30 April 2009

The Tibetans' Secret Weapon: Openness

I came across this fascinating piece about how the Tibetan exile community not only keeps going in the face of China's unbending occupation of their homeland, but even manages to maintain some optimism. Here's a particularly heartwarming passage:

In the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and elsewhere in China, the views of exiled Tibetans and portraits of the Dalai Lama are political taboos. But in Dharamsala everything from the "other side" is available: TV news and propaganda on several different Tibetan-language Chinese channels, dramas and (again) propaganda programmes dubbed into Tibetan. Their original target audience is ethnic Tibetans living in the TAR and in neighbouring regions of the PRC where many Tibetans live (Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan - or in Tibetan, U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham).

Tibetan government-in-exile officials express confidence that Tibetans in Dharamsala won't be brainwashed by these Chinese TV channels, even that it is good for Tibetan communities to encounter Chinese arguments. Indeed, some young Tibetans in Dharamsala laughingly pointed out to me some absurdities in the propaganda TV programmes. The Tibetan officials, asked how they are going to deal with the Chinese government's heightened international PR offensive, expressed the belief that being open and honest is all they need to do.

While China clamps down on Tibetan culture, and blocks sites dealing with "forbidden" subjects like the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans in exile allow anyone to hear the Chinese side. Why? Because openness makes them stronger, and better able to counter Chinese arguments.

Moreover, the Tibetans have no fear of their people hearing the truth, unlike the fearsome and yet fearful Chinese leadership - a mighty dragon strangely afraid of the sunlight.

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