What is the worst thing you could say or write about someone? Maybe alleging that they are a murderer. Perhaps it is labeling them a child molester. Both these accusations, when used without factual merit, constitute serious slander or libel. But what is the worst thing you could say about a group of people, a nation or ethnic group?
During the Middle Ages in Europe, Blood Libel was used to devastating effect towards harming and justifying the persecution of Jews.
But today, I’d say that a good candidate for the worst group label is Nazi or some cognate term. This is because the Nazis are widely regarded to have committed the worst crime any group can commit: the crime of genocide. Any group that commits a similar crime may be collectively deemed as analogues.
As a society, Nazis have come to represent the embodiment of evil for us because of their crimes against humanity. In popular culture we are indignant at their lack of humanity and see them being gratuitously maimed and killed and we laugh and applaud at their destruction.
One recent example of the use of gratuitous violence against them is illustrated by the film Inglourious Basterds , a stylized, fictional World War II action movie about a band of Jewish Nazi hunters sneaking behind enemy lines to spread fear and seek revenge by the taking of “Nazi scalps.” As the critic Daniel Mendolsohn has said of the movie, “Tarantino indulges this taste for vengeful violence by—well, by turning Jews into Nazis.”
But false attributions of Nazihood should be seen as morally if not legally analogous to slander or libel of an individual only the harm that is done is multiplied for all individuals of the group and perhaps to the group as a whole, as such.
Now I’d like to make the claim that the Chinese people have in the last 50-plus years been the collective victims of defamation of the worst kind. Moreover, this defamation is systematic and non-coincidentally part of the very institutions that have perpetrated the very crimes being alleged at the Chinese.
There are two main narratives that go along these lines. One is the defamation spread by the Tibet Government in Exile or TGIE and their western backed supporters and the other is regarding alleged Chinese activities in west Sudan. Both allegations of Nazi-like crimes, viz, genocide, are false and defamatory. The motives behind spreading them are often racist and insincere and they are used as propaganda to further the evil deeds of many currently in power. That’s not to say that all those spreading the defamation are insincere propagandists. Many are simply ignorant of reality but have their hearts in the right place. They have simply been used, unbeknownst to them, as a vector to spread that slanderous meme.
The TGIE, the Dalai Lama and their affiliate groups and their western-trained lackeys have for more than half a century, claimed that “the Chinese,” in various forms or other, have committed genocide on their people. Even today, the Dalai Lama continues to spread this harmful rhetoric. On his website and on many of the TGIE’s supporters’ websites, they continue to use words such as “the final solution” and more explicitly, “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” to describe what they think “the Chinese” have done and are doing to Tibetans.
But what evidence do they have of this? For more than half a century, they have yet to provide a single shred of evidence for all those accusations. The first time they started alleging claims of genocide, they claimed that China had mass-sterilized Tibetans in acts of genocide in the 1950s. Tibetan emigres seeking asylum in India claimed massive forcible or coercive sterilization campaigns carried out by China against Tibetans. Western “human rights” organizations such as the International Committee of Jurists or ICJ began investigating these allegations and enlisted medical teams to see if there was anything to the emigres’ claims.
They found that there was no evidence that any of them had been artificially sterilized, never mind done so with the intentions of committing genocide. Undeterred by reality, the emigres have continued to spread the sterilization rumor but still have yet to produce a single person of Tibetan origin with any medical evidence of forcible sterilization.
Moreover, allegations of forced infanticide directed against Tibetans in China have surfaced from many Tibetan special interest groups. These rumors have not been substantiated. Based on the extensive on-the-ground case studies inside Tibet by the anthropologist and tibetologist Melvyn Goldstein and Cynthia Beall from the The Center for Research On Tibet at Case Western University, evidence supporting the allegations failed to turn up and these Tibetologists go on to speculate that these allegations, and the allegations of selective sterilization may be wholesale fabrications invented by the Tibetan emigres to garner worldwide sympathy.
The TGIE and the Dalai Lama has also claimed that Tibetans have been “slaughtered” to the tune of 1.2 million of them by the Chinese. But that figure has been exposed as a hoax by the ex director of the Free Tibet Campaign in London, Patrick French (see here, here, here, here, here and here for additional refutations of that figure and the associated genocide claim). This figure, however, is still being spread and is widely accepted by many in the public in the west and some in congress and other US government agencies and some also in the European parliament.
Undeterred by the failure to produce any evidence of physical genocide all this time as defined under international law and in accord with common usage of that term, the TGIE have latched onto the label “cultural genocide,” a rhetorical device invented by the ICJ (which was at that time a CIA front). We are to believe, according to them, that China is intentionally wiping out Tibet’s culture so that they will lose their identity as a group. The Dalai Lama continues to this day to spread this allegation along with his unquestioning admirers. This allegation is often simply labeled by the more incendiary term “genocide” by its disseminators.
