Barry Sautman's response to Jamyang Norbu's opinion piece "Running-Dog Propagandists"
By Email[Monday, August 04, 2008 10:52]
Being attacked by Jamyang Norbu is like being criticized by John Bolton, George W. Bush's bellicose former US representative to the United Nations. Many movements have someone who does the dirty work of loudly hurling venomous barbs at those he claims are shielding "evil doers." For US neo-conservatives, it's been John Bolton and for "Free Tibet" it's Jamyang Norbu. At the same time, they bold-facedly claim for themselves -- in Norbu's words -- the characteristics of being "civilized, measured and legitimate."

Norbu terms those who find key elements of the Tibetan émigré discourse less than convincing "running dog propagandists of the Chinese." Interestingly, he has at the same time praised the work of Warren Smith, a professional propagandist for the US government's Radio Free Asia. Norbu especially disdains those who are -- or who he imagines to be -- leftists. Yet, as a polemicist, he has been unsparing of even Free Tibet supporters who disagree with his extreme propositions (he has claimed, for example, that physical genocide is being carried out in Tibet). Similarly, Bolton has lately raked over the coals even the Bush Administration for taking North Korea off the Trading with Enemy Act and State Sponsor of Terrorism lists, pursuant to the agreement to end North Korea's nuclear program.

Norbu labels me "the main running dog propagandist to comment on events in Tibet this March" because of what he regards as the "dubious origins of many . . . facts and figures" I used in a piece of a few pages -- written as an email to a friend -- that found its way onto the internet. Each of his responses to these "facts and figures" is however unavailing.

Norbu disparages my observation that Ladakhi Tibetans have been taught in Urdu and that no one, on that account, has accused the Indian or Kashmiri state governments of "cultural genocide." He cannot however deny that this has actually happened, while at the same time Tibet independence supporters cite education in Chinese at the secondary school level as evidence of "cultural genocide" in Tibet. I have, incidentally written a 107-page chapter, in a book entitled Cultural Genocide and Asian State Peripheries, which disputes the claim of cultural genocide in Tibet.

Norbu also objects to my not agreeing with the proposition that Tibet is an "internal colony" of China. In effect he admits, however, that he doesn't know about the longstanding sociological concept of an internal colony.

Norbu implies that the Philippines in 1986, when the gigantic "people's power" demonstrations took place, was not as repressive as Tibet in 2008, where demonstrators accounted for a much smaller proportion of the population than in Philippines. Yet the Marcos regime had by then already murdered many thousands of people, particularly the leftists that Norbu hates. That practice continues today in the Philippines, under the US-backed "democracy" and watchful eye of the world media.

Finally, Norbu is "almost certain" that I obtained information about the funding of "exile entities" by the US government's National Endowment for Democracy (NED) from an April 14, 2008 article by one William Engdahl, a source who Norbu considers disreputable. Actually, the information derives from an August 13, 2007 article on the website of "Global Research" by Michael Barker, entitled "'Democratic Imperialism': Tibet, China, and the National Endowment for Democracy." I know nothing about Global Research or Barker, except that he is a PhD candidate at an Australian university. His article is however specific about the NED grants made to exile and "Tibet support" organizations (e.g. the International Campaign for Tibet). Anyone familiar with the literature on NED knows that its leaders have themselves seen it as carrying out functions once within the purview of the CIA.

Apart from his own polemic, Norbu recommends another response to those he calls "propagandists and apologists for Communist China posing as impartial, even concerned scholars and journalists": that Tibetans contact their employers to complain of their "bias, bigotry or lack of qualifications." A similar practice was carried out in the US, where Norbu lives, during the "McCarthy era" of the late 1940s and 1950s. It's still being done there sporadically by ultra right-wing groups intent on getting fired the "leftists" that Norbu despises.

While acknowledging that he isn't a legal expert, Norbu further recommends that the Tibetan Youth Congress or Students for a Free Tibet look into suing me for stating that some émigré organizations have been funded by NED. As a lawyer, I will give him some gratuitous advice: such an action would likely fail, as truth is a complete defense to a charge of libel.

If I were sued, I wouldn't have to rely on Michael Barker's research; I would call as a witness the Tibetan émigré historian Tsering Shakya, who in a recent interview stated, "Tibet exile groups in India do get NED funding . . ." I might however also warn Prof. Shakya that he should be careful; after all, his interview appeared in the journal New Left Review. If a self-described "conservative" like the Tibet-specialist Prof. Melyvn Goldstein can be attacked, Bolton-like, by Jamyang Norbu, imagine what the latter might do to Prof. Shakya.

Barry Sautman, JD, LLM, PhD
Division of Social Science
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
August 3, 2008

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