The South China Morning Post (subscription link) is reporting that the Chinese government has ordered Tibetan monks who voluntarily provided aid and helped rescue victims of the Kyigudo earthquake in Kham last week cease their activities. Monks have been the backbone of rescue and support efforts, spending time rescue and helping Tibetans and Tibetan residential areas while official Chinese rescue resources focused on Party elites and government buildings. The SCMP quotes Woeser with more details:
Tserang Woeser, a Beijing-based Tibetan activist and blogger, said the decision to ask the monks to leave would not go down well with the deeply religious quake survivors in Yushu.
“A lot of Tibetans in Yushu trust the monks more than the rescuers sent by the government,” she said. “There are more people lining up for help at relief delivery spots set up by the monks than those set up by the PLA soldiers.”
Tserang Woeser said the heads of many monasteries based outside Yushu had received orders to pull out. “Blocks have been set up on roads leading to Yushu and monks are no longer allowed to enter Yushu,” she said.
The Chinese government seems to be more concerned with maintaining the propaganda story of the PLA and official government resources helping quake victims, as Andrew Jacobs reported last week. But Tibetans will likely see the truth as being the monks have provided the bulk of the relief, rescue, and support efforts, while the PLA was focused on saving Party elites. Little thought has been paid to the welfare of Tibetans affected by this disaster, though a great deal of attention is paid to propaganda and what the citizenry in China is shown on TV.
More importantly, as we have seen repeatedly since early 2008 (if not sooner), the Tibetans of Kham and Amdo in particular are acutely aware of the political realities of being a colony of China. From forced resettlement of nomeds into shoddy cinder block homes, most of which are now in rubble and responsible for untold death, to the violent crackdown in response to peaceful protests, to increased pressure on monasteries, there is plenty for Tibetans to be aware of. And ordering the cessation of rescue efforts lead by monks from outside of Yushu is likely going to be another potential flashpoint, as it will undoubtedly mean fewer people rescued from the rubble and a slower spread of food and medical supplies to victims.
Why is the Chinese government stopping the admirable and critical efforts by monks to save human lives? They are scared of the influence monks have over lay Tibetans. They are scared that the monks will be perceived as being the main architects of the rescue operation and provider of care in the earthquake’s aftermath.
Of course, rather than being worried about the political fallout of the monks being recognized by lay Tibetans for their great work, the Chinese government could instead provide world-class care, resources, and rescue capacity to save Tibetan lives. Rather than deal in the abstract world of political perceptions, the Chinese government could be dealing in the real world, defined by life and death, injury and treatment, shelter and homelessness, clean water and fresh food or starvation and slow death. The answer as all too clear, though. The Chinese government just does not care about Tibetans beyond the extent to which they may create political instability for the CCP. The tragedy of this is that people will die as a result…and there’s a pretty good chance that the Chinese government won’t even count them among their official toll of the dead.