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Censorship Government Politics

China Says Tibetans Need Permission To Reincarnate 553

Posted by kdawson
from the now-that's-censorship dept.
michaelcole writes "China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. This article is both hilarious and sad, looking at the lengths to which a government will go to regulate thought through censorship. It also goes into some of the more subtle politics of the current 72-year-old Dalai Lama as he thinks about his political and spiritual successor. The Dalai Lama 'refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control.'"
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China Says Tibetans Need Permission To Reincarnate

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  • by Atario (673917) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:03AM (#20395687) Homepage
    ...if we figure out you're defying this order, we'll slaughter you in your crib.
    • by Nymz (905908) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:35AM (#20395855) Journal
      Just like Falun Gong people are all given medical checkups and then entered into a database, the same will happen to anyone guilty of unlawful reincarnation. Infanticide would be a terrible waste. Waste Not, Want Not.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SolitaryMan (538416)

      ...if we figure out you're defying this order, we'll slaughter you in your crib.

      Since we are talking about China here, this is actually more scary than funny...

      • novel politics (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @07:52AM (#20396459)
        The Tibetan Dali Lama, while he presents himself as a force for enlightenment, is really the head figure for what you might term the upper class of Tibet. Their record for treatment of their own population isn't that great, butit gets glossed over by a west desperate to find a better path to their own enlightenment, whilst handily ignoring the impovorished state in which the peasants live, and have lived for a log time, long before the Chinese turned up. I note that the religous class seemed to do well for themselves before China turned up.

        The thing is, they couched their control over Tibet in religious terms, to to properly destabalise that, China must work against their control on those same terms.

        Not that I condone China, but they're not the only people with a bad record in this dispute.

        The Dali Lama position has frequently been held by people whose selection was extremely useful politically (influential families and such). I find it all highly suspect. Probably because, since I have a reasonable self image, I don't need to delude myself that a country with a population mostly consisting of poor people prone to starvation at the slightest turn of fortune is somehow also the keeper of a path to some higher state of being.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by riots (707054)
          Could you at least show the Dalai Lama some respect by spelling his name correctly? The guy has won a Nobel Peace Prize and I suspect you haven't. I suppose it hasn't occured to you that there might be a way of life that doesn't revolve around power and greed? You are only seeing Tibetan culture bounded by your own limited worldview. Never mind, at least you're happy with your self image. I'm not sure he would be so conceited.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rucs_hack (784150)
            I suppose it hasn't occured to you that there might be a way of life that doesn't revolve around power and greed?

            Indeed it has, it is the pondering of such things which helps me identify the flaw in the western idealised view of Tibetan life, and to reject the idea that they have the solution.

            Also, so what? I can't spell too well, at least I'm not so hung up on minutia that I base half my comment on being annoyed about a missing 'a'.
          • Re:novel politics (Score:4, Insightful)

            by STrinity (723872) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:47AM (#20398483) Homepage

            The guy has won a Nobel Peace Prize and I suspect you haven't.


            So has Yasser Arafat. What's your point?
          • Re:novel politics (Score:5, Insightful)

            by RexRhino (769423) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:41PM (#20400329)

            Could you at least show the Dalai Lama some respect by spelling his name correctly? The guy has won a Nobel Peace Prize and I suspect you haven't.
            Yeah, but the Dalai Lama owned human beings as slaves, and I haven't. I don't really consider slave-owners to be the paragon of virtue, even if they win a political popularity contest like the Nobel Peace Prize.

            I suppose it hasn't occured to you that there might be a way of life that doesn't revolve around power and greed?
            I would say owning human beings as personal property is the ultimate expression of power and greed. But so long as he makes inscrutable fortune-cookie style soundbite proclamations every once in a while, sucker Westerners will lap that stuff up and consider him some sort of sage.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by krou (1027572)

          Spot on. Michael Parenti has a good article [swans.com] about the dubious track record of the Dalai Lama, and Buddhism, and the myths surrounding Tibet. Citing the Washington Post, he refers to a former slave from the old corrupt and aristocratic Dalai Lama regime:

          "I've already lived that life once before," said Wangchuk, a 67-year-old former slave who was wearing his best clothes for his yearly pilgrimage to Shigatse, one of the holiest sites of Tibetan Buddhism. He said he worshipped the Dalai Lama, but added, "I ma

