Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Trouble in Tibet

The crackdown continues in Tibet. The New York Times gives some background today on the long-simmering dispute:

But to many Tibetans and their sympathizers, the weeklong uprising against Chinese rule in Lhasa reflects years of simmering resentment over Beijing’s interference in Buddhist religious rites, its tightened political control and the destruction of the environment across the Himalayan territory the Tibetans consider sacred. If there is a surprise, it may be that Beijing has managed to keep things stable for so long.

Since the last big anti-Chinese riots in Tibet two decades ago, Beijing has sought to smother Tibetan separatism by sparking economic development and by inserting itself into the metaphysics of Tibetan Buddhism. But an influx of Han Chinese to Tibet, and a growing sense among Tibetans that China is irreparably altering their way of life, produced a backlash when Communist Party leaders most needed stability there, analysts say...

The Communist Party, atheistic by doctrine, has insisted that it has the sole authority to approve incarnations — the divine process by which a “living Buddha” is chosen in boyhood. Beijing had already selected a boy as its own Panchen Lama, the second ranking figure in Tibetan Buddhism, and reportedly jailed a boy chosen by the Dalai Lama.

Last November, the Dalai Lama countered with his own surprise. He proposed that instead of waiting for senior religious figures to search out his incarnation following his death, he might choose his own reincarnation — a possibility that has enraged Beijing. The Dalai Lama proposed a referendum among Tibetan Buddhists on whether to change the current reincarnation practice, in a way that could allow him influence in picking his own successor.

Meanwhile, Beijing has steadily been taking a tougher line on religious practices and cultural expressions of Tibetan pride. In November 2005, Zhang Qingli was appointed Communist Party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Mr. Zhang came from the Communist Youth League organization, part of the political stronghold of Mr. Hu. Mr. Zhang has made no attempt to disguise his paternal attitude toward his charges.

“The Communist Party is like the parent to the Tibetan people, and it is always considerate about what the children need,” Mr. Zhang said last year. He later added: “The Central Party Committee is the real Buddha for Tibetans.”

One can imagine how it would be received in this country if an American president said that the American government was the real Jesus for Christians.

No comments: