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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tibet/Chine: le point de vue de Jean-Luc Mélanchon

by Jean-Luc Mélanchon

Jean-Luc Mélanchon’s Views on Tibet and China

Translated Tuesday 15 April 2008, by Isabelle Métral

What follows is the point of view published by the senator on his blog. As he says:

“I disagree about the boycott of the Beijing Olympics and anti-Chinese propaganda.I am not a Chinese communist. I never will be. But I disagree about the demonstrations in support of an Olympics boycott. I disagree about Robert Ménard’s operation against the Beijing Olympic Games. I disagree about the revision of Chinese history that goes along with it."

I am proof to that blind enthusiasm for the Dalai Lama and the regime he embodies. In my eyes, the Olympic boycott is an unjustified, insulting aggression against the Chinese people. If the Chinese government had to be called to account, this should have been done at the time Beijing was elected to play host to the Games; China should not have been allowed to apply. It should have been said in China. What is now going on is an unjustified, gratuitous insult for millions of Chinese people who wanted the Games and are now actively preparing them. To me all this agitation is redolent of racism.

A pretext

If a boycott was needed, a consequent, aggressive logic should not have targeted sport, which brings people from different horizons together and is propitious to fraternity. Why not target the world of business and finance? Naturally, none of today’s most respectable activists proposes or does anything of the kind. If the Chinese government must be taken to task, why not take the minimal steps that are normally resorted to between nations? Has the president of the Chinese Republic been approached? (How many protesters bother to know his name even?) Has a request been made to him? If so, exactly what request? What was the answer? Was the prime minister appealed to? (Again, how many care to know his name…) Was the Chinese ambassador to France summoned to the Elysée and has an exchange of views taken place? Who cares?

With a haughtiness that borders on racism, protests are raised against a government whose leaders go nameless and whose existence is ignored. There can be only one reason for this, which is that this government is implicitly looked down upon as being hardly a government at all. Western haughtiness will not even condescend to call by their names the leaders of a country of one billion four hundred million people who are deemed so weak as to be powerless against a simple political police force. What I sniff here, generally, is the stale smell of the old colonialists’ scorn, when they forcefully imposed the opium trade upon the Chinese. If the aim is to stand up to China’s political regime, none of the means used can possibly change anything except public opinion in the west, which has already been totally manipulated on this issue.

So the recent events in Tibet are a pretext. And the pretext was entirely fabricated to target TV viewers conditioned by the repetition of the same pictures over and over again, which are meant to forge evidence rather than stimulate thought. How come for instance that no programme outside "arrêt sur image” reported the fact that “events in Tibet” started with a progrom of Chinese shopkeepers by Tibetans? In what other country in the world would similar events go unrepressed? Is a Chinese shopkeeper’s life worth less than the life of the Tibetan demonstrator that clubs him to death in the street? Much of the friendship shown for Tibetans is a nauseous form of racism against the Chinese. It feeds on all the repulsive fantasies that ignorance breeds. That the crack-down was heavy-handed has been attested maybe? How is this assessed?

The only figures that were circulated were those published by “Tibet’s government in exile”. Yet the Chinese government itself, if I heard correctly, announced a number of people killed or wounded which shows clearly that the Chinese authorities recognized there had been a serious crisis. In any similar circumstances, one would try to compare the various existing reports, to understand the logic behind the succession of events. Otherwise one might as well say that the French government ordered to have two youngsters pushed into a electric transformer, the reason being that its attitude to the suburbs was heavy-handed. No one would dare make such an infamous and stupid statement. Was not US policy heavy-handed in its repression of inner-city riots? Of course that is no excuse at all, but these comparisons help us take a relative view of these events.

A suspicious personage

I must voice the most express reservations about the political activities of the man who was the chief organizer of those anti-Chinese demonstrations, namely Robert Ménard. To-day, you will see or hear no one else on Tibet and the Olympics. It is said that he is Reporters Sans Frontières’s spokesman. The association has no other member left, it seems. Many of those who have sat on its board of directors could tell you a lot about Mr Ménard’s democratic conceptions in his association. As I found myself once on a France Culture radio set, being interviewed on Tibet and the Olympic, Marc Kravetz and Alexandre Adler remained silent when I came to mention Mr Ménard’s role. Yet they cannot be suspected of wanting to oblige me. Off the record they actually aired the most express reservations on that person’s methods. Maxime Vivas has made an extremely disturbing study of the personage and the sources of his finances.

Whatever that may be, it seems that from now on he also speaks for reporters’ unions, Human Rights International, Amnesty International and so on. Sometimes he even replaces the Dalai Lama himself. Unlike the Dalai Lama, Robert Ménard militates in favour of an Olympics boycott. Robert Ménard defends human rights when it suits him. Did he take a single, even a merely symbolical, initiative when the US legalized torture? Did he conduct any campaign in order that Guantanamo prisoners get proper legal assistance? Robert Ménard’s behaviour invites serious questions about his motivations.