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by carlosgardel (1149281)
            As a good, conscientious Marxist myself, I can confidently say that Parenti is not too bright. He is not even consistent for that matter. He is opposed to the Iraq war (as am I), and argues that it was the invasion of one sovereign country by another. Yet somehow he supports the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet, because, well, somehow they deserved it because Parenti didn't like the particular form of oppression there. Oh, and plus the Chinese claim to be Marxists, so I guess that that makes it OK.
        • Re:novel politics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:45AM (#20397587)
          Their record for treatment of their own population isn't that great, butit gets glossed over by a west desperate to find a better path to their own enlightenment, whilst handily ignoring the impovorished state in which the peasants live, and have lived for a log time, long before the Chinese turned up.

          Huh? Tibet has been occupied since the 1950's which if you compare it to the current world situation of the times, we Americans were still highly geared up for segregation and discrimination of African Americans in the South and only a handful of people were fighting to change it until the 1960's equal rights movement.

          Hell... We are talking about a 3rd world nation's history from prior to that we might as well be talking about the Tsar and how bad he was that make the Soviet Crimes acceptable or how great the Zulus had it because the British brought them civilization at the point of a gun. Tibet had no road infrastructure, no factories, no electricity, no telecommunications, no real constitution, and pretty much was a society comparable to same one of medieval or ancient times.

          And you come to us and say that the Dali Llama and upper society was to blame for all this? Its kind of like expecting a medieval king of Europe in the 1300s to come out and say "Let's have an revolution for the people! Equal rights for all! Lets do away with Catholicism and all you believe in while we are at it."

          Things like that need things like printing presses, universities, trade, burghers, factories, and everything else needed for a revolution and a change in culture. Even if the Dali Lama came out and said we need to get rid of the old system, the peasants of Tibet would have said "Reject hundred of years of tradition? The Dali Lama has gone mad! Time for a new Dali Lama!"

          Yeah... China brought civilization and industrialization to Tibet, but they did it at a point of a gun just like Europe brought civilization to Africa. It is wrong and look how it turned out for a lot of places.

          The same apartheid in South Africa is going on in Tibet. Native Tibetans are 3rd class citizens even if they reject Buddhism.

          Of course the Tibetan lower class had it bad... Just like any other lower class in any third world nation. Its not something the leadership could correct even if they wanted to.

          Secondly it has nothing to do with religion and backwardness. China as a sense of their own Manifest destiny.

          Originally, Mao had claimed that Mongolia, Vietnam, and Korea have and always been a part of China just like Tibet. Stalin and the Red Army basically told him to can that idea.

          Of course the Dali Lama got caught up in the web of the CIA and things went bad.

          So don't tell us things sucked worse under the Lamas because it would have sucked anywhere, and it even sucks even worse with the current regimes policy towards non-ethnic Chinese.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rucs_hack (784150)
            You make some fair points, so I should adress them.

            Huh? Tibet has been occupied since the 1950's which if you compare it to the current world situation of the times, we Americans were still highly geared up for segregation and discrimination of African Americans in the South and only a handful of people were fighting to change it until the 1960's equal rights movement.

            Oh dear, please don't get me started on the US and its human rights record. Mind you I come from a wealthy Australian Family, and although we
          • He asked for it ;) (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:51AM (#20399533) Journal
            1. Well, the funny thing is, the Tibetan theocracy is based on the idea that essentially they didn't have several Dalai Lamas. They had exactly one, which was reincarnated again and again and again in different bodies, but still was the same guy.

            I can see how that had a stabilizing effect, though. It's hard to argue the legitimacy of a succession when, so we're told, there was no succession, silly. There never was one. It's the same guy on the combined secular and spiritual throne, for the last several centuries straight.

            Now if you're more secular minded, like I am, you probably won't give a damn about such claims. Pfft, of course there were several Dalai Lamas, and each must be judged by his own merits and shortcomings.

            But let's pretend that we believed that reincarnation claim. There was always the same guy on the throne. The same applies to most of the other Lamas, btw. So essentially the not only they had the same ruler all along, but they had the same guys as his councillors/cardinals/whatever-you-want-to-call-th em. It was the same gang at the top all along, uninterrupted.

            Then, pray tell, why _shouldn't_ we hold him responsible for what he's done at various points in the last few hundred years?

