The Tibet Question
May 4, 2008 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Calling all protesters in general and all those who know about the China-Tibet situation! I need help learning about Tibet.

[short conclusion at the bottom, so you can skip these few paragraphs]
I want to learn more about the China-Tibet situation and I've already checked out this. Unfortunately, I have a fairly short attention span, so if it's something that is too word-heavy I probably won't be able to force myself to read it. Although if it's light and still long that's okay because I'll be able to read a bit at a time.
The thing is, I'm pretty much against the Olympics in China this year because of the political situation - I guess one could almost compare it to the Berlin Olympics of '36 (not completely. but close enough). And I've been thinking about it a lot and I realize I don't know enough.
Now, if after taking a more educated look at the situation I find myself still against the Olympics I'd like to raise awareness and perhaps organize more people who'll boycott the Olympics - not in a large-scale, extreme sort of way, more like putting up flyers in my school and just convincing people not to watch the Olympics.
I go to a small Israeli school in a fairly upper-class suburb of Tel Aviv, so people here aren't too aware of what's going on outside their own world. Which means I need to be convincing and not too aggressive.

I need:
1. Information about the China-Tibet struggle that is light to read,
2. Ways of organizing a small-scale boycott to raise people's awareness.
posted by alon to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

pretty good article in the Atlantic Monthly. I highly recommend it if you are truly interested in this issue.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 2:34 PM on May 4, 2008

you want to boycott a cause you know nothing about because you're pretty sure you're going to be against it? you also don't want to read too much but you want to organize other people to dislike the same thing you think you might, maybe dislike?

maybe start with wikipedia and google news then go from there?

but really, maybe before you decide you want to protest something you figure out if you feel strongly enough about it to even get there. if you start a learning process already convinced you agree with one side over the other you're going to miss a lot of the nuance, methinks.
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on May 4, 2008 [5 favorites]

Let me just say first off that I feel your pain with regards to the short attention span! I really enjoyed watching Dispatches: Undercover in Tibet for a good overview with a human element that can keep you engaged.
Although they don't take a specific stance around whether or not Tibet should be autonomous, Amnesty International has a lot of great information about human rights violations in Tibet on their website. Here is a summary of their Human Rights for China campaign.

You may also want to check out some of the other information out there about why exactly people are concerned about China's human rights record. For example the Uighur people have suffered a a great deal of repression for a long time, and are also seeking an autonomous state.

Another area of concern is China's use of the death penalty, which is larger than all the other countries who use the death penalty put together, and is handed out for 68 different crimes including tax evasion and smuggling.

There have also been a number of people sent to prison for expressing political ideas, including Hu Jia, sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for "subversion of state power" and Yang Chunlin who collected signatures on an open letter asking for land rights for farmers.
posted by vodkaboots at 4:07 PM on May 4, 2008

Seconding nadawi: Don't be like those protesters in San Francisco who couldn't locate Tibet on a map.

A Dragon in the Snow, linked to in that previous question, has a good exposition of the history of the relationship between China and Tibet. For perspective, it's important to read about three events in China's history, not specific to the Tibet-China issue: 1) Foreign imperialism in China and the Opium Wars. 2) The Great Leap Forward. 3) The Cultural Revolution. Most claims of Chinese atrocities towards Tibetans spring from the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

And I know it's not chat filter, but my own opinion: These protests are counter-productive. The international criticism has provoked a backlash of nationalism in China and wiped out any popular sympathy for Tibetan autonomy that may have been present before. Ultimately, only the people of China can cause the PRC to ease its grip on Tibet, and right now they're being driven in the other direction by what they perceive as deeply biased slights from the West.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:09 PM on May 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Free Tibet?
It is worth examining who is behind the 'Free Tibet' movement. The former elites lost many of their privileges due to the Chinese takeover. The family of the Dalai Lama lost no fewer than 4000 slaves! It is thus not surprising that feudal lords should campaign against the social gains of Maoism. Their campaign has found an international echo thanks to the CIA.
posted by bru at 6:30 PM on May 4, 2008

