China-US Politics over Exhibiting Tibet. In Dhaka

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By Rahnuma Ahmed

Writer and translator Tarek Omar Chowdhury, a committed Maobadi and a dear friend, was deeply worried. `Of course I do not support what happened, although I must admit I look at it  differently.’ He was referring to the government’s pressure to close down ‘Into Exile – Tibet 1949 – 2009,′ an exhibition organised by the Bangladeshi chapter of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), in partnership with Drik, November 1 – 7. `I express my solidarity,’ said his e-mail.

At first it had been the cultural counsellor from the Chinese embassy in Dhaka. Turning up at Drik he told Shahidul Alam, its managing director, “We would like you to cancel the Tibet exhibition.” Tibet was a part of China. If the exhibition was held, the relationship between Bangladesh and China would be affected. Drik, he was politely told, was an independent gallery. They did not have the right to tell Drik what it could, or could not show. But other visits and phone calls soon began: Bangladeshi government officials, police, special branch, members of parliament. Using either intimidation or persuasion, they basically conveyed the same message. The show must be cancelled. Later, the police insisted that Drik needed official permission but were unable to produce any written document. On the 1st afternoon, police in riot gear entered Drik’s premises and locked it up. A symbolic opening, inaugurated by professor Muzaffer Ahmed, was held on the street outside. Having registered its indignation, Drik decided to close down the exhibition the next day as a mark of protest.

Policemen encircle Professor Muzaffer Ahmad, chairman of the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International, as he went to Drik Gallery in the capital Dhaka to open an exhibition titled ‘Into Exile – Tibet 1949–2009’ on November 1.
— New Age photo

I am thinking of writing about it, said Tarek. But of course, you must, I said. His piece, `Tibboter odekha chobigulo onek kotha boley’ appeared in Samakal, 13 November. While highly critical of government interference and heavy-handedness, Tarek voiced suspicion about the SFT and its funding sources, whether the opening was timed to coincide with Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit, to draw media attention, to villify China by portraying it as an occupying force in Tibet. The US government, more particularly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), wrote Tarek, has directly funded the Tibet movement from 1956 to 1972, and later, indirectly, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organisation best described in the words of its first acting president, Allen Weinstein, “A lot of what we [the NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

What Tarek has written is amply supported in research conducted by many academicians and scholars. The NED was established in 1984 with both Republican and Democratic party’s support during president Reagan’s administration to “foster the infrastructure of democracy – the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities” around the world. Created by an act of Congress, it is funded primarily through annual allocations from the Congress. It operates through four core institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), and the Center for International Private Enterprise. The latter, CIPE, has in recent years awarded a grant to the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and more recently, it has supported an initiative undertaken by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI). But I will write about that some other day. To return to Tibet and CIA connections: NED-funded organisations include SFT, which was founded in 1994 in New York. Together with five other organisations, the SFT in January 2008 proclaimed “the start of a ‘Tibetan people’s uprising” and co-founded a  temporary office in charge of coordination and financing. Other published sources document how, in the USA, “the American Society for a Free Asia, a CIA front, energetically publicized the cause of Tibetan resistance, with the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother, Thubtan Norbu, playing an active role in that group. The Dalai Lama’s second-eldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, established an intelligence operation with the CIA in 1951 [although CIA aid was only formally established in 1956]. He later upgraded it into a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet.” (Michael Barker, “Democratic Imperialism” ).

So, I asked Shahidul, what made you agree to co-hosting this exhibition? I thought it would be an interesting one, he replied. The public would have the opportunity to see rare photos. And I did tell the embassy officials that we would be happy to show a Chinese exhibition, if the quality was right. Our point is to open up the debate. And it’s nothing new, we have faced pressure before. From the British Council in Dhaka over the European Currency Unfolds show. From Bangladesh government officials over some images of 1971. And then, Dhaka’s Alliance Francaise had backed out from sponsoring my exhibition which was critical of Ershad’s military rule. So did the Art College. Intimidation, fear, exhortations to self-censorship—that too, by progressive institutions—these are not new. But of course, he added, this does not mean that we should not critically appraise ourselves. We are not above criticism. I invite it.

My attention turned to something Barker had written. NED’s funding issue, he says, is clearly problematic for Tibetan (or foreign) activists campaigning for Tibetan freedom. Progressive activists should first and foremost cast a critical eye over the antidemocratic funders of Tibetan groups. Only then can progressive solutions for restoring democratic governance to Tibet be generated by concerned activists. Or else, he says, we get what William I Robinson terms polyarchy, or “low-intensity democracy” which mitigates the “social and political tensions produced by elite-based and undemocratic status quos” and suppresses “popular and mass aspirations for more thoroughgoing democratisation of social life in the twenty-first century international order.” As I read, I was reminded of Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who received the Nobel Peace prize (1976) in recognition of her determined attempts to peacefully resolve the troubles in Northern Ireland. Maguire had gone to Israel in 2004 to welcome  Mordechai Vanunu, on his release from prison after serving an 18-year prison sentence for disclosing Israel’s nuclear secrets.  She was hit by a rubber-coated bullet in 2007, while participating in a protest against the construction of Israel’s security fence outside the Arab settlement of Bil’in. She was taken into custody by the Israeli military this year for being on board a small ferry carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Recently (October 2009), Mairead was one of three Nobel Peace laureates to launch a major `Thank You Tibet!’ Campaign to commemorate Tibetan peoples 50 years in exile. The Campaign statement extends support to “His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet.” It says, “They are a model for all of us: despite the attack on their people and the displacement of their culture they preach and practice compassion and respect for the dignity of every person.”. Compassion and respect for all? Some may not agree. Recently (October 2009), when asked about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, His Holiness had replied, “I think too early to say.”

To return to Tarek. I did tell him, I don’t agree with everything that you say. One area of contention is an old one, centering on whether Tibet is better or worse off, under Chinese communism. As Michael Parenti, severely critical of the Hollywood `Shangri-La’ myth puts it, old Tibet, in reality, was not a Paradise Lost. But if Tibet’s future is to be positioned somewhere within China’s emerging free market paradise—with its deepening gulf between rich and poor, the risk of losing jobs, being beaten and imprisoned if workers try to form unions in corporate dominated “business zones,” the pollution resulting from billions of tons of industrial emissions and untreated human waste dumped into its rivers and lakes—the old Tibet, he says, may start looking better than it actually was.

The other point has to do with recent news reports of the presence of Chinese interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who had gone to grill Uighurs (a Muslim minority from the autonomous region Xinjiang, in western China). Chinese officials were actively assisted by US military personnel to soften up the Uighurs for interrogation: sleep deprivation, freezing temperatures, isolation, holding up their head by the hair and beard so that Chinese officials could take facial photographs. According to them, it was “their lowest point” at Guantanamo. This active assistance was extended, while Washington reportedly continues to support secessionist movements in Xinjiang by supporting several Islamist organizations through CIA-ISI (Pakistani military intelligence) liaison.

Another friend, a keen political analyst, predicted that the US officialdom stationed in Dhaka would soon enough overcome its prolonged misgivings about Drik, as expressed in an e-mail from the USIA director John Kincannon, `Given what I’m reading in Meghbarta and your apparent active opposition to President Clinton’s visit to Bangladesh, it seems odd that you would expect USIS would have much interest in cooperating with Drik on anything’ (March 16, 2000). My friend was right. An invitation extended by the US ambassador himself arrived, sooner than predicted, for Shahidul.

Published in New Age 23rd November 2009.

Further analysis by Omar Tarek Chowdhury

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15 Responses to China-US Politics over Exhibiting Tibet. In Dhaka

  1. John Hocevar says:

    While I no longer have any official role with Students for a Free Tibet, I was a founder of the organization and served as the Executive Director for many years. I have followed the events in Dhaka with interest. The Chinese Government frequently uses intimidation – either directly or through its influence over local officials – to try to squash efforts by Tibetans and human rights advocates to educate people about China’s brutal 60 year occupation of Tibet. Fortunately, in most countries China is not able to prevent the truth from getting out.

    I would’ve expected more from the government of Bangladesh, but in the end the decision to shut down a photographic exhibition with riot police will probably bring even more attention and support for the Tibetan cause.

    As for the CIA connection, it is a historical fact that the CIA offered some support for Tibetan freedom fighters. This should not be mistaken for being more than what it was, however – the cynical attempt by a Cold War era CIA to make use of any and all available means to poke at the Communists. When the political winds shifted, the Tibetans were abandoned by the CIA.

    Ultimately, the CIA’s minor and short-lived support is beside the point. Tibetans have the same right to self-determination as all peoples, and you would be hard pressed to find Tibetans that do not want their country back. Tibet will be free again one day, but it will happen much more quickly if countries like Bangladesh do not turn their back on the Tibetan people.

  2. Shirin Khan says:

    I request Ms Rahnuma to kindly produce a source to when His Holiness made that comment on Iraq & Afghanistan, and to what context he had said that, when HH was amongst the first few Noble laureates back in the days to have initiated a team on Iraq & Afghanistan- an independent body of non-governmental and non-political individuals to work for the betterment of these conflict regions.

    To the Vancouver Sun[Tuesday, April 20, 2004]
    “DL: Unintended consequences often happen, therefore it is much safer, right from the beginning to avoid violence. I have expressed this on other occasions. In Afghanistan, I think that at least the local people want, seriously want a change to take place. So now, the Iraq crisis has taken place and this is even more serious. There is a danger now to neglect the Afghanistan situation and that is not good. Afghanistan should have priority, so that it can become good and something that can be praised. That is important.”

  3. rahnuma says:

    Dear Shirin Khan, two sources which I cut-and-paste below (the first article I excerpt).
    I wanted to highlight the sentences but since highlights are not accepted, I have changed the sentence case to CAPS, to make it easier to find them. Thank you.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2009/10/01/calgary-dalai-lama-wars.html

    Dalai Lama calls wars in Afghanistan, Iraq failures
    Last Updated: Thursday, October 1, 2009 | 3:43 PM The Canadian Press

    The Dalai Lama speaks during a news conference in Calgary on Thursday. He was in the city on the final day of a two-day speaking tour. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

    THE DALAI LAMA SAYS THE WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ ARE FAILURES SO FAR, BUT IT’S TOO SOON TO TELL IF THERE WILL BE POSITIVE OUTCOMES IN THE END.

    Speaking to reporters in Calgary on Thursday, the Tibetan spiritual leader said some military interventions, such as the Second World War and the Korean War, have had overall positive effects. Other combats, such as the Vietnam War, were outright failures.

    It’s hard to tell which category the current military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq will eventually fall into, he said.

    “I THINK TOO EARLY TO SAY. So far, I think, a failure,” he said, adding that civilian casualties are making the situation more complex because they make local people resent foreign troops.

    The use of military forces makes hard-liners become even harder, he said.

    He said he did know one thing for certain: If the billions of dollars spent on military action by both Canada and the United States had gone to education and health care in Afghanistan, “today the picture may be different.”

    The Dalai Lama is in Calgary for the first time in 30 years to take part in a conference organized by the University of Calgary. He spoke before a crowd of 15,000 Wednesday, telling them to try to practise compassion in their lives and educate their children to do the same.

    ………………..

    http://hawaii.indymedia.org/news/2003/09/3720.php
    Dali Lama says Iraq War May Be Justified
    by Scott Lindlaw Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2003 at 10:11 AM

    THE DALAI LAMA SAID WEDNESDAY THAT THE U.S.-LED WAR IN AFGHANISTAN MAY HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED TO WIN A LARGER PEACE, BUT THAT IS IT TOO SOON TO JUDGE WHETHER THE IRAQ WAR WAS WARRANTED. “I THINK HISTORY WILL TELL,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, just after he met with President Bush.

    “In principle, I always believe nonviolence is the right thing, and nonviolent method is in the long run more effective,” said the Dalai Lama, who after the Sept. 11 attacks had implored Bush to avoid a violent response by the United States.