            Since you mention the Tsar, I'd do the same if there was one and the same Tsar on their throne ever since Ivan the Terrible assumed that title. If anyone's claim to authority was that he, essentially, _is_ Ivan the Terrible, plus all other Tsars ever since... then I'd also hold him responsible for all the atrocities those did at various points.

            2. The point that things sucked everywhere if you go far enough in the past, is true and insightful, but it still doesn't remove another question: then how enlightened were they after all?

            A lot of disillusioned westerners have this idea that even shit smells great if it's packed as some ancient asian mysticism. Surely every single religion, cult, superstition, heresy or divine right excuse is pure enlightenment, if it comes from the far east. And their monks and gurus? Whoa, if they're from the far east, they surely were all enlightened, selfless, generous, open-minded, and so learned that they were a walking Wikipedia. Why surely if you gave a bunch of them secular power, that'd rock, right?

            So then you look at one state that was ruled like that, and the best that you can say is, well, as you were saying, that it wasn't much worse than any other medieval totalitarian state.

            Basically to answer to your example about the European medieval kings of 1300: no, of course, I wouldn't condemn them for being medieval back then. But I wouldn't hold them as an enlightenment model for the present generation either.
          • Re:novel politics (Score:5, Interesting)

            by nasor (690345) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:02PM (#20399735)
            "Huh? Tibet has been occupied since the 1950's which if you compare it to the current world situation of the times, we Americans were still highly geared up for segregation and discrimination of African Americans in the South and only a handful of people were fighting to change it until the 1960's equal rights movement."

            Read a history book. Prior to Chinese reforms in 1959, over half of Tibet's population were basically slaves. They were serfs who were obligated to work for no pay on the estates of the ruling monks and elite merchants, legally forbidden to leave, and could be summarily killed at their liege-lord's whim. They were traded or sold from one liege-lord to another, often breaking up families. Forget the segregation of 1950s-era America - you would have to go back to the slavery of the pre-civil war american south to find any analogous set of social circumstances. The wealthy ruling monks, of course, taught their serfs that they were responsible for their own suffering due to transgressions in past lives. The Chinese are a bunch of jerks, and they are certainly oppressing the Tibetans, but Chinese rule is nothing compared to the slavery that most of Tibet lived under prior to 1959.
        • Re:novel politics (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wytcld (179112) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:50AM (#20397651) Homepage

          poor people [...] higher state of being
          In 1980 I spent five weeks in Nepal, two in Kathmandu, three of them on the Jomsom trek, beyond the end of the roads. We met Tibetans in the city, and visited villages whose Buddhist practice was Tibetan on the trek. Many of these Tibetan refugees and Buddhist villagers were quite poor - as are many of the Hindus in Nepal, one of the poorest nations. But the Tibetans and Buddhists were, to a striking degree, happier and friendlier than most of the various Hindu people in Nepal we encountered. This is nothing against the Hindus - I've seen similar psychological effects of poverty in our own Appalachia - but rather a recognition that there's a strength in the Tibetan type of Buddhism that other cultures generally lack.

          As for the monks having been relatively well off historically - yes, just as the monasteries were in old Europe. However, just like it had been in Europe, most every family could and would send one of its sons into the monkhood. So it does not map into Marxist analysis of hereditary class differences, as much as the Maoists would like to force it into that mold. It solved a problem in both Europe and Tibet - a farming family needed to have enough sons, and the best way to be sure of that was to have extra sons. But with too many sons the farm would become split up too small by inheritance to each of them. So sending the extras off to attend to religion rather than farming was good for both farms and the religious institutions.

          Now, I'm an athiest (actually, many practicing Buddhists are too - although the Tibetans more tend to polytheism), so I don't on the whole favor massive social investment in religious institutions (however beautiful some of the buildings and art end up). But there's something in Tibetan Buddhist culture that clearly produces superior sanity in its common people. Perhaps that's related to the degree that Buddhism has since its founding specifically involved itself in psychological as well as religious questions.
  • by WwWonka (545303) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:06AM (#20395699)
    ...I create a new law in my glorious purple sky kingdom that every Chinese government official must get special written permission from King Me prior to squatting down and excreting the same kind of fecal matter that they are spewing from their mouths.
  • :o (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In response, US bans Christians from going to Heaven without first paying the newly passed Heaven Tax...
  • It'll be a she, too (Score:5, Informative)

    by Denial93 (773403) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:14AM (#20395729)
    The Dalai Lama has already announced - long before this weeks-ago Chinese ruling - he's not only going to reincarnate outside Tibet, but as a girl, just to bugger the monks.

