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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

The Moment to Reveal The Truth

August 18, 2008

Custom Tibet
August 15, 2008

Below is the English translation of an interview/article with
Ai-WeiWei -- the man who designed the Bird's Nest.

Q: Ai-WeiWei, What is your view on the recent unrests in Tibet and
the reaction of the western world during the past few weeks?

As an observer, I believe the information presented both in the West
and in China have to a certain degree revealed incorrect information.

There were no in-depth coverage on the cause. Aside from accusing
each other, both sides did not have actual communication on these
riots. Regrettably, looking back into our history, an obvious
distinct character is the lack of public discussion. We live in a
society where ideology is severely controlled, especially when it
comes to the issues of the ethnic minorities. The problem cannot be
solved if the majority of the Han people look upon the minorities as
the slaves whom are freed by us. The actual situation is much more
complex. They have their own religion, their own cultural heritage
and their own way of thinking. The Tibetan are now simplistically
being blamed and scolded for infringing the law. I do not think this
can solve the problem, because this will only deepen the hatred
amongst the Han people and the ethnic minorities, thus further deepen
their gap.

Q: How to eliminate the ethnic gap?

The key is to truly respect the ethnic minorities, and admit the
mistakes which we have made towards them in the past. The recent
riots have stated the failure of the policy on the ethnic minorities.
We have never fully understood their religion and their lifestyle.

Historically, we destroyed their temples and statues, this is a basic
fact. Now they begin to destruct houses and assault the military and
people. We cannot help but ask where did this hatred come from?

Or do we want a society which can claim that everything is normal,
but in fact have ignored their rights. In a democratic society, all
ethnic groups and their distinct character must be respected. These
problems should be solved. If not, then this would be failure of
policy. Must seek dialogue. It is not feasible to simply accuse them
of just being separatists. We need to establish a society in which
different ethnic groups, people with different languages, with
different religions, lifestyle and way of thinking can coexist.
Therefore, respect, tolerance, communication and dialogue is necessary.

Q: Why do you think the western world's perspective is also not appropriate?

When one carries a certain prejudice, he becomes blind to the actual
world. When there are cover-ups, then there will inevitably arise
speculation and suspicion. I do believe basically that the
misunderstanding, resentment and hatred amongst people, nations, the
different ideologies, the West and the East, the Tibetan people and
Han people are mainly caused due to much avoidance of truth, the lack
of transparent information and the limited channels of information.

That has created a great toll to the society. In all of China, we are
beginning to see some changes in this aspect. In some area,
nevertheless, it is still dominated by old structure and thought
process. I believe the Tibetan issue in particular is quite special.

Amidst the lack of true facts and intended cover-up, people encounter
obstacles for them to think and differentiate. This is the most basic
thing, but may seem to be naïve. The way people try to acquire the
truth and experiences signify the fundamental differences of the
different societies. In the beginning stages of Communism, people
tried to obtain the truth by means of conflict. At the same time when
people strive for the truth, they tend to distrust the ordinary
people who try to grasp for truth. Allowing the ordinary people to
know the truth is dangerous. This is an old thinking, and it is
related to how people grasp and control power. I often ask, why is it
that we cannot have a society where there is no censorship and
control of the mass media. What do we want to cover up? What kind of
the truth is that dangerous? Obviously, it is easier to control if
the majority of the people have only limited and selected
information. Information is power. From past experiences, we know
that understanding the truth is required before people can make the
right judgment. We have never had such rights, but it is time for us
to have it. Otherwise, the whole world will hold us responsible when
they look back into this period of time. If nothing shameful has been
done, why must there be cover-ups?

Overall, I think the mass media did not exaggerate. It would be
damaging if no coverage was made on these events, and no one explore
and examine what had happened. Many Chinese people curse the West
now, this is the result caused by long term propaganda, where the
West is perceived to be the enemy who deceives China. That is the
outcome of prejudice.

Many Chinese are curious as to why so many western people have shown
such interest in Tibet. On the contrary, may we ask why so few
Chinese care about Tibet? The actual feeling of empathy toward the
weaker ones is lacking in the Chinese society. The weak and the
wounded have no foothold in this society. This is a society for the
ones with success and power, a society lacking empathy and concern.

The West is a different world, where people naturally would take
sides with the weak, the less privileged. Many Chinese simply treat
Tibet as a tourist destination. Those naïve and blinded little
capitalists from Shanghai and Beijing would rather enjoy a good
vacation there, but they do not understand the local people, they
have no real interaction with the local people.

Q: How do people in China's literary and artistic society view these events?

People get confused; I often hear the questions like: "what went
wrong?" "What does Dalai Lama want to do?" People fall into a state
of confusion. The Buddhists are peace loving people. But now, we see
that they hold daggers in their hands, burning flags, smashing
windows with rage and anger in their heart. But is there a
possibility to allow them to speak? Can they be invited to CCTV to
talk about what are their thoughts? Instead of just simply mark them
as outlaws? I cannot help but ask why not? Who build this great wall
of misunderstanding? And what is it for? If we keep holding the view
that they are barbarians, how can we gain their understanding? The
only result will be the widening of the abyss and the deepening of
hatred and resentment. If one's desire is for another to be
extinguished, either physically or spiritually, this then would be an
act of bloody barbarism.
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