    The exile Tibetan leader, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, said the Vietnam War increased suffering and was a “failure.” But, he said, some wars, including the Korean War and World War II, helped “protect the rest of civilization, democracy.” HE SAID HE SAW A SIMILAR RESULT IN AFGHANISTAN – “PERHAPS SOME KIND OF LIBERATION.”

    “The people themselves, I think, suffer a lot under their previous regimes,” he said. But he was adamant that the United States not lose sight of rebuilding Afghanistan.

    The Dalai Lama urged Bush, in a letter on Sept. 12, 2001, to “think seriously whether a violent action is the right thing to do and in the greater interest of the nation and people in the long run.” ASKED WHETHER THE IRAQ WAR WAS JUST, THE DALAI LAMA SAID THE SITUATION THERE IS “MORE COMPLICATED” AND WILL TAKE MORE TIME BEFORE HE CAN JUDGE.

    The Dalai Lama said he had briefly raised these concerns to Bush during their meeting in the White House residence. He declined to say what Bush’s response was.

    The Tibetan Buddhist leader, who is a five-city, 20-day tour of the United States that is timed to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary, called on Americans to channel their lingering grief “into a source of inner strength.”

    “Big, unthinkable tragedies happen,” he said. “Now, instead of keeping that and developing hatred or sense of revenge, instead of that, think long-term. The negative event, try to transform into a source of inner strength.”

    He likened the terrorist attacks to Tibetans’ struggle to reclaim their country from Chinese rule. Communist troops took over Tibet in 1951, and the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 during a failed uprising. He now lives in India.

    “In my own case, many experiences of unthinkable situations have happened, but we never lose our hope. We never let negative emotions (rule), so that’s immense benefit – including my own health,” said the Dalai Lama, who was hospitalized last year with stomach ailments. “More peace (of) mind, more calm mind, more compassionate mind – very good for my health!” he said with a hearty laugh.

    The White House meeting irritated Chinese authorities, who said in the official China Daily newspaper that the visit to the United States “constitutes a serious intervention into China’s internal affairs.” Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama got an audience with Bush; Secretary of State Colin Powell and his top aide on Tibet, Paula Dobriansky; Laura Bush; White House chief of staff Andy Card; and a deputy to Vice President Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby.

    The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, however, said it was high time Bush received the Dalai Lama in the Oval Office, not in the White House residence – a symbolic step that would signal a stronger commitment to the Dalai Lama’s teachings, said John Ackerly, ICT’s president.

    “Our war on terrorism should include embracing nonviolent leaders, and not ushering them in through the back door of the White House,” Ackerly said.

    The Dalai Lama, regarded by Tibetan Buddhists as the 14th incarnation of the Buddha of compassion, broke into laughter often during the interview, even when the conversation turned to serious topics.

    He laughed when he described his political role as one of “semi-retirement,” when he stumbled on a word, and again when he characterized Beijing’s occasional “bullying” of Tibet.

    He gestured continuously, the beads on his bracelet rattling at the end of his bare arms. The 68-year-old Dalai Lama had flecks of gray in his close-cropped hair, but looked decades younger than his age.

    The Dalai Lama and his followers seek greater autonomy for Tibetans while keeping the region part of China. Beijing demands that the Dalai Lama publicly renounce any claim to Tibet’s independence, and says he is welcome back as a religious leader, but may have no political role.

    The Dalai Lama said he saw hopeful signs of an agreement. Direct contact between his envoys and Chinese officials resumed last year after an impasse of nearly a decade.

    He called China’s new president, Hu Jintao – a former top Chinese official in Tibet – “cautious,” but said he hoped Hu will continue a process of liberalization. But he also said he was concerned about frustration among Tibetans after decades of Chinese rule, and amid an “overwhelming” influx of Chinese into Tibet. “Not necessarily intentionally, but unintentionally, the cultural genocide is taking place,” he said.

