This once vast empire of 1,200,000 sq km has since the 1951 invasion by the Chinese been reduced to a XXX Autonomous Region and the rest of it has been absorbed into either the Sichuan or Qinghai provinces of China. China tolerates the religious choice of Tibetans but will not entertain any personifying of that religion in the form of the Dalai Lhama or cohorts. Of course this leaves the deeply religious Tibetans embittered but being Buddhists they are non-violent so their form of protest is these self-immolations that then spark mass protests and a heavy Chinese police and army reaction including shooting peaceful protestors.
The other side of this iron fist from the conqueror is the scale of the investment going into education and economic development of Tibet. It’s a replica of what’s the Uyghurs of Xinjiang have been experiencing from their Chinese Masters.
This last week terrorism inside Xinjiang has really spooked the authorities and sparked the “strike hard” reaction. The death last week of 39 people by the suicide bombing from the drivers of two SUVs in Urumchi has resulted in a swift reaction. Increased police and army activism in Xinjiang has been instant; the government has announced compulsory free primary and secondary education for everyone in these provinces, as well as employment schemes to get the youth busy. The theory is that these terrorist activities are dramatic but the work of very young, poor, uneducated Uyghurs and those people need to be forced into the mainstream and fast. To shore up their approach the Chinese will be sending many more enforcement personnel to the province.
It’s an amazingly pragmatic reaction typical of what we’ve seen the Chinese do many times in the past (eg; one child family, electric motor scooters). This authoritarian society is intolerant of political dissent but on the other hand obsessed with material wellbeing as the be all and end all of social, not just economic development. For sure it’s marched a long way since Mao! When we leaned today that a young pregnant Muslim bride got stoned to death by her father, brothers and uncles in front of the Lahore courthouse without consequences and with the father saying how proud he was of his actions, the contrast with the Chinese authorities’ reaction to the barbarism of these primitive uneducated Muslim societies is stark. I wonder whether the religious state of Pakistan knows what it’s gambling with as it invites more and more Chinese investment in its country – to the extent that it’s rapidly becoming a satellite state of the West China economic miracle. Once the Chinese have rail as well as road links down through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea there will be a lot at stake should these primitive, tribal enclaves flex their resistance and dare to damage Chinese prosperity. A good dose of Chinese “strike hard” authority in the valleys of Kohistan will surely provide the mullahs with a challenge to their rule and could be the best thing ever for Pakistani women.
Photos of Tibet