Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Dalai Lama in Berlin!

The Dalai Lama, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, brought his campaign for Tibetan autonomy to the Hauptstadt on Monday by speaking with up to 25,000 people in front of one of the most prominent symbols of the reunited Germany.

He started by expressing sorrow at the loss of life in the unsettling earthquake that wreaked havoc on the Chinese province of Sichuan last week. One of the statements made me think a bit. He said that we should consider the parents of the region who are only allowed to have one baby, and many of them now are dealing with the pain of having lost that one child.

The 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1989 stood behind the Brandenburg Gate and went on to chat a bit about everyday life and very tellingly said absolutely nothing about the Olympics.

What he did say was that "We are not seeking separation. Tibetans want to modernize Tibet. For that reason we want to remain part of China“. This is very reasonable as without China, Tibet will have a hard time economically.

The sweet little man played with the people at the front of the stage as his words were translated into German. At one point it was obvious that he was done speaking and so he wound up what he wanted to say and ended with something like “ok, that’s all, have a nice evening”. To which the English speakers giggled because it sounded so cute. Then after the translation was done he interrupted again and said he had more to say.

He commented on all of the Tibetan flags in the group and made a point to say that his group has no problem with the Chinese flag. That they don’t hate the Chinese, they want to live in harmony, but that China needs to give Tibet its autonomy.

As I walked around the demonstrators I enjoyed the peaceful way the kids representing China were trying to get their message across. The best part was a German woman who was actually arguing with them about China’s need to give Tibet a negotiation table. One of the guys had the nerve to say something about “What would Germans think if one day every German south of Munich would suddenly want to be separate from the rest of Germany?”

She didn’t waste a beat before she shot back at him that north Germany didn’t annex south Germany in a war… but that same situation had occurred to Poland and that country eventually ended up getting back part of Germany when the line was redrawn. Then she went on to say that eventually even Russia had to back out of Poland on the basis that it was an area taken in war. Her case was further strengthened when she came back with the final cut where she told the speechless Chinese boy that every civilized country eventually leaves an occupied territory, and saying that three generations of people have been raised under a Chinese regime does not make it right, that those people were a free people before the Red Army simply claimed the area. I really enjoyed listening to her rail those kids.

Soon I noticed that a few (I think) Berlin police officers came along to disperse the group. I bet they were demonstrating without the proper permit. Immediately after the discussion to cease and desist I noticed that it didn’t take them long to pack everything up… in fact it was quite quick. It made me think about their right to do the same thing in their home country… and how it would have been dealt with by a Chinese police officer.

As the time for the Dalai Lama’s visit approached the German politicos were freaking out left and right. Chancellor Merkel said several weeks ago she would be abroad at the time. A meeting she had with him in September 2007 sparked a diplomatic spat with Beijing that took four months to resolve.

What is interesting to me is that according to opinion polls Germans find the Dalai Lama more popular than their native-born Pope Benedict XVI.Check out the set of pictures from that day.


Dr. J said...

I'm really bummed I didn't make it, sounded like a great event.

I found the comment on Poland interesting because doesn't it actually sort of argue against itself? Poland now contains parts of Germany, thereby covering the annexed from war scenario (yes, they weren't the aggressors, I know). Kaliningrad (Königsberg) was german for the first 800 years of its existence. Gdansk (Danzig) as well. Now it's been Polish for 60. But under that argument (area taken in war) the Poles should back out and my husbands family should get their land back. In which case it's not a matter of who was in possession vs. is now in possession, but who won the war and can take the moral high ground. Would that be right?

(btw I'm not trolling, more playing devil's advocate. I find the german history/polish present thing interesting)

Goofball said...

how does he define "autonomy" for Tibet if it doesn't include political or economical independance?

Snooker said...

@ dr. j
Very good point! I'm sure with your husband's family coming from the region you are closer to the history/emotion of it all than I am, thus having a more intense perspective. To me it was nice to see someone using the Chinese "representatives" arguments against themselves. Her thought process may be flawed, but the sentiment is the same.

@ Goofball
Yeah, interesting question... and one which I find rather convoluted. I believe when this all started the Dalai Lama was just fighting to get his people free. Now after 50 or so years, China is coming into its own. To have a full separation at this point would be stupid for Tibet to say the least.
So now what he calls for his autonomy... in other words to be able to govern themselves while still being under the nice warm blanket that China provides. I think he would like to be able to give religion to his people, and to lead them as he was destined to so long ago.