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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Eyeing rich bounty, China in line for Afghan role

Eyeing rich bounty, China in line for Afghan role

China, long a bystander to the conflict in Afghanistan, is stepping up its involvement as US-led forces prepare to withdraw, attracted by the country’s vast mineral resources but concerned that any post-2014 chaos could embolden insurgents.
China, long a bystander to the conflict in Afghanistan, is stepping up its involvement as US-led forces prepare to withdraw, attracted by the country’s vast mineral resources but concerned that any post-2014 chaos could embolden insurgents in its own territory.

Cheered on by the US and other Western governments, which see Asia’s giant as a potentially stabilising force, China could prove the ultimate winner in Afghanistan, having shed no blood and not much aid.

Security, or the lack of it, remains the key challenge: Chinese enterprises have already bagged three multibillion dollar investment projects, but they won’t be able to go forward unless conditions get safer. While the Chinese do not appear ready to rush into any vacuum left by the withdrawal of foreign troops, a definite shift toward a more hands-on approach to Afghanistan is under way.

Beijing signed a strategic partnership last summer with the war-torn country. This was followed in September with a trip to Kabul by its top security official, the first by a leading Chinese government figure in 46 years, and the announcement that China would train 300 Afghan police officers. China is also showing signs of willingness to help negotiate a peace agreement as Nato prepares to pull out in two years.

It’s a new role for China, as its growing economic might gives it a bigger stake in global affairs. Success, though far from guaranteed, could mean a big payoff for a country hungry for resources to sustain its economic growth and eager to maintain stability in Xinjiang.

”If you are able to see a more or less stable situation in Afghanistan, if it becomes another relatively normal Central Asian state, China will be the natural beneficiary,” says Andrew Small, a China expert at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, an American research institute. ”If you look across Central Asia, that is what has already happened. … China is the only actor who can foot the level of investment needed in Afghanistan to make it succeed and stick it out,” he adds.

Support from the US

Beijing fears chaos, or victory by the Taliban, would allow these groups greater leeway. The US is encouraging Beijing to boost its investment and aid in Afghanistan and backs its participation in various peace-seeking initiatives, including a Pakistan-Afghanistan-China forum that met last month for the second time.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai says there has been a greater sharing of intelligence between his country and China, and a joint US-Chinese program to mentor junior Afghan diplomats. In one of the only cases of such cooperation in the world, the US brought 15 diplomats to Washington, D.C., last month, after they had received similar training in China. Similar three-way programs are being developed in health and agriculture.

“Recently, China has taken a keener interest in the security situation and the transition process, and we are more than happy that this is increasing,” Mosazai says. “It’s certainly a change, a welcome change.”

He adds that Beijing could play a crucial role in forging peace in Afghanistan because of its close relations to Pakistan, from where several Taliban militant groups operate.

Relationship with the Taliban

Davood Moradian, who heads the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies in Kabul, says the Chinese are treading carefully, realizing they lack expertise in a complex political landscape that has tripped up other great powers.

“The Chinese are ambiguous. They don’t want the Taliban to return to power and are concerned about a vacuum after 2014 that the Taliban could fill, but they also don’t like having US troops in their neighbourhood,” he says.

Should the Chinese step into the peace process, either as a principal intermediary or through Pakistan, they could carry considerable weight.

“They are rare among the actors in Afghanistan in that they are not seen as having been too close to any side of the conflict. All sides are happy to see China’s expanded role,” Small says.

Though China doesn’t want a Taliban takeover, Beijing regards the group as a “legitimate political force,” says Small. Beijing was on its way to recognizing the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks that led to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The Afghan government has backed off from earlier criticism that the Chinese were not contributing their share to security and reconstruction of the country.

“There was an attitude that the Chinese were just interested in profiting from other people’s loss, the blood and sweat of American and other troops,” says Moradian. “But that is changing.”

Investments in Afghanistan

Over the past decade, China’s trade has boomed with Afghanistan’s resource-rich neighbours in Central Asia. For Turkmenistan, China trade reached 21 percent of its GDP in 2011, up from 1 percent five years earlier, according to an Associated Press analysis of International Monetary Fund data.

The equivalent figure for Tajikistan is 32 percent of GDP, versus 12 percent in 2006. China’s trade with Afghanistan stood at a modest 1.3 percent of GDP in 2011. Eyeing Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion worth of unexploited minerals, Chinese companies have acquired rights to extract vast quantities of copper and coal and snapped up the first oil exploration concessions granted to foreigners in decades. China is also eyeing extensive deposits of lithium, uses of which range from batteries to nuclear components.

The Chinese are also showing interest in investing in hydropower, agriculture and construction. Preliminary talks have been held about a direct road link to China across the remote 76-kilometre border between the two countries, according to Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry.

Wang Lian, a Central Asia expert at BeijingUniversity, notes that superpowers have historically been involved in Afghanistan because it is an Asian crossroads, and China would be no exception. “It’s unquestionable that China bears the responsibility to participate in the political and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan,” he says. ”A stable Afghanistan is of vital importance to (China). China can’t afford to stand aside following the US troop withdrawal and in the process of political transition.”

A stable Afghanistan, Wang says, is vital to the security of Xinjiang, China’s far west where militants, some who have received sanctuary and training along the Pak-Afghan border, are seeking independence.
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Nepal, India to work on another crossborder power transmission line

Nepal, India to work on another crossborder power transmission line

Nepal and India have agreed to work for the second cross-border line for the import and export of electricity from both the sides.
In the seventh meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Committee on Water Resources ( JCWR ) that concluded here on Friday, the two countries agreed to work for the line connecting Gorakhpur in India and a suitable location near Bardaghat in Nepal under the government-to-government cooperation. “The JCWR decided that the Nepalese side would prepare a concept paper along with the available technical details and send it to the Indian side for review,” the minutes of the meeting state.

In the meeting, Nepali officials proposed the transmission line as the implementation of the 400kv Dhalkebar-Mujaffarpur Cross Border Transmission Line, which was meant to be developed and operated on a commercial mode, is taking some time despite efforts from both the sides. The meeting also decided to take forward the Pancheshwar Multi Purpose Project, while participants reiterated the need for field work in the Rupaligad dam and powerhouse sites, which is pending for the last couple of years. However, India sought more time for the formation of the much-talked-about Pancheshwar Development Authority. On the Koshi High Dam project, the Nepali side brought up the issue of compensation for private land. The project has led to the erosion of 1,516 bighas of land during 1961-1964; 3,948 bighas in 1965-1968 and an additional 2,226 bighas later, which was jointly verified by both the sides.

“The compensation rates have been determined and the Nepalese side said the issue needs to be resolved with priority,” the minutes further said.

The Indian side agreed to take up the responsibility of maintaining the 15 km eastern Koshi embankment, upstream of Chakarghatti. It also agreed to speed up restoration work of the Birpur powerhouse, which was damaged in 2008, while agreeing to address grievances and requests that have come up on the Gandak project.

In the meeting, the Nepali side proposed the concept of ‘energy banking’ to be implemented in order to address seasonal disparities in demand and supply of electricity in the two countries at direct utility level or through various traders.

The Indian side agreed to extend financial and technical support in the West Rapti, Khando, Balan and Lakhandehi rivers, while the detailed project reports (DPR) of the projects, prepared by the Nepali side, have been handed over to the Indian side.

The meeting also talked holding the second meeting of the joint-ministerial level commission on water resources in Kathmandu, flood forecasting activities on rivers flowing from Nepal to India, the proposed Naumure hydro-power project, embankments on the Mechi river, review of activities of various bilateral committees, release of irrigation water for the Chandani-Dodhara area and the Tanakpur-Mahendranagar link road.

Energy Secretary Hari Ram Koirala and his Indian counterpart Dhurv Vijai Singh had led the respective sides in the talks.
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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Peace marchers set off from Rangoon to Kachin State

Peace marchers set off from Rangoon to Kachin State

About 30 Burmese activists set off on Monday morning from Rangoon on a 1,300-km journey by foot to the besieged town of Laiza in Kachin State, calling for an end to the ongoing conflict in Kachin State.
Peace activists set off from Rangoon on January 21 on a 1,300-km march to Laiza in Kachin State. (Photo: Bo Bo/ Mizzima)
Peace activists set off from Rangoon on January 21 on a 1,300-km march to Laiza in Kachin State. (Photo: Bo Bo/ Mizzima)

According to a report in Radio Free Asia (RFA), the peace marchers said they expect to cover the 800-mile walk in about two months, during which time they hope to gather more participants and step up their peace campaign.

The Burmese government announced a unilateral ceasefire on Friday, following widespread condemnation from the international community, including a severe rebuke from Beijing after at least four bombs or artillery shells fell on the Chinese side of the border.

Kachin military sources, however, accuse the Burmese forces of flouting their own ceasefire, and say the Burmese army continues to launch offensives around the Kachin rebel headquarters of Laiza. 

“We are marching in an effort to stop the fighting as the people, including ethnic groups and Buddhist monks, want no war in this country," activist Ko Khine Nay Min told RFA's Burmese service as he set off on the long walk to Laiza.

