A Chinese perspective on why China’s intellectuals are largely silent on Tibetan issues

November 11, 2012

People in China holding Chinese flags while protest against government corruption – it’s ok to denounce the government, but not ok to denounce the unity of the country.

Like me, most Chinese people are brought up on images of China’s suffering in the hands of the Western and Japanese invasions. It always serves as a warning of what China might be again, if people don’t unite. The humiliation of these invasions still affects people’s lives in China today.

The more the West gets involved in Tibet, the more people fear the same history will repeat. With negative reports from Chinese central media, Chinese people believe that the West is trying to invade China again through the issue of Tibet.

Every middle class Chinese person I meet wants to go to Tibet. However, most of them are not interested in the Tibetan culture as much as the amazing scenery. China is always willing to learn from other cultures, but historically it looks down on cultures which are not as advanced as ours. This ignorance is a second barrier to understanding Tibetans and appreciating their way of living.

That’s why it is very hard for any Chinese to speak out for Tibet without being labeled a separatist. To be a separatist is to deny your own culture and people, which is seen as a traitor to your country. Once people in China see you as such, you won’t only be denounced by the government, but more crucially, you will lose creditability with the entire Chinese people. As an intellectual, it is much worse of a punishment to lose your audience.

Therefore, reform in Tibet will come at a much slower pace. As the Chinese slowly open to other cultures and influences, I sincerely believe Chinese people will reflect on their own lives and understand the actions of Tibetans with restored mutual respect.

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