I am surprised to read some “facts” about Tibet provided by Shlomy Kattan in his Opinion column (Daily Nexus, “Regents Must Demand Higher Standards From BP Amoco,” May 22). Kattan quotes Resolution 17’s statement that “since China occupied Tibet in 1949, the Tibetan people, their culture and religion have been brutally oppressed. According to the exiled Tibetan government, 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a direct or indirect result of China’s occupation and 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed. … These projects are part of China’s strategy to consolidate political control of [Tibet].” Of course, these “facts” originate from the Tibetan government-in-exile. They portray the Chinese government as an evil force oppressing the paradise of Tibet. Yes, Tibet was a paradise, but only for those few who used to be the slave owners and enjoyed extreme privilege. It was not a paradise for the rest – the slaves who have since been freed thanks to the current Chinese government.
I am an international student from China and came to the United States last year. I believe it is my responsibility to point out those who mislead the public on the issue of Tibet. First, I should make it clear that I am not speaking on behalf of any government or organization (my father, who is a communist, always calls me “Liberal J”).
The Chinese banned slavery in 1950, which was an important part of the development of the Tibetan economy. This development also included the construction of a modern transportation infrastructure and new industrial plants, as well as access to education for ordinary Tibetans – which is the last thing the exiled Tibetan government would like to see. Yes, in a sense it is a “loss” for the traditional culture since it runs counter to its superstitions or other beautiful myths. However, I cannot see any reason to stop this historical progress, especially when it is destroying the brutal institution of slavery and granting everyone the their equality. Despite this progress, the Chinese government continues to attach great importance to the preservation of the traditional culture of Tibet. Children can freely choose Chinese or Tibetan as their instructional language, depending on the high school they opt to attend. The government has even established academies and universities devoted to traditional Tibetan culture. Admittedly, some monasteries were damaged or destroyed in years past, such as during the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Today however, the government allocates large sums of money to maintain and protect the temples which enable religious people to have a place to carry on religious activities. This is the reason you have a lot of choices when you visit Tibet today.
My purpose is to tell you what I experienced while I grew up in China as an ordinary person. I have found that there is a great deal of misunderstanding by the American public regarding issues in China, including the Fa-Lun-Gong and democratic problems, due to the misleading slant of the media. The best way to learn the truth is to visit China for yourself and have a look at the way it really is.
Jiefeng Zhou is a graduate student in the Department of Geography.