    Asked whether decades of frustration could lead to violence or even terrorism, he paused. “Oh, possible,” the Dalai Lama said. “But up to now, Tibetans, in spite individual views or feelings, I think generally they listen to my approach. Strictly nonviolent.”

  4. sharif ashraf says:

    Thank you for this piece, but I am genuinely really sad that the Chinese Genocide of the Tibetans gets burried in the middle with all these politics in the minds of so-called intellectuals of our country. It is quite easy to divert the minds of people by always blaming it to the US, isn’t it? I’m not fond of the US in any form or matter,but if CIA was so bloody involved in this, howcome they aren’t protecting the Bangladeshi activists who are being threatened their lives since this incident? In the source you provided, there is no mention whatsoever of SFT getting funds from NED. Even if there was- TRUTH is SFT is made up of hard-working individuals who believe in your freedom as much as I believe in mine and their funds come from local individual donors.

    Howcome no one is writing about the millions of Tibetans killed and butchered by Chairman Mao, that I suppose your Maobadi friend supports? Because that is what partially what the exhibition was about. Stories of Tibetans, as told by themselves. And it was snatched away from us, general public of Bangladesh, to see.

    Sad, really sad.

  5. Jade says:

    Dear sharif ashraf,

    Maybe ‘it’s too early to say – maybe its liberation’.

  6. Andy says:

    I was present at the press conference in Calgary when His Holiness was asked for his thoughts on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. He was categorical in his opposition to war and use of violence to solve problems. I think it is somewhat unfair of the author to interpret media response of HH to somehow imply that he supports wars and is not compassionate to all.
    Often with the language barriers media has often misreported HH’s words.
    As for NED funding to imply Tibet movement being used for other purpose, I am surprised at seeking justification for China’s continued oppression. Any day, any time, I would rather live in a democratic society than an oppressive ones like China.
    Parenti is hardly an unbiased source.

  7. Shirin Khan says:

    Thank you Mr. Andy for pointing the reality out.
    Dear Rahnuma, Thank you for posting the sources. Do you not feel that cutting and framing part of a line like the way you did in your sentence- and without giving your readers the context to where and to what HH was answering to- completely twists the meaning of it all?
    Anyone who truly knows of HH’s work and/or someone close to him will find this claim(that HH thinks its too early to say on Iraq, Afghanistan) to be a joke.

    Thank you.

  8. Tenzin Ngodup says:

    Haha, are you quoting Parenti to prove to us our own history? How many Tibetans did you consult before writing these horrible claims on a nation of people who not only has their motherland to reclaim but has to deal with repeated blatant accusations introduced by Chinese hackers i think about 5years ago on youtube first, if I’m correct, that DOES NOT IN ANYWAY OR FORM JUSTIFY CHINESE RULE OF TIBETANS.

    and FYI, SFT does not get NeD funding- regardless of if its even just to say NED equals to CIA. so pls before you misinform and misdirect people, get your facts right.

    As for your misunderstanding with Parenti & similar CCP paid liars, pls read this:
    http://www.jamyangnorbu.com/blog/2008/08/17/acme-of-obscenity/
    http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/article.php?id=425

  9. rahnuma says:

    Tenzin Ngodup:
    Before responding to your question, `How many Tibetans did you consult?’ I’d like to point out that you haven’t read my article carefully. If you had, you wouldn’t have written that I `justify Chinese rule of Tibetans.’ On the contrary, I (like Barker and many others) speak of supporting the campaign of activists, both Tibetan and foreign, for “Tibetan freedom,” for the restoration of “democratic governance to Tibet.” But this, I add, should be done with a critical eye. One must not forge alliances with Tibetan groups resourced by antidemocratic organisations. Is it this word of caution, I wonder, that has blinded you to my argument for Tibetan autonomy?

    You question my knowledge of Tibetan history (and why not), but I’m afraid the essentialist manner in which you speak of Tibetans as a `homogeneous’ whole (`us,’ `our own’), leaves your own understanding of Tibetan history rather skewed. To provide just one instance from recent history: not `all’ Tibetans resisted the Cultural Revolution. As historian Tsering Shakya writes in `Blood in the Snows,’ “Tibet was swept up in the fervour of the times, just like the rest of China; many [Tibetans] did go on to destroy religious buildings, to denounce friends and neighbours as reactionaries, or to revolt against their teachers.” (http://www.newleftreview.org/?view=2388).

    However, I do not mention this instance to minimise the reality of the colonial nature of PRC rule in Tibet, nor to distract attention from the Tibetan people’s right to autonomy but to draw attention to your `us’ versus `them’ story line, one that lends to your knee-jerk response to Michael Parenti—to his name, rather than to what I quote him as saying: namely, that the policies pursued by the PRC government leads towards deepening social inequalities and widespread industrial pollution (the latter has also been noted by the Dalai Lama http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/24/tibet.china ), a situation which may well create nostalgia for the old Tibet. Surely many Tibetans will agree with Parenti’s analysis of the consequences of China’s emerging free market paradise? From what I understand, classed inequalities in an ethnicised form—Tibetan vs Han—has created strong resentment against state-encouraged policies of migration and settlement of Han Chinese in many areas of Tibet.

    You further write, “and FYI, SFT does not get NeD funding- regardless of if its even just to say NED equals to CIA. so pls before you misinform and misdirect people, get your facts right.”

    I am afraid I do have my facts right. I request you to do the same.

    You could look up William Engdahl’s `Risky Geopolitical Game: Washington Plays ‘Tibet Roulette’ with China, where he writes: “The SFT was founded in 1994 in New York City “as a project of US Tibet Committee and the NED-financed International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).” (http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_3173.shtml )

    And cross-check it with these sources:

    # Students for a Free Tibet website: “SFT formed in August of 1994 as a project of U.S. Tibet Committee and the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).” (http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/section.php?id=38).

    # National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website: 2008 Grants>> Asia Program. Grant awarded for $53,000 to International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). http://www.ned.org/grants/08programs/grants-asia08.html

    # ICT received its “first NED grant (of the 1990s) in 1994…” (Michael Barker, “Democratic Imperialism”: Tibet, China, and the National Endowment for Democracy” http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=6530 )

    So Tenzin, if disagreement blinds you, if it makes you aggressive and you read into my piece what I have not written, what else can I say but that you do not seem to have taken the teachings of His Holiness (calm, reason, to not speak out of a feeling of anger or hatred) to heart (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1989/lama-lecture.html ).

    Andy:
    “He was categorical in his opposition to war and use of violence to solve problems. I think it is somewhat unfair of the author to interpret media response of HH to somehow imply that he supports wars and is not compassionate to all.
    Often with the language barriers media has often misreported HH’s words.”

    While I am in full agreement about the dilemma one faces when carrying over meanings into foreign languages, and I thank you for clarifying what the Dalai Lama actually meant to say, I think it is up to His Holiness and/or his representative, to refute, or clarify. As was done in the case of this New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein (September 18, 2003) headlined, `Dalai Lama Says Terror May Need a Violent Reply’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/18/us/dalai-lama-says-terror-may-need-a-violent-reply.html). The very next day (September 19, 2003), Nawang Rabgyal (Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas) in a letter to the editor of NYT pointed out that the headline, as well as the report on the interview, gave readers a misleading impression. He wrote, His Holiness does not endorse violence as a way to confront terrorism. His Holiness publicly issued a statement expressing his opposition to the war “as the momentum [to the war on Iraq] was building towards an invasion.” (http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=175).

    But having opposed the invasion of Iraq does not mean that the Dalai Lama has NOT said, “I THINK TOO EARLY TO SAY.” “I THINK HISTORY WILL TELL.” Or, in the case of Afghanistan, “PERHAPS SOME KIND OF LIBERATION.” Nowhere in my net searches have I come across any statement of clarification or refutation by the Dalai Lama and/or his representative in this regard (If there is any, I would be happy to stand corrected).

    And hence, in response to Shirin Khan’s question: “Do you not feel that cutting and framing part of a line like the way you did in your sentence- and without giving your readers the context to where and to what HH was answering to- completely twists the meaning of it all?”

    my answer is, No.

