Zhu Rui is a Chinese-Canadian author and political advocate of human rights in China. She is the author of many novels, essays, poems and op-ed’s, including her most recent work Happy Times in Old Lhasa published in March, 2011. Born in North-Eastern China, she has spent many years in Tibet covering government policy in the region. She currently lives in Calgary, Canada.
When I first came to Canada, the government representative that was meeting with my group of new immigrants gave us a pamphlet titled “Understanding your Rights.” One of the sections that particularly jumped out to me said, “When you feel discriminated against, what should you do?” Underneath was written the phone number and email contact information for the Canadian Human Rights Committee (CHRC). A Chinese guy near me sighed and said, “Look, the Canadian government is quite reasonable.”
“It’s not that reasonable, but they do respect human rights,” someone quipped back, correcting him.
Only later did I really get it that it is not only Canada, but almost all civilized nations have some kind of measures to prevent racial discrimination. Or like the United Nations, which a full ten years after the ratification of the Durban Declaration and Programme for Action, still convened a meeting last September specifically meant to combat racism and racial discrimination, redefining apartheid-style legislation as a crime against humanity.
Then there’s the Chinese government’s policies on Tibet, which not only encourage racial discrimination against the Tibetan people, but also set up a system that clearly distinguish the rights of peoples as separate from those of others. One does not even need to look that far back in time to see such inequality. Since 2008, the average Tibetan who leaves their home faces special scrutiny from security forces, often being denied housing, car insurance, work, etc. all because of the line on their ID card that says “Ethnicity: Tibetan.” What used to be more subtle discrimination has in recent times come more and more to the foreground.
Recently, according to a quote on Woeser’s blog and Twitter feed someone said, “If you’re Tibetan, upon your arrival in Lhasa you’re required to produce 5 or 6 different documents and proofs of ID, but those documents are often impossible to get your hands on. But if you’re not Tibetan, you can get on a plane, a train, a bus, ride a bike or even come by foot – however you like, and just show up without problem. Of course, all foreigners have been politely asked just to stay out of Tibet.” At the same time as all this, the authorities in Tibet’s capital Lhasa as well as Tibetan regions outside the TAR, have all begun programmes to expel Tibetans not originally from that region back to their registered hometown. Obviously, even the basic political and civil rights the Tibetan people should enjoy are being stripped away one by one. In practice, this form of racial discrimination has quickly become policy, creating a glass ceiling from under which the next several generations of Tibetans will not be able to escape. Woeser retweeted a Tibetan saying, “It’s like the Jews forced to wear the Star of David on their chest said: ‘We are unarmed and defenseless, but in all the great, big world, there is no one who will stand up for us.’”
This has raised a few questions for me: In an era in which racism and discrimination have become a shared shame for humanity, how can China then arrogantly institute policies against the Tibetan people that are blatantly discriminatory?
During the time that South Africa initially instituted their apartheid policies, the international community wasted no time in standing in vehement opposition. Nations rallied together to pursue divestments and boycotts, putting the apartheid state into such economic and diplomatic isolation, it was eventually forced to repeal its backwards policies. In the mid 20th Century, Hitler’s anti-Semitic regime elicited an even stronger reaction from the world. Realizing that his racist actions were a threat to all humanity, the world stood up and put a stop to him. So, in that case, why is that the Chinese government can institute policies in Tibet that are clearly racist, but are met with not a word from the international community? I can’t help but to ask further, what about all these UN initiatives and campaigns aimed at combating racism, like the “International Conference to Eliminate all forms of Racism,” was that all for show? No wonder the world has all become a slave to China’s promise of economic benefit.
Today’s Tibet is really putting the world’s conscience and its sense of justice to the test. Yes, there are media outlets across the globe that report on Tibet with varying degrees of concern. But when it comes to China, a Communist regime, there are no economic sanctions to be heard of. Whatever condemnations the government does receive from the outside world are but a mere tickle with no substantive result.
Originally appeared Zhu Rui’s blog. Translation by ICT staff.