There is no case for theocratic regimes

About Tibet, now: Tibet has been Chinese since the fourteenth century. Lhassa was under Chinese, then Manchu rule before the Kings of France ruled over Besançon and Dôle. How can one sensibly speak of the “1959 invasion” when the event took place within the context of the Chinese revolution? This amounts to saying that France “invaded” Vendée when our Republic’s armies were sent there to fight the local royalist insurgents. The Dalai Lama and the other Tibetan lieges have accepted everything the communist China offered them, including (for instance) the post of vice-president in the People’s Assembly, which his “holiness” took without a murmur. Until the communist regime decided in 1956 to abolish serfdom in Tibet and the adjacent regions.

Turning against tradition, a movement of which I entirely approve, the communists repealed the codes under which the population fell into three categories and nine classes, with a corresponding scale of specific prices for human beings, while the owners of serfs and slaves had the power of life and death over them as well as the right to torture them. As to the status of women at the time, it is more proper not to mention it, but information is available to all those who have a strong stomach. The communist rule put an end to the violent clashes between local chiefs of this so-called non-violent heaven and to the various bloody chastisements that the monks inflicted upon those that broke the religious rules of which they were the guardians.

Sharia’s Tibetan version was brought to an end by the communists. The 1959 revolt was hatched, armed, equipped, financed by the USA in the context of the Cold War.
So much for the charming traditions of the Dalai Lama’s regime before the communists and the horrible “invasion” that put an end to it.

Since then, school attendance among Tibetan children has risen to 81% (against 2% in the blessed tradition-friendly régime). And life expectancy in the modern Chinese hell for the slaves in this vale of tears is now 67 instead of 35.5 – the sad proof of that people’s annihilation being consequently the doubling of the Tibetan population since 1959, from one million to two and a half million.

On all these counts, the situation deserves greater circumspection, and greater respect for the Chinese than those preposterous commonplaces circulated by people who would never have themselves, their partners or children live under such a dismal regime as that of the Tibetan Buddhist monks. In the present circumstances I do not in the least sympathize with the “Government of Tibet in exile”, of which his holiness is the only ultimate authority on each and every issue, and on which sit a number of the Dalai Lama’s relatives: as great a number will seldom be found in any government (be it in exile) - not to mention the fact that they hold key positions in the “exiled” business and finance.

I respect his holiness’s right to entertain the beliefs of his choice, and his supporters’ too. But I claim I have a right to reject the notion of a theocratic state. I am equally opposed to the recruitment of children in monasteries. I am against the existence of serfdom. I am a secularist whatever the country or the people, and so I absolutely oppose the granting of political authority to monks, even those for whom Tintin in Tibet drew tears that they never deserved. I also disapprove of the monks’ king’s stances against abortion and homosexuality, even though his declaration on the subjects were non-violent and accompanied with rather winning smiles.

To me they are as archaic as his theocratic political project. I never supported Ayatollah Khomeiny, even when I was against Iran’s shah. I no more support the Dalai Lama or his religion (which is no concern of mine), or his political ambitions of which I disapprove or his secessionist attempts – which I condemn. My question is: why should the Dalai Lama need a state to observe the rites of his religion and to be its leader? Especially when his state would sever China of a fourth of its territory? Is his present moral and religious office diminished by the fact that he rules over no worldly kingdom?


As concerns international law and world politics, the Tibetan issue as presented by his supporters is the cause of as much violence, instability as the Balkans. What kind of Tibet is here promoted? Is it the greater Tibet that includes regions like Yunnan and Sichuan, on the territories of former lieges where protests were stirred up at the same time as in Lhassa? Naturally, none of today’s activists really bother to know what this is all about. There is no better proof of the neo-colonialist paternalism, or of the racism that underlies pro-Tibetan enthusiasm than indifference to questions like these even though they jeopardize the lives of millions of people and centuries of Chinese history and culture.

I have read somewhere that French athletes would wear a T-shirt with a non-committal inscription on them that is presented as a form of political protest. I know very well that the cost for the inscription “For a better world” will be no higher there than it is here. But ordinary Chinese will certainly resent it as being an insult if they learn that it was meant to express support of the Dalai Lama. And then might it not somewhat break the rules of international sports events? Remember how the European Swimming League expelled the Serb swimmer Milady Cavic from the European Swimming Championship for sporting an inscription “Kosovo is Serb” on his T-shirt in the medals ceremony. Will that be considered as a precedent? Will the French athletes who sport the slogan that is presented from the outset as being political be forbidden to compete? Of course they won’t.

For the real aim is that Tibet be to the Chinese what Kosovo was to the Serbs. But as these two issues do not compare, outside the ambition to carve up the enemy and their staging by the media, it will most likely end in the aggressors’ being confounded. I do hope it will.

I am a friend of China. And I know that my own country’s interest and its values do not lie where some would like imprudently to engage them.

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