Tuesday, March 20, 2007

GENTRIFICATION OF THE TIBETAN MOVEMENT

UP FRONT News March 9, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.” www.tomsupfrontnews.blogspot.com
THE GENTRIFICATION OF THE TIBETAN
LIBERATION MOVEMENT. IT’S TIME TO
“SHIFT GERES”
It is axiomatic that, in order to gain and keep dictatorial power, oppressors rely on the work of those within resistance movements who co-opt from within. Among the most oppressed people in the world are the Tibetans who live under Chinese Communist imperialist rule. Tibetans exiles in the U.S. have been among those who have protested Chinese oppression, which started with Mao’s invasion in 1949, with the conquest completed in 1959. 1959 is also the year that Tibetans, led by the some of monks who make up a large percentage of what is correctly described as “the most religious country in the world,” rose up and were crushed by Communist bullets and club, a precursor to what took place 30 years later in Tiananmen Square.
On March 10 Tibetan exiles and some supporters demonstrate in New York City and elsewhere. I have been involved as an advocate and as a writer in the Tibet liberation movement since 1989, when I was employed as a social worker at the New York Associ- ation for New Americans (NYANA), a refugee resettlement agency responsible for helping Tibetan exiles who come to New York. Although my clients were for the most part Jewish refugees from what was then the Soviet Union, I got to know some of the Tibetans there including Takla, a nephew of the Dalai Lama. From Takla and others, such as the visiting lecturer “Kuno”, from whom I learned that the Chinese occupation is
genocidal in nature. Since the term “genocide” makes people uneasy, I was harassed by NYANA administration when I used the word in publicity for a fundraising concert I produced for the Tibetan Resettlement Project at NYU. The concert, by the way, which featured the Dalai Lama’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll band, the Dharma Bums and world
famous flutist Nawang Khechog, was a success.
Working quite closely with some activists in the Tibetan-American Youth Congress and the United States Tibet Committee, I lobbied elected officials on behalf of the victims. Perhaps the most concrete, but very partial, result was that in 2001 the New York City Council unanimously passed Resolution #802, which denounced the Chinese for their human rights violations in Tibet. That resolution for which City Councilmember and now Speaker Christine Quinn took credit, made no mention of the one aspect of the Tibetan issue that impacts on Americans politically, opposition to the decision by the Interna- tional and U.S. Olympic Committee to award the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing. To award the corporate cash machine that is the Olympic Games to a nation whose govern- ment practices genocide is very much like the decision to give the 1936 Games to Hitler’s Germany. Millions are of course familiar with Adolf Hitler almost having a seizure in the Berlin Olympic Stadium as he watched African-American Jesse Owens leave his Aryan runners in the German dust. (A relatively unpublicized part of that story was that in the deal brokered by the racist head of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brun- dage, Hitler’s demand that another speedy American track start, Marty Glickman, from New York City, would not be permitted to run. Glickman later became very famous as a very NYC-accented sportscaster.)
I’ve met the Dalai Lama face to face on a few brief occasions, perhaps the most com- ling a couple of years ago when he spoke at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan at a luncheon honoring torture victims. It was at that event that I had a chance to ask him about what many Tibetans (often in whispers) call the “Genocide” in their land. The Dalai Lama, (already familiar with UP FRONT News), who had to get to the airport for a flight to Germany, was being rushed to an exit by Secret Service. He stopped in his tracks and, his often smiling face turned angry, pointed at me and, diplomatically avoiding the term
“genocide” while on American soil, said “You should go there, you should go there!” before talking in mixed English and Tibetan about the atrocities there. And then he was gone. (I did have a chance to see him for a few seconds before he left as he was being escorted to a limo from his hotel for the ride to Kennedy Airport. I used the opportunity to announce that he would soon need all his well-known “compassion” as he was about to face the Van Wyck Expressway, which got a laugh.)
