The Dalai-Lama’s visit to New Zealand. Personal observations and afterthoughts

Few people can recognize this beautiful flag, freely flying now next to the New Zealand one in the Auckland CBD. This situation is not surprising, since the state to which the flag belongs disappeared from the world map half a century ago. What is surprising is that for more than one billion people the mere possession of that flag as well as of the photograph of a man shown will mean imprisonment. But generally those billion people (with the small exception) do not care either about the flag or the man because the modern generation of Chinese due to the skilful propaganda of its communist government sincerely believes that Tibet which flag we are discussing has always been part of China. The art of writing history text books in China has been developing since Chairman Mao times with USSR being a role model in lying about its history, and now few Chinese will place the word Tibet in a sentence containing the words like genocide, occupation, torture, gulag, absence of basic human rights and freedoms. Many people nowadays, however, do not mind things mentioned (if not happening to themselves), because these are the internal affairs of whoever, but not them.
But the problem is that it is not “just” one of the small local folks being humiliated (it happened, and is happening everywhere and always, you know). It is about disappearing of a unique culture and the whole nation that possesses one of the most developed and sophisticated philosophies – Buddhism, that is also known as a physics of spiritual world. Get to know this science closely, and there will be no more unanswered questions or white spots left in the models of the world we all trying to build and comprehend within ourselves. Or we should be doing, at least. And here lies the problem – fewer and fewer people bother to seek spirituality and build something not material. That is why the developed and developing societies everywhere, armed with the new religion called Success, for almost six decades have been turning blind eye to China that was successfully eliminating the whole Tibetan nation, whose only guilt is not giving up their religion for the communist atheism. And their religion is not “out-of-date-silly-beliefs-in-Superior-God”, their religion is nothing else but Non-violence, Kindness and Altruism.

But the societies of Consumption do not need Kindness, they need new markets and cheap labour. That is why no government in the world recognises Tibet as an occupied territory, and the Dalai-Lama as its legitimate and spiritual leader. The favour of ‘big and awful’ China is much more important. Only few world leaders dare meeting the Dalai-Lama in their official quarters, thus recognising the latter as a political figure, even after the Dalai-Lama resigned some years ago as a leader of Tibetan government in exile, passing the power (if you can call it power, after all) to the new prime-minister democratically elected by the exile community of Tibetans in India.

A good example was set when just days before the teachings in New Zealand Australian prime-minister demonstrated political will and firmness of character officially meeting the Dalai-Lama that caused the wave of protest from official Beijing only to be firmly rejected by Canberra saying that it will not tolerate China dictating its will to the independent Australia. On the other side of the Tasman, however, our P-M Helen Clark did exactly opposite refusing to meet the Dalai-Lama at all, either officially or privately, thus setting higher priority to the coming free-trade talks with China above the human rights issues. She, however, “accidentally” met the Dalai-Lama in Sydney airport and chatted with him for only about 10 minutes (they shared the same 3 hours long flight, by the way!), thus excusing herself for not meeting His Holiness at all, and not endangering the free-trade talks and keeping Beijing silent. Maybe smart move for an experienced politician, but absolutely immoral thing for an ordinary human being.
Fortunately, the only thing out of Helen Clark’s control – the Tibetan flag in the centre of Auckland CBD – didn’t catch much Chinese attention. It was private function after all, that 1.5 hour talk to the 10,000 audience that filled up the huge Vector Arena, and our high-priority free-trade talks were no more in danger. But ask yourself, what do we vote for going ahead with the development of the trade relationship with China? Don’t we vote for the slavery re-legislation when buying Chinese goods that are already the majority in every store? Just compare the would-be cost of having the slaves in New Zealand with the average salary of Chinese worker – the latter would cost you much cheaper. This is not to say that Chinese goods should be expelled from the markets, no. The China is developing very quickly and it is very sincere in its efforts to eradicate the poverty completely. But is this not that very moment for its trading partners to influence China internal policy and stop human rights abuses in Tibet? The possible threat of a boycott of Chinese goods, the dependence of trade relationship on Tibet’s issue, on demilitarization of Holy land that is currently being converted by Beijing into the huge nuclear waste dump and huge nuclear missile base will definitely affect the China’s behaviour.
As for the Dalai-Lama who is considered an extremist and separatist by Beijing, he is no longer asking for truly independence for the Tibet, he only advocates the true autonomy for Tibet within China, with Tibetans to be able to determine their own lifestyle, and to openly profess the philosophy and religion that they currently profess secretly anyway. In his regular public talks to Western audience (as we witnessed in Auckland) the Dalai-Lama tirelessly propagates few things only – Kindness, Compassion and Happiness. His popularity across the world (sold out stadium in the small New Zealand proves this) is based upon the significance of the values he is teaching, but not on his personal leadership qualities. As we saw in Auckland the Dalai-Lama is not the type of a charismatic leader we have seen plenty of in 20th century and who were able to charge the crowd with just a few words and lead them wherever they wanted. Indeed, it would have been very difficult for any leader to take control of a Buddhism-familiar crowd using only their charisma and senseless speech. Those who know what Buddhism is about do not rely on words only, they do not faith blindly and they always use their logic to scrutinize and analyze everything they were being told. The popularity and wide international recognition of His Holiness is based upon his sincere kindness, openmindness and non-violent approach to any problem the world is facing today. These few simple principles are actually the backbone of the Buddhism ethics and are worth to follow as the Dalai-Lama has been demonstrating to the world for a number of decades. His numerous books for western readers allow everyone calling His Holiness a personal teacher, and the 1989 Nobel Price emphasized the recognition of efforts of His Holiness to teach the world the spirituality that was generally abandoned long time ago in favour of material-success-by-any-means philosophy.
China, the major follower of this new Success religion, had to adjust its policy towards the Dalai-Lama after 1989 Nobel Price and to invent new forms of oppressing and humiliation of the people of Tibet. They succeeded in this very soon, and little changed for the Tibetans since 1989. Yes, the Dalai-Lama became ‘acceptable’ in the private offices of world leaders, but always with a ‘what China will say?’ attitude, as we saw recently in Australia and New Zealand.
The Tibet issue does not exist on governmental level, and only few dozens non-government organizations try to pressure the official Beijing in number of ways. The activists organize the demonstrations in front of the Chinese embassies around the world, plan and carry out the stunts to attract the laid-back public attention to the mere fact of Tibet existence. Money raised by those organizations help the Tibetans refugees publish their stories full of horror and describing the Chinese gulag. Some bold journalists manage to sneak through into the Tibet, escape the ever-present watching eye of Chinese KGB and get some unobstructed view on the modern Tibet. They stories differ significantly from what Beijing usually allows accredited journalists to publish.
The letters are being written and sent to Beijing requesting the information about the political prisoners, and pleading not to prosecute the imprisoned lamas, nuns and monks. And surprisingly, Beijing responds well to this pressure that might seem too insignificant and mosquito-bite-like for the giant and stubborn China that sometimes replaces the prosecution with a life-sentence, and even releases some prisoners. Sometimes the true information about human rights in Tibet makes the headlines of leading news papers and even TV channels. But all these achievements are not to compare with the potential of a political pressure that could be applied to China by the world governments. The timing for that pressure is perfect right now, when apart from economical means of pressure there is big event coming soon – 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and the world attention is now on China and its preparation to the Games. The only thing the world needs is to make China keep to its own promises given to International Olympic Committee. These promises are about Tibet and human rights and include opening up the Tibet for foreign journalists and non-governmental organisations, stopping the human rights abuse, releasing the political prisoners.

Everyone can help the Tibetans, everyone can raise the attention of his or her government to the Tibet issue and make this government persuade China to keep to its Olympic promise. All you need for this is 20 minutes of your time, piece of paper and postage stamp. And sincere interest in the future of the mankind that is being determined by actions or non-actions of billions of ordinary human beings like you and me.
Just write a letter to your PM and ask him to raise the Tibet issue on the next Parliament session, and ask your friends and neighbours to do the same.

Here is the letter draft. Please, give just 20 minutes of your time to Dalai-Lama and the people of Tibet – print the letter out, sign it and send off to your PM.

Thank you for your support.

Paul Milkin

P.S. You could find out more about the ways to help Tibet here, on the web-site established by English woman Isabel Losada whose book From Tibet with Love I strongly recommend you to read.

We also support the Free Tibet campaign, the organisation introduced to me by Joe Simpson, the hero of Touching the Void and my favourite author.