    But the law is only partly directed at the Dalai Lama. A whole score of other "Living Buddhas" are believed by Tibetans to be reincarnating, which has important consequences for claims to social influence in that rocky corner of the world. China has long sought to control this, for example with the high-profile abduction of the then 6 years old Panchen Lama [wikipedia.org] whose whereabouts remain unknown.

    The News may seem offbeat, but it is actually rather serious for Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism) believers. Lamas are regarded to simply live many centuries, with death/reincarnation just a particular step in the way. The Chinese announcement will seem to the believers like the deliberate attempt to end the lives of all remaining leaders of the religion.
    • by ozbird (127571)
      "He's not the Messiah - he's a very naughty boy!"
    • This is very simpel. If no-one has obtained a license to reincarnate, whichever kid is pronounced the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama automatically violates Chinese law and will be locked up. Case closed.
    • by kan0r (805166) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:15AM (#20397211)

      The Dalai Lama said he _might_ be reborn as a female.

      Buddhists believe that highly realized beings like the Dalai Lama (Called 'Bodhisattvas': those beings are believed to have attained a certain step on the path to enlightenment which gives them certain powers over their mind) will choose the form which best benefits sentient beings at the time when they are reborn. In past times, this seems to have been a male body, since Tibet was mainly a patriarchy.

      If now a female body best benefits sentient beings, then the Dalai Lama is female in his next life. If now (still) a male's body best benefits sentient beings, then the Dalai Lama is male in his next life. If a bird's body best benefits sentient beings, then the Dalai Lama is a bird in his next life. Again, this is buddhist believe and of course questionable from a scientists point of view. (On a personal note I want to add that if I look at the Dalai Lama and the way he acts, I personally feel that this might actually be true)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hoi Polloi (522990)
      I hope he tells them he plans on reincarnating as a Chinese Communist boss just to ruin them.
  • Just to make sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:17AM (#20395745)
    Ths isn't the Chinese equivalent of "The Onion" is it?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    is complaining about Food and Drug Agency regulations governing the transubstantiation of communion wafers.

    Said the Agency: ....if the church want to miraculously convert bread and wine to human remains, we will need to ensure that it is suitable for human consumption. There is well-documented evidence of disease transmission through these vectors.......Of course, human remains are also prima facie evidence of a crime being committed, so we have asked the FBI if they want to retain all communion utensils fo
  • Holy shit. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zeromorph (1009305) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:32AM (#20395831)

    C'mon that's just hilarious (at least if it wouldn't be that sad). It's a wonderful example how totalitarian states need to control every corner of life even the dark corner of superstition.

    But please don't forget that Tibet was a theocracy (actually a bodhisattva-cracy) before the Chinese Army invaded and the Dalai Lamas only became meek as a lamb after they/he lost power.

    That China is evil doesn't mean Tibet was good.

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:39AM (#20395871) Homepage Journal

      It's a wonderful example how totalitarian states need to control every corner of life even the dark corner of superstition.

      I think it is amazing that the Chinese government can give permission to reincarnate. Maybe they can offer a package deal to people on their last legs: pay for permission to come back and agree to leave the country afterwards.

      • Yeah, that would be total biopolitics they would sell your body to Body Worlds [wikipedia.org] and sell you the permission to reincarnate.

        I always thought we need a IOsM [hrw.org] (international Organisation for spiritual Migration) all these souls crossing borders to reincarnate. We have to regulate that it's a wide open door for terrorists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The current Dali Lama has done a lot of campaigning to be removed from political power. Every once in a while he writes up a draft democratic constitution for Tibet (under the assumption they will achieve independence eventually) and his people get annoyed that he put in stipulations about the Dali Lama not having power.

      To be fair, we tend to assume all nations with an individual leader are bad, but we rarely see one where the leader has been trained from a very early age to be as nice as possible to people
  • The Process (Score:2, Insightful)

    Assume for a moment that people want to play along. I'm curious what the application process would be like. Do you have some forms to fill out? Do you need to go to a special office? Who will be overseeing this particular application? Who approves it? And probably the most obvious question is: how are they going to enforce it? Is this a case of them summarily making a sweeping statement without thinking about the ramifications of putting together a system to handle the throughput?

    As absurd as this issue see
  • by id3as (1067224) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @05:38AM (#20395867) Homepage
    Our laughter means Chinese government's definition of reincarnation is different from ours. We think reincarnation is a "mystical belief that some essential part of a living being survives death to be reborn in a new body". Chinese government perhaps thinks that reincarnation is an act of stating such a belief about a certain individual. How does the Chinese government define reincarnation anyway?
    • by Spasemunki (63473) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:06AM (#20395993) Homepage
      I'm sure what they really want to control is recognition of a new incarnation. When a living tulku [wikipedia.org] (reincarnated master/teacher) is nearing death, they traditionally make some sort of prophecy or predictions by which their next incarnation will be recognized. These are typically vague in the fashion of predictions everywhere ('a house with a pitched roof in the direction of the setting sun', not 'Tenzin Thompson, 1242 Yak Lane, Lhasa'), and once the current incarnation is dead a search is begun, typically by senior monks, either students of the previous teacher or otherwise ranking members of his/her sect. The 'search committee' finds some kids, and potentially administers tests to them (often in the form of having them select belongings of the deceased tulku from a collection of random odds and ends), and take likely looking candidates to visit people who knew the previous tulku, or who have a traditional duty/privilege in recognizing the new incarnation.

      It's that last bit where it gets tricky. By custom, certain high monastic officials may have the final say in who is/isn't a new incarnation. Everyone doesn't always agree- look at the current case of the Karmapa [wikipedia.org]. Having recognition from a high-ranking monastic (like the Dalai Lama) may help cement the claim. In any case, there are sometimes multiple claimants, and it takes a few years (or a generation) to sort things out.

      China wants to give itself the final say in who is the reincarnation, and perhaps control over the selection committee that finds the candidate children. It did something similar with the Panchen Lama, but would like to extend the practice to all Tibetan tulku- most importantly, the selection of the next Dalai Lama. They would pick a child who would inevitably be spirited away to be raised by party officials and state-approved monks, who would teach them the ritual roles of the Dalai Lama along with a meaty helping of state propaganda. The PRC might even pick a Han Chinese child living in Tibet; Han immigration is a big issue in Tibet, with a lot of external rights groups agreeing that the PRC is essentially attempting to 'choke out' Tibetan culture by settling non-Tibetans in the region as fast as possible (ethnic Tibetans are now, I believe, a minority in most of Tibet- certainly in the larger towns and cities).

      The biggest outcome of all this will be to 'muddy the water' regarding who is the real tulku. Tibetans will be presented with a state-approved figure, and expected to treat them as the real deal. Rival claimants will appear among the Tibetan diaspora. It is essentially an attempt to drive a wedge between the Tibetan people and their religion, and to splinter the exile and remaining resident Tibetan communities.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dido (9125)

        Then in that sense, it's no different from how they feel they have the right to appoint their own Catholic bishops in their country, even if the Vatican disapproves. I believe this created a big row at one time, where China appointed bishops not approved by the Pope, and they were excommunicated.

    • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:20AM (#20396077) Homepage Journal
      Chinese govt. did this to prevent a successor to Dalai Lama. Which was to be chosen by monks who would find a boy who is a reincarnation of Dalai Lama. Basically this is reincarnation at its finest, and chinese govt. officially acknowledged reincarnation.
      • So presumably we can predict that the Dalai Lama will be reincarnated outside of Tibet (to Tibetan parents, perhaps) and live his life in "exile" for fear of arrest.

        Maybe the real change here is opening the door to harass buddhists for supporting someone (next D.L.) they are defining as a criminal.
  • by Mister Transistor (259842) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:18AM (#20396059) Journal
    Every time I hear "Dali Lama", I think of melting llamas draped over tables and held up by poles and crutches!
  • by North by Northwest (1149121) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:19AM (#20396065)
    If you knew the history of Tibet, this news is neither hilarious nor sad. In fact, this rule was not "invented" by today's Chinese government. Back to the end of 18th century, after a rebellion in Tibet was ended by central government of Qing dynasty, a Manchurian dynasty, the emperor set up rules for reincarnation, and the reincarnations of Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and others were under the control government. After this, Dalai Lama was awarded political power by central government and noble families of Tibet had less influence on the reincarnations. Before that rebellion, Tibet was ruled by Mongolians.
  • Amusing, but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandersen (462034) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:27AM (#20396103)
    - quite beside the point, I think.

