Roughan on Tibet

John Roughan in the Weekend Herald looked more closely at . He notes:

It has been strategically important to for centuries. The economy is dirt poor, the people tribal and deeply loyal to a Buddhist theocracy which was actually installed from Beijing by the Mongol empire 800 years ago.

Thereafter the Dalai Lamas held absolute power except for periods when Tibet was ruled by monk regents or by agents sent by the Chinese government.

Early last century, after the fall of China’s last imperial dynasty, Tibet enjoyed de facto independence for 37 years. In 1950, with the advent of communism, it was incorporated in the Chinese state.

So far, so good. But then Roughan makes what I think is an unfortunate comparison:

It is curious that we unquestioningly support secession movements everywhere but at home. Independence seekers have only to raise their flag in Kosovo, Kurdistan, Chechnya, Darfur, Taiwan or Timor, and our sympathies are with them. Part of this reflects our dislike of the state they would escape.

We are not quite as sympathetic to rebels in , or . But even there we find it hard to understand the determination of nations to keep a disaffected region.

Catalonia is a province of Spain.  Spain is a democracy, and doesn’t shoot protesters. And Catalonia has significant autonomy from Spain. Plus the Catalonian independence party got only 14% of the vote in the last elections. And polls show only 32% of Catalonians favour independence
Likewise Quebec is a province of a democratic Canada. Canada doesn’t oppress Quebec, which has very significant autonomy. And the Quebec independence parties have not won a vote on secession. If they do, then they will

Kashmir is basically a territorial dispute with Pakistan, than a real secessionist movement.  It can’t be solved by secession – it needs more than one country to agree. Interestingly the only poll done in Kashmir shows 61% wanting to stay Indian citizens.

Now when was the last time there was a vote or even a poll in Tibet? Tibet is ruled by a repressive regime, that gives no opportunity at all for self determination. That is why so many support them – Roughan to be fair does refer the dislike of the state they seek to escape as a factor.

Roughan then asks how we would feel about a nation in the Ureweras:

We might never have been to the Ureweras, have no plans ever to go and not much idea of what the nation might lose, but we would fight for its integrity. Why then is it so hard to credit China’s attitude to Tibet, Sudan’s to Darfur or, closer to home, Indonesia’s to ?

Again, China, Sudan and Indonesia (to a lesser degree) are repressive undemocratic regimes that enslave or kill in their conquered territories.

As for Tuhoe, I’ve never seen any evidence that a majority or even a significant minority of Tuhoe want independence. Tame Iti is not all of Tuhoe.

I’d also point out that sensitivities over borders are somewhat different in small islands, compared to large continents. In Europe and Asia most countries already have multiple neighbours. In NZ we have none – we have no land borders to worry about. So a new country would be a massive change for us.

But what if the Chatham Islands wanted independence? Would any of us give a damn? I doubt it.

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