Here at Tibet Watch we monitor and research China’s human rights abuses in Tibet, providing information for Free Tibet's campaigning and media work. It’s not an easy subject matter so at times it helps to have a laugh and luckily the Chinese government provides us with quite a few funny episodes of 'epic fails'...
Here are a few of our favourites but we’re sure there are plenty more. What would you add?
1. Claiming that Tibet is "too cold" for tourists
Sometimes it’s just not convenient for the Chinese government to have pesky foreigners wandering around Tibet, able to document human rights abuses and tell Tibet’s story to the world! In 2011, when Tibet was closed to tourists, top Chinese official Zhang Qingli cited safety reasons such as "overcrowding" and "cold weather". One blogger joked that the almost annual Tibet closures could be dubbed "We're-Out-of-Hotels-Anyway Annual Celebration; Protection-of-Tibetan-Culture-from-Corrupting-Western-Influence Spring Break; Indeterminately-Long-Celebration-of-Politically-Sensitive-Anniversaries-and-Vacation-to-Protect-Tibetan-Culture Long Weekend; There-is-Nothing-Happening-Here Holiday; It's-Much-Too-Cold-For-Tourism Month-Long Week and more."
2. Celebrating oppression with prizes and presents
Chinese authorities have a long track record of great taste in choosing presents and prizes. In 2013, state media boasted of TVs being handed out to Tibetan lamas. Last September, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region, generous gifts for lucky Tibetans included delightful cups commemorating the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, portraits of Mao and, the greatest gift of all, the endless friendship of the Chinese Communist Party for the Tibetan people. Given the great gifts on offer, it must have come as sad news for "undisciplined" monasteries in Driru county that they would be banned from the Model Monastery Competition in 2015. The Tibetan army fared better though – they received a prize in 2013 for "sincerely serving Tibetan people".
3. Describing a torture chair as "comfortable"
Last November, Public Security Ministry official Li Wensheng told the United Nations Committee Against Torture that China’s notorious torture chair is used "to guarantee the safety of the detainee, to prevent the detainee from escaping, from self-harm or attacking other people. The chair is sometimes packaged with soft padding to increase a sense of comfort, a sense of safety." But that doesn’t exactly tally with the words of torture survivor Golog Jigme who said: "whenever I remember that chair I feel scared, even to this day..."
4. Comparing the Dalai Lama to Saddam Hussein
China’s vilification of the Dalai Lama has continued for decades but it reached a new level of ridiculous earlier this month when a ruling came from Gao Yadong, director of Sichuan Province’s publicity department, to "crack down on pornography and illegal publications, which include portraits of the Dalai Lama". For further clarification, China’s state media cited Lian Xiangmin from the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing as saying that, for Chinese people, hanging the Dalai Lama’s photo was the same as displaying Saddam Hussein’s image would be for Americans.
5. Building a "Living Buddha" database
This January the Chinese government launched a new database website of "Living Buddhas" (reincarnate lamas), supposedly to allow users to root out the real ones from the fake ones. All you need to do is punch in a name or registration number. Even though 870 "living Buddhas" are included in the database, the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people - is not one of them. It’s just the latest example of the Chinese government’s ham-fisted attempts to control Tibetan Buddhism.
6. Spreading the word about Tibet's occupation
On several occasions China has tried to use its growing influence to extend its well-known censorship beyond its borders. Like when Chinese officials wanted to prevent the Tibetan flag hot air balloon from flying, when they pressured Bangladesh to censor a Tibetan art exhibition, when they cancelled Bon Jovi and Maroon 5 concerts and when they created a load of fake Twitter accounts singing the praises of China’s rule in Tibet. All these actions resulted in great media coverage of these incidents, drawing attention to China’s occupation of Tibet. Way to go China!
About the authors:
Our Tibet Watch Research Manager has been working on Tibetan issues for over twelve years. Her experience includes research, campaigning, translation and work on digital security. She has worked for some international NGOs and also for different Tibet Support Groups. As a Tibetan who still has family and friends living under occupation, she works with us anonymously for security reasons.
Our Tibet Watch Analyst lived and worked in China and India for a few years, as well as in other developing countries focusing mainly on research and communication. She also works with us anonymously.