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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

ACME OF OBSCENITY -- Tom Grunfeld and The Making of Modern Tibet

August 19, 2008

By Jamyang Norbu
Shadow Tibet Blog
August 17, 2008

In a recent piece ("Running Dog Propagandists") I made a reference to
an old review essay of mine of Tom Grunfeld's Making of Modern Tibet.
A couple of readers emailed in to say they could not locate the
piece. I discovered I had not posted it on Phayul.com and that it was
impossible to find on WTN or Tibetwrites.org. So I am reissuing it
here to round off our "running dog" discussion on Phayul.com . I have
taken the opportunity to correct a few typos and also nail the source
of the opening quotation I had earlier cited, somewhat incompletely,
from memory.

In his Epistulae (Letters) the younger Pliny mentions that his uncle
the natural historian and philosopher, Pliny the Elder, used to say
that "no book was so bad but some good might be got out of it." Well,
that was back in ancient Rome. Whether such an outlook could embrace
contemporary hate literature and racist tracts produced by
white-supremacist groups, Islamic fundamentalists or the propaganda
material generated by the Ministry of Truth in Beijing, is, of
course, quite another matter. Nonetheless, even in that extremity it
might be possible to argue that such publications at least serve to
inform us of a point of view -- no matter how distorted, hateful or
ugly -- of certain groups of people in this world, thus fulfilling a
function of sorts.

In the hate/propaganda genre there is a sub-class of publications,
which through their authors' skill in providing a superficial gloss
of scholarship or professed objectivity to their work, render them
capable of great mischief. Chief among these is, without doubt, The
Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a document put together by
the Okhrana, the tsarist secret police, purporting to be the report
of a series of 24 meetings held by Jewish leaders and Freemasons in
Basle, Switzerland in 1897, to make plans to take over the world. It
was translated into practically every European language, also Arabic
and Urdu, and its effect has been poisonous in the extreme.

Mother India (1927), by American journalist Katherine Mayo, is a work
that purports to be one of genuine concern for the welfare of the
Indian people. It is a mishmash of the usual simplistic indictments
of Indian society: the caste system, child marriage and so on, topped
off with such spurious and outrageous charges as that Indian mothers
regularly masturbated their sons "to make them more manly." It is
essentially a racist tract serving to confirm long-held prejudices of
white people against Indians, and, in essence, making out the case
that Indians were an exhausted race of sexual degenerates morally
unfit to rule themselves. This message was grasped eagerly in Britain
where Mother India received enthusiastic press reviews. The book's
success in the USA did considerable damage to the Indian cause there,
which till then had been gaining in support and sympathy.

Tom Grunfeld's, "The Making of Modern Tibet" (Zed Books, 1987) is a
work that is more in line with Mayo's book than with The Protocols.
Grunfeld doesn't exactly accuse Tibetan mothers of masturbating their
sons, but he does claim that "babies were not washed as they emerged
from the womb but sometimes licked by the mother" -- like animals. He
offers neither source nor citation for this amazing fabrication. He
goes on to specify that Tibetans were cruel, dirty, ignorant,
syphilitic (90% of the population suffering from venereal diseases
according to TG) sexual degenerates who were observed making love on
rooftops in full public view. Why make such outrageous accusations,
you may ask? What purpose does such ridiculous abuse serve? But these
are not random insults Grunfeld is hurling, but essential components
of his greater design -- to expose Tibetans as barbaric, subhuman,
even bestial, thereby justifying Chinese rule in Tibet as necessary
and civilizing. It is particularly galling for any Tibetan even to
have to deny such charges, coming from a propagandist for a country
where till fairly recently, ritual cannibalism of the most gruesome
kind was practiced to honour Chairman Mao (Scarlet Memorial: Tales of
Cannibalism in Modern China, Zheng Yi, Westview Press, 1996)

The first clue I got of Grunfeld's closet racism was on the cover of
his book. It shows a Tibetan man sitting cross-legged on what appears
to be an oversized garbage can. He is wearing an old sheepskin robe
incongruously topped off with a large Mao cap adorned with a star in
the front. He also has a wide grin plastered on his face. It reminded
me of those racist postcards once said to be sold in stores in the
American South, the kind where a happy black man is sitting on a
barrel with a big slice of watermelon (or a banjo) in his hands and a
wide grin on his face. Another image that came to mind was that of
the stereotypical cartoon depiction of an African tribal chief: a fat
black man with lips like a jelly doughnut, wearing a grass skirt, a
bone ornament inserted through his nose and a shiny top hat perched
rakishly on his head.

