Dateline: Lhasa, Tibet. While I am unabashedly pro-Tibetan, I am glad that China got the 2008 Olympics. Not all within the free-Tibet movement share my opinion. Many feel that the Olympic Committee's selection of Beijing whitewashes China's horrific human rights record. However, I firmly believe that having the Olympics in Beijing will have a profound and positive effect on China and will ultimately lead to the liberation of Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.
While I don't claim to be an authority on China, I believe that history teaches us a critical lesson about oppressed people. Historically, revolutions and radical changes do not generally occur when an oppressed people are totally subjugated by an oppressor. Change often takes place after the oppressed glimpses the promise of a better life and then that vision doesn't materialize for them. It is then that all the ingredients for fermentation are in place for political and social change.
The Chinese government desperately wanted respectability and acceptance from a world frustrated with its often adolescent behavior within the family of nations and its atrocious treatment of many under its control. The means by which the Chinese leadership picked to acquire a better public image wasn't by conducting mature relations with other nations or granting freedom to dissidents. To acquire this recognition and acceptance, Chinese officials competed for the privilege of hosting the Olympics.
What were they thinking? Having the Olympics is the last thing that Chinese authorities should have pursued. The writing is on the wall-indeed large enough to be seen on the Great Wall. In what promises to be an ironic historical reversal, the means selected by the Chinese to find status and acceptance will become the means for radical social and political change unlike anything they have ever experienced.
The Chinese are about to experience a massive, non-violent invasion of their closed and secretive society by a highly equipped army of Olympic foot soldiers. Do they have any idea how many people will be descending upon them over the next seven years? In addition to the Olympic personnel, the athletics, and the ticket-totting visitors, the shock troops are already arriving on the Chinese shores and airstrips even now. The world's media is landing with hi-technique equipment to broadcast how Olympic preparations are progressing and developing stories about Chinese society. While there, news people will probe into every ancient closed closet that they can find.
I'm writing this article while in Lhasa, Tibet. You can't imagine all the hoops that you must negotiate to enter China. For example, you can only enter Tibet on Tuesday or Saturday-never on Sunday. What? And the Chinese want the Olympics? If the media doesn't cause Mao to turnover in his grave, the addition of advertising executives will. They see the billion Chinese as an untapped resource for all sorts of goods and services. If these aren't enough to cause concern for the Chinese leaders, they will also have to deal with various supply and support personnel necessary for the construction, communication, and revamping the infrastructure of Beijing.
In a most ironic twist of fate, the way the Chinese picked to gain the world's respect, which they don't deserve, will cause their rule to become less tyrannical. This in turn will result in freedom not just for Tibet but also for all people in China. Therefore, I say, "Let the preparation for the Olympics begin." The sooner that the Chinese people are exposed to the hordes of Olympic invaders, the sooner the needed changes within China can begin. China is a nation with a very long and glorious past. However, China today is in desperate need of radical social and political change.
A side note: I was in Bloomington, IN, talking with my friend, Dr. Thubten Norbu (the Dalai Lama's brother), when the Olympic Committee announced their choice of Beijing in 2008. I told my Tibetan friend that his brother would be returning to Lhasa and again taking up residence in the Potala Palace in the not too distant future. China is about to experience a similar meltdown seen in the former Soviet Union a decade ago. It seems an appropriate poetic and political twist that the Greeks, who introduced the world to democracy and the Olympics, will assist the Tibetan people in their quest to find freedom after a half-century of Chinese occupation of their Himalayan nation.
Let the Olympics and freedom begin.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 8/14/01.
This is the Buddha that received Dr. Norbu's golden katak