Bhuchung K. Tsering
August 29, 2012
There is news that an editor for the Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper, People’s Daily, has committed suicide on August 22, 2012. It seems, Xu Huaiqian, the editor, jumped to his death. People’s Daily has said that he had taken time off “because of depression and had sought medical help.”
In what could be a possible explanation for his suicide, the BBC reports that in an interview Xu Huaiqian had given earlier, he has been quoted as saying, “My pain is I dare to think, but I don’t dare to speak out; if I dare to speak out, I don’t dare to write it down, and if I dare to write it down, there is no place to publish. I admire those freelance writers, but I can’t leave the system because if I do that my family will suffer.”
The BBC also quotes from an article of Xu Huaiqian, under the headline “Let Death Be the Witness”, in which he says, “Death is a heavy word, but in China, in many cases, without deaths society will not sit up and pay attention, and problems won’t be resolved.”
I read the details about Xu Huaiqian’s death even as I was trying to digest news of yet two more Tibetans, Lobsang Kelsang and Lobsang Dhamchoe, who committed self-immolations on August 27, 2012, totaling more than 50 now. Inevitably, I began doing a comparison between the fate of Xu and these many Tibetans. At one level, Xu’s words in the above mentioned interview and the article clearly reflects the mental state of the Tibetan people. From the statements left behind by some of then Tibetan self-immolators we know that they feel this is the only way to draw attention to the situation of the Tibetan people.
From the perspective of the Chinese Government, Xu and all the Tibetans who self-immolated are equal citizens of the People’s Republic of China.
However, we can see from developments following Xu’s suicide how there is no equality in practice. While the Chinese authorities are hiding the self-immolations of the Tibetans from the Chinese public, they have announced Xu’s death to the Chinese and even tried to explain the reasons behind it.
Secondly, space is being provided to the Chinese public to air their views about the implications of Xu’s death. The China Media Project says the news of Xu’s death “has prompted a burst of discussion on Chinese social media of the extraordinary pressures facing journalists in China today.” The BBC reports that the news has “sparked strong reaction from Chinese cultural and media circles and on the internet.” One reader on Sina Weibo is particularly provoking. According to BBC, this person asks, “Did Xu Huaiqian die to serve as a witness? Was it personal depression or the depression of an era? What kind of country is this?”
In the case of the deaths of the Tibetans there are no such discussions in China. Is that solely because of the Chinese Government’s censorship or is there more to it? I think Chinese scholars, intellectuals, rights activists and others need to ponder over this. Things may have reached the breaking point in Tibet.
Have People Become More Talkative, or what!
Bhuchung K. Tsering
I wonder if anyone has done any research on changes in the talking habit of human beings with the beginning of the 21st century. If not, through this blog, I would urge some universities to do so for it might have serious implications on the changes in the energy consumption of the human body.
Let me tell you why!
Remember the days when we did not have cell phones? There were landlines in offices and homes. Public places, whether it is hotels, train or bus stations, airports, and even streets, had conspicuous presence of telephone booths. One would of course see people making calls from such booths. But there was certainly no rush for occupancy of such booths, except in the occasional movie scenes.
Then came the invasion of the mobile phones, in the mid-1990s I would say. Initially not many people could afford them. I still remember being fascinated by such an equipment, which I had the opportunity to use in the course of my work. Of course, it was bulky and its charging base was equally bulky one. But I could feel the freedom of movement then.
With the passage of time, technological development and the cost of the mobile phones became inversely proportional. Phones became sleeker, compact and “smart” while their prices came down as to make it possible for the average Joe to get one not only for himself, but also for his children.
Somewhere then, something happened to the human brain and people seem to have become more talkative. At this that is my conclusion.
Today, whether one is walking or taking public transportation, it is very common to see people being constantly busy on the mobile phones. The population might have increased slightly from the pre-mobile phone days, but that should not have resulted in any noticeable increase in the number of people talking.
The easy availability of a means of communication has made people talkative.
And, what is with those blue tooth options now. If someone from the 1970s were to time travel and see such people they would think many of them needed to go to mental institutions considering how they “seem to be talking to themselves” while making different hand gestures.
Musing on Chinese Vice Minister Fu Ying’s message to Bhutan
Bhuchung K. Tsering
Bhutanese media have been reporting about the 20th round of talks between Bhutan and China taking place on August 10, 2012. Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Fu Ying, is said to be leading an eight-member delegation for the talks. Aimed to coincide with the talks, Bhutan’s Kuensel newspaper also carries a message from Vice Minister Fu Ying (see below).
I am intrigued by two things: one relating to the substance, and the other, to the process.