Grunfeld's other efforts to establish that pre-invasion Tibet was a
corrupt, cruel and degenerate country relies heavily on a very
discredited device -- selective quotations wrenched from context. For
instance, though Grunfeld has to admit that Chinese propaganda about
Tibetans practicing human sacrifices is without evidence, he goes on
to write that "The most convincing clue we have comes from Sir
Charles Bell. Bell wrote that he once visited a spot on the
Tibet-Bhutan border where he saw a stupa called Bang-kar Bi-tse cho
ten that contained the bodies of an eight year old boy and girl 'who
had been slain for the purpose' of some religious ritual."

What Grunfeld omits to tell us is that Bell is talking about events
of the distant past, as he clearly mentions that the stupa had been
built "many years ago." Furthermore it is evident that Bell intended
the story as folklore, as an old tale that someone else had told him,
and not as an eyewitness account. We can confidently assume that Bell
did not tear apart the stupa (in the manner of the Chinese
Communists) to check for the corpses. Bell also immediately follows
up the sentence about the two bodies with this line: "Scenting the
corpses and blood a demon took possession of the chö-ten," bearing
out the "ghostly legend" nature of his account. (Tibet Past and
Present, pg.80). Charles Bell also writes that the area in question
(Tromo) had been a stronghold of the old pre-Buddhist faith, Bon.
This, in all probability, makes the stupa in question an old Bon one,
and not the usual Buddhist stupa that is the familiar feature of the
Tibetan landscape. Furthermore the charges against the Bon religion
of human sacrifices and black magic is to a very large extent based
on Buddhist clerical misrepresentations about a once successfully
competing belief -- resembling Christian propaganda about
pre-Christian "pagan" religions. No scientifically acceptable
evidence has, to this day, been unearthed (even by Chinese academics)
that savage rituals and practices of the kind that prevailed in
pre-Columbian Central and South America ever existed in Tibet, even
in remote antiquity.

If an American tourist at Stonehenge, on being told by locals that
virgins were once sacrificed there, used that bit of information to
claim that human sacrifice was an accepted practice in modern
Britain, he would probably be regarded as a candidate for the funny
house. But such methodology is fairly standard throughout Grunfeld's book.

Grunfeld also uses Bell's statement that "slavery was not unknown in
the Chumbi valley" to imply that slavery was a standard institution
throughout Tibet. Once again Grunfeld does not include Bell's
subsequent remarks that the institution was then on the wane and that
"only a dozen or two (slaves) remained"; and that "the slavery in the
Chumbi valley was of a very mild type." (Tibet Past and Present,
pg.79). Grunfeld further completely fails to mention that Bell made
these observations in 1905 when, as assistant to Claude White, he was
posted in the Chumbi valley. This was at a time when slavery and
bondage of a very cruel, inhuman and completely legal kind was
universal throughout China, and also prevalent in large parts of the
British Empire in the legalized form of "indentured labour." If we
adopt Grunfeld's cavalier style of stretching events of 1905 to fit
anywhere before 1959 (when the Chinese Communists took full control
of Tibet, and which is Grunfeld's cut-off date for "Tibet As It Used
To Be") we could probably overlook the fact that slavery ended in the
United States in 1863 and compare it to what was going on in Tibet in
1905. We should also bear in mind that the "very mild kind of
slavery" of "a dozen or two people" can hardly stand comparison with
the slavery practiced in the USA where, for example, in South
Carolina 64% of the population were slaves, and where every manner of
torture and cruelty were inflicted on them, and where well into
modern times such people could be "lynched" for the most trivial of reasons.

Even the few instances of "mild" slavery that Charles Bell reported
in 1905 almost certainly disappeared in the following years, for
later accounts of Western travelers and even long term European
residents of Tibet as Heinrich Harrer, Peter Aufschnaiter, Hugh
Richardson and David MacDonald make no mention of any such practice.
What ensured its disappearance is almost certainly the Great 13th
Dalai Lama's reform and modernization programmes, which despite some
setbacks in such areas as modern education, managed to take
unprecedented and far-reaching steps to protect the rights of the
most humble Tibetan peasant and nomad against exploitation and
official corruption.