    Here's some background: Whether you like the Chinese government or not, and whether you feel that they are wrongfully occupying Tibet or not, the fact is that they feel that this is their territory, and nobody in the world offers any serious challenge; ergo, Tibet is de facto a part of China. Nobody in their right mind would expect a country to allow an external, hostile, political power to influence the internal affairs of the country - the US have historically been very heavyhanded in similar situations (eg. the communist scare after WWII); many would still today argue that it was right of them.

    The Dalai Lama is undeniably a political influence in Tibet, and he is undeniably hostile to the Chinese government; it is pure common sense that they want to minimize his influence on any part of the Chinese population (and as I pointed out, the Tibetans are de facto part of the Chinese population). It is not only common sense, it is the duty of any government to oppose any influence that would destabilise the society they are governing; and it is only fair to say that the Dalai Lama wants to destabilize the situation - after all, he wants the Chinese to leave and Tibet to be an independent nation. How could that be achieved without a war of independence? And even more - if the Chinese government were to say 'OK, we agree; we simply leave Tibet', that in itself would destabilize the country. Suddenly most Chinese investments would be withdrawn, most Han Chinese would probably leave etc; the result would be BIG PROBLEMS.

    And while we are talking about the 'horrible repression of the Buddhists' - do you actually know what it was like in Tibet before? It was a feudal society (like Europe in the middle ages). If you were born into a rich family, you could get away with anything; if you were poor, you could get cruel and absurd punishments for small 'crimes' - like having a foot chopped off or your eyes gouged out. There is no doubt that it is better now. There is also no doubt that it could be better than what it is now, but it isn't too bad for most. The ones that howl and complain now are the ones who were members of the aristocracy or the corrupt monastries.
    • What you describe below neither does make what they are doing true, or neither alleviate the fact that every country in the world affects the entire civilization. If tomorrow an extremist sect takes control of chinese communist party and starts to incite the chinese population to enmity, hatred towards other nations and prepare grounds for a war, or starts to spread this philosophy to other countries, the perception you describe below means suicidal. Same goes for every country in the world. You cannot do a
    • Re:Amusing, but (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spasemunki (63473) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:50AM (#20396197) Homepage
      Your absolutely correct on the pragmatics of the issue. This is clearly the best strategy for the Chinese government to take if they intend to keep control of Tibet. What most people would argue is that the moral issue here is the self-determination of a nation of people. The Tibetan people are culturally and linguistically distinct, and existed as an independent nation. Many Tibetans clearly wish to regain their independence, or at least to obtain assurances that their culture and traditions will be respected by the government.

      The Dalai Lama has actually struck a much more conciliatory position than you ascribe to him in the years since his exile. First of all, his (or a future Dalai Lama) ruling the country in the fashion of the old kingdom is a non-starter- he himself was involved in organizing a government-in-exile independent of him and elected by Tibetan expats to represent the country. He has repeatedly stated in the last several years that his is not interested in seperating Tibet from China- let China manage the external affairs of the country, similar to the way Hong Kong now operates, while allowing Tibetans the same sort of local autonomy that China has been allowing to other 'Special' zones within the country. You'll notice that nearly ten years ago, the ICT and other organizations changed their slogan from 'Free Tibet' to 'Save Tibet'- indicating that preserving Tibetan language and culture is given a much higher priority than political independence, even if that means making permanent accommodations to China.

      Finally, to say that only aristocrats and crooked monks lament the effect of China's invasion is a gross over-generalization. Yes, those groups had the most to loose. But there are plenty of ordinary Tibetans who are none too happy with the loss of their language, their religious institutions, and their national identity as a free nation.

      Were conditions in Tibet before the Chinese invasion bad? Of course. It was a dirt-poor nation essentially stuck in the middle ages. The current (and immediately previous) Dalai Lama were interested in modernizing, and changing some of those conditions. Chinese investment has made material improvements in the lives of some, but those improvements tend to be concentrated in the hands of party loyalists. Much of Tibet's natural resources have been used to fuel growth in the rest of China; during the Great Leap Forward, Tibetans were allowed to starve while their agricultural output was sent back to the Chinese mainland, a pattern of exploitation of ethnic minorities that has been repeated many times by the PRC central government.