"We want to request the government to stop fighting,” he added. “We also would like to ask the Kachin armed group to stop fighting if they are concerned about the casualties of the war.”
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Scientist wants food waste criminalized

Scientist wants food waste criminalized

Many support idea, but legal experts say it is unenforceable
A pre-eminent Chinese agricultural scientist has suggested the government criminalize wasting food.
Scientist wants food waste criminalized
Waitresses clear tables, where plenty of food was left over, after a dinner for staff members from a State-owned enterprise at a five-star hotel in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Sunday. The dinner included more than 70 tables at a cost of 3,900 yuan ($627) per table. [Photo/Xinhua]
"Our country has such a huge population and the arable land is very small if it is divided for each Chinese individual. … For years we agricultural scientists have been toiling to achieve an increase of 2.5 or 5 kilograms to the harvest of each mu (0.06 hectare) of rice, but after the food was increased, people wasted it," Yuan Longping, the most famous agricultural scientist in China, told China Central Television on Wednesday.
"Now I am proposing that the government make (regulations and policies) to encourage people to despise the waste of food and to treat it like a crime."
Yuan made the remarks after the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization launched on Tuesday a global campaign targeted at consumers, governments and the food industry to help reduce the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted around the world annually.
The goal of the "Think, Eat, Save" program is to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production and consumption, according to the program's website.
Yuan is well known for his contribution to the development of China's first hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s and since then has been called "the Father of Hybrid Rice" by Chinese media.
As of Thursday, Yuan's advice had been forwarded more than 16,600 times on Sina Weibo, the most popular micro-blogging service in China, and netizens responded by leaving nearly 5,700 comments, most of them supporting the idea.
"Currently, we only regard wasting food as shameful, but if Yuan's suggestion is realized, those who squander food will be criminally punished. I think it is a reasonable method to curb the disgraceful act," wrote a micro-blogger with the user name Wendaotianxia.
Another netizen, ElevenDie, agreed: "I heard that people in foreign countries must wrap up their leftovers in restaurants and this practice should be promoted in China."
Some celebrities also gave Yuan's suggestion a thumb-up, including Chinese actress Yuan Li.
"I am with Yuan (Longping). Now some of us waste food, but just several years ago we suffered from the lack of enough food. Next time I will directly remind those people of this fact if I see them wasting food in restaurants," Yuan Li wrote.
However, some said that instead of criminalizing food waste in restaurants, people should pay more attention to containing some officials' misuse of taxpayers' money on extravagant banquets.
"If ordinary people throw their money around in a restaurant, it is a private act. We can do nothing other than despise it because they are using their own money," wrote a micro-blogger named Lengyanhuakai.
"Wasting taxpayers' money on lavish feasts is what should be treated as a crime."
Other netizens echoed these comments.
"If we want to erase the waste of food, we should start by eliminating corruption," said micro-blogger Liu Hongkai.
Legal practitioners said the intention of Yuan's suggestion is reasonable, but found it unrealistic to make wasting food a crime.
Yi Shenghua, director of criminal cases at the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, said it will be impossible to evaluate the amount of food wasted by an individual if the act is listed as a crime.
"And I think it will be very hard to determine the threshold of the amount of wasted food that will lead to the people that waste them being criminally charged.
"The misuse of public money on extravagant banquets has been listed as a criminal activity and should be severely punished, but if someone spends his own money on food and wastes it, it is more suitable for us to criticize him morally rather than criminally chastise people."
Yi said education and publicity campaigns are the right way to reduce the waste of food, and authorities should establish a set of mechanisms to uproot officials' extravagant banquets.
In addition to Yuan, other Chinese celebrities have also made efforts to improve the public's awareness of food waste.
Khenpo So Dargye, a distinguished Tibetan lama who has more than 970,000 followers on his Sina Weibo account, called on people to "eat up what is on your plates" on his micro blog on Thursday, attracting more than 6,500 fans to share his words.
More than 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) worth of food, which can feed nearly 200 million people, is wasted in China each year, Xinhua News Agency quoted official sources as saying on Thursday.
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Circling the Issue: South Asian connections to Tibet

The town was under complete lock down that cold January day when two young Tibetan men ducked into the courtyard of a hotel, doused their bodies in kerosene and set themselves alight. Running out into the streets of Ngaba in Sichuan province they shouted “His Holiness the Dalai Lama must return to Tibet” and “May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live for 10,000 years!” as they burned. Tennyi, a monk of Kirti monastery, died of his injuries that same day, and Tsultrim, thought to be an ex-monk of the same monastery, passed away the next day.
Tennyi and Tsultrim’s self-immolations were the first of 2012 in Tibet. There have been 23 more since then, taking the total number of self-immolations since 2009 to 38. Over that time, the image of the burning Tibetan – most often a monk or a nun, but also lay people, the young and the old – has been seared by the media into the world’s consciousness. Struck by the poignant horror of such acts, and unable to conduct field research, there has been a certain reticence amongst commentators to deal with their meaning analytically. But the self-immolations are clearly messages. Although an exhaustive statement cannot be made about what each of the self-immolations ‘means’, at the very least it can be concluded that the Tibetans who self-immolated were not content with their lot and, as the immolations were public spectacles, this discontent was sourced outside of themselves in the local socio-political context. It can thus be speculated that their acts embodied the concerns of many people in the same area.
A large majority of Tibet’s self-immolations have been carried out in Sichuan province, outside the Chinese-designated Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). At a talk on the 18th May of 2012 at the London School of Economics (LSE), Tibetan scholar Tsering Shakya argued that this is in part due to relatively more liberal security policies outside of the TAR as well as the specific dynamics at play in that “very localised context”. After protests had covered large swathes of the Tibetan areas in 2008, the Chinese government identified Ngaba town as a sensitive area due to the existence of Kirti monastery – a stronghold of Tibetan culture and religion with substantial sway in the surrounding areas. The resulting security clampdown on the town is still ongoing, with military checkpoints every 30 to 40 metres along the street. Monks and nuns have been forced to undergo intensive patriotic reeducation classes during which they are pressured to regularly denounce their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Frequent news stories in the local press also serve to malign him publicly. Shakya believes it is highly plausible that these local dynamics have engendered the spate of self-immolations. At LSE he stressed that reading the self-immolations as part of a pan-Tibetan struggle – as many have, including audience members that day – is too assumptive an analysis at present, likely more suited to exile Tibetans’ desire to see a political movement building than to the, as yet unstudied, lived realities on the ground.
But, just over two weeks later, on the 27th of May 2012 two self-immolations in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa,  significantly changed the dynamic. They were carried out at the heart of old Lhasa outside the Jokhang temple– an important place of pilgrimage for Tibetans from across the plateau, which has also been the site of previous protests by Tibetans against the Chinese rule. In March 2008, a group of monks staged a non-violent protest there which spread to Tibetan areas outside the TAR and triggered a nationwide uprising. In a place like Lhasa where ideas of Tibetan identity and political autonomy coalesce, the overt political symbolism of these self-immolations could not go unnoticed. In their aftermath, Tibetologist Robert Barnett told media that Lhasa was in a “boiling situation” with the Chinese authorities “really worried” because of the sense that these acts were clearly “driven by an idea, a political goal.”  Such concern led them to arrest over 600 Tibetans in the self-immolations’ tense aftermath.
The Lhasa self-immolations have brought the act beyond local contexts, revealing it to be part of a wider social and political struggle by Tibetans both against the oppression of the Chinese state, and for an assertion of their cultural and political identity, manifested in calls for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. Thus, the on-going cycle of self-immolations can no longer be detached from the larger socio-political context and downplayed as a local phenomenon triggered by local circumstances. The dynamics which have led to their form and occurrence are in part regional. From the historical to the political to the social, these self-immolations involve South Asia.
For centuries prior to the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1951, the inhabitants of the Himalayas had met across the present-day borders, trading, inter-marrying, exchanging cultural practices and religious beliefs. A famous shared son of the Himalayas was born round 2500 years ago, in what is now southern Nepal. Siddartha Gautam travelled, learned, meditated and finally gained enlightenment as the Buddha in present-day northern India. 1000 years later, his teachings crossed the Himalayas to Tibet, to the court of King Songtsen Gampo. It is said that Gampo’s two wives – Chinese and Nepalese princesses – encouraged the King to adopt Buddhism. So began a series of religious exchanges that were to extend over centuries as a result of journeys undertaken by Indian and Tibetan monks and sages, bringing depth, widespread adherence and, at times, resurgence to Tibetan Buddhism throughout the Himalayan range. Compassion is a central tenet  of the teachings. In one incarnation, the Buddha came across a starving tiger and, seeing she was on the verge of eating her young cubs, sacrificed his own life instead, his pure intentions overriding the sin of suicide. In testimony to this flow of ideas, prayer flags now fly from the lake sides of Ladakh in the north of the range, to the bridges of Bhutan in the south. Cultural practices that developed alongside the religion and as a result of intermarriage along trade routes left a sense of shared identity amongst the inhabitants of the Himalayas. So it was that in 1910 the 13th Dalai Lama, when threatened by the then neighbouring Chinese administration, was able to take temporary refuge in a sympathetic India. In 1959, after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, the 14th Dalai Lama and thousands of other Tibetans fled Tibet, and were granted refuge in India by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Since then, on average between two to four thousand Tibetans have escaped repressive Chinese rule annually. Thanks to Nehru’s initial support for the Dalai Lama, Tibetans have been able to establish a government in exile and set up substantial refugee settlements with the support of the host countries and a range of international nongovernmental organizations. The exile governmentestimates that today around 109,000 Tibetans live in South Asia – making it the largest concentration of Tibetans outside Tibet. The circular motion of ideas and actions that occurred between Buddhist scholars back at the forging of Tibetan Buddhism now finds repetition in a circle of ideas which move between Tibet and South Asian countries who play host to Tibetan refugees.
