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West is ignoring Tibet's social progress
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How Western journalists have covered the Tibet riots is a textbook example of biased journalism.

The lives of Tibetans have been greatly enhanced since the banishment of serfdom in 1959. Historical facts prove the Western media's criticism as baseless.

The life expectancy of Tibetans increased from 35.5 years in 1959 to 67 years in 2005. The infant mortality rate was 43 percent in 1959 and 3.1 percent in 2005.

Since 1959, 1,326 new medical institutions have been built, among which are 764 new hospitals and clinics, 79 disease prevention centers and 55 health centers dedicated to women and children.

As for education, there was almost no proper school in Tibet before 1950. Less than 2 percent of children received education and the illiteracy rate was 95 percent.

Modern states build on educated citizens. Before 1959, the illiteracy rate was 95 percent and ordinary Tibetans seldom had the opportunity to be educated. It is impossible for people who cannot read to understand how a modern government operates and how to hold their leaders accountable.

Modern education started to develop only after 1959. In 2003, 91.9 percent of school age children in Tibet were enrolled in primary schools, 82.9 percent of these children continued studying in middle schools, and 72.1 percent continued with their higher education.

The numbers are impressive even when compared with communities in the United States.

No matter what religion people follow, and what kind of life they pursue, living longer, having fewer infant deaths and more education are in the interests of all.

Tibetans put religion first. Does this mean that they do not need hospitals, education, live longer lives, and more babies to survive? Are rights to medical care, education and to have healthy babies not human rights? Denying Tibetans these rights is the biggest human rights abuse.

Before 1959, Tibet was under the Lamaist theocracy. Just like most theocracies in history, it was a very cruel and inhumane form of governance. Tibet was close to, if not worse, than Afghanistan under the Taliban.

According to Michael Parenti, a history professor from the US, Tibet while under the Dalai Lama's control, the favored punishments for thieves, runaway serfs and other criminals included torture, the gouging out of eyes, and the amputation of limbs.

Some Western visitors have spoken about the dark, brutal period of Old Tibet. Since it is against Buddhist teachings to take human life, some offenders were severely lashed and then "left to God" in the freezing night to die.

"The parallels between Tibet and medieval Europe are striking," said Tom Grunfeld, a Tibetologist and US historian in his book on Tibet.

Generations had to put up with theocratic despotism.

A. L. Waddell, an English visitor to Tibet in 1895, wrote that the Tibetan people were under the "intolerable tyranny of monks" and the devil superstitions they had fashioned to terrorize the people.

In 1904, Perceval Landon, an English writer and journalist described the Dalai Lama's rule as "an engine of oppression" and "a barrier to all human improvement".

In 1937, another visitor, Spencer Chapman, wrote: "The Lamaist monk does not spend his time in ministering to the people or educating them, nor do laymen take part in or even attend the monastery services. The beggar beside the road is nothing to the monk. Knowledge is the jealously guarded prerogative of the monasteries and is used to increase their influence and wealth."

People who have joined the bandwagon to criticize China might want to read these books, especially those who have tried and will try to disrupt the Olympic torch relay.

Pro-Tibet independence protesters are playing a political game that reflects their ignorance of Tibet's history.

Furthermore, it is strange that foreigners keep calling for a "Free Tibet" when the majority of the Tibetan people are enjoying their life on the "roof of the world". It is difficult to believe that these people really care for the Tibetan people.

If they really want to show their concerns for Tibet and its people, they should respect the majority of Tibetans' wishes to live in peace and harmony with other Chinese ethnic groups.

(China Daily April 9, 2008)

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