Tong Underplays Chinese Ills

Xiaomeng Tong's "Human Rights Hypocrisy" (signed piece, Apr. 5, 1995), raises too many issues for one letter to supply sufficient response. Yet typical of a Beijing party-line invective, albeit a soft-pedaled one, the editorial quietly intends to deflect the international issues at hand between the U.S. and China to matters of "internal affairs," both Chinese and American. Certainly, to point out the U.S.'s inequalities (which we can expect to be exacerbated in the fallout of the Newtonian Congress) is no panacea for China's woeful inability to understand democracy, and Tong's choice to ignore China's growing social problems (guns and crime, a floating workforce of over 100 million, IOU's to farmers, severe poverty) is obvious.

However, I focus on one issue that Mr. Tong dismisses, one that should never escape international attention: Tibet. Tibet is China's most sensitive issue, and potentially most troublesome. Tibet, primarily, is neither a "racial problem" nor a "regional matter" (read: internal affair). Tibet is an illegally occupied country (despite the lack of official recognition by the U.S. State Department), a money-losing colony. The Tibetan issue has been ignored and tippy-toed about at the highest diplomatic levels for fear of "offending" China. Yet the seemingly intractable problem of Tibet, and the regained independence its people desire, should be brought to the highest levels; it holds the solution to not only firmer U.S.-China relations, but to the future stability of Asia as well.

Instead of screaming at the U.S. for meddling, China should openly approach the Tibetan issue and begin negotiations with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled political and spiritual leader. China's current policy of flooding Tibet with Han Chinese and Hui muslim immigrants heightens tensions and the potential for violence there. For the past 25 years the Tibetan independence movement has been exclusively non-violent, and for Asia's sake, it should stay so.

A demilitarized, democratically self-ruled Tibet would create an enormous, sensible buffer state between two future powers, China and India. And as China begins an uncertain period of transition (hopefully towards democracy--and any real political freedom would necessitate the Tibetan choice of freedom), it should look to making Tibet an issue which will defuse international discord and gain respect.

The Chinese leaders know that the Tibetan issue is becoming critical; today in Tibet Cultural Revolution methods have returned and tired socialist pleas absent from China are more vociferous than ever. If the Tibetans escalate their fight in a lastchance response (and here timing in post-Deng China would be critical), the effects would easily spill into neighboring regions. The very stability that China has been emphasizing over the past two years will unravel. Remember: martial law was imposed on Tibet three months before Tiananmen Square 1989.


No one knows how events will play out in China. Yet reassessing the Tibetan issue as a solution to wider problems will help steer the potential for violence off course. Which brings me to Tong's conclusions and pleas. The Chinese have shown human rights to be at best a weak tool on the international front. So let's press for changing the State Department's empty words into action on Tibet, let's work towards getting the Chinese people and leaders to look again at the Tibetan issue. And, as sure as tax cuts for the wealthy and welfare cuts for the poor will force more homeless to the streets, we can empty our pockets of change and vote wisely at the polling booth. Gregory W. Alling   GSAS