News of self-immolations is most often broken to the world’s media from the Indian town of Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh – Tibet’s capital in exile. There Tibetan monks and laypeople work hard against China’s firewalls, radio jamming and phone surveillance and black-outs in order to maintain communication with those inside Tibet. For example, Kirti monastery’s sister establishment in India, populated mostly by monks from Tibet, has become a lifeline for information regarding the self-immolations in Ngaba. When it comes, the news prompts mass mourning and international media coverage. But the self-immolations are not restricted to Tibet. On 26th March 2012, Jamphel Yeshi fatally self-immolated on Indian soil on the eve of Hu Jinato’s visit to Delhi for the BRICS summit. In 1998, again in Delhi, Thubten Ngodup was the first recorded Tibetan to self-immolate, doing so to bring awareness to the Tibetan situation – this time in the context of a Tibetan hunger strike in Delhi which was being broken up by India authorities. As such, it is important to view Tibetan self-immolations as part of a continuing Tibetan struggle. This is reinforced by the fact that the few recorded last statements of some of the self-immolators compellingly call for a wider sense of Tibetan unity. Respected Buddhist Lama Sopa Rinpoche, 40 years and thus one of the older self-immolators, said:
“To all my spiritual brothers and sisters, and the faithful ones living elsewhere: You must unite and work together to build a strong and prosperous Tibetan nation in the future. This is the sole wish of all the Tibetan heroes. Therefore, you must avoid any quarrelling amongst yourselves…You must maintain unity and strength.”
Jamphel Yeshi, originally from Eastern Tibet but who set himself alight in Delhi, had this to say:
“My fellow Tibetans! If you care about your happiness and future, you must have the spirit of patriotism. Patriotism is the soul of a nation. Moreover, it is the confidence in search of truth; and also the harbinger of a happy future.”
As UK-based Tibetan scholar Tsering Topgyal propounds, the self-immolations can be seen to exist at one end of a spectrum of strategic resistance – predominantly nonviolent -  that Tibetans have been engaging in for decades, and increasingly so from 2008 onwards. ““Whether [Tibetans in Tibet] are self-immolating, writing poems, taking to peaceful protest on the streets or posting a blog, they are mostly speaking about Tibetan rights, they have the same goals and aspirations.”With Chinese authorities clamping down heavily upon conventional protests and demonstrations, especially in the aftermath of the pan-Tibetan uprising of 2008, a large number of disaffected Tibetans in the TAR and the adjoining Tibetan areas, have turned to forms of defiance which are largely non-confrontational and centred around a sense of their common heritage and identity.
This home-grown national self-awareness and non-cooperation movement, popularly known asLhakar, is aimed at countering Beijing’s intensified efforts in recent years to systematically undermine Tibetan people’s distinct culture, language and identity.
The Tibetan word “Lhakar” literally translates as “White Wednesday”; Wednesday is an auspicious day for Tibetans because it is, according to Tibetan astrology, the Dalai Lama’s soul day (lah-sah). AsLhakar provides a discreet avenue for people to express their loyalty towards the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause in an implicit manner without attracting harsh punitive consequences, Tibetans from all walks of life have enthusiastically embraced it as a form of strategic nonviolent resistance against what they see as Chinese government’s relentless onslaught on everything Tibetan under the sun.
Thus, Wednesdays for Tibetans have, in many ways, become synonymous with their struggle for survival as a nation and culture. An increasing number of Tibetans, especially the youths, are now asserting their “Tibetan-ness” by donning Tibetan attire and promoting Tibetan cuisine. Whilst some Tibetans are adopting vegetarianism and keeping fasts, many others are taking pledges to converse and write in the Tibetan language on a regular basis, and avoiding the use of Mandarin with fellow Tibetans. Intellectuals and individuals with creative skills are using social media, blogs and music to explicate what being a Tibetan means and entails today. One such example is a composition by a young musician from eastern Tibet which has become somewhat of an anthem amongst Tibetans on either side of the Himalayas:
We are the kin of the same parentage
We are the inheritors of one nation
O ruddy faced Tibetans!
Though seemingly benign, these are gestures of profound symbolic significance for Tibetans both within Tibet and without. And what they have cumulatively done is further consolidate the sense of unity and common purpose fostered by the 2008 uprising.
Notably, in many Tibetan areas, Lhakar has sparked other acts of  civil disobedience.  For instance, early last year, Tibetans in Nangchen county, Qinghai province decided to completely boycott Chinese vegetable and grocery stores to protest against skyrocketing prices of commodities. Locals there are now reportedly purchasing all their supplies from delegated Tibetan vendors and at much lower prices. There have been reports of such boycotts spreading to adjoining Tibetan areas as well. Similarly, in a show of open defiance, Tibetan monks in Lithang county, Sichuan province ignored orders from local authorities and enthroned a life-size portrait of the Dalai Lama during a religious gathering in July 2011 attended by more than 5,000 devotees representing all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bon tradition. Likewise, in October 2010, between 5,000 to 9,000 high school students from six different schools took to the streets of Tongren, Qinghai province to protest against the Chinese government’s plans to curb the use of the Tibetan language in their classrooms. Since then similar language protests have occurred in other neighbouring Tibetan areas, with the latest protest reported in March of this year. Also worthy of mention here are the mass burnings of garments made from animal fur in various parts of Tibet in response to the Dalai Lama’s appeal in 2006 against the use of tiger and leopard skins by some Tibetans for ornamental purposeswhich, conservationists say, was spurring illegal trade in animal fur and adversely affecting wildlife projects in South Asia and elsewhere. These mass fur-burnings were much less about ecological concern  and much more about being able to demonstrate allegiance to the Dalai Lama over the Chinese State.
This ongoing identity-driven, civil disobedience movement inside Tibet – which is seen by many as a new chapter in the Tibetan people’s five-decade old struggle for greater freedom – has ample historical antecedents in South Asia, in particular the Indian independence movement. It is not hard to see the parallels between  Lhakar and Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement launched in 1921. For one,  both these movements were initiated in the aftermath of two very similar historical events -the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 and the pan-Tibetan uprising of 2008.  Tibetans inside Tibet appear to be coopting  elements of  Gandhi’s non-cooperation and Satyagraha movements and employing them to remonstrate against the PRC’s oppressive policies in their land.
Given that there has always been a two-way dissemination of ideas and influences across the Himalayas, it is hardly surprising that, in the face of oppression, Tibetans inside Tibet are emulating the path of strategic nonviolent resistance which was pioneered  against colonialism by a highly esteemed South Asian leader. This two-way dissemination of ideas, in recent decades, has been facilitated by the sizeable Tibetan Diaspora in South Asian countries such as India, Nepal and Bhutan. In fact, the exile community in South Asia has often acted as a conduit for the diffusion of various socio-political trends from across the globe through communication devices, news output or through the many Tibetans who have returned to family in Tibet after education or time spent in exile. With regard to the Lhakar Movement in Tibet, one could argue that certain acts of non-cooperation such as the boycott of Chinese businesses by Tibetans in Qinghai province may have been inspired by similar campaigns to boycott “Made in China” products launched by the leaders of the exile community in the early 1980s. That said, it must be emphasized that Lhakar, as a movement, has its origins inside Tibet. It was only after the movement started gaining momentum within Tibet that the Tibetan Diaspora in South Asia and elsewhere began initiating parallel campaigns to express solidarity with their compatriots back home. Incidentally, this has sparked a hitherto unseen fascination regarding Tibetan culture and identity especially among third generation Tibetans, and engendered an analogous cultural resurgence outside Tibet.
Such resurgence is reflected throughout the democracies of Himalayan South Asia, where, in stark contrast to Tibet, Himalayan cultures and languages have been able to flourish. In late 2011, Himalayan Buddhists gathered for a conference on the Nepali plains, at Lumbini, birthplace of the Buddha. Australian Tibetologist Gabriel Lafitte noted its significance in creating a renewed sense of “heartfelt” identity amongst Himalayan peoples of Tibetan origin “and thus to a wider concept of Tibet as the spiritual home”. Significantly, the conference had the support of 17 members of Nepal’s parliament, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Vijay Kumar Gacchadhar, who attended as Chief guest. Events like this are manifestations of a growing sense of awareness in recent years among Himalayan peoples such as Sherpas, Tamangs, Bhutias, Ladakhis, Spitians, Bhutanese, Dompos, Monpas and others about their shared Tibetan heritage. Not surprisingly, these peoples, along with thousands of non-Himalayan Nepalese and Indians, form the core support base for Tibetans in South Asia. The Burmese people, with whom Tibetans share both cultural traits and a history of oppression, have also been very forthcoming in their support for the Tibetan cause. In fact, just days after protests broke out in Lhasa in March 2008, the All Burma Monks Alliance, an underground monk’s organization inside Burma founded in September 2007 during what is dubbed as the “Saffron Revolution”, and the International Burmese Monks Organization issued separate statements in support of Tibetan monks and condemned the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on Tibetan demonstrators.
Of all the South Asian states, the public level support for the Tibetan cause may well be most vocal in India. Given that the Tibetan movement has such strong similarities with the  Gandhian ideas and strategies of India’s independence movement, a large number of Indian citizens can identify with it. For instance, during the recently concluded BRICS summit in New Delhi, many prominent Indians especially from the Himalayan region and the North East expressed their outrage over racial profiling and preventive custody of Tibetans and “Tibetan-looking” Indian citizens by the authorities. In a show of sympathy, Union Minister Agatha Sangma who hails from the Indian state of Meghalaya in the northeast told reporters that Tibetans like everyone else should have the right to protest peacefully on Indian soil. Similarly, in 2008, Bhaichung Bhutia, the then captain of the Indian National Football team refused to carry the Olympic torch during the India leg of its journey to voice his support for the people of Tibet and their struggle.
Yet despite the public-level solidarity which is extended to Tibetans in South Asia, this has not translated into real political support. The Chinese government is sensitive to the fact that recognition of strong shared cultures and histories across the Himalayas negates its meta-narrative that Tibet has always been a part of China. This sensitivity is greatly increased by the fact that, until recently, Tibetan refugees residing in South Asian countries have been able to use their relative freedom to non-violently call for change in the Tibetan situation. The Tibetan uprising in 2008 sparked solidarity protests across the world, led by Tibetan exiles. These reached a height in Delhi, Dharamsala and Kathmandu where, daily, Tibetan refugees raised their voices against the regime on the other side of the Himalayas. Beijing is well aware that despite its closed borders and restricted communications, furtive connections on telephones and the internet, international news broadcasts, as well as refugees and returnees enable ideas to cross the physical and technological barriers that surround Tibet, allowing those inside, and the refugees outside to share in and shape one movement.
Shaken by the 2008 uprising, Beijing has since viewed Tibetan refugee activity as a serious threat to China’s political integrity. In a conscious move to mitigate this threat, China has firmly centred its political negotiations with northern South Asia on the issue of Tibet. Indeed, China’s interest in joining SAARC as an observer state, prominent Tibetan commentator Bhuchung K Tsering notes, is to be able to have more leverage on how South Asian countries deal with Tibet. Both politically and geographically, China now meets South Asia through the prism of Tibet.
China’s rise to the echelons of superpower means that over the past few years, the democratic ideals of Nepal, Bhutan and India have been strongly tested by a Chinese government keen to see adherence to a ‘One China’ policy, wherein states publicly support the concept of China’s territorial sovereignty. In order to prove their commitment to this policy, China uses considerable political pressure, soft power and financial incentives to encourage states bordering Tibet to stem the Tibetan refugee flow, and silence Tibetan refugee communities. As a result, where once they were safe havens, India, Bhutan and Nepal have become increasingly restrictive in their treatment of Tibetans.
This is most evident in Nepal, which is the least stable of the three Himalayan states, and receives the majority of new arrival Tibetan refugees. A decade-long conflict that ended in 2006, and the years of political turbulence which have followed gave Beijing opportunities to assert itself in Nepal’s internal affairs. After the conflict, China switched from providing arms to the Nepal Army to funding infrastructure projects and providing aid. In return, China asks for only one thing, a demonstrated commitment to stopping “anti-China” activities, in adherence with a One-China policy.  The freedoms which Tibetan refugees once enjoyed in Nepal have been dramatically reduced as a result.  In correlation with China’s funding of Nepal’s security forces, with the express command to quell “anti-China’ activities, the rates and lengths of detentions of Tibetan refugees have soared. Tibetans report being harassed and detained by police at protests, but also at cultural events and, often, seemingly, for no reason at all bar political expediency. In January 2012, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao touched down into Kathmandu for a state visit – the highest level such visit in a decade – that lasted less than 5 hours. On the day before the visit, over 200 Tibetans were rounded up and detained, only to be later released without charge. While these Tibetans languished in detention, Wen Jiabao made clear China’s determined engagement with Nepal by announcing an increase in development aid to $119 million this year. The figure was just $128,200 in fiscal year 2005/6.