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that in 1913 the 13th Dalai Lama
officially banned capital punishment and other forms of "cruel and
unusual" punishments; possibly making Tibet one of the first
countries in the world to do so. Switzerland abolished capital
punishment in 1937; Britain in 1965 and France guillotined its last
criminal in 1981. In the United States, especially Texas, even being
underage or mentally retarded is no guarantee of not being sent to
the "chair," or whatever is on offer. In China they are going at it
as if there were no tomorrow. An "execution frenzy" was how an
Amnesty International press release of July 6, 2001, termed it. The
press release went on to state that "More people were executed in
China in the last three months than in the rest of the world for the
last three years." 1781 executions and 2960 death sentences passed in
three months. Yet, according to Amnesty these statistics are likely
to be far below the actual number.

The 13th Dalai Lama even turned down (in 1896) his cabinet's
recommendation to execute his former regent and accomplices who had
conspired to assassinate him. There is a possibility that the main
conspirator, the Nyaktrul sorcerer, was secretly murdered in his cell
by an overzealous official, but there is no evidence of any higher
official involvement. Even the few instances in which this law was
breached serves to demonstrate the fullness of Tibetan commitment to
the Great 13th's ideals. In 1924 when a soldier died under
punishment, Tsarong, the Commander in Chief of the Tibetan army, a
man who had personally saved the Dalai Lama's life, was permanently
relieved of his duties. Not only is there no record of executions
after 1913, but the one recorded case of a "cruel and unusual"
punishment serves to demonstrate how deeply the law had taken root in
Tibetan life. Some years after the death of the 13th Dalai Lama, the
official, Lungshar, attempted a coup d'état. On its failure many in
the government wanted him executed but the old law stood in their
way. So Lungshar was sentenced to the lesser punishment of having his
eyes removed. The operation was badly botched. Such punishments had
for so long fallen into desuetude that, according to Melvyn
Goldstein, the class of people who in the past had carried out
executions and such punishments "told the government that they were
only able to do it because their parents had told them how it was done."

But, to get back to the issue of slavery, let us put matters in
perspective. Surely Grunfeld is aware of the Laogai camps in China
where millions of wretched inmates, are, as we speak, toiling in
unimaginably horrendous conditions, at what can only be described as
slave labour. But even in "normal" Chinese society today slavery is
not only prevalent but increasing, according to a report in the Far
Eastern Economic Review entitled "Toil and Trouble: Slavery is on the
rise in China as number of poor migrants increases. Beijing appears
unwilling and unable to prevent it," by Bruce Gilley, Aug 16, 2001.
Professor Hu Shudong of the China Economic Research Centre at Beijing
University makes the case that slavery is widespread in present day
China and prevalent in many different industries and occupations.

When making his very selective quotations of Sir Charles Bell,
Grunfeld takes care to establish Bell's bona fides as a British
colonial official and "a renowned Tibet scholar." But then Grunfeld
completely fails to inform his readers that Charles Bell's main
contention in all his books is that Tibet was an independent nation
-- culturally and historically distinct from China. While pointing
out that Tibetans and Chinese were racially distinct, Bell took pains
to point out a number of singular differences:

"... the two races differ strongly in many qualities which have their
roots deep down in the characters of the two nations "Firstly, the
Tibetans are deeply religious" The Tibetan government is truthful. It
can be slow, obstinate and secretive in dealing with foreigners, but
it has a strong regard for truth. But the Chinese authorities from
time to time made statements which were deliberately untrue: The
Chinese are far more cruel than the Tibetans are. When they tried to
conquer areas in Tibet, they used to put to death what prisoners of
war they captured, although the only offence of these was fighting in
defence of their homeland. The Tibetans, when they captured Chinese
prisoners of war, used simply to send them back to China. The Chinese
treat the granting of a favour merely as a step towards asking for
another "The Tibetans do not treat favours in this way. They have a
national memory of things for which they are grateful -- Many other
examples of the differences dividing these two nations could be given
-- For instance, the status of women in Tibet is higher than China;
the kinder treatment of animals; and the more orderly government."
(Portrait of the Dalai Lama, pg. 353-354.)

