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Opinion: Han Chauvinism is Plain Racism

April 24, 2009

by Tenzin Dickyi
April 23, 2009

High Peaks Pure Earth reported a Beijing
student's account of racism and discrimination
against Tibetans in the Chinese capital. Qiaga
Tashi Tsering and his girlfriend went to seven or
eight different hotels only to be turned away
from all of them because "Tibetans can't stay here."

They were turned away because they were Tibetan,
because of their race. Are these isolated cases
that happen because of personal prejudice (never
mind that Tashi Tsering went to at least seven
different hotels)? Or is this something more
insidious and political and therefore much more
hideous? The ugly truth is that the entire
Chinese policy seems rooted in a belief that
Tibetans are second-class citizens; that Tibetans
are to be suspected and distrusted so long as
they practice their religion, read and write
their language, and hold on to their culture and identity.

Han chauvinism is plain racism. I am reminded of
an earlier era in American and Indian history
when a black man could not sit in the front of a
bus and an Indian could not travel first class on a train alongside Englishmen.

Because people in the west take it for granted
that social and political liberalization must
follow social liberalization - because we see
only the skycrapers of Shanghai and the skyline
of Beijing and not the prisons and detention
centers of Lhasa and Shigatse- we often fail to
realize that in China's occupied territories, the
political and social situation is in fact worse
and more oppressive now than before.

We suffer from, to use Samantha Power's words, a
failure of imagination. We live in a society
where a parent can go to jail for slapping a
child, where a policeman reads you your Miranda
rights before handcuffing you and hauling you off
to jail. How to realistically imagine then a
society -with skyscrapers and cellphones- where a
student can be expelled from school and their
future ruined for simply writing "Free Tibet" on
a piece of paper and a person can spend years in
jail for joining a peaceful demonstration and shouting slogans?

I am reminded very much of Verbal's quote in The
Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick the devil
ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't
exist." The Chinese government with its
billion-strong market and reserves of American
dollars is well on its way to convincing the
world that it is not a colonial power that is
forcefully occupying Tibet, East Turkestan and Inner Mongolia.

The writer lives in New york and can be reached at
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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