      The number of Tibetans in Tibet has dropped by about 1/6th since the Chinese invasion, in the form of emigration to India and Nepal and deaths, due to starvation, executions, and military action. Forcible sterilizations have been carried out among ethnic Tibetans. The Tibetan language and traditional cultural expressions have been banned or strongly restricted. The sorts of cruel punishments carried out by medieval justice are still present, just updated in the form of electrocutions, torture, and beatings for individuals suspected of being linked with the independence movement, or showing reverence for the Dalai Lama. I think a lot of Tibetans would take their old medieval landlords over that- though even the medieval landlords themselves are now arguing for a democratic government.
      • Re:Amusing, but (Score:5, Informative)

        by clragon (923326) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:22AM (#20396691)

        The Tibetan people are culturally and linguistically distinct, and existed as an independent nation.


        This is the place where a lot of the Chinese disagree. If you think the Tibetans are culturally and linguistically distinct, then you haven't been China. You see, before Qin formalized the same writing system for China back in 200s BC, China was really a collection of distinct countries. Each with their own language and culture.

        Today you can still tell where a person is from just by their accent of their mandarin. Most places in China also have their local dialect, so you won't get far trying to convince a Chinese person that Tibet should be separated because of their distinct language. When I was living in Nanjing, I could drive for about 5 hours in different directions, and I would come to two different places with distinct culture and language.

        If I drove east, I would come to Shanghai, they have their own dialect that is very different than mandarin. So different that I still don't understand a word they say, after living in China for 10 years. They are famous for their XiaoChi (street food).

        If I drove a little to the south, I would arrive at Zhejiang. People here speak a just as different dialect as those in Shanghai, after visiting every summer (because my father's family is from there) for 10 years I still dont understand it. I was told that this dialect is similar to that of Shanghai, but I can't say for sure because they both sound so different. My mother, who have been visiting since she married my father (around 20+ years ago) can understand some of it, but still can't speak it. People here are famous for their taste in seafood, salting live crabs, for example.

        My point is that if you are trying to convince a Chinese person that Tibet deserve to be separated, and used their distinct culture and language as the reason, then by that reason many more parts of China also deserve to be separated. I think most people does not know how diverse in culture and language China is.
        • by anothy (83176)

          This is the place where a lot of the Chinese disagree.

          maybe, but they're wrong. your argument goes on to note that there are lots of differences within China, and supposes that this invalidates the claim that Tibet is culturally and linguistically distinct. the differences within Mandarin Chinese are roughly akin to the differences in English spoken worldwide. throw in Cantonese, and you're getting into the relationship between, say, English and German or French. i can, with moderate success, tell where in

        • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @06:55PM (#20405547)
          Chinese history stretches back long enough that it's problematic for anyone to say that China is definitively anything. The Chinese Communist Party talks a lot about historical claims to this or that, such as Taiwan or Tibet. They base all their propaganda on it. But they're claims with feet of clay, so to speak.

          The historical claims are many and conflict. For instance, we could just as easily and with equal evidence and authority back Mongolia's claim to all the territory we currently describe as "China" on the world map. Genghis Khan did conquer Han kingdoms fair and square and totally subjugate them. So perhaps Beijing and mainland Han should quit their bellyaching and submit to Ulan Bator's rightful historical claim to primacy over the People's Republic.

          Or we could, ironically enough, substantiate Tibet's claim to a huge chunk of territory currently ascribed to "China." They won and subjugated that fair and square, too.

          Or we could argue pretty forcefully that "China" belongs to the Manchus, since they thoroughly conquered China and formed its last dynasty, the Qing. Much of what we in the West think of as Chinese hallmarks (topknots, qi paos, those vests and leggings men used to wear) are Manchu in origin.

          Even Han areas themselves have been separate kingdoms at many times throughout history, including the period of time when the South was a kingdom ruled from Nanjing "South Capital," and the North a kingdom ruled from Beijing "North Capital."

          So China is now and always has been a completely artificial amalgam held together by force of arms. And given Beijing's policies of forced sterilization, Han colonization, and ethnic cleansing it does not appear as though the minorities that find themselves within the border of "China" will be able to get away from it for a long time, if ever. It sucks, but that's the reality.

          The parent poster brought up the diversity of those elements that constitute China as an argument against self-determination for the Tibetans and other ethnic minorities in China like Mongols and Uighurs. After all, if everyone in China can't understand what in the heck the people from the next province over are saying, then why should the Tibetans be so special as to get to have their own country? But really, in a back-handed way it points up how absurd is the notion of a unified China that Beijing is always going on about. "China" is so fractious that it makes the San Andreas look like the Rock of Gibraltar. One hard push like an economic or environmental collapse and "China" would dissolve into a bloody civil war with 15 sides.

          As a last, tangential, and completely personal aside, it would be wonderfully novel and refreshing if people educated in China could ever come out with a comment or point of view that's not state-sanctioned. But seeing's how the official history books there can all be summed up with "5000 years of history blah blah blah some stuff happened blah blah blah and then glorious Communism came to the People," it's probably a forlorn hope.
    • Re:Amusing, but (Score:5, Interesting)

      by saforrest (184929) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @07:23AM (#20396309) Homepage Journal
      Here's some background: Whether you like the Chinese government or not, and whether you feel that they are wrongfully occupying Tibet or not, the fact is that they feel that this is their territory, and nobody in the world offers any serious challenge; ergo, Tibet is de facto a part of China. Nobody in their right mind would expect a country to allow an external, hostile, political power to influence the internal affairs of the country - the US have historically been very heavyhanded in similar situations (eg. the communist scare after WWII); many would still today argue that it was right of them.

      Here are some suggested substitutions to your text:
      1. Replace "Chinese" with "British", "China" with "the British Empire", "Tibet" with "India".
      2. Replace "Chinese" with "Soviet", "China" with "the USSR", "Tibet" with "Czechoslovakia".
      3. Replace "Chinese" with "Belgian", "China" with "Belgium", "Tibet" with "the Congo".
      4. Replace "Chinese" with "American", "China" with "the USA", "Tibet" with "the Philippines".

      Which of these would you still defend? If not all, which ones and why not?
  • Shame on Newsweek for presenting this issue as "one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism" rather than the Chinese government wanting to choose the next Dali Lama. They do come out and say that later in the article but presenting this as just some kind of wacky law is misleading. I guess the real shame is that most people don't get past the first few sentences of the article to understand what's really being discussed.
  • People, when I learned about these restrictions on reincarnation, I nearly lost control of my incredible mystical might! However, after careful consideration, I have decided not to use my awesome supernatural powers against the Chinese state. I could unleash a magical fury and I could re-materialize as a thousand dragons that would crush this oppressive regime, but only if I wanted to. Luckily for them, I have decided to—ahem—exercise restraint and let the process work itself out through norm

  • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @07:55AM (#20396487) Journal
    In other news, Slashdot changes its slogan to "News for nerds, stuff that matters and anything that happens in China".

    It's certainly a censorship issue but hardly related to the techie world, unless I missed the RFC on Buddhist reincarnation.
  • ..by Scott Adams (yes, the creator of Dilbert) Slap the Monk, eh? [typepad.com]
  • You're not allowed to regenerate unless given a license by the government, which they never do. An exception for a Timelord was grandfathered in though since he was the last one of his race.
  • by vorlich (972710) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:16AM (#20398993) Homepage Journal
    actually they did. During the "Cultural Revolution" Mao declared birds responsible for crop damage and village cadres were soon fighting over who had exterminated the most birds. The following year and for a quite a few years after that, the crop damage from insects was fairly substantial. They gave that up and took on the challenge of small scale steel production - see previous sentence and replace "exterminated" for "produced" and "birds" for "useless slag". This resulted in no trees, which were used to fuel the smelting operations and virtually no iron pots, tools, utensils or bits off the nearest site of important cultural and scientific interest (easier to melt).
    Other enlightened activities from the People's Paradise included the public humilation and beating of teachers and academics (those well known threats to the very fabric of society) in the streets.

    It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads slashdot that a) the Chinese concept of government is a rather loose term and b) that regular news scraped from msnbc about Bhuddism, the Chinese and er.. religion is somewhat short of the mark as far as news for nerds goes. It should be common knowledge amongst this readership and if not shouldn't you be listening to the Skeptics podcast? http://www.theskepticsguide.org/ [theskepticsguide.org] or even reading other material?

    Oh, and I am surprised at the absence of a surfeit of comments mentioning how all of the vitriol here is counter to almost everything the present Dalai Lama has said on ... well everything really.

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