Grunfeld's wrenching quotations out of context even extends to a few
quotes from my book, Horseman in the Snow. To discredit Bell's and
others' observations that women in Tibet were treated on a basis more
equal to that of men than in neighboring China, Grunfeld triumphantly
pulls out this line from my book, "A man's wealth was, first and
foremost, measured through the number of sons he had." Once again
Grunfeld fails to include the subsequent sentences which read: ... It
was a matter of survival. Strong hardy sons were needed in every
family to work and to fight bandits and settle feuds." And why was it
so? Why was this area so violent and lawless? Because it was under
Chinese administration. In that part of Tibet administered by the
Dalai Lama's government "where law and order prevailed" as my
informant emphatically states in the same book, the social status of
women was higher, and certainly in advance of contemporary China with
its foot-binding and child concubinage, and even present-day China
with it's mind-numbing and sickening statistics on female infanticide.

Grunfeld uses a similar trick in order to allege that descriptions of
the typical Tibetan diet of tsampa, butter tea, meat and vegetables
were exaggerated and that "a survey made in 1940 in eastern Tibet
came to a somewhat different conclusion. It found that 38 percent of
the households never got any tea but either collected herbs that grew
wild or drank 'white tea', boiled water. It found that 51 percent
could not afford to use butter, and that 75 percent of the households
were forced at times to resort to eating grass cooked with cow bones
and mixed with oat or pea flower." Once again Grunfeld neglects to
inform us that the survey was made in a long-held and Chinese
administered area of Tibet, where the rapacity of Chinese officials
ensured not just the poverty of the population but often its
starvation as well. Grunfeld's notes at the end of his book exposes
his deception. The source is Frontier Land Systems in Southwestern
China, by Chen Han-seng, 1949.

In 1916 an American missionary, with experience in Chinese
administered Eastern Tibet wrote: "There is no method of torture
known that is not practised in here on these Tibetans, slicing,
boiling, tearing asunder and all …To sum up what China is doing here
in eastern Tibet, the main things are collecting taxes robbing,
oppressing, confiscating and allowing her representatives to burn and
loot and steal."

This observation is mentioned in Travels of a Consular Officer in
Eastern Tibet, by Eric Teichman of the British Consular Service in
China who, on the request of the Chinese government traveled
extensively through Eastern Tibet in 1918, to conclude an armistice
between warring Tibetan and Chinese forces. In his book he observes
that the areas of Eastern Tibet administered by the Tibetan
government were peaceful, orderly, well administered and contrasted
dramatically with the lawlessness, poverty and misrule in Chinese
administered areas. Teichman also cites similar observations by other
European travelers who had traveled to both areas.

Grunfeld's chapter on early Tibetan history is absolutely
disingenuous. While relating Songtsen Gampo's marriage to the Chinese
princess as an "enlightened" move on the Tibetan's Emperor's part,
concurring with standard Chinese propaganda that Tibetans were
eagerly seeking "superior" Chinese culture, he is completely silent
on the fact that the princess was in fact a tribute, a prize wrested
from the Chinese emperor's hand after the Tibetans had soundly
defeated a major Chinese army in battle.

Grunfeld mentions without qualification (and again without sources or
citations) that the Chinese princess "is credited with having
introduced into Tibet the use of butter, tea, cheese, barley, beer,
medical knowledge, and astrology. If butter, cheese, and barley,
which are staple food items of the Tibetans, did not exist in Tibet
before the arrival of the Chinese princess, what does Grunfeld
suppose Tibetans ate? Grass perhaps, which would, in a sense, support
Grunfeld's other contention that Tibetan women licked their newborn
babies clean, thus confirming the subhuman, perhaps bovine, nature of
the Tibetan people.

Far from introducing such products to Tibet, the Chinese
traditionally never ate cheese, butter and milk, and well into modern
times regarded dairy products as somewhat disgusting. It is amazing
that a person who nowadays refers to himself as "a historian on
China", should lack such basic knowledge about traditional Chinese diet.

