Friday, December 13, 2013

Layers of Nonviolent Tibetan Resistance



Monday we heard Rashi, an Indian woman, speak powerfully of an international resistance movement organized by Students for a Free Tibet. She was the second woman speaker we had heard. Outside Kerala, India is still an extraordinarily patriarchal and, in this respect, ugly society; Tibet, too, is patriarchal. So women have to watch out even more than in America – like an earlier version of America and perhaps worse. Protests against, for example, gang rapes and murders as in Delhi in December 2012 - see here have been resisted by, for the first time, a mass uprising - a kind of Indian spring last year - and increased reporting of rape.

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Rashi had heard Ama Adhe, a Tibetan woman who survived a torture as long as Mandela’s (Palden Gyatso’s was 37 years, perhaps a record…). She was the one survivor in a group that initially was several hundred women. Her story moved Rashi to take on this fight as her own for the long haul (one can on moral and democratic and internationalist grounds feel that stopping this kind of oppression is vital to a decent world). She has had to answer questions from relatives and friends: “Tibet is another country. What does it have to do with us?“

One of the themes she takes up is how the "globalization" of Chinese products is rooted in ethnic cleansing in Tibet: the lithium in lithium batteries, the radiation from Chinese uranium production and nuclear explosions in high Tibet – radiation travels… - copper and the like.

But most importantly, Rashi spoke of the international resistance organized by students for a free Tibet to the Intercontinental Hotels, which plan to open the "Lhasa Paradise" in 2014. She organized a protest in Delhi of a small group of people, coming into the Intercontinental separately, demonstrating, confronting the manager and then another group staging a die in out front. Other protests have taken place in London and New York.

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In addition, Canadian mining companies, like Nixon, Hunter Dickinson (Continental Minerals) and China Gold, prey on Occupied Tibet. The mining ravages the environment parallel to the Keystone XL pipeline in Canada. The efforts of indigenous Canadians and all of us against the pollution of aquifers on which Americans depend for water in Nebraska and surrounding states or against global warming from tar sands – see here and here - and of the Tibetans and their allies are part of the same struggle.

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On Tuesday, I heard John Gaudette, my student, an international lawyer and an intern at Tibetan Committee for Human Rights and Democracy, talk about Chinese crimes against humanity in Tibet. He underlined that Apple, through its subsidiary, Pegatron group, refuses to hire Tibetans and Uighurs in China. See the China Labor Watch report released in July discussed below in the Tibetan Youth Congress post. On August 7, the Tibetan Youth Congress organized protests at Apple stores in New York, New Jersey and San Francisco. See here.

But since lithium is also used in Apple computers and i-phones, Apple commits the triple crime of occupying Tibet (there is no autonomous regional government of the sort specified in the Chinese constitution) and fostering Han settlers/ethnic cleansing, preying off Tibetan property – the Tibetans get no share in the lithium proceeds, no autonomous regional government of the sort specified in the Chinese constitution - see here - and discriminating through Pegatron, its subsidiary, against Tibetans. Two poets, Kelsang Jinpa ("Garmi" or "the Blacksmith") and Lungpo Nyukthog ("the fool with pen") were imprisoned in Tibet for pointing out the contradiction with the Chinese constitution as well as with Lenin. (h/t Nyinmey). Adding the first two crimes would raise the deeper issue of freeing Tibet or, alternately, a Middle Way (serious Tibetan regional autonomy in China).

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At Foxconn, an Apple subsidiary in China, 14 workers jumped off the roof to their death in 2012. Working conditions for Apple are not good for Chinese workers as well as Tibetans (there is a common interest in defeating racism as part of fighting for improved conditions.

But protest, including a show on “This American Life” with Ira Glass, lit a fire under Apple which suddenly (and rightly) became concerned with Corporate Social Responsibility and put some pressure on the Chinese government.(h/t P.B.)

Apple would be a very good target for a deeper protest about Tibet as well as discrimination…

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In speaking with our group, both Tsundue and Tenzin Jigme, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, emphasized the militant resistance inside Tibet. After the fierce uprisings in 2008 in which many Tibetans, having kept to themselves against Chinese beatings and surveillance, came into the streets (2,000 murders by the Chinese Occupying Army and police, 5000 imprisoned). The Occupiers then launched a “Patriotic Education Campaign.” This amounts to the suppression of any sign of Tibetan culture - hence the force, inside Tibet of Lhakar (“White Wednesdays”) - or any sign of acknowledgement, affection or admiration for the Dalai Lama.

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Part of the “Patriotic Education Campaign” is a demand for Tibetans to put up Chinese flags on top of their rickety "modern" houses (often, the ones built to resettle the nomads while stealing their lands and minerals, the Chinese version of the American reservation/concentration camp system for indigenous people in the 19th and early to mid- 20th century).

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In Amdo and Khom (part of Tibet, but renamed by China), many people broke the flag poles to not display the flags. And people banded together to defend the mountains, to block the mining (note again: their protest was not necessarily against mining, but against Occupation and the stealing of Tibetan resources without any voluntary sharing arrangement).

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This internal resistance among Tibetans, along with self-burnings and Lhakar – see here and here – are the driving force of the international resistance among the far flung Tibetan community (both Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan Youth Congress have many many chapters). Some 98% of Tibetans live in Occupied Tibet.

Vigorous, nonviolent, international resistance coupled with internal struggle and the flourishing of the exile Tibetan community in Dharmasala and Southern India puts constant and increasing pressure on the Chinese government to grasp that its ethnic cleansing and contempt for law – parallel to the United States or Canada or Australia toward indigenous people or to Israel toward the Palestinians – is also tremendously self-destructive for China. Eventually as Students for a Free Tibet underlines (they have a wonderful t-shirt to this effect), the cost will make even the stubborn Chinese Communist Party take note.

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For one can have pride in the decency of what on does rather than the current Chinese “pride” in racism and ethnic cleansing. How does this differ, as colonizers, from the horrific "pride" of Western and Japanese imperialists carving up China before the Revolution?

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Even some of the wonderful students I had last summer at Liaoning University demonized Tibetan monks who supposedly brandished their orange robes against Chinese guns. Perhaps the stereotype in Chinese minds is that Tibetans have swords (rooted in an earlier warrior and imperial past in Tibet) and are violent – and so the army and police shoot and torture Tibetans and shut their eyes to the fact that the resistance is nonviolent.

But even someone deluded by the Chinese press might simply ask themselves: how does nonviolent resistance get portrayed as dangerous among an occupied people and how do the guns and torture of the forces of “Order” and Occupation get reimagined as something reasonable?

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The Dalai Lama, who initially allied with the Chinse Communists (was Vice-President of the National People's Congress until 1959), thinks Buddhism and Marxism are consistent. Treated decently – by Marxian standards, the sort spelled out by Lenin and even Stalin on the national question and Mao, in "On the correct handling of contradictions among the people" - the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans could have become a great ally of the Chinese. Instead,it has taken a great blindness, racism, and greed to create a circumstance where Tibet now lives as an undying symbol of Chinese brutality and crudity, started with the revolutionaries led by Mao and now, just the ugliest aspect of the new authoritarian Chinese capitalism.

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China could become powerful economically, pioneering green energy, and save itself and the world from global warming. Its government often intervenes in the economy – providing construction jobs or an electrical bus system in Beijing or subsidizing solar windows on the homes of farmers – in a way that avoids the permanent depression into which the United States and Europe have now entered (Larry Summers gave a recent, powerful talk about his). The main Keynsians out to save capitalism from the degradation of stealing food stamps from poor children to support the ultrarich are…in China (Obama also expressed a hope to do something about this last week).

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So China is already pursuing, to some extent, a green development strategy (and since many wear face masks in China to limit the pollution as I saw vividly in Liaoning, that this is a life and death matter is pretty obvious to the Chinese…). But China’s lawlessness, its barbarism toward Tibet and Tibetans, confirms its international isolation (what America imposed on it during the Cold War). It has only North Korea and Pakistan for allies, at this point though it buys favors from other governments, notably in Africa. The Chinese were elected to the UN Human Rights Commission, a farce analogous to the Bush-Cheney prominence in the UN (“torturers r us”) as well as Obama talking human rights while having no hearings about official American war crimes (for instance, Assad, whom the US almost made war on recently, tortured the innocent Canadian engineer Maher Arar, who had been "extraordinarily rendered" by the CIA from Laguardia, in a coffin size cell for 10 months...).

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But Chinese cruelty toward Tibetans is repulsive. So the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way offers the Chinese a way out of isolation internationally, if they are wise enough, over the next 10 to 15 years, to take it.

But only international pressure from below will force them to move in this wiser direction. Parallel to the International Boycott and Divestment Movement about Palestine, perhaps we should focus not only on Intercontinental but on Apple….

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From the Tibetan Youth Congress:

"TYC demands Apple investigate charges of discriminative hiring policies against Tibetans in Chinese factories Phayul[Thursday, August 01, 2013 10:29]

DHARAMSHALA, August 1: Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest pro-independence group in exile, has expressed outrage at accusations of discriminative hiring policies against Tibetans adopted by Chinese factories supplying products for Apple.

In a release on Wednesday, TYC said it was “deeply concerned” at the reports of labour rights violations and urged the California based Apple Inc. to “seriously investigate” the accusations.

China Labour Watch, a US based labour rights group, in an investigative report detailing labor violations in three factories of Pegatron Group, a major supplier to Apple had revealed at least 86 labor rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations.

The report accused Pegatron of "discriminatory hiring practices" including refusing to hire members of China's so called ethnic minorities including Huis, Tibetans, or Uighurs.

“Apple is one of the largest companies in the world and we believe that Apple must hold their subsidiaries responsible to their company’s principles,” newly elected TYC President Tenzing Jigme said.

The group further demanded that Apple enforce strict guidelines and regulations to ensure that the factories in China that produce Apple products are not discriminating against Tibetans, Uighurs and Huis.

In a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, TYC noted that the company must take serious actions against any violations of their principles as an Equal Employment opportunity provider and Affirmative Action Employer.

The group reminded Apple that in doing business with China, the global company has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the government of China and its subsidiary factories are treating others with respect and dignity.

TYC further announced that its chapters across the world will petition Apple to make changes to their policies and hold their factories accountable. The largest Tibetan group has also laid out plans to organise protests at Apple Headquarters and stores to ensure that their demands are heard by Apple.

Pegatron assembles products including the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 for Apple.

China Labor Watch in its report said the majority of Pegatron production employees worked 66 to 69 hours a week, far above China's legal limit of 49 hours. It said pregnant women sometimes were required to work 11-hour days, more than the eight-hour legal limit, and employees were pressured to falsify time cards to conceal the violations.

The report found violations including discrimination against women, excessive work hours, poor living conditions, health and safety problems, and pollution."

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"Apple CEO Tim Cook: Stop Racial Discrimination against Tibetans at Apple factories in China

Petition by
 Tibetan Youth Congress 


To: Timothy D. Cook, CEO, Apple Headquarters

I am outraged to learn of the discriminative policies being practiced at Apple's factories in China. The US based China Labor Watch has published an investigative report detailing the labor violations of three factories of Pegatron Group, a major supplier to Apple. Investigations revealed at least 86 labor rights violations, including 36 legal violations and 50 ethical violations.

As reported in the media, the group has accused Pegatron of "discriminatory hiring practices," including refusing to hire members of China's so called ethnic minorities including Huis, Tibetans, or Uighurs as stated under the factories hiring restrictions.
Apple is one of the largest companies in the world and I believe that Apple must hold their subsidiaries responsible to their company’s principles. It is clear from the recent reports that China does not care about moral ethics and values. Therefore, I urge Apple to enforce stricter guidelines and regulations to ensure the factories in China that make Apple products are not discriminating against Tibetans, Uighurs and Huis. In doing so, Apple will set an example to businesses as well as governments around the world that human rights must be respected and that discrimination of any kind should not and will not be tolerated. If Apple is committed to diversity, and truly believes that it is an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, it needs to take serious actions against any violations of these principles.
Tibet has been illegally occupied by China since 1949. Over 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of this invasion. Since 2009 over 120 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire and sacrificed their lives for their nation. I believe that China’s brutal policies of oppression, racial discrimination and the denial of freedom to Tibetans have driven them to Self Immolate themselves. In doing business with China, Apple has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the Chinese government and Apple’s factories are treating others with respect and dignity.

I am deeply concerned however, I have faith that Apple will do the right thing and make necessary changes to the working conditions and practices at their factories in China so that Tibetans and others will be treated equally. I look forward to Apple taking a stand.


Stop Racial Discrimination against Tibetans at their factories in China
Sincerely, 
[Your name]" here.

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