Tuesday, 3 December 2013

BDS'ers: explain!

On 6 October 1950, the Chinese army invaded Tibet – an independent state that never threatened China.  The small and ill-equipped Tibetan army was quickly overpowered.  Rendered defenceless, the country was incorporated wholesale as an ‘autonomous region’ within China.  The Tibetan government complained to the United Nations, but – acting in accordance with their own political interests – India and UK prevented the issue from being debated.  Not that debating it would have helped: the Soviet Union – at the time ally and patron of Communist China – had the right of veto, enabling it to prevent any actionable UN resolution from being adopted.

Chinese soldiers patrolling Occupied Tibet
After just six years of Chinese occupation, Tibetans revolted; between 1956 and 1962, a veritable war took place between Tibetan guerilla fighters and the Chinese Army.  It is estimated that circa 87,000 Tibetans were killed during this rebellion.  It is more difficult to assess how many Tibetans died because of Mao’s 'Great Leap Forward' policies; according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, estimates vary between 200, 000 and 1,000,000.  Circa 6,000 monasteries were destroyed during the Chinese 'Cultural Revolution'.
 
 
Chinese crack troops 'dealing' with Tibetan protester
In 1962 China and India fought a war over the disputed South Tibet and Aksai Chin regions.  Tensions continue between the two nuclear powers to this day; India hosts the Tibetan government in exile in a town near the border. There are numerous reports of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese authorities against Tibetans.  According to Friends of Tibet (an organisation which militates for Tibetan independence):
“More than a million Tibetans have died as a direct result of the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet. Today, it is hard to come across a Tibetan family that has not had at least one member imprisoned or killed by the Chinese regime.”

Tibetans who dare demand their rights are systematically
persecuted, jailed, tortured and even executed.
Chinese human rights breaches in Tibet included unlawful detention, extra-judicial punishments including execution, 'judicial' punishments with no due process, police violence and torture, coercive birth control policies, economic and political discriminations, attempts to marginalise Tibetan culture and blur Tibetan national identity, etc.  There are numerous and well-documented cases of infringement of religious freedoms, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, etc.

According to Amnesty International, the Chinese authorities blatantly repress the 'Tibetan ethnic minority'.  The Tibetans did not respond with suicide bombings; but since March 2011, more than 120 people are known to have set themselves on fire inside Tibet in protest against the repressive Chinese occupation.  Amnesty International concludes:
“The Chinese government must put an end to repressive policies that infringe on the fundamental freedoms of ethnic Tibetans.  The Chinese authorities have not heeded the demands of Tibetans, but have instead resorted to heavy-handed tactics that can only deepen and further fuel resentments. They must respect the right of Tibetans to practice their religion and to enjoy their culture.”

Tibetans don't suicide bomb anyone.
But they do protest by self-immolating...
The Chinese authorities practice a policy of transfer of Han Chinese settlers into Tibet.  According to the Tibetan government in exile, there are at least 7.5 million Chinese settlers in Tibet; their numbers continue to grow due to policies which grant economic advantages to the settlers, while denying them to Tibetans:
“The continued population transfer of Chinese to Tibet in recent years has seen the Tibetans become a minority in their own land. Today the six million Tibetans are vastly outnumbered by Chinese immigrants, who are given preferential treatment in education, jobs and private enterprises. Tibetans, on the other hand, are treated as second-class citizens in their own country”.

According to Dalai Lama:
“The new Chinese settlers have created an alternate society: a Chinese apartheid which, denying Tibetans equal social and economic status in our own land, threatens to finally overwhelm and absorb us.”

Chinese policies have generated severe tensions, leading to periodic outbursts of violence.  In one such outburst, which erupted in 2008 between Tibetan population and Han settlers, eyewitnesses quoted by BBC reported:
“The street is pretty much in flames. I saw a huge amount of military in the town. It went crazy all of a sudden. All the Chinese shops were put on fire by Tibetans. Tanks in the street.  Tear gas. I saw people being carried away on stretchers and ordinary Tibetans going crazy. […] As the monks ran down, suddenly people, policemen just appeared almost as if out of nowhere and started beating, pulling and kicking them as they streamed down towards the main entrance of the temple.”