Though a stronger state, India too has often capitulated to Chinese pressure with regard to Tibetans. This was apparent in the run up to the BRICS summit in April this year when the Indian authorities cordoned off Tibetan colonies and hostels in and around Delhi and preemptively detained hundreds of Tibetan activists and students. But India has always walked a fine line on the issue of Tibet, its actions largely motivated by long-standing geopolitical concerns. A major factor in Sino-Indian relations is the 3,380 km long shared border that is disputed by both sides and along which numerous Chinese incursions have been reported in recent times. India claims that China has illegally occupied the Aksai Chin area bordering Tibet in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and China in turn lays claim on the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it refers to as “South Tibet”, and also parts of Sikkim. Ironically, much of this border was already demarcated via a bilateral agreement between British India and the then independent state of Tibet in 1914. India inherited this agreement on its independence in 1947 but the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1951 complicated the equation. So, to resolve this longstanding border issue, the two Asian giants have had several rounds of talks since the 1980s. But China has often made its participation in such talks conditional upon New Delhi restricting the activities of what it calls “splittist” elements from its territory. For example, in November 2011, Beijing pulled out of what was to be the 15th round of border talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries when New Delhi refused to call off a congregation of religious leaders and scholars in the Indian capital that was to be addressed by the Dalai Lama. Thus, India’s imposition of increased restriction on the political activities of exiled Tibetans in recent times should be viewed within this larger geopolitical context. Tibetans still greatly benefit from India’s hospitality, but are increasingly becoming a pawn in their political game with China.

