Tendor on China’s Theft of Democracy

My good friend and former coworker Tenzin Dorjee is the Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. He has an op-ed at Huffington Post titled “China’s Theft of Tibetan Ballots Threatens Democracy Everywhere.” On October 3rd, at the behest of the Chinese government, Nepali security forces stormed into voting stations and confiscated ballots cast by Tibetans in the Exile Government’s global election for both prime minister and members of parliament. Tendor notes that Tibetans “have participated in 14 parliamentary elections and two prime ministerial elections” since the 1960s. China had never previously sought to disrupt Tibetan exile elections in the past.

One key line of Tendor’s op-ed is this:

As Tibetan democracy finally comes of age, Beijing feels compelled to undermine this exercise of freedom and civil liberties that clashes with its own portrayal of Tibet as a feudal theocracy.

Moreover, the Tibetan election is a milestone in the global movement for democracy. What began as an unlikely democratic experiment in 1960 has evolved into a full-blown democratic government in exile, with the Parliament and Prime Minister elected by the Tibetan people through universal franchise. As the Chinese government continues to drag its authoritarian system well into the second millennium – leaving a fifth of the world’s population with no say over their own political future – a handful of Tibetans living in exile have overcome dispersion and statelessness to adopt an enlightened system of governance. This makes China look regressive and primitive in spite of its economic progress. It is, therefore, only natural that Beijing wants to undermine our democracy.

Perhaps the most prevalent argument by pro-occupation people for supporting China’s invasion of Tibet is that Tibet was a backwards, theocratic country. But as we’ve seen for decades, the “old Tibet” government, the institution of the Dalai Lama, has established a democracy in exile. By contrast, a friend points out in email, “new China is imprisoning Nobel laureates who call for democracy.”

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