By Dhundup Gyalpo
"Shocking, outrageous and totally unacceptable": This is how the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization, characterized the Chinese media's attempt to draw an analogy between Nobel Peace Laureate Dalai Lama and the Nazi perpetrator of the World War II Holocaust. The Center demanded that China Tibet Online and the Xinhua News Agency apologize for slandering the Dalai Lama and denigrating the holocaust victims.
Titled "Seven questions to the 14th Dalai Lama”, the commentary, posted on China Tibet Online and carried by the official Xinhua News Agency on 24 March, accused the Dalai Lama of advocating policies that would result in the expulsion of Chinese from the Tibetan territories. "The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the cruel Nazis during the Second World War," it stated, adding, "How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews!"
Taking strong exception to this piece, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center devoted to imparting the lessons of the Holocaust and promoting tolerance, said:“It is shocking, outrageous, and totally unacceptable that any Chinese official would permit the denigrating of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust as a tactic to slander a spiritual leader who has earned the world’s respect over the span of decades, precisely because he pursues his agenda through peace and dialogue. Indeed, the Dalai Lama stands for the values that the Nazis sought to destroy. We urge China Tibet Online and the Xinhua News Agency to apologize for this double slander.”
An apology is certainly in order—but don’t be holding your breath waiting for a miracle. Because, for the state-run media, the Chinese Communist Party can do no wrong. On the contrary, they will rather have you believe that there is no Tibet issue at all and that everything is just hunky-dory in Tibet.
As the crisis in Tibet shows no sign of dying down, Chinese propagandists have been running amok, spewing out all various outrageous accusations and speculations, mostly targeted against the Dalai Lama. However, it merely takes one gentle stroke of plain, simple truth for the entire facade of “potemkin stories” to come crashing down.
The People's Daily commentary begins from the outset with a fundamentally flawed question, based on skewed facts and faulty logic. “Q1: Why [does] the Dalai Lama deliberately incite Tibetans for self-immolation? The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar [Tibetan New Year] so as to memori[ali]ze "the fallen heroes of Tibet" in Dharamsala India on Feb. 22. The Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar in memor[y] of self-immolators. It's been thousands of years for Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which is an important carrier of Tibetan culture, customs and emotions. Tibetans are able to obtain the great soul from Losar after a year of hard work.”
The accusation that “The Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar” not only defies logic, it is a patent lie. The Dalai Lama never made such an appeal.
The truth is that it was Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay who had appealed to the Tibetans[3
] to refrain from celebrating the Lunar New Year. And he also said: "But do observe traditional and spiritual rituals by going to the monastery, making offerings and lighting butter lamps for all those who have sacrificed and suffered under the repressive policies of Chinese government."
The Kalon Tripa’s appeal for not celebrating Losar does not by any stretch of imagination amount to “actively inciting self-immolation." On the contrary, his constant, emphatic appeals to the Tibetan people to respect the sanctity of life and refrain from engaging in any drastic measures[4
] convey quite the opposite of what the Chinese have been claiming so far.
But why is China still harping on the theme that the Dalai Lama is fomenting unrest in Tibet? One of the most outspoken Chinese public intellectuals, Ran Yunfei, had this to say:“The communists really destroyed religion. They don’t understand it at all. Look at Tibet. I told the guobao [State Security Agents] that, "you guys have gone too far. You don't allow them to hang pictures of the Dalai Lama. You don’t have faith so you don't understand. So the Tibetans get very angry and depressed. And then you go into temples and instead hang pictures of Mao and Jiang (Zemin) or Hu (Jintao). You've gone overboard! This isn't right. Think about it. No wonder they set themselves on fire.”
Given the fact that the blanket media blackout in Tibet is even worse than Pyongyang, as Reporters without Borders noted in this report[6
], the Chinese state media can get away with any kind of stories on Tibet, especially those meant for the consumption of their domestic audience. And when things become dicey, the state media resorts to hitting the raw nationalistic nerves of popular sentiment, crying wolf with ominous portents like "the Dalai Lama wants to expel Chinese from Tibet."
This also explains why China is not only preventing independent foreign media from covering events inside Tibet, but is employing the full force of its propaganda machinery in waging a disinformation campaign, misrepresenting the current crisis as a shrewd machination of the Dalai Lama.
Despite the imposition of virtual martial law across all Tibetan regions, China has failed miserably in containing the deepening crisis in Tibet. Thus the Chinese state media continue to emphasize the point that the Dalai Lama is the key to the resolution of the Tibet issue. But if China wants the Dalai Lama's support in containing the situation inside Tibet, they should perhaps begin by toning down their vitriol against him and engage in a process of constructive dialogue.
P.S. While the Nazi Holocaust killed six million Jews during World War II, Mao's Great Leap Forward snuffed out the lives of as many as 45 million people in just four years. The author of “Mao's Great Famine”, Frank Dikotter, therefore dedicated to Mao the crown of "the greatest mass murderer in world history".[7
] Similarly, the book “Mao: The Unknown Story”, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, opens with the sentence "Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world's population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth century leader." No wonder those who fete Mao as divine leader dread a man of peace and compassion as a Hitler.Dhundup Gyalpo is a Tibetan journalist based in Dharamshala, India.The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.