In contrast to India, other less developed South Asian states like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma have readily echoed China’s position on Tibet and helped further Beijing’s agenda in South Asia. But these countries themselves are not immune to the adverse consequences of China’s presence in Tibet. The livelihoods of millions of people in South Asia depend upon rivers originating in Tibet. Chinese proposals to divert these rivers and build multiple dams on them are likely to hit them the hardest. As such, Beijing’s mismanagement of Tibetan rivers has the potential to disrupt economic activity in the whole of South Asia and trigger unprecedented social unrest in the region, far beyond Tibet.

Which brings us back to the messages that are the self-immolations.  Taking into account all the connections, Tibet is, in many ways, a South Asian nation. South Asians, having had such close connections with Tibetan people, are perhaps better equipped than most nations to ‘read’ the situation inside Tibet. But as South Asian states respond to the current geopolitical context by strengthening economic and political relationships with China rather than speaking up for their oppressed brethren, the trade-off is increased Chinese influence over their internal and external policies. Given that China also exerts control over South Asia’s water and threatens its northern states’ borders, that some Tibetans have gone to the lengths of setting themselves on fire to draw attention to their plight under Chinese rule is both a warning and an appeal, which South Asia – both public and political – would do well to heed.

Iona Liddell is a freelance writer-activist who has lived and worked in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. She writes on human rights, conflict and refugee issues in South Asia.
Samdup Tenzin is a writer, blogger, and Tibetan rights activists.

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Pr0teges Vs Peoplist-CPC sends inspectors to provincial elections

How much longer will China change? Gorwacov China who will be conferred.
Pr0teges Vs Peoplist

CPC sends inspectors to provincial elections   

 The Communist Party of China (CPC) has sent inspection teams across the country to supervise ongoing elections of provincial authorities and ward off corruption in these power reshuffles.
Legislatures and political advisory bodies of the 31 provincial regions will elect governors or mayors for the regions, as well as heads of provincial legislatures and political advisory bodies during their annual sessions.
The sessions have have so far opened in 18 provincial level regions. Guizhou is the last province to usher in the political events on January 28.
Inspection teams comprising members of the disciplinary arm and organization department of the Party have taken their places in many areas to watch over these events, which normally last several days.
They will accept tipoffs, use one-on-one talks, questionnaires, field surveys and private investigations in an attempt to secure fair elections.
The phone numbers for tip-off hotlines of the inspection teams as well as the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee have been made public on either the official websites or local newspapers, such as in Shanghai, Hebei, Xinjiang and Shanxi.
A communique was issued on Wednesday by the CCDI to reiterate the significance of serious efforts to ensure a corruption-free reshuffle.
"Illegal activities such as canvassing, buying and selling positions, bribing and inappropriate choice of persons are strictly banned and will be seriously dealt with," said an inspector posted in Shanxi, on condition of anonymity.
Wang Yukai, professor with Chinese Academy of Governance, said the supervision teams have displayed the Party's decisiveness to uproot corruption.
"Inspection into the election process at local political events could prevent the promotion of problematic officials and illegal activities detrimental to public interests," Wang said.
Calling the inspection teams "a necessary complement" to the  inspections conducted by local authorities in term of the selection of officials, Wang said the top-town inspections act as a deterrent.
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee instructed the Party's disciplinary arm on Tuesday to optimize its disciplinary mechanism to ensure that "people do not dare to, are not able to and can not easily commit corruption."
"We must have the resolve to fight every corrupt phenomenon, punish every corrupt official and constantly eliminate the soil which breeds corruption, so as to earn people's trust with actual results," said Xi.
As the top-down inspections into provincial power reshuffles have been running for years, Wang Yukai said that the ongoing political events provide China's new leadership with an opportunity to ferret out the flaws of existing disciplinary inspection mechanisms and to stage more efficient future combat against corruption in the selection of cadres.
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