inhuman, how horrible the social system in India or Indonesia; we have to make sure that we portray the Chinese one 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 investments in that country? Or do we boycott Malaysia for playing footsies with Khartoum?
We need China to be "terrible". In Tibet and elsewhere, so 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. 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. If Chinese foreign policy is not as terrible as ours, we have to make sure that we make it look that it is. Otherwise, what would justify our star wars and surveillance measures?
What would justify slaughtered 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, our sneaky and indirect justification of Iraq!
ANDRE VLTCHEK – novelist, journalist, playwright and filmmaker, author of several books including the latest novel Point of No Return. Based in Asia and South Pacific, Andre can be reached at: [email protected]