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Tibet uprisings and what it means to Korea

clock03-29-2010, 12:34 AM
Yorum: #1

Understanding Tibet's Plight

As I watch the development of the situation in Tibet, I can hardly suppress my concerns. The Chinese authorities have launched a stern crackdown, and some quarters in the international community are starting to discuss a boycott of the Beijing Summer Olympics. What China intends to achieve with the Olympics is well known, so the international community may look to use the Games as leverage to apply pressure on Beijing. But chances for such pressure succeeding seem all but nil, and may result in the misfortune of aggravating the damage to Tibetans.

To search for the right measures to cope with the situation it's necessary first to accurately understand its essence. The basic causes of the latest protests are neither the human right abuses nor the economic poverty that Tibetans suffer. Neither is it an independence movement by separatists. The essence of the question is an ethnic issue. Underlying everything is an ethnic group policy that Beijing has been enforcing recently, and Tibetans' deep frustrations and outrage over it.

Speaking to this more eloquently than anything else is the fact that the protests erupted on March 10. On that day 49 years ago, over 30,000 people staged demonstrations in the capital Lhasa against China's incorporation of Tibet. To suppress the protests, tanks of the People's Liberation Army rolled into Lhasa, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India on March 17. Potala Palace, breathing majestic Tibetan history, was shelled two days later and China extended its territory to include Tibet, leaving countless deaths behind.

Tibet thus became a Chinese territory. Nobody can deny today that Tibet is part of China, and a basic measure for resolving the Tibet question must start from a clear-cut understanding of this reality. Accordingly, complete independence for Tibet appears to have no chance at this time. And the Dalai Lama, too, demands not independence, but autonomy -- a "meaningful autonomy." Tibet is an "autonomous region" administratively, but Han Chinese hold all the real power.

The problem is that Beijing's current ethnic group policy runs in a worrying direction, obstructing such a compromise. We felt this same tendency acutely with China's Northeast Project, which co-opts some early Korean history like Koguryo for China. Paired with that is the "western region development" project. Though the project purportedly aims at "developing" the economically backward Xinjiang and Tibet, a major migration to the region by Han Chinese is underway.

The most direct cause igniting the Tibet situation this time is the opening in 2006 of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, linking Qinghai Province in the Chinese mainland with Tibet's capital as part of a "grand development." Access to this area before the railway was difficult due to the high mountains, leaving it as China's last frontier. But with the railway, the migration of Han Chinese to the region began in earnest. It's a matter of time before the less three million Tibetans are washed away by the currents of over one billion Han Chinese. It was because of this that Han Chinese shops sustained the most damage in the protests. Independence or autonomy are luxurious ideas for Tibetans; they have to worry about the preservation of their ethnic group itself. Who can guarantee that they won't become like the indigenous peoples in America 100 years from now?

For us, the Tibet situation doesn't look like merely a matter concerning other people. China is emerging as a political, military and economic powerhouse, and the principles and values it will pursue are questions directly related to the fate of the Korean Peninsula. Accordingly, we are watching closely how the Chinese government will cope with the Tibet situation, hoping that China will not revert to a vainglorious China-centric system, suppressing minority ethnic groups within and ignoring the international opinion outside.

This column was contributed by Kim Ho-dong, a professor of history at Seoul National University.

clock07-07-2012, 05:57 PM
Yorum: #2
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