    For the reasons I write above, and because, “contexts” do not drop from heaven. They are constructed in order to render meanings, to deliver messages. In my opinion, a man of Dalai Lama’s stature—Tibet’s head of state, its most important spiritual leader, its most important political ruler etc. etc.—should be able to do both: deliver a message while simultaneously building a context for that message (and if misquoted, to issue a clarification). And what other context and message can someone who describes himself as a “man of peace” (http://www.dalailama.com/page.105.htm ), who has been awarded (and has accepted) the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts for “a peaceful resolution instead of using violence” (1989) deliver on the subject of Iraq, other than, Enough! This insanity must stop. Immediately.

    But instead, what do we get?

    In 2003: “I think history will tell.” Okay. Iraq had been invaded only a few months ago… Maybe His Holiness was not aware of the politics of oil… We should give him the benefit of doubt. But to repeat the same thing in 2009, “I think too early to say”—for heaven’s sake! Still? If the Chinese government could come in for criticism in his Nobel acceptance speech for using force against the Tiananmen Square protestors (and rightly so), is it not amazing that the American government does not merit similar criticism, not even after more than one million and a quarter deaths (see Iraq Body Count at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq )? But then one must remember that some think His Holiness’ commitment to non-violence is a public stance. To mention two instances that get cited: in the early years of his exile, he oversaw Tibetan “refugee resettlement and guerrilla warfare.” (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/2821). More recently (1999), he demanded that the British government release Chile’s former fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet (a longtime CIA ally) from detention. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/pinochet-charged-on-35-counts-of-torture-and-gbh-1122743.html ). But of course, not everyone agrees. There are others who think he changes his messages and opinions to suit the audience, especially the ones that have been subjected to criticism (and hence, opposing sides of an issue believe that His Holiness supports their cause e.g. homosexuality, abortion, the Iraq war, Kashmiri independence, nuclear weapons http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/tenzin-gyatzo.html).

    To return to the comments, what struck me most about all of them, well nearly all, were two things: first, the writers speak from an insider-knowledge position—one that rules out any possibility of reflection or self-criticism, that is used to claim that they understand the politics of, and over, Tibet best. This is coupled with a view of imperialism as a `stray’ incident. For instance, John Hocevar (a founder of Students for a Free Tibet): “CIA offered some support for Tibetan freedom fighters,” a phrasing that hardly does justice to the support given. According to a New York Times article (1998), the Dalai Lama’s administration acknowledged that it annually received $1.7 million in the 1960’s from the CIA. This sum was allocated for the resistance movement and was spent on training volunteers and paying for guerrilla operations against the Chinese (http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/02/world/world-news-briefs-dalai-lama-group-says-it-got-money-from-cia.html ). As far as I can tell, this acknowledgement was forthcoming only after declassified US intelligence documents were released in the late 1990s. According to other reports, the sum included “an annual subsidy of $180,000 for the Dalai Lama” (http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_3173.shtml ). The documents reveal other interesting bits of information which, once again, merit more serious consideration than Hocevar’s words, `some support’ indicate:

    1958-1961 “Cia established a base camp at camp hale near Leadville, colorado where it trained troops of the dalai lama. The Guerrillas trained to fight against communist china via guerrilla raids and By cia contract mercenaries and supported by cia planes. Congressional Research service. (2/18/75). Covert acts of the cia 50-74 2/18/75 5 (http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/55/765.html).

    In the same intellectually patronising tone (one that assumes the reader is ill-informed), Hocevar continues: “When the political winds shifted, the Tibetans were abandoned by the CIA,” an assertion far from the truth; as American sinologist Tom Grunfeld points out in his excellent piece, `Reassessing Tibet Policy,’ after the Cold War “While officially recognizing Tibet as part of China, the U.S. Congress and White House unofficially encourage the campaign for independence. The support for this program was first provided by the CIA and later by the NED…” (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/2821 ).