At the risk of sounding like chat-filter or a snark, but if you don't know much about the situatiuon, how can you already be sure you support a boycott? Wouldn't you like to get a balanced opinion rather than just the pro-Tibet side before you make up your mind. I ask only because this seems like a rather important issue and not one to simply take sides in based on an unclear or biased view of the situation.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:31 PM on May 4, 2008

Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
posted by bru at 6:36 PM on May 4, 2008

For a Chinese perspective, here's a translated article by Huangfu Ping, the pen-name of a former People's Daily deputy editor-in chief. Ping has been pro-political reform for almost two and a half decades, so this provides a fairly progressive view compared to the party-line. This is a popular article in China at the moment, and presents a well argued position from the Chinese side, not only on the Chinese-Tibet issue, but also on broader Chinese-Western World issues.

If you're going to protest and boycott something, you should at the very least hear a bit from both sides, and understand the motives of the players involved. In fact, the sort of "blind" protest by people who are uninformed about the situation is exactly what's causing blowback in China at the moment, and it is not conducive to opening up dialogue from either side.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:09 PM on May 4, 2008

Hmm, I'm getting the feeling I haven't made myself too clear. I'm aware of the situation, I know about the history of the conflict, and I know about both side's general views. I think the word I forgot was OLYMPICS. How do the Tibetan people feel about the Olympics? Because I'm against them, but if the Tibetan people are cool with that then I'd be kind of stupid to try to boycott it in their name, right?
posted by alon at 9:13 PM on May 4, 2008

You could also try learning about Xinjiang, which is like the Tibet that people don't give a shit about because its not full of cute monks or trendy.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:41 PM on May 4, 2008

For Tibetan perspectives on current events, I'd recommend, which is a news site run by Tibetan exiles with a lot of info. And there's a big directory of blogs written by Tibetans at you might be able to get a bit more of a handle on the general Tibetan view of the Olympics and related issues by reading some of them. A couple specific ones I'd recommend are Shadow Tibet and Tibet Talk.

While I certainly agree with those who say it's important to look at both sides of this or any other issue, I should note that for me, doing so has only made me all the more in favor of Tibetan autonomy/independence. Almost everything I've read taking the Chinese side has either displayed a complete disregard for Tibetan lives and rights combined with a degree of nationalistic fervor that makes Freepers look subtle and tolerant, or else makes the same kinds of arguments that were used to justify the US invasion of Iraq on "humanitarian" grounds (and is clearly motivated by about as much actual concern for the people on the receiving end of the "humanitarian" occupation in both cases), or both. I also don't agree that the protests have been of no value (should people in the rest of the world not have protested the US invasion and occupation of Iraq because doing so might have, as it probably did to some extent, offended Americans and stirred up American nationalism?), but this is going off the subject of the question...

(And Michael Parenti, often referred to in pro-China arguments as in the sites bru linked, is not very credible to me- I find it rather difficult to take claims of concern for human rights that seriously coming from someone who was part of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 10:10 PM on May 4, 2008

As someone who has spent a good chunk of his life involved with protest movements, civil disobedience, grsasroots organizing, and the like, I have to say this: you need to scale back. If this is something that you ultimately feel so strongly about that you want to get involved, regardless of your information level (which is important) you should not go and try and be superhuman. Organizing is hard, galvanizing people around an issue, no matter how trendy (or how bad their understanding of the situation), is harder. And using small-scale boycotts to raise consciousness is never going to happen hardest. It's not going to happen.

If you care this much, reach out to your local activist community and see what events they have planned. If you're in Toronto, then you've got plenty of people who have been working on this issue for years and there's a lot about organizing to learn with good teachers present. Work with them instead of reinventing the wheel and try to help in any way you can.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:12 PM on May 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

She said she's in Tel Aviv.
posted by jacalata at 10:55 PM on May 4, 2008

re: allen.spaulding

I am indeed in Tel Aviv, as jacalata pointed out. However, any idea that did pop into my head and that would certainly help me get over some of the hurdles you've described would be attaching myself to some kind of major organization and getting some information, flyers, ideas and help from them. If anyone knows of any such organizations (although some have been mentioned here) that would be much appreciated.
posted by alon at 9:33 AM on May 5, 2008

FYI, here is the Dalai Lama's view on the Olympics.
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:57 PM on May 7, 2008

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