However, even the less inflammatory “cultural genocide” claim is equally unsubstantiated. In fact, there is somewhat of a cultural resurgence in Tibet as witnessed by many Tibet experts. With Tibetan language widely spoken and taught within most Tibetan schools, Tibetan religion widely practiced and the arts funded and supported by the Chinese government, Tibetans in China engage in the cultural practice of their own culture often more so than their emigre counter-parts in Nepal and India. There are still a few religious prohibitions in Tibet (as there is in the rest of China) but there is no indication that the Chinese government is trying to wipe out Tibetan culture. The Tibetan language is not endangered or under threat of extinction unlike 60-80% of the languages in the world according to estimates by UNESCO.
The allegations of cultural genocide have been refuted by legal scholars, Tibetologists, historians of central Asia, UN human rights experts and political scientists. Even Tibet scholars otherwise sympathetic to Tibetan independence such as dalai-fanboys Robert Barnett and Elliot Sperling, and dalai-fangrrl, German Green Party politician Antje Vollmer (after visiting Tibet) have cast doubt or even outright denied this allegation. Barnett said in an interview with foreignpolicy.com:
I think we have to get over any suggestion that the Chinese are ill-intentioned or trying to wipe out Tibet.
The other fork of the genocide allegations against China and the Chinese people concern alleged Chinese actions in Darfur. Just prior to the 2008 Olympics many in the main stream media, among celebrities and other assorted folks have claimed that China is also guilty of genocide in that East African region. Many in the media, among regular people and those in politics started to call those Olympic games the “Genocide Games” and flagrantly made analogies to the 1936 Berlin Games when Hitler tried to use the games as a propaganda tool to further his goals of Aryan conquest (also see examples here, here and here).
The rhetoric was accepted unquestioningly. But what are the facts regarding these claims? Claims of genocide in the region aside, further evidence would have to be adduced that China is involved. But neither claim seem to be sustainable in light of the facts. We are still not sure about the nature of the conflict between 2003-2005 in the region. Scholars are not sure if it is a genocide. Many countries and the EU do not affirm it to be a genocide and only the US has called it as such. But there does seem to be good evidence that the conflict is a result of tribes making competing claims over depleted resources as a result of climate change. For example, UN head Ban Ki-Moon said that
Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand — an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.
It’s no wonder then that the US would try to cast this in terms of genocide rather than tribal conflicts resulting from resource depletion due to global warming seeing that the US has been for the last 100 years been the worst contributor to global warming in the world. The US wants to continue its per-capita consumption of fossil fuels into the foreseeable future, the world be damned, and one way to shift attention and blame to that avaricious consumption is to attribute the harms stemming from its consequences to other sources.
Additionally, it has also been widely alleged by the western press that China contributes weapons to the conflict and hence, deserves blame for it. But this allegation like the rest does not hold up under scrutiny. A study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent collective of research scholars studying global conflict resolution and other issues have concluded in a study that over 90% of the weapons found in that region are not Chinese but western in origin (actually mostly Russian).
The US, even by its own admission, is the world’s worst weapons proliferator. Bar none. No one else even close. This includes weapons sold, traded or given to developing regimes in Africa and other war-torn, conflict-ridden regions.
WHO, WHAT AND WHY
Finally what is the reason for perpetuating this narrative? Who are its victims and why should it stop? First, the people perpetuating them may have many motives. Some like the TGIE and other emigre groups obviously have political motives and many Tibetan exiles have motives to gain asylum (reminiscent of the Iraqi, “Curveball”).
Indeed, the modern Tibetan emigre identity may be intertwined with a kind of victim group-identity and narrative, namely that they are victims of certain kinds of crimes that would entitle them to the greatest sympathies. This aspect of their identity was created by the TGIE in conjunction with their western cronies as a propaganda tool to be used against the Chinese. That narrative, like all good Hollywood scripts, must also have a villain of the most evil caricaturization.
The west’s yellow-peril fears and other racially motivated anxieties about a rising China contributes to the hatred and fear often at the heart of spreading these groundless accusations. And there can be no doubt as to the inherent racism behind much of the Tibet Independence movement.
The philosopher and practicing Tibetan Buddhist Eve Mullen has written that the Tibet genocide accusation has been used to conveniently shift our conscience away from our own crimes and used to dehumanize the Chinese.
This play of opposites still operates in new age orientalism; the positions, however, are changed, creating anew the fantasy land of Shangri-La. Tibet becomes the perfect civilization, pristine, timeless, harmonious and holy as the home of true Buddhism and a true utopia. The Tibetan people become superhuman, perfect citizens under a perfect leader. The new opposition becomes China the invader, godless and demonic, despotic and polluted. Chinese soldiers become subhuman murderers following the orders of subhuman leaders….
It is fitting, then, that we as a nation and culture turn our attentions to the other side of the world, to the racism, oppression and genocide contained in Tibet.9 Whereas our racisms are entangled in layers upon layers of our pluralistic society, theirs is perfectly identifiable: Chinese against Tibetan. If we doubt that, we need only to go to the movie theater to see the Tibetan Shangri-La, a perfect civilization where everyone is, or was, equal, and where the Chinese now create inequality….
Constructed versions of Tibetan history and culture are by-products of the Western gaze on Tibet now. As we turn our eyes to the Tibetan situation, we project the fantasies, simplifications, and desires for our own perfectibility onto the people and history we find. And our master story-tellers sculpt truth to fit the roles we demand to see. Americans may subconsciously believe it is too late to solve our own problems, but we still hold our place as a country symbolizing equality and justice.
Crimes both past and present gets buried underneath a sea of slander. Many of the most virulent accusers, individual or institutional, are from countries that have histories of atrocities they, in turn, accuse China of committing. The US, for example, may be the country that has perpetrated the worst democide, if not genocide, in the history of humankind with the slaughter of millions of Native Americans and others. It has a history of racism, racialized slavery, and Jim Crow.
The US has engaged in the support of imperialism and totalitarianism in Africa, South America, Asia and elsewhere and was once a colonizing nation. Focusing on (or outright inventing) the narrative of genocide directed at others may function as collective amnesiac therapy to mask the sins of our ancestors from our own conscience and to avoid the guilt and shame that stains our collective soul.
The rhetoric is often spread by those who wish for us to think and say, “Sure we’ve committed some atrocities in the past, but surely we’ve improved, become more civilized and we’re certainly not as bad as those Nazis, the Chinese who are currently committing genocides around the globe!”
This very rhetoric conveniently shields us from accountability and the very blood on our own hands. Not many will know how many civilians have been killed in the Iraq War fought on behalf of western nations based on self-serving lies. Even when estimates of casualties are reported, they are almost always the least plausible, the lowest among all the estimates. People are shocked and usually turn incredulous at the well-supported estimate that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died in a mere 8 years of fighting. One can only compare this public incredulity directed at these more well-founded figures with the blind acceptance at demonstrably false figures by the TGIE.
We are also selectively blinded by that same rhetoric at the atrocities currently committed by our government’s support, militarily, financially and politically for a vicious apartheid regime in Palestine. Alan Dershowitz in an AIPAC opening ceremony speech highlighted the need for American Israel apologists to shift attention away from Israeli brutality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories towards Tibet.
With this collective defamation it’s no wonder that there is so much vitriol directed against China these days in the media and by individuals within most western societies. The genocide defamation is directed not just at China but the Chinese people and this is seen most clearly in pro-Tibet propaganda. This engenders hatred and dehumanization of a group of people as can notably be seen in the reactions of some people such as Sharon Stone in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. This quake killed 80 thousand people, many of them children. Stone claimed that quake was collective “karma” for what “they” are doing to Tibetans (her ferocious ignorance made all the more loathsome and ironic considering that the epicenter of the quake was in an area the Dalai Lama considers to be part of Tibet).
It may be even more difficult for the Chinese people to dissociate themselves from the slander than it was for Germans to dissociate themselves from the Nazi regime after WWII. This is because the Nazis are usually viewed as a political group, a defective proper subset of German society which has its heroes, its Good Germans, its Oskar Schindlers and its SS-dalai-pet-projects, the Heinrich Harrers. The blood-libelers in China’s case, on the other hand, tend to frame the narrative as one dominant ethnic group destroying a non-dominant ethnic group.
In this article, I made the case that the Chinese are the principle victims of the worst kind of collective defamation. But they are not the only victims. Though they are primary victims, there are secondary victims as well and tertiary victims still. Consider actual victims of genocide. The blood-libelers who spread genocide rumors without evidence do so by diluting the word of its force and worst of all parasite off the sympathies rightfully belonging to real victims all for selfish political gain.
Moreover, Tibetans inside Tibet must live with their Han fellow citizens in a state that is made rightfully suspicious of the blood-libelers including the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government obviously do not take too kindly to these lies and knows the damage they cause to the Chinese nation as a whole and its interests. They know the ethnic resentment these lies foment and how that destroys the trust necessary to build their goal of a harmonious society. Hans know about these lies and grow suspicious of their Tibetan fellow citizens and the distrust is multiplied and feeds off each other.
The Chinese government is less likely to negotiate on more reasonable terms with the Dalai Lama so long as there is little trust between them when he continues to spread this collective defamation. They know that the Dalai Lama is seen as a god or something like a god by his many followers inside Tibet (and in the west!) and that they take his word as Truth personified, without question. Constructive dialogue towards solving much of the problems inside Tibet becomes incredibly difficult when so much distrust and resentment on both sides have been created. The potential for more violence like the ’08 March riots is increased by the climate of suspicion and ethnic animosity it causes in society. Those that live inside Tibet, Tibetan, Han or Hui, must live with the consequences of those lies. This piece of untruth reverberates half way around the world leaving many in its wake seriously harmed.