06/26/2010, 00.00
CHINA – TIBET – G20
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Demanding justice for Chinese workers and Tibetans at the G20

by Samdhong Rinpoche
Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, talks about the problems of the Tibetan people and China. He expects little from the G20 summit concerning human rights. Tibet’s economic development has been achieved by stripping the country of its natural resources. China’s economic development has been achieved by exploiting workers and denying their rights.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Various pro-Tibet groups and 133 lawmakers from 30 different parliaments sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who, starting today, will play host to G20 leaders in Toronto, including Chinese President Hu Jintao.

“It is essential that the G20 leaders take the initiative in convincing China of the necessity to resume negotiations with the Tibetan authorities,” said Matteo Mecacci, chairman of the Parliamentary Inter-group for Tibet.

Beijing had agreed to talks with Tibetan leaders following international protests for its crackdown in Tibet in March 2008 and out of fear that the Beijing Olympics in 2008 might be boycotted. However, as soon as the Games were over, it broke off the dialogue, with no results. Since then, it has refused to re-open them.

Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Tibetan government-in-exile, speaks about the issue.

The G20 meeting is about financial issues. At such meetings, human rights and civil liberties are not significant, at this moment in time, Prime Minister Rinpoche said.

It is rather unfortunate that in this 21st century nobody is serious about human rights and human dignity, that [leaders] would rather be neutral when a section of humanity suffers from oppression and exploitation at the hand of a totalitarian regime.

We have to accept that, regrettably, this is the reality of the world today. With economics and trade as the primary focus, we are reluctant to raise issues that are uncomfortable to us and that, however slightly, may not be beneficial to our economic interests.

Many Tibetan groups have tried to convince G20 leaders to do something about, but I have little hope in a positive outcome.

China is always saying that it has done a lot for Tibet’s economic development. We do not deny the infrastructural developments such as buildings, roads, airfields, railways and other things that have taken place in Tibet since the occupation of the country by the PRC (People’s Republic of China). However, its propaganda spreads misinformation about these developments along with statistics of the amount of money it has spent. The development of Tibet carried out by PRC has caused much damage. Around 20 per cent of the indigenous Tibetan population perished as a direct result of the occupation and this is apart from the destruction of [the local] culture, language, ancient monuments, heritage and environment.

The PRC never gives any account to the world about the exploitation of Tibet’s wealth, of its natural resources such as gold, silver, copper, iron, aluminium, calcium, oil, precious stone, coal, timber, salt, uranium, etc. In our estimate, the expenditure incurred for the development of Tibet by the Chinese government does not constitute even a small percentage of what they have taken from Tibet.

Above all, who are the beneficiaries of development in Tibetan areas? The standard of living of the majority of the indigenous people has not improved and, in many cases, has deteriorated. The rate of literacy, employment, health and economic well-being of the Tibetan people are far behind those of the new immigrants, chiefly Han Chinese. The drastic demographic change that is turning Tibetans into a tiny minority in their own land was made possible by China’s economic and infrastructure development.

Still, I am very hopeful in Tibet’s future. When I referred to the G20 summit, I was thinking that world leaders will focus on trade and economics rather than human rights and civil liberties. However, overall, there is a growing awareness of human rights issues in the world. We are hopeful.

China is a Communist country and those who suffer the most under that regime are the working class. Nowhere else in the world are workers so exploited as in China. Recently, a book written by a Chinese economist comparing Chinese workers’ wage structures and other benefits with those of other countries showed that China‘s labour force is the most underpaid and even unpaid: no health care, long working hours of even up to 12 hours per day, 7 days a week, in extremely poor working conditions.

Regrettably, such exploitation enables China to compete in the world market. [. . .] The entire world knows that, but few have the courage to raise the issue and ask for change.

Chinese people are our brothers and sisters; they have been our friends for a long time. At this point in time, the people of China and the people of Tibet are united in seeking a solution to the problems of human rights and human dignity.”

(Nirmala Carvalho has contributed to the article)

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