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Posted on on July 24th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

We ate in Ramallah restaurants, walked around freely in town – people want to live free normal lives there like everywhere else, so who does not let them achieve this? Good there are some that call out for RETHINK on how to achieve these goals by selling Tabouleh Salad and Musakahn rather then playing the “he hit me” game in order to disturb the peace of the whole world. Just think of the upcoming new Hezbolah flotilla leaving Lebanon these days in order to provoke an Israeli reaction that will send roses to Gaza and the fallen false martyrs of that new provocation.

Why do they not rather make good Musakahn in Gaza and make a life for themselves also there – then eventually they could trade with Israel and the de-facto Palestine in the West Bank. Yes, when I was in Ramallah I ate Palestinian Hummus – not occupied Palestinian Hummus. It was really good, and could have tasted even better without any Israeli troops assumed present. I say assumed because I did not see them in the street – the place was kept secure by the Palestinians themselves and by their shopkeepers doing business even with people that perhaps they had reasons to dislike.

I.H.T. Op-Ed Contributors

Free the Tabouleh.

Published by The International Herald Tribune online, July 23, 2010.
 RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — “Money, money, money,” hums Nasser Abdulhadi behind the counter of his fast-food joint. He’s selling tickets for this evening’s Boney M concert. Business is brisk. Life isn’t all sordid in this centerpiece of the future Palestinian state.

“What’s wrong with living a normal life in Ramallah,” proclaims the gold-framed maxim on the wall of “Zeit and Zaater” (Olive Oil and Thyme), Abdulhadi’s little restaurant on main street opposite the famed Rukab ice-cream parlor. Another framed certificate reads: “Guinness Book of World Records: World’s Largest Tabouleh Salad.”

Abdulhadi, 48, is a jovial sort. He likes his food, likes his work, likes doing his bit to win international recognition for independent Palestine. His recipe: Use Guinness to put Palestinian cuisine on the world’s table.

Some dish, that victorious salad. Tabouleh’s usually just an appetizer. Not Abdulhadi’s. His 1,081 kilos of chopped parsley, bulgur wheat, onion, tomato and mint filled a 15-foot plate. What Abdulhadi relished most was the “political victory”: “It took me 18 months to convince Guinness to enter it under ‘Palestine’ – not ‘occupied West Bank,’ not even ‘occupied Palestine,’ simply Palestine.”

Abdulhadi’s food campaign began when he heard from a friend who’d flown in from the U.S. — he himself lived for years in New York — that El Al, the Israeli national airline, served musakhan, chicken and onion on pita bread spiced with purple sumac, as an “Israeli national dish.”

Abdulhadi found that hard to digest. “Everyone knows musakhan is Palestinian. They’ve tried it before with hummus and falafel. Israeli chutzpah, I call it.”

Once his tabouleh was finally consumed, under his ladle, Palestinian chefs went on to win another heavyweight title, “World’s Largest Musakhan.”

“We need recognition for what we achieve in the normal run of life,” Abdulhadi says. “Like people everywhere we love our children, we’re chefs, businessmen, carpenters, farmers, industrialists, shopkeepers, we’re participants in the society of the world. We’re not just a resistance movement fighting the occupation.”

Biggest tabouleh, gargantuan musakhan — hardly world title categories likely to impress the world. But Abdulhadi also knows the power of providing food for thought: “It’s important that people hear about the inequities of daily life under the occupation, I realize that. But what really impresses is when you can identify with us, just because we are like you. Don’t we also laugh, cry, love, eat well, compete? By competing on the world stage, we show we exist. Sometimes, we can also be best.”

If Israelis sometimes grumble at the biblical burden of being designated “God’s chosen people,” Abdulhadi seems content to be chosen only by a contemporary best-seller rival to the Bible, the Guinness Book of World Records. At the least, his irreverence grants him a sense of freedom he doesn’t get from Israel.

Abdulhadi’s goal now is to create a new category, for Palestine to hold the “Biggest Number of Guinness Titles” title. No wonder he’s earned the nickname, “Mr. Guinness in Palestine” (or should that be “Mr. Palestine in Guinness”).

And Abdulhadi isn’t confining himself to “biggest”: “Last year I applied for Palestine as ‘The Longest Occupation.”’ Now that would be a major title.

He was rebuffed. “They said, ‘Tibet has been longer.’ I said, ‘Tibet didn’t apply.’ They said, ‘You’re just being provocative.’ I said, ‘All right, I’m applying for the title, ‘The Most Wonderful Occupation.”’

What if Israel were to object?

“Great, I’d tell them, ‘Beat me at my own game, end your most wonderful occupation, the sooner the better.’ I’ll be thrilled to surrender all our Guinness titles — just so long as they get ‘The End of the Most Wonderful Occupation’ title.”

Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler are Jerusalem-based reporters and documentary filmmakers.

This by Alphonse Mucha, the Czech Nationalist artist, is a Google Contribution to the story – somehow it appeared out of nowhere on our screen.…


Posted on on July 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

China seeks to reduce Internet users’ anonymity.



The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
BEIJING — A leading Chinese Internet regulator has vowed to reduce anonymity in China’s portion of cyberspace, calling for new rules to require people to use their real names when buying a mobile phone or going online, according to a human rights group.


In an address to the national legislature in April, Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, called for perfecting the extensive system of censorship the government uses to manage the fast-evolving Internet, according to a text of the speech obtained by New York-based Human Rights in China.


China’s regime has a complicated relationship with the freewheeling Internet, reflected in its recent standoff with Google over censorship of search results. China this week confirmed it had renewed Google’s license to operate, after it agreed to stop automatically rerouting users to its Hong Kong site, which is not subject to China’s online censorship.

The Internet is China’s most open and lively forum for discussion, despite already pervasive censorship, but stricter controls could constrain users. The country’s online population has surged past 400 million, making it the world’s largest.

Chen’s comments were reported only briefly when they were made in April. Human Rights in China said the government quickly removed a full transcript posted on the legislature’s website. But the group said it found an unexpurgated text and the discrepancies show that Beijing is wary that its push for tighter information control might prove unpopular. 

Wang said holes that needed to be plugged included ways people could post comments or access information anonymously, according to the transcript published this week in the group’s magazine China Rights Forum.

“We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes,” the journal quoted Wang as saying.

As part of that Internet “real name system,” forum moderators would have to use their real names as would users of online bulletin boards, and anonymous comments on news stories would be removed, Wang is quoted as saying.

The State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request asking whether certain sections of Wang’s address to the legislature were altered in the official transcript.

Wang’s comments are in line with recent government statements that indicate a growing uneasiness toward the multitude of opinions found online. A Beijing-backed think tank this month accused the U.S. and other Western governments of using social-networking sites such as Facebook to spur political unrest and called for stepped-up scrutiny.

China has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called “Great Firewall” with proxy servers or other alternatives. Websites about human rights and dissidents are also routinely banned.


Posted on on June 10th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Study concludes – Melting Mountains Put Millions At Risk in Asia.

Date: 11-Jun-10
by David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia, Reuters.

Increased melting of glaciers and snow in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau threatens the food security of millions of people in Asia, a study shows, with Pakistan likely to be among the nations hardest hit.

A team of scientists in Holland studied the impacts of climate change on five major Asian rivers on which about 1.4 billion people, roughly a fifth of humanity, depend for water to drink and to irrigate crops.

The rivers are the Indus, which flows through Tibet and Pakistan, the Brahmaputra, which carves its way through Tibet, northeast India and Bangladesh, India’s Ganges and the Yangtze and Yellow rivers in China.

Studies in the past have assumed that a warmer world will accelerate the melting of glaciers and snow in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, which act like water towers, the study published in the latest issue of the journal Science says.

But a lack of data and local measurement sites has hampered efforts to more precisely figure out the magnitude of climate change impacts on particular countries, the numbers of people affected in coming decades and the likely effects on crops.

The issue is crucial for governments to assess the future threats from disputes over water, mass migration and therefore political risk for investors.

Lead author Walter Immerzeel and his team conducted a detailed analysis looking at the importance of meltwater for each river, observed changes to Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers and the effects of global warming on the water supply from upstream basins and on food security.

Immerzeel, a hydrologist at Dutch consultancy FutureWater and Utrecht University, said he believed his team was the first to use a combination of computer modeling, satellite imagery and local observations for all major Asian basins.

They found that meltwater was extremely important for the Indus basin and important for the Brahmaputra basin, but played only a modest role for the Ganges, Yangtze and Yellow rivers.



The Brahmaputra and Indus basins are also most susceptible to reductions of flow because of climate change, threatening the food security of an estimated 60 million people, or roughly the population of Italy.

“The effects in the Indus and Brahmaputra basins are likely to be severe owing to the large population and the high dependence on irrigated agriculture and meltwater,” the authors say in the study.

For the Yellow River in northern China, the reverse appeared true with climate change likely to lead to more rainfall upstream, which, when retained in reservoirs, could benefit irrigation downstream.

The findings are a warning signal for Pakistan in particular whose growing population of 160 million people is heavily dependent on the Indus to grow wheat, rice and cotton from which the nation earns hard currency.

Immerzeel said adaptation was crucial.

“The focus should be on agriculture as this is by far the largest consumer of water,” he told Reuters in an email interview.

“You could think of measures such as different crop varieties which are less water consuming, different water management, or by providing economic incentives to farmers to use less water.”


Posted on on March 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dalai Lama voices support for Uighurs

By Jamil Anderlini and Kathrin Hille in Beijing
Published: March 10 2010,…/dalailama-voices-support-for-uighurs.html

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, expressed solidarity and support for Muslim Uighurs on Wednesday, raising the spectre for Beijing of closer co-ordination between opponents of Chinese rule and minority groups in territories that have seen ethnic rioting in the past two years.

His comments came in a blistering attack on the ruling Communist party’s policies in his homeland that was timed to mark the anniversary of a Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule in 2008 and the 51st anniversary of the uprising that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight to India.“Let us also remember the people of East Turkestan [China’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region] who have experienced great difficulties and increased oppression, and the Chinese intellectuals campaigning for greater freedom who have received severe sentences. I would like to express my solidarity and stand firmly with them,” the Dalai Lama said in his statement.

There has been little co-ordination or communication between Tibetan and Uighur groups. The 2008 uprising in Tibet was separate from the bloody ethnic riots that broke out in Xinjiang last year.

Beijing’s response to the unrest has been heavy-handed, with a massive influx of troops into both regions and “patriotic re-education” campaigns.

The World Uighur Congress, an exile organisation, welcomed the Dalai Lama’s remarks and appealed to Beijing to respect the political will of the Tibetan and Uighur people.

“We both face the threat of suppression of our religion, cultural extinction and large-scale Chinese migration into our homelands,” it said.

A Chinese foreign ministry official referred questions to the United Front Department saying that any issues related to Tibet and the Dalai Lama were a domestic affair and not the foreign ministry’s responsibility. The United Front Department could not be reached for comment.

Posted by World Watch.


Had China accepted the reality that it needs to allow more self-government to its ethnic and politically different component  regions – there would be no problem with the reintegration of Taiwan as part of a confederation of friendly states and cities.     We say this all the time on this website and we think it would be in China’s interest.


Posted on on March 10th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Fiancé of Neda, Iran’s Slain ‘Angel of Freedom,’ Heading to Geneva Rights Summit.


02 March 2010

Fiancé of Neda, Iran’s Slain ‘Angel of Freedom,’ Heading to Geneva Rights Summit – Caspian Makan to protest Iranian government brutality.

A video of Neda's death found its way out of Iran, where it was uploaded to the websites of various media organizations, Facebook and YouTube. The dramatic 40-second tape stirred outrage and attracted tens of thousands of viewers.

GENEVA, March 2, 2010 One day after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the UN in Geneva that President Ahmadinejad’s June election was “an exemplary exhibition of democracy and freedom,” Caspian Makan, the fiancé of slain Iranian icon Neda Agha Soltan, announced today that he will join other world-famous dissidents as a speaker at next Monday’s Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, co-organized by UN Watch, Freedom House, Ibuka and more than 20 other human rights NGOs.

Images of Neda’s bloody killing in June at the hand of the Basij paramilitary force turned an international spotlight on the brutality of the Iranian government crackdown against peaceful protesters.

The Tehran regime banned prayers for Neda in the country’s mosques, arresting anyone who held a vigil for her. Mr. Makan was then arrested and detained at Evin Prison in Tehran. He was beaten and pressured to sign a false confession.

Since his release, Mr. Makan has been an outspoken dissident for freedom in Iran, spreading Neda’s story and message around the world.

The Geneva conference is organized by a global civil society coalition of 25 human rights groups, including Burmese, Tibetan and Zimbabwean organizations (see list below), with support from the Canton of Geneva.

The two-day schedule features more than 20 action-oriented presentations and skills-building workshops, with the objective of advancing internet freedom, the struggle of dissidents against state repression, and reform of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council.

Speakers will include former political prisoners from around the world, including Rebiya Kadeer, champion of China’s Uighur minority and Nobel Peace Prize nominee; Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, Cuban dissident; Bo Kyi, Burmese dissident, winner of the 2008 Human Rights Watch Award; Donghyuk Shin, survivor of North Korean prison camps; and Phuntsok Nyidron, the Buddhist nun from Tibet who served 15 years in jail for recording songs of freedom.

The Geneva Summit will also feature eminent governmental and intergovernmental advocates for human rights, including Massouda Jalal, the former Afghan Minister of Women Affairs and first female presidential candidate; MP Irwin Cotler, Canadian human rights hero and former counsel to Nelson Mandela; Italian MP Matteo Mecacci, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur for democracy and human rights; and Jan Pronk, former Special Representative in Sudan of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Last year’s summit, covered by CNN, AP, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal, brought together former political prisoners Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt, Ahmad Batebi of Iran, José Gabriel Ramón Castillo of Cuba and Soe Aung of Burma, along with many other well-known rights activists and scholars. (See videos at

Admission to the March 8-9, 2010 conference is free, and the public and media are invited to attend. For accreditation, program and schedule information, please visit

Visit the site during the conference to follow the live webcast, blog and Twitter feed.

Global Civil Society Coalition

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma

Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL)

Darfur Peace and Development Center

Directorio Democratico Cubano

Fondation Genereuse Development

Freedom House

Freedom Now

Genocide Watch

Global Zimbabwe Forum

Human Rights Activists in Iran

Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l


Ingénieurs du monde

Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children

International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY)

International Campaign to End Genocide

International Association of Genocide Scholars

Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme


Respekt Institut

Stop Child Executions

Tibetan Women’s Association

UN Watch

Zimbabwe Advocacy Office


“Giving Iran Seat on U.N. Rights Council Would Legitimize Its Brutality,” Says Boyfriend of Killed Protest Icon

Patrick Goodenough
March 10, 2010

An Iranian whose fiancée’s death by gunfire became a symbol of opposition to the regime during post-election protests last year made an impassioned appeal Tuesday for Tehran to be denied a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council in elections this spring.

Caspian Makan addresses the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, co-organized by UN Watch and 24 other human rights NGOs, Tuesday, March 9, 2010.

Addressing a gathering of dissidents and human rights advocates in Geneva, Caspian Makan, a photojournalist who fled Iran late last year after being detained for more than 60 days, said Iranian membership in the U.N.’s top human rights body would be a “slap in the face” of other members.

It would encourage other countries that have a tendency to flout human rights and undermine the credibility of the U.N. and the council, he said, according to a translation provided by event organizers.

“I feel furthermore that if the Iranian regime became a member, that would legitimize the inhuman and cruel acts the regime has perpetuated against its population,” Makan added. “Giving it legitimacy would encourage them to go further still.”

The U.N. has confirmed that Iran has submitted in writing its candidacy to become a member of the HRC.

On May 13, the General Assembly will vote by secret ballot to fill 14 of the Geneva-based council’s 47 seats. Iran and four other countries – Thailand, Qatar, Malaysia and the Maldives – will compete to fill four available seats set aside for the Asian regional group.

Makan was speaking Tuesday at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, a two-day event that brought together some 500 people from more than 60 countries, to discuss issues organizers say are mostly neglected by the HRC.

He told the gathering about Neda Agha Soltan, the 26-year old “deep thinker” and “artist at heart” with whom he had fallen in love after meeting her on a trip.

Makan, 38, said they had tended in the past not to vote in elections because they were seen as a charade, and taking part would be seen as “participating in the regime to some extent.”

But the 2009 election had seemed to offer in the shape of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi a “lesser evil” for young Iranians who “above all else wanted to get rid of Mr. [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.”

Once it became clear that the election was rigged in favor of the incumbent, he said, Soltan had joined the protests.

Makan said that while trying to do his job he was an eyewitness to the violent clampdown by “the mercenaries of the regime” and “saw firsthand that the army of the revolution was shooting and killing the demonstrators from a helicopter.”

Four days before she died, he had urged Soltan to keep away from the demonstrations. “She said, ‘You know Caspian, I love you, I love being with you, but what is most important to me is the freedom of our people.”

On June 20, Soltan was shot in the chest on a Tehran street, apparently by a Basij militia sniper. Amateur video footage capturing the moments after the shooting was posted online and seen around the world.

“We have seen many people who have been wounded and killed, but this struck the world particularly hard,” Makan said of his fiancee’s death.

“We were able to see in the footage how good and kind she was and admire her attitude when faced with death, to admire her courage as a symbol of liberty, as she died hoping for a better life for the millions of Iranians who remained behind.”

Human rights researchers say at least 40 Iranians died during June and that the number more than doubled in the months that followed. The official figure stands at 44.

Last month, Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, director-general of Iran’s Interior Ministry – whose functions including policing and overseeing elections – told the HRC that the June 2009 presidential election had been “an exemplary exhibition of democracy and freedom.”


Posted on on January 27th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S.-China Spat Escalates Over Internet Freedom.

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (IPS) – The stern warning given to China by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning internet censorship and responding to allegations that Chinese hackers had accessed Google email addresses has received a pointed response from the Chinese government, raising questions over what the next move will be for Google, the United States, and U.S. firms that do business in China.

On Thursday, Clinton laid out the national security threat posed by cyber attacks and warned that attacks would not go unnoticed and would bring a response. “States, terrorist and those who would act as their proxies must know that the United States will protect our networks,” said Clinton. “Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society or any other pose a threat to our economy, our government and our civil society,” she continued.

The Chinese response to Clinton’s remarks took sharply differing tones depending on which audience Beijing was addressing. On the foreign ministry website, the government responded on Friday with measured language, saying, “The U.S. attacks China’s internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-U.S. relations,” and, “We urge the U.S. to respect facts and stop attacking China under the excuse of the so-called freedom of internet.”

But in state-controlled news outlets, primarily published for a domestic readership, the war of words was much more harshly framed. “Accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China. We are firmly opposed to that,” a spokesman of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday.

The state-controlled newspaper, The Global Times, wrote, “China’s real stake in the ‘free flow of information’ is evident in its refusal to be victimised by information imperialism.” “With the Chinese-language media, there are two important themes to keep in mind. First, [the controversy over Google] is really not that big a deal. The Chinese Google saga is really more interesting to people in Washington than most average folks in Beijing or elsewhere,” Christina Larson, an expert on Chinese civil society and a Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, told IPS. “The second thing is that it’s portrayed [in the Chinese media] as really this sense that foreign companies don’t really have the right to come in and dictate their terms to China,” Larson continued.

The war of words between Beijing and Washington was set off on Jan. 12 when Google announced its intention to cease the censorship of its search engine results in China and disclosed that a number of Google email accounts used by human rights advocates, diplomats and journalists had been breached by Chinese hackers. The accusations were followed by other rumours and allegations that Chinese hackers had stolen proprietary Google source code, and that cyber attacks and corporate espionage originating from China were becