Truth Nails the Dalai Lama Myth
   2011-05-24 09:17:31    China Daily      Web Editor: Zhang

By Tom Mcgregor

Many Westerners believe that the Dalai Lama is an angelic hero for Tibetans. They perceive the central government's role in the Tibet autonomous region as diabolical ever since Tibetans were liberated 60 years ago on May 23, 1951.

These Western perceptions seem inspired more by myths than truth.

But how and why has the Dalai Lama succeeded in winning over the West? And what is Beijing's side of the story?

Even though the Chinese central government introduced political and economic reforms in Tibet, the West wants to concentrate on the Dalai Lama's side of the story.

The Dalai Lama group realized early that it must engage in myth-making to garner public support. The group carefully crafted an attractive image of the Dalai Lama, knowing that failure to do so would cause the Western media to ask him tough questions or expose shocking historical details about pre-liberation Tibet.

Before its liberation, Tibet was a society of serfs under theocratic rule. Economic conditions were abysmal with a feudal society trapped in the "Dark Ages". The judicial system was cruel, chaotic and psychologically repressive. Punishing citizens by amputating limbs was commonplace.

To deflect attention from the despotic rule, the Dalai Lama depicted himself as a holy figure, promoting peace, love and harmony. He used his "personality" to hide his role as leader of a violent separatist movement in China. He plays a naive idealist portraying the Chinese government as a bitter foe of Tibetans.

He crafted a public relations' plan that the West lapped up lock, stock and barrel, and created the so-called Shangri-La myth.

The Dalai Lama is an expert at publicity, especially when it comes to dealing with the Western media. In public, he always wears robes and behaves very politely. He faces the cameras with a smile on his face. It's impossible to find photographs of him with a scowl on his face. Even a smirk on his face is seen in the West as a smile.

When not smiling, he visits Buddhist temples. The public thinks he's praying to Buddha. But the core spirit of Buddhism includes mercy and love. If he is a true Buddhist, he should have liberated the serfs instead of continuing with the serfdom of old Tibet. He should have showed love for people of different ethnic groups in new Tibet instead of plotting the March 14, 2008, riots trying to plant the seeds of hatred among people.

The Dalai Lama has mesmerized the West with his speeches. Some Hollywood movie stars fawn over him as if he were a god. But as an old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Buddhists should be against luxury and waste, emphasizing the importance of a simple life. But the Dalai Lama flies first-class on airplanes, stays in five-star hotels and dines at luxurious restaurants.

His speeches capture Western people's hearts. But what he says breaks the codes of honesty. He talks about world peace, tranquility and compassion. Since he is not a government official who must maintain law and order for public good, he can talk about creating a utopian society without showing results. But he never talks about the negative aspects of pre-liberation Tibet.

The Dalai Lama's anti-China rhetoric attracts followers because he uses an "us versus them" logic. As some people in the West are afraid of a rising China, they are willing to cooperate with any force that they think can help contain China, including separatists.

Unfortunately, many Westerners worship the Dalai Lama and his followers because they have never been to Tibet and only get information from the Western media's biased reports. Such people try to denigrate those who are willing to tell or hear the true story of Tibet as opponents of peace and supporters of authoritarianism.

The Dalai Lama revels in the role of myth-maker. But the truth about the Tibet autonomous region nails the lie of the Shangri-La myth, which abounds in contradictions. A simple research trip would expose inherent flaws.

The Tibetans enjoy greater personal freedoms and comforts after Tibet's peaceful liberation, especially after the democratic reform of 1959. The Dalai Lama group sees China as an enemy of Tibetans, but if that were true why would the Chinese government spend billions of yuan on pivotal infrastructure projects for the Tibet autonomous region? Why would Beijing promote tourism in Tibet?

If China had something to hide, it would not waste its time and money on such special projects.

Here's something for Westerners to ponder. Rather than rushing to conclusions, visit the Tibet autonomous region so you can judge with your own eyes and ears what the real Tibet is.

Tommcgregor@cri.com.cn

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