What Is So Upsetting About This Tibet Conflict?

Both work and life have been so busy since the beginning of the year that i barely have time to stop and take a deep breath, let alone to waste time following useless flame wars.

On the peripheral of my world, I was vaguely aware of something breaking out surrounding Olympic torch. ZM told me that things might turn violent soon. There was worry that there could be car bombing in Beijing during the Olympic game. I was shocked. If there was one virtue of a totalitarian government, that is its efficiency. They couldn’t possibly let that happen during such an important time and in my hometown! No way, i thought. But ZM wasn’t so optimistic. he thinks the government has weakened substantially and China has opened up so much and people move much much more freely. It is no longer the tight-fist communist iron cage it used to be. China now try to follow western rules, which means if someone wants to cause damage, it is very possible.

Then over the weekend i happened upon some discussion of the torch relay in london that drew thousands of pro-China protesters and free-tibetan protesters alike. But BBC only reported on the free-tibetan side. Watching BBC, you won’t have known there are actually another side sharing the same street on that day.

speaking of media bias. How ironic that BBC has been harping on CCTV’s case on “censorship”! I guess 天下乌鸦一般黑 (all the crows are equally black).

I forwarded that article to friends and family. I was not (still am not) taking sides on this debate.

shortly I received a reply from my sister, and she condemned the writer of the article (a Chinese student studying in UK and participated in the pro-China protest) as being “brainwashed”. She used a harsh term.

I IMed her, and we started a “fight”. I was upset and I cut the conversation short.

I couldn’t quite pin-point the cause of my upset easily. Cuz, like i said, i wasn’t feeling strongly about either case. But something in her tone was very upsetting.

So i started paying attention on the whole torch controversy. And I came upon a couple of very rational articles/report on the current affair.

One is in Chinese: 文道论西藏: 為西藏問題尋找最大公約數—-期待民族的和解
(Searching for the Largest Denominator — Hoping for Racial Harmony, by Liang WenDao)

说起來,西藏問題真是一團迷霧,只要你朝它多走一步,你就會發現原來所相信的任何一種簡單立場都能碰上理據十足的反駁。不只現在的西方媒體造假與中國傳媒監控各惹嫌疑,歷史上的詭局謎團更是令人眼花撩亂。如果你認為「自古以來」,西藏就是中國的一部分;你將會發現要花很多時間去解釋古代宗主國對藩屬的關係為什麼等同於現代民族國家和它的轄下省份(越南反而確曾是中華王朝的一省)。反過來說,如果你相信在「中國入侵」之前,西藏是片連丁點暴力都不可能發生的和平淨土;那麼你又該如何理解14 任達賴喇嘛裏頭只有3位順利活到成年的事實呢?假如你覺得文革對西藏的破壞是不可饒恕的,你或許應該知道當年打砸佛寺佛像的主力之一竟然是藏人。假如你認為中央對西藏的宗教自

Speaking of “Tibet Issue”, it is such a confusing mess. If you take one step closer to its core, you would realize each simple views you’ve held of Tibet would encounter solid counter-argument.

Not only both today’s western media’s fake reporting and China media censorship would deserve each of its own criticism, but also the history of tibet itself remains puzzling and complicated for any historians.

If you think “since ancient time”, Tibet is part of China, you will need to spend a lot of time to explain how the relationship of an ancient powerful empire and its neighboring kingdom is similar to modern day nation and its states (Vietnam was actually a province of China).

On the other hand, if you believe that before “China’s Invasion,” Tibet is a pure and peaceful land that’s free of a tiny speckle of violence. how would you explain among the 14 generation of “Dalai Lama”, only 3 managed to live to adulthood?

If you think that destruction that Chinese Culture Revolution done to Tibet is unforgivable, you probably also should know that the majority people involved in smashing temple and statues were actually tibetans.

If you think China’s central government is generous enough in terms of Tibetan’s religious freedom, because they allowed many top monks in exile to return to Tibet; then you probably already know that in Tibet elementry kid was not allowed to wear traditional Tibetan charm

Another is in English: A Balloon, sheep and Protest in Tibet
by Richard Spencer of Telegraph.co.uk
Current conflicts in Tibet actually started with a balloon and two sheep…

Reading these articles calmed down substantially. There are still hope. People who are actually remain rational and didn’t lose their mind completely. Not all of them at least.

Then came the torch relay in San Francisco. I found it very funny that Gavin Newson played hide and seek in broad daylight with the protesters, and managed to get the torch in and out of SF without any serious confrontation. I personally think he did the right thing. Leave both sides disappointed but at least nothing really bad had happened, which is what lots of people are fearing, myself included. There has been enough ugliness surrounding the torch, both sides equally to blame.

And today’s there was a flame war erupted at work over a desert name. I actually thought the initial course of the event was going rather well. People are entitled to their freedom of speech and all sides are showing good will. Then flaming war started and personal insults are flaring.

What is this?! My fellow co-workers are no better than the street gang? I can’t believe this.

[4/12/2008 update] My co-workers made me proud. The particular discussion started on Thursday morning, lasted a little over 48 hours. close to 800 replies on that thread, a few dozens participants, hundreds readers since it spanned quite a few mailing list within the company. So many people were mesmerized by the debate, and i personally heard a few came to my office and complaining they couldn’t “take my eyes off this thing as if waiting for a train-wreck to happen any moment.” Starting around the 25th hour, the thread has substantially calmed down, a lot less yelling of slogans, and lot of facts, and links, and rational debates took hold. I’m so proud! There is still hope! 🙂 [end of update]

Then i suddenly understood why i was so upset when IMing with my sister. It is the irrationality of people that gets to me. No one is thinking, no one is doing serious research, everyone is yelling slogans they heard from maintream media, let it be the western media outlet or Chinese ones.

You know what it reminds me of? Those Red Guards during Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Equally passionate, equally naive, and equally ignorant.


p.s. One more CNN interview transcript on Tibet by an The Economist reporter who was actually in Tibet during the riot and martial law. James Miles interview on Tibet, 3/20/2008
Original article on the Economist Trashing teh Beijing Road, via The Economist, Mar 19, 2008.

Stuff White People Like

This is hilarious: Stuff White People Like.

Similar to many people who left comment on the site, my first impression was this is more a list of “stuff yuppies like.” But then if you think about what makes into the trend that yuppie follows, white people do have a lot to do with it. Besides, it is more fun this way.

My favorite line so far is in #27. Marathons

Also worth nothing, more competitive white people prefer triathlons because Kenyans can’t afford $10,000 specialty bicycles.

Cafe Capitalism, San Francisco Style

NYT: Cafe Capitalism, San Francisco Style. Coffee shops in SF, where new startups hang out and VCs go hunting for companies to fund.

Indeed, San Francisco cafes have emerged as the new office of choice for many small start-ups. Atlas Cafe, also in the eclectic Mission District, is one, and Coffee to the People in the Haight is another. But Ritual, located between a heating repair shop and a video store, is perhaps the most popular. And Ritual is a bastion of capitalist fervor.