And this is perhaps where mention should be made of the fact that
Grunfeld most probably does not read or even speak Chinese, since in
his work he provides no primary Chinese sources. Furthermore, it is
more than obvious that Grunfeld does not speak or read even basic
Tibetan. Not a single Tibetan source is cited in his book. In fact
his "history" relies on often outdated secondary literature, and does
not even utilize the significant body of scientific and scholarly
articles and monographs that have appeared (in English and other
European languages) over the last twenty-five years or so.

Though problematic, linguistic inability might not, under certain
circumstances, prove so absolutely crippling in conducting research
on Tibetan history. Alastair Lamb's Tibet, China & India 1914-1950,
derived largely from official British archival sources, is a
significant contribution to our knowledge of modern Tibet history.
Also use of translators, long term contact with Tibetan scholars and
close association with the Tibetan community could also possibly
compensate in part for lack of language skills, as Warren Smith's
Tibetan Nation demonstrates. Grunfeld has no dealings whatsoever
either with Tibetans in exile or those inside Tibet, though he has
made a couple of visits to Tibet, one just recently. He does
occasionally attend seminars and lectures on Tibet in New York City,
where he sits at the rear of the hall with a newspaper or journal
held up before his face. During breaks he has been known to pour out,
to anyone willing to listen, woeful accounts of Tibetan mistrust and
hostility towards him.

Grunfeld is patently dishonest in not owning up to his ignorance of
the Tibetan and Chinese languages. He skirts the issue in the
introduction to his book by claiming that he was aware that he had
not drawn on Tibetan and Chinese sources, but that getting his book
published took priority. He also has the shameless effrontery of
justifying this with a quote from Hugh Trevor-Roper: "All researchers
reach a point of diminishing returns where to continue without
publishing only postpones the inevitable." On another occasion he
fobs off his ignorance of Tibetan and Chinese with this blatantly
false declaration: "Chinese, Tibetan and Nepali sources are not very
plentiful, on the whole, and not readily accessible even if one has
the necessary language skills." (Bulletin of Concerned Asian
Scholars, IX.1, 1977: 59) Granted, Nepali sources may not be
plentiful, but at the same time they are not as vital as Chinese and
certainly Tibetan sources are in studying Tibetan history. And
Tibetan sources are undeniably plentiful. They are also completely
accessible to Grunfeld in New York City. Thanks to a US Library of
Congress program, under the PL480 program, from the mid-sixties
onwards, copies of many thousands of volumes of basic, primary
materials for historical research on Tibet were made freely available
at such institutes as Columbia University or the New York Public
Library -- to anyone with -- the necessary language skills -- to read them.

Grunfeld even seems to lack the smattering of basic Tibetan that
tourists to Tibet or hippies in Dharamsala manage to pick up in a few
days. For instance in the introduction to his book he translates the
Tibetan name for Tibet "Bod (or 'P'oyul)" as "the land of snows"
which is laughably pathetic. "Bod" absolutely does not mean "land of
snows". Tibetans do sometimes refer to their country as "gangchen
jong" or "land of the great snows" in the same way as an Irishman
might refer to his country as the Emerald Isle. Grunfeld's book is so
rife with such elementary mistakes that I think it is pointless to go
on pointing them all out. The task could be more suitably performed
at a Tibetan school perhaps, where children could compete with each
other to spot all the many howlers.

Such being the case, I would be justified in asking Grunfeld the same
question that Nirad Choudhuri (the great Bengali polymath and writer)
asked of Katherine Mayo: why she, "who on the face of it, had neither
the qualification nor any business to write on India", undertook her
project. Mayo's book was suspected by many Indians of being inspired,
if not commissioned by British officials in India. Even Gandhi was
goaded to write, "We in India are accustomed to interested
publication patronized -- 'patronized' is accepted as an elegant
synonym for 'subsidized' -- by the Government -- I hope Miss Mayo
will not take offence if she comes under the shadow of such suspicion."

In 1971, Manoranjan Jha, came out with a study Katherine Mayo and
India, which provided extensive documentary evidence to show that
British authorities in India from the highest to the lowest ranks had
indeed not only actively helped Mayo but had supplied much of the
scandalous details. According to Mayo's papers now at Yale
University, John Coatman, Director of Public Information to the
Government of India, had provided her with such salacious tidbits as
that Indian men often practised sodomy on their own sons.

