Expert says China twisting truth about Dalai Lama
Published Tuesday, March 25, 2008 8:46PM EDT
An expert on Tibet and China says the Chinese Ambassador to Canada "intentionally conveyed the wrong impression" this week when he accused the Dalai Lama of being a slave owner.
On Monday's edition of CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live, Ambassador Lu Shumin said: "The Dalai Lama (was) the largest owner of a serfdom society and owner of slaves" before the Chinese communists overtook Tibet in 1950.
Lu said, "These are facts and no one can distort these facts."
But the principal of St. John's College, a graduate school at the University of British Columbia, says that's exactly what the Chinese are doing when it comes to portraying the history of the Tibet. Timothy Brook, who has written extensively on Chinese history, says Tibet did have a system of bonded service in its past, but so did China and many other societies around the world.
Brook said the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, and his predecessors took in many poor people who had no other way to survive.
"This was often a strategy to keep children alive ... These were not slaves on a plantation," said Brook.
"The reason the ambassador is saying that is because he is trying to find an excuse to explain to the Western world why China should control Tibet."
Brook said that the ambassador is making a weak and archaic argument.
"The ambassador really has a 19th century mentality, which is the civilizing mission. You civilize the barbarians," Brook said.
He added what is important is Tibet's recent history -- after China's takeover. Brook said the Chinese have forced Tibetans out of their homeland, brought ethnic Chinese into the region, and started a process which is about to destroy Tibetan culture altogether. He also said the Chinese are exploiting Tibet's natural resources at an unsustainable rate, drying out lakes, and creating "huge environmental problems."
Brook noted Ambassador Lu's remarks appear to be part of a larger propaganda strategy from China to reduce the status of the Dalai Lama.
"If I were the ambassador, I would be very careful about using language like that. It is neither historically accurate, nor is it a way to deal with the current situation," Brook said.
Lu, Chinese officials, and state-owned communist newspapers have all referred to similar talking points in the wake of demonstrations in Tibet in the past few weeks.
Foreign reporters and media outlets have been told that the protests, which turned deadly in mid-March, were orchestrated by the "Dalai clique." One Chinese official even scolded Western media for treating the Dalai Lama "as if he's God."
But the Chinese attacks on the exiled Tibetan leader have not gone unnoticed.
"China must stop naming, blaming and verbally abusing one whose life has been devoted to non-violence, His Holiness the Dalai Lama," said retired South African archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu.