Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Orphaned Tibet

The Current Discussion: Protests over the Olympic torch relay have led to a crackdown in Tibet. Is Tibetan independence a lost cause? If not, what should its supporters do to win it?

Tibet's plight is not just about the sadness and loss of country that Tibetans feel - it is a constant reminder of the lack of a moral stance that countries have on this issue. World riots over the Olympic torch merely highlight the world's enthusiasm for showing they do not agree with the Chinese government. This is a message that is not getting to the governments, which continue to behave as if there is no problem with Tibet. There is no second thoughts about the fact that Tibet was invaded by the Chinese, albeit decades ago. There seems to be a suggestion that since the takeover of Tibet happened so long ago, it might as well be considered a lost cause.

The upcoming Olympics raise China's profile and hence the urgency to show the world that not all agree with how the Tibetan issue has been handled by the community of governments. While calls for its boycott are equated with the boycott of the Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, most athletes and governments don't really want to create a fuss over the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet. However, there are different faces to this protest; perhaps taking part in the Olympics but boycotting the opening ceremony. Imagine the Chinese televising the opening ceremony, with only the Chinese team in attendance?

Realistically, the Tibetan cause is lost in terms of pressure, sympathy or action from any of the governments that can exert even moral pressure on China, not that such moral pressure work on the mind of the Chinese leadership. However, it is obvious that people around the world do care about the Tibetan issue; this is where the current protests come into play to try and raise the interest in this lost cause. Tibet has no strategic value for the Americans, British or the French, and perhaps their need not to offend China far outweighs their moral responsibilities here. In a sense, the current protests around the high-profile Olympics are the last chance for people who support the Tibetan cause to do something about it. If they fail, the issue will recede back to being a footnote in the newspapers and in our minds.

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