Why Does the West Not Give Tibet the Kosovo Treatment?

Brussels Journal
21.03.2008
Martin Helme

Western politicians are all calling for an end of violence and “restraint on both sides” after a bloody showdown in Tibet. On a practical level, however, nothing is done to pressure the Red China government to end its oppressive policies, not only in occupied and annexed Tibet but also towards other minority nations in China, dozens of which comprise over one million people. This is in stark contrast with the Western leaders’ behaviour in Kosovo.

While Tibet is a genuine nation, independent until China invaded it in 1959 and began to ethnically cleanse the province, no-one is considering helping Tibet to recover its independence. NATO is not going to send planes to bomb Peking to force it to end its atrocities in Tibet. On the contrary, George Bush, while sending arms to Kosovo, has announced that he is going to Peking for the Olympics in August.

The West’s hypocrisy and double standards are even worse when one considers that, unlike Tibet, Kosovo has never had a legitimate leadership in exile. And that the Tibetan government in exile is recognized not just by Tibetans but by the Western powers as well.

… Kosovo [was] massively published and circulated by Western media and politicians who used it to whip up anti-Serbian frenzy, which led to NATO air strikes and the ousting of Serbia’s leaders. Both media and politicians are showing unbelievable subtlety and restraint in their comments on the atrocities in Tibet. There are no calls for international fact-finding missions, no calls to end ethnic cleansing, no demands to find a “roadmap” to Tibet’s independence or magnanimous offers to mediate. All is said to be China’s internal affairs. The Western leaders are rushing to distance themselves from calls to boycott the “genocidolympics.”

Clearly Red China is not the same as Serbia. It is not realistic to expect that NATO, though it bullies a small country like Serbia, would start an outright war with a nuclear Communist power over an uprising in Tibet. But Peking should not be allowed to get away with (mass) murder. There are countless ways for the international community and for individual countries to put pressure on the Chinese Communists and to show that “universal human rights” are indeed universal and hold in the Himalayas, too.

The Tibetans have suffered for decades under Communist repression. They have endured the Sinofication of their culture, the colonization of their homeland and they have seen – like the peoples of Eastern Europe during the Cold War – that there is little or no real support coming from the West. However, the more the West looks the other way, the more it will lose its credibility.

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