In terms of substance, Vice Minister Fu Ying would like Bhutan and China to “speed up border talks in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation, with a view to arriving at a fair and reasonable and mutually acceptable solution.” Indeed, given that the first round of talks started in April of 1984 (during the time of Lyonpo Dawa Tsering), the Chinese desire for a “speed up” is understandable. However, what is this “accommodation” about and who is to do that? Given that the head of the Chinese delegation is saying this, I guess the message is to Bhutan. I am sure the issue will be discussed by Bhutanese policy makers and the increasingly assertive media in Thimphu. They need to do that.
Another substance issue is the reference to Tibet in Vice Minister Fu Ying’s message. She says, “We count on Bhutan’s continued support on matters bearing on the vital interests of China, such as those relating to Taiwan and Tibet.” I will just increase the suspense by saying that watchers of China will notice that this formulation is somewhat different from those done with many other countries. I am sure there is a message here.
In terms of the process, may be I need to search better, but there is no reference at all in the Chinese media about this 20th round of talks with Bhutan. In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website has no announcement about any visit by Vice Minister Fu Ying to Bhutan, even in its Diplomatic Agenda section, that lists the activities of China’s foreign ministry officials. I don’t know what this means, or I may just be paranoid.
Lastly, Vice Minister Fu Ying may be hinting at India when she says, “Friendship between China and Bhutan will not hurt anyone’s interests.” Whether it will hurt India or not, if Bhutan is not careful, it might certainly hurt the interest of the Bhutanese people.
Take a lesson from modern Tibetan history, my Drukpa friends!
Kuensel, August 9, 2012
It is a great pleasure for me to make my first ever visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan, a member of the big Asian family, known around the world for its beautiful landscape, rich cultural heritage and friendly people. As Bhutan’s biggest neighbor, we are glad to see Bhutan enjoying economic growth, social stability and rising international standing under the leadership of His Majesty the King and the Royal Government of Bhutan. And many more Chinese people got an opportunity to know Bhutan better last year through the Royal wedding, which was widely reported in China. Bhutan set a new image for itself as a dynamic, promising and happy Kingdom.
China and Bhutan share a long history of exchanges and much culture affinity, and each has worked hard to explore its own way of development. The Gross National Happiness concept Bhutan has proposed is gaining popularity worldwide. On its part China is committed to peaceful development. We follow foreign policy of developing friendships and partnerships with our neighbors. The Chinese people have nothing but friendly sentiments towards the people of Bhutan. In fact, like me, many of them are curious about “Druk Tsendhen-the thunder dragon Kingdom.”
China-Bhutan relations have come a long way in the past 30 years. The two countries have conducted 19 rounds of border talks and reached much common understanding on addressing the boundary issue and advancing China-Bhutan relations. Many Chinese people wrote to the Chinese Foreign Ministry suggesting that China should establish diplomatic relations with our friendly neighbor Bhutan. Some business people also called for setting up direct trade links between the two countries. Many Chinese tourists would be eager to travel to Bhutan if there would be direct flight connections.
About six weeks ago Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Jigme Thinley met for a historic, first-time meeting between the two countries at the head of government level in Rio de Janeiro on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit. The two leaders reached new and important common understanding on the development of China-Bhutan relations.
While the world around us is undergoing enormous changes, peace, development and cooperation remain the aspiration of most countries. Those with foresight would always follow the main trend of the times. A look around the region would suggest that in the era of common development of Asia, it is time for China and Bhutan to build bridges of friendship and cooperation.
China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan, as well as Bhutan’s social system and path of development chosen by Bhutan in light of your national conditions. We respect Bhutan’s cultural traditions and its independent and peaceful foreign policy. We count on Bhutan’s continued support on matters bearing on the vital interests of China, such as those relating to Taiwan and Tibet.
We took note of the fact that Bhutan is increasing its international exchanges. We are willing to work with Bhutan towards early establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The border dispute between the two countries does not cover a wide area. The two sides should speed up border talks in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation, with a view to arriving at a fair and reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. This will contribute to peace and stability in our border areas.
We are ready to encourage Chinese businesses to expand their exports to Bhutan and welcome more people-to-people exchanges and tourism, which will help increase the mutual knowledge and friendship between our two people. We believe that Bhutan is well – placed to grasp the opportunity of the development of China and India and benefit from the great historical renaissance of Asia. Maximizing these opportunities will help Bhutan open up a new era of development.
I heard an interesting folk tale in Bhutan. It was about four harmonious brothers, partridge, rabbit, monkey and elephant helping and supporting each other and finally fulfilling their wishes together. Friendship between China and Bhutan will not hurt anyone’s interests. China wants to be Bhutan’s amiable and trustworthy friend. We want to extend a hand of friendship and work together with Bhutan for the benefit of our two people.
Vice Foreign Minister of China