Chinese police beating Tibetans in the capital Lhasa
Following these clashes the Chinese government is reported to have increased the level of control and repression.  Between March 2008 and March 2010, Tibetan sources in exile have documented that 228 Tibetans have died under the crackdown, 1,294 have been injured, 4,657 arbitrarily detained, 371 sentenced and 990 disappeared.  Four Tibetans were executed in Lhasa on 20 October 2009, while the Chinese authorities confirmed only two.  11 Tibetans were sentenced to life imprisonment.  In the majority of cases the defendants had no independent legal counsel and when a lawyer of choice represented the defendants, the authorities blocked representations either through intimidation or on procedural grounds.

The central Chinese authorities are well aware of the human rights situation in Tibet.  To try and hide it from international scrutiny, they have restricted movement of people and information.  Foreign nationals need a special permit to visit Tibet – and such permits are very often refused (see official advice by UK Foreign Office).  No such permits are necessary to visit other areas in China.  Mentioning Tibet as destination on a Chinese visa application typically results in the applicant being denied visa.  Possession of Western literature concerning Tibet has resulted in foreigners being refused entry to China, even when they were in possession of a valid visa.  Access to Internet information on Tibet is blocked throughout China.

Negotiations between the Chinese government and Dalai Lama/Tibetan Government in Exile have failed to produce any progress.  Each side has accused the other of lack of desire to achieve a peaceful solution.

All this did not prevent UK Prime Minister David Cameron to conduct an official visit to China, heading what is officially called "the largest British trade mission ever to go to China".  Mr. Cameron will not take this opportunity to visit Occupied Tibet. UK Prime Minister’s approach to dealing with China is nothing if not enthusiastic:
"Some in Europe and elsewhere see the world changing and want to shut China off behind a bamboo curtain of trade barriers. Britain wants to tear those barriers down."
"No country in Europe is more open to Chinese investment than the United Kingdom."
"I will champion an EU-China trade deal with as much determination as I am championing an EU-US trade deal."

And actions certainly follow words, in this case: no less than 10 Sino-UK cooperation agreements have already been signed. Now, I am not surprised by Mr. Cameron’s eagerness to cooperate with China: I have always claimed that most politicians are driven by perceptions of interest (national, at best, political or personal, at worst) – and to hell with ethics.

But there is a cohort of activists who claim to be driven entirely by ethical considerations.  They say they seek ‘justice’ and vociferously call for boycotting Israel for sins like ‘occupation of Palestinian land’, ‘illegal settlements’, ‘oppression of Palestinians’, etc.  They want to boycott Israeli companies, Israeli products, Israeli academics, Israeli dance groups, Israeli theatre troops, etc. etc. etc.  They even call for boycotts against companies doing business in Israel and demand from famous singers not to perform in Israel.  All this because, they say, what Israel is doing is not just immoral, but also contrary to ‘international law’.

BDS'ers protested vociferously when the UEFA
Under-21 Football Championship was hosted by
Israel. Not a peep about the Olympics in China, though.
Why?
Therefore, unless ‘morals’ and ‘international law’ are in their view only applicable to Jews, it is hard to understand why the BDS militants had absolutely nothing to say against their Prime Minister’s visit to and appetite for cooperation with the Chinese Occupiers.  Where are the calls for boycott??  After all, BDS’ers even staged a campaign against Tom Jones for merely singing in Tel Aviv; imagine what they’d do if David Cameron were to say something like "I will champion an EU-Israel trade deal with as much determination as I am championing an EU-US trade deal!"

Of course, boycotting China is more difficult than boycotting tiny Israel.  But surely this should not be a deterrent to people animated by such lofty ideals; ethics, after all, is about ‘speaking truth to power’, not ‘ganging up against the weak’.  Innit??

BDS’ers have some explaining to do: in which way are Palestinian Arabs more worthy of ‘justice‘ than Tibetans?  Why should Israel be boycotted for allowing Jews to ‘settle’ in Jerusalem, while no such calls are made against China, which settled millions of Han Chinese in Tibet?  Why the campaign against Israeli tomatoes and avocados, but complete indifference towards massive imports of Chinese goods?  Why the berserk ‘protests’ against everything remotely connected to democratic Israel, but not a peep against Tibet-occupying, autocratic, massive human rights-abusing China?

I am eagerly looking forward to receiving their cogent explanation.  And promise to thoroughly analyse it :-)!

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