Pray for Tibet

By Hanson, Gayle M. B. | Insight on the News, July 20, 1998 | Go to article overview

Pray for Tibet


Hanson, Gayle M. B., Insight on the News


The issue of Tibet reaches across the political divide to unite young and old left and right. But Clinton's China summit is unlikely to provide any progress.

Hollywood has placed its stamp of approval upon Tibet as the human-rights tragedy of the decade. The coolest of rock `n' roll's alternative hipsters raise millions for the cause of that country's freedom with concert extravaganzas that mix the devotional chants of Buddhist monks with downbeats from the Beastie Boys. The Tibetan government in exile's home base in Dharmasala, India, well within ICBM range of China, is as warm with American and European youth who come to trek the Himalayas and sit at the feet of the internationally revered Nobel Peace Prize winner. In the pantheon of just causes that inhabit our popular zeitgeist, Tibet sits at heights as lofty as the Himalayas themselves.

Yet U.S. policy toward Tibet remains such that it is a side-door hospitality which awaits the internationally esteemed religious and political leader when he visits the White House. The president joins a meeting the Dalai Lama is having with Vice President Gore. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton entertains him in private. The Clintons are sympathetic, but appear unwilling to rock the China boat.

Ironically, the cause of Tibet is a unique juncture where the views of conservative Republicans and Generation Xers meet. Though they may eye each other warily across a seemingly unbreachable ideological chasm in a host of areas from abortion rights to medical marijuana, when it comes to the human-rights tragedy of Tibet they are, as could be said in current California lingua del avenu, "totally down with each other."

"I think what we really need to press on Bill Clinton ... is that he needs to go in there and ask for negotiations between the Tibetan government and the Chinese government," Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys told 110,000 music fans who packed Washington's RFK Stadium June 13. "If he comes back having achieved anything less than that, then his visit has been a failure."

That was little enough, and Clinton accommodated the Beastie spokesman -- while declaring Tibet to be a part of China and standing silent as the Chinese leader renounced the Buddhist tradition as one of serfdom. Just like the lightning that struck RFK Stadium sending six people to the hospital and canceling the first day of the weekend-long June concert for Tibet, the Chinese government continues to lash out against those within Tibet who remain loyal to their religious tradition, no matter how mellifluous the voices of protest from the outside.

Yauch's heart is in the right place, and the thrust of his urging echoed an increasing concern by Generation Xers who view Tibet as their generation's political and human-rights cause celebre. But despite President Clinton's efforts to cast himself in the role of upholder of human rights, his love affair with the Chinese economy bodes ill for the future of the Tibetan people, both in and out of their homeland. His acceptance of mere talks while formally declaring Tibet to be a part of China ignores the Chicom mantra of the Korean conflict: Talk, talk; fight fight.

"I assume that Tibet should be a talking point, but it is probably only going to be a throwaway line," predicted Steve Yates, senior China analyst with the Heritage Foundation commenting to Insight on the president's China trip. "They'll both agree there is no meeting of the minds and move on to the next subject" predicted Yates, who recently returned from a meeting with the Dalai Lama in Dharmasala.

Indeed, shortly before leaving for China the president gave a clear indication that the issue of Tibet as a talking point with the Chinese would be couched in the greasiest of diplomatic patois.

"I do not see the dialogue with the Dalai Lama as a potential weakening of the coherence of Chinese society;' the president had telegraphed to his Beijing hosts in an interview shortly before he left for China. …

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