In 1992-1993, I managed to get the information about the Tibetan Genocide to Bill Clinton via telephone conversations with and faxes to his secretary Betty M. Currie, even before he was inaugurated. Clinton and his corporate China lobby-friendly bunch includ- ing soon to become Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Communications Director George Stephanopoulos, all of whom got my documents and suppressed them. I did
however manage to get an invitation from a sympathetic Senate staffer to submit my testimony opposing Christopher before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which on January 19, 1993, one day before Clinton’s first inauguration, was holding a hearing on Clinton’s nomination of Christopher. Christopher responded by having me arrested as I arrived. I turned down the Clinton administration’s offer of a plea bargain, went to trial, listened to the arresting cops perjure themselves, and was acquitted.
While I got plenty of support from many of the Tibetans I know in New York, I have gotten nothing but indifference and sometimes hostility from some that make up the co- opted government that rules and compromises the resistance movement here. The reality
is that the Tibetan resistance network is one of the most gentrified political movements I have ever seen. It is dominated, at least in public, by a small number of wealthy Tibet ad- vocates such as “Buddhist” multi-millionaire actor Richard Gere. I still recall the pro- longed delaying from Gere when I invited him to participate in or endorse the NYANA fundraiser I produced. On another occasion when, via his office, I sought a letter for some congressional lobbying, I got no response to my repeated communications until I dropped a hint about disclosing some reliable information about him that could make Britney Spears blush. Then I got a letter. Robert Thurmann, the founder or Tibet House and Professor of Tibetology at Columbia University, Uma’s father, speaks quite eloquently about Tibet but does not respond to political communications from me. That, however, may be understandable from someone employed by an educational institution which does some oppressing of its own. Some of those who attend the annual March 10 demonstra-
tions belong to a group called Students for a Free Tibet. While I am certain that the stu-
dents, including a number from NYU, another university with a dubious history when is comes to expansionism, are sincere, I certainly cannot say the same for SFT activist
Lhadon (pronounced “Laden”). Lhadon, who has never acknowledged a communication from me, was the person to whom I was directed by an official at the Office of Tibet a few years ago to secure a press pass to review the movie “Cry of the Snow Lion” about the Chinese brutal suppression of Tibetan freedom fighters. When I got to Lhadon’s SFT office an East 14th Street, she greeted me with a refusal and an order to leave. When I didn’t move fast enough she summoned a fellow almost as big as a Tibetan yak to make a
threat. I left and got my press pass elsewhere and also arranged for the director of the film
to be interviewed on the national satellite and cable INN World Report.
It is clear that there is some serious unhappiness among Tibetan activists with the quality of the leadership. It is a leadership that has consistently rejected offers of meaningful political help in generating support to have the 2008 Olympics removed from China. It is a leadership that seems to be afraid to criticize in particular Hillary Clinton, who could be a poster girl for the China Lobby. Indeed, in a story covered by The New York Times and UP FRONT News, Mrs. Clinton, with George Bush’s help interceded with the Chinese ambassador on behalf of her benefactors at the upstate New York Corning Corporation, which wanted a lowering of Chinese tariffs which were interfering with their sales of fiber optics products in that slave state.
The Tibetan resistance movement is spinning its wheels and, no matter how militant the rhetoric in its propaganda, will make negligible progress towards liberation without the support of Americans, such as African-Americans, who know something about oppress- sion. It is ironic that a movement on behalf of Tibetans, who are definitely, “people of
color” (Tibetans are much darker complexioned and ethnically, culturally, and linguisti- cally distinct from the Chinese), is led by handful of Tibetan exiles and a bunch of well- to-do white folks: The gentrification of a liberation movement.
At least one respected Tibetan-American activist who has requested anonymity, using the adjective “stupid”, is emphatic in expressing the view that the de facto Tibetan
American resistance ruling group is ignoring the negative influence of profit and position related motives. I agree.
As long as the resistance movement is co-opted, the Chinese Communists and their international corporate clients have little to worry about. It’s time to “shift Geres.”
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