Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dear Hillary Clinton: Get Out

A timeline-

March 10th, 1959: 86,000 Tibetans are killed in an uprising against Chinese military occupation. March 10th becomes known as Tibetan Uprising Day in subsequent years.

March 10th, 2008: Small protests in Lhasa
on the 49th anniversary of the first uprising result in arrests and beatings- leading to far greater protests and riots everywhere. Chinese authorities worry about what will happen on the 50th anniversary one year later (nothing like a good round number to inspire a proper heavy-duty rebellion).

February 12th, 2009: China preemptively closes access to a number of Tibetan areas* for foreign journalists and tourists. At the last minute they cancel earlier plans to create a giant neon sign large enough to be seen from the depths of space reading “NOTHING TO SEE HERE, DEFINITELY NOT BUSY KILLIN’ MONKS!”

February 18th, 2009: Calls to abstain from observing the upcoming Tibetan New Year in memory of those killed by the Chinese last year see growing popular support among Tibetans. Ignoring the holiday and choosing to mourn instead is, as this article puts it, "akin to people in the United States deciding to forego Thanksgiving." In a bizarre twist on the usual state of affairs in Tibet, the Chinese government attempts to encourage Tibetans to celebrate their own culture and holiday by giving them free fireworks and lowering prices on celebratory materials. Forcing people to have fun is a challenge, however, and the article mentions ongoing incidents such as this one:
“When Party officials turned up on the doorstep of
Kirti Monastery in Amdo to try to persuade the monks
to join in the New Year festivities, a number of the
monks suddenly decided to go on a meditation retreat.”
It’s enough civil disobedience to make the spirit of Gandhi proud.

February 20th, 2009: With just weeks to go until 50th anniversary, “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.” Now that is the right message to send at the right time! It’s been an American tradition to shuffle papers and look busy while horrible things happen abroad, so it's nice of Hillary Clinton to abandon the pretense of caring about human rights. Don’t get too upset, though: as Clinton left South Korea on her way to Beijing, State Department spokesman Robert Wood claimed she would "raise the issue when appropriate." That’s a long and arduous way of saying ‘never,’ so at least they get a few points for honesty.

So, what does the future hold? It’s a bit like the end of The Matrix, except instead of Keanu Reeves in sunglasses flying around and beating up Evil Hugo Weaving it’s a bunch of Chinese riot police and army units flying around in helicopters and beating up civilians. If it helps you can imagine this happening while Rage Against The Machine plays in the background (just remember that for a properly Maoist interpretation you need to think of the monks and civilians as The Machine, which the valiant People’s Liberation Army is Raging Against).

*Areas which I not-entirely-coincidentally visited in December, a month after they were reopened to foreigners for the first time since before the March 2008 riots. Literally everyone I met there was extremely friendly- they went out of their way to show me around, to tell me about their culture and language, and to proudly display the scars they were given by helpful PLA soldiers.


  1. Didn't all the Democratic candidates, Hillary and Barack included, pledge basically the opposite during the campaign(That economic relations would be a bargaining chip for human rights). Not that that stuff matters or anything (see Obama and NAFTA), but it would be nice if there wasn't a DIRECT contradiction.

  2. I am so disappointed in HRod. And when will the Chinese be deporting you?

  3. JJ- See I can't even really blame them for at least temporarily backing away from that pledge, what with globoecoconocollapso, but saying nothing at all would have been better than saying "oh, human rights issues? no don't worry we don't care at all"

    Kari- momentarily, I assume.