Get Down From That Horse

"Where the fuck is my concert‽"

Ever heard of a place called Xinjiang? It’s kind of a large place. Pretty big, pretty empty too. Ok, what about Tibet? Now, I know you’ve heard of that. Big place, pretty empty. Actually, what about Uyghurs? Have you heard of them? Nope. Hmm. Interesting.

So Xinjiang and Tibet have a few things in common then. Big places, small populations (though Tibet’s is 10% of Xinjiang’s – due to some technical issues this post will be somewhat devoid of links to references and pictures), both are provinces in China, and declared autonomous regions; both have significant populations of ethnic minorities (as declared by the PRC – Tibet roughly 90%, Xinjiang, just less than 60%), largest and second largest provinces in China (Xinjiang is comparable to Iran, and Tibet, South Africa). Let’s see, what else? Oh, both are to the far west of the country. Both have large religious populations. Both are places I want to visit… Hmm. Oh that’s right, both have separatist movements and believe they aren’t part of China.

I’m being facetious. Both have fairly significant, and, occasionally, violent separatist movements.

But what’s the difference?

There are many separatist movements throughout the world. Usually minorities versus an occupier who suppresses some form of something or another. The Palestinians have got a lot of support internationally for statehood, much like Tibet. It took years for the former Yugoslavia to sort itself out with Kosovo recently declaring independence. The US, UK, and France all seem fairly satisfied with that, China unsurprisingly does not, and neither does Russia. The EU has no official opinion, what with Spain being somewhat against the idea of separatists… Oh, yeah Spain, they have had a separatist movement for years, which only recently declared a ceasefire. And what of Chiapas in Mexico? Everyone loves Sub-Commandante Marcos, right?

So what makes one cause relevant and another not? Ever heard of East Timor? First new state of the 21st century. Do you know where it is, and how and why that it is? Annexed in the 1970s by Indonesia, it’s a predominantly Catholic country. For years the Australians and Americans were happy to sell arms to the Indonesian military (didn’t everybody just LOVE Suharto?) even though there had been strong evidence of human rights abuses throughout the entire occupation. Most people know little about it in Europe, outside of Portugal (it used to be their colony), but separatists nonetheless, fighting for self determination. One of the leaders of their independence movement even got a Nobel Peace Prize.

So my question: What’s so special about Tibet? The people there are suffering an inundation of Han Chinese to wipe out local culture (2% mostly in Lhasa – Xinjiang has a Han population of 40%). Hmm. That’s kind of common for occupiers to do that. The same things that happen in Tibet happen in a lot of places. Why is it that of all the places for people to stand up and make such impressive demands on behalf of subjugated peoples, Tibet is the one that gets the most impassioned love? I suppose they have a pretty cool flag, right? And such nice ethnic knick-knacks? And have such a nice friendly looking leader to boot. That must be it. Or that they are Buddhists, who are so without controversy…

I’m not saying there is nothing wrong with China’s occupation. I don’t really see the point of it. I don’t really see the point of most occupations since they end up more trouble than they’re worth (see Iraq…). But what gets my fucking back up is the lines of people queuing up to say how terrible ‘the situation’ in Tibet is, when there are so many other groups, peoples, and countries that are equally worthy of the same attention. Places like Xinjiang for example. I mean crikey, everyone’s heard of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. It’s pretty cool to say you think Tibet should be free right? Because you’re so hip to the causes, right man?

But do me a favour: Next time you say that, first come up with a list of all the other places that deserve the same thing, and then explain why you haven’t started a Free Papua movement.

So what’s the difference between Xinjiang and Tibet?

Good PR.

One Response to “Get Down From That Horse”
  1. Angry Man Number One says:

    I feel at this point I should be shouting Freedom For Tooting.

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