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John Fraser on Tibet

March 15th, 2008

The Chinese: Portrait of a People was written by John Fraser, a journalist with Canada’s Globe and Mail back in the 1970s. While it’s been some time since I looked through the book, when riots broke out in Lhasa, I thought of it. Some excerpts, in case they are of interest.

On how the Chinese then felt about living in Tibet:

“Most Chinese who are sent by the central government to Tibet resent the posting and have to be bribed with extra pay and perquisites. As soon as they can return to the interior, they do so. If they are required for long periods, they make sure their children get a proper Chinese education back in Sichuan province or one of the coastal cities. The Tibetan diet, which rests on the sturdy foundation of yak’s milk and its by-products, strikes the Chinese settlers as revolting, and at great expense the government imports more tolerable fare from the interior.”

On China’s inalienable rights:

“The myth of Chinese respect for Tibetan history and culture was so easy to dissolve as to be laughable. Literally, every historic site or religious buildling to which we were taken had been chosen by our Chinese hosts not to give us more insight into Tibet but to point out the ‘inalienable right’ of China to rule Tibet.”

On bad moods in Tibet:

“Visitors are told that the high altitude of Tibet often puts people in a bad temper, although I suspect it was more to do with the high hypocrisy of the Chinese Government.”

On the inevitability of continued conflict:

“Since they won’t adopt Chinese culture, they will always - however subliminally - represent a threat to the Chinese government and therefore have to be controlled. Hence the policy. Anyone with an open mind and honest eyes learns quickly that it is a policy of containment first, ultimately leading to absorption.”

Oh. There was one more detail that the book had introduced. The Chinese had closed all but about 10 of 16,000 monasteries by 1959. This was a statistic made available to foreign correspondents in the summer of 1979.

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