Like Mayo, Grunfeld claims that his work is honest, objective and
motivated by genuine concern; and like Mayo, Grunfeld takes up a
posture of martyrdom when attacked by critics. But the fact of the
matter is that like Mayo, Grunfeld is a hypocrite and racist, and
also the agent (probably less unwitting than Mayo) of a tyrannical
imperial power.

Grunfeld was a member of the "US China People's Friendship Society"
which Simon Leys has pointed out has nothing so much to do with
friendship among peoples, as with serving the will of the Chinese
Communist Party. He was also on the staff of New China, the
propaganda vehicle of the Society, and was also a contributor. In
1975, before the Cultural Revolution had ended, when everything in
Tibet seemed reduced to rubble and misery by this campaign's violence
and madness, Grunfeld wrote an article, "Tibet: Myth and Realities,"
for New China. In it he unreservedly declared that extensive modern
education, widespread healthcare, scientific agriculture, industry,
commerce, and even indigenous cultural life were flourishing in
Tibet. Even Chinese officialdom later admitted that Tibet had
suffered terribly and conditions had gotten far worse that what was
supposed to have prevailed in pre-1950 Tibet.

Grunfeld was also a member of the Committee of Concerned Asian
Scholars, a now discredited organization of left-wing Mao-worshipping
Western academics who subscribed unquestioningly to the belief that
Mao and the Communist Party of China had not only solved the problems
of China but those of humankind as well; and that Communist China
should be regarded as a model not just for developing nations, but
also the United States. When, at a meeting with Zhou Enlai a group of
Concerned Asian Scholars sought to extol China's many achievements,
the premier, irritated by their infatuation with the Cultural
Revolution, cut them short by saying that much remained to be done.
The deputy foreign-minister Chao Guanhua, complained about such
adulation from the West with this objection "They used to write that
everything in China was wrong. Now they write that everything in
China is right." As Steven Mosher in China Mispercieved exclaimed in
amazement: "This must surely rank as one of the wonders of the global
village: Beijing's master image-makers giving lessons in balance and
objectivity to American journalists."

But is Grunfeld connected more directly to the Chinese government or
the Communist party -- in some covert manner, perhaps? A revelation
by a longtime friend of his indicates that he probably is. In his
book China Live: Two Decades in the Heart of the Dragon, CNN Hongkong
Bureau Chief, Mike Chinoy writes that following the 1987
demonstrations in Lhasa, CNN's attempts to get permission to visit
the Tibetan capital were constantly rejected by Chinese authorities.
But in the summer of 1988 "Tibetan historian Tom Grunfeld, a longtime
friend and fellow CCAS (Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars)
activist from the 1970's with good access to senior Chinese officials
responsible for the territory, was allowed to visit Lhasa, where he
lobbied on our behalf. Two months later, we were thrilled to receive
a telex from the Lhasa waiban inviting CNN to Tibet". There are only
so many ways one acquires such clout, such impressive guanxi, in the
PRC. One thing we can be sure is that Grunfeld doesn't have a spare
million dollars to invest in China.

Earlier on, I dealt at such length on Grunfeld's equivocations on
early Tibetan history and old Tibetan society that I now feel obliged
to emphasize to the reader that the bulk of Grunfeld's book deals
with Tibet after the Chinese Communist invasion. It is also here, in
a presentation comparable only to Houdini's amazing trick of making a
live elephant disappear on stage, Grunfeld performs a mind-boggling
tour de force. He manages to write his entire account of this period
without once referring to any famine either in Tibet or China, and
does not even make a remote allusion to the great famine. A famine
which is now generally acknowledged to be the greatest in human
history, where 30 to 60 million people died and where starving people
boiled and ate their own children. Furthermore this famine was not an
act of nature, but occurred as result of Mao's megalomaniac programs
and the Party's complete indifference to human life and suffering. To
Grunfeld, all this never happened. Instead he regales us with heady
accounts of steady progress and reforms from the first instance the
Chinese took power in Tibet. A summary of these amazing
accomplishments is presented in his article in New China, -- a decade
earlier mutual aid teams were formed, then agricultural cooperatives,
and finally, in 1965-66, people's communes. Mechanization has begun
and experimental agricultural stations have developed more resilient,
higher-yield grains as well as strains of tobacco, tea, sugar beets,
and a dozen vegetables, which can grow readily in the climate of the
'Roof of the World'. Innovations such as insecticides, chemical
fertilizers, irrigation, and veterinary medicine have been introduced
into a land that hardly even know of their existence -- In short the
lot of the Tibetan people has improved immeasurably."

Another black hole in Grunfeld's account is the imprisoning of
hundreds of thousands of Tibetans in Forced Labour Camps, and also
the mass killing of Tibetans by the Chinese. Grunfeld is absolutely
silent on this. China's leading official Tibetan figure, the Panchen
Lama, in his address to the Tibet Autonomous Region Standing
Committee Meeting of the National People's Congress held in Beijing
on 28 March 1987, clearly stated that in his native Amdo (Qinghai)
"there were between three to four thousand villages and towns, each
having between three to four thousand families with four to five
thousand people. From each town and village, about 800 to 1,000
people were imprisoned. Out of this, at least 300 to 400 people of
them died in prison." Nearly half the prison population."

At the same meeting the Panchen Lama also provided specific instances
of mass killings in his area. This is what he said: "If there was a
film made on all the atrocities perpetrated in Qinghai province, it
would shock the viewers. In Golok area, many people were killed and
their dead bodies were rolled down the hill into a big ditch. The
soldiers told the family members and relatives of the dead people
that they should all celebrate since the rebels had been wiped out.
They were even forced to dance on the dead bodies. Soon after, they
were also massacred with machine guns. They were all buried there."

Grunfeld's silence on this issue makes his book the equivalent of a
history of the American South with no mention of slavery, or a
history of modern Germany without any reference to the Holocaust.
Which brings up the question, is Grunfeld's book comparable to the
works of revisionist historians like David Irving who claim that the
holocaust had never happened, that the gas chambers had never
existed, but were invented for British propaganda purposes and then
picked up by Jews to extort German and American finance for Israel?
On serious reflection, I don't think such a comparison can be made.

First of all David Irving is a real historian, whose works have been
published by major publishers in Sweden, Germany and Macmillan in
Britain, and not like Grunfeld's "history" which was published by Zed
Books in London, presumably some left-wing propaganda setup.
Furthermore Irving is a fluent linguist and speaks and writes German
like a native. In fact his knowledge of German language, history and
culture is so exceptional that he was able to expose the phoney
"Hitler Diaries" that the German magazine Stern had purchased and
which had been publicly endorsed not only by a number of German
experts but even by the historian, Hugh Trevor Roper, whom Grunfeld
quotes to prop up one of his numerous falsehoods.

Also David Irving is no hypocrite or the cat's paw of a brutal
dictatorial regime as Grunfeld is. No matter how distasteful and
abhorrent his views, David Irving is at least open and
straightforward about them. He does not pretend that he has nothing
to do with neo-nazi groups, and in fact he openly lectures at large
gatherings in Germany where he is greeted with enthusiastic "Seig
Heil's." More than anything he does not pretend to be the
disinterested friend of the Jews. And to credit the man, Irving does
not retail mediaeval anti-Semitic vilification, like the kind that
Jews poisoned wells and performed secret rituals with the blood of
murdered Christian babies. Nor does he repeat racist slurs about Jews
being dirty, miserly, treacherous or sub-human. All of which Grunfeld
enthusiastically does, in the Tibetan context.

But I find myself unable to go on any further. I must come up for air
-- pull my head out of the open sewer that is Tom Grunfeld's The
Making of Modern Tibet. If the printed word could physically emit a
stink, then this book would reek not only of dung and putrefaction
but the charnel house as well. All the usual words of condemnation:
scurrilous, disgusting, abominable, are inadequate to censure the man
and his work. Once again, as I have done many times in the past, I am
obliged to touch on the experiences of Lu Xun for an adequate
concluding description of this deeply disturbing hate-tract and its
perverted author. And modern China's preeminent humanist and writer,
a man with a lifetime experience of skewering tyrants and their
toadies on his mobi, his writing brush, does not disappoint. With his
withering dismissal of the writings of Zhang Shizhao – one of the
more unredeemably disgusting intellectual whores in the world of
Chinese letters -- as the "acme of obscenity," Lu Xun allows me
conclude this piece.

August 28, 2001

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