    And as I read Andy’s (`I was present at the press conference in Calgary…’) “Any day, any time, I would rather live in a democratic society than an oppressive ones like China”—even though I don’t know where he lives—I cannot help but note how the support for Tibetan freedom can, and does, breed a self-assertive western arrogance which blocks off raising serious questions about `democracy at home, outsourced violence abroad.’

    And this brings me to the second thing that struck me, how the comments beg the question, why isn’t the Tibetan struggle linked to other struggles for freedom and autonomy? Not linked to, as Uri Avnery (Israeli writer and peace activist) lists, that of the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, the inhabitants of Western Sahara whose territory is occupied by Morocco, the Basques in Spain, the Corsicans off the coast of France, the French in Canada, the Scots in Britain… And, dare I utter the name, that of the Palestinians? (http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery04072008.html ). “It seems as if the Tibetans are the only people on earth whose right to independence is being denied by brutal force,” whose blood is “redder,” writes Avnery, as he lists the reasons why some liberation movements get greater attention in the western media in comparison to others: “especially exotic culture,” “sexy” people, struggle headed by a “charismatic personality”… if the oppressing government belongs to the “pro-American camp.”

    And thus one finds the Dalai Lama being in touch with Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Washington D.C.-based Uyghur American Association, also the Uyghur World Congress (http://www.qantara.de/webcom/show_article.php/_c-476/_nr-1202/_p-1/i.html ). Another recipient of NED funding (http://www.ned.org/grants/uyghur_factsheet.html ). To strengthen Uyghur human rights and democracy. But, of course.

    Hocevar writes: “in the end the [Bangladesh government’s] decision to shut down a photographic exhibition with riot police will probably bring even more attention and support for the Tibetan cause.”

    You mean `deflect’ attention from drone attacks in Pakistan and a 30,000 troops surge in Afghanistan by the new war president, another recipient of the Nobel Peace prize? Make us a nation of mindless China-bashers? Not likely. Make us unmindful of the presence of Chinese officials as interrogators at Guantanamo? Not likely. Unreflective and uncritical of decisions we have taken? Not likely.

  10. Tarek says:

    John Hocever:
    How much support of CIA is “some support”? And how long is “short-lived” support? Can you tell us for how many countries/movements CIA has arranged special military training right on US soil, airlift and so on? Why are you down playing the historical fact? Moreover, only CIA is not factor. How much money the US congress allocates each year for the TGIE? Please check the 2008 budget posted on ICT’s website. You will find there National Endowment for Democracy/ NED’s name too. It can be guessed that this budget is sans covert operations. you wrote, “When the political winds shifted, the Tibetans were abandoned by the CIA.” Are telling “abandoned”? What a loss! Does your attitude show any self-respect? You are probably partially right. Then enters the NED, to cope with the changed situation. Can you mention a single freedom movement’s name whom the CIA supported? We hope you won’t mention Lech Walesa or Contra as freedom fighter?

  11. Tarek says:

    Sharif Ashraf:

    Instead of general remark, if we can tell the approximate number of Tibetans butchered by Mao (more correct would be by the communist party/regime)that will help discussing the issue.

    Unfortunately, like many others,I didn’t have the chance to see the photos, so I can’t be so sure whether the exhibition was “about stories of Tibetans” or not. From exhibition title we can say it only covers a specific time period, seen through the eyes of and narrated by a party of the dispute? Can it be the “stories of the Tibetan”? With the same token, if the Chinese authority organize an exhibition it also won’t be a story of Tibetans, unless it is organized very imperially, which is generally unexpected from any party of a conflict; especially when things are organized for opinion building.

    Instead of carried away by sentiment we can ask ourselves: are those pictures taken by the lamas and nobles who went into exile? are those taken by the Tibetan serfs who were exploited and brutalized under a notorious feudal system and theocracy? Their pictures and stories are also available in history books and on internet for any curious mind. did the intelligence agencies of different actors, who actively supported the Tibetans fighters (50′-70s)took any pictures?

    When Dalia Lama fled, his personal cook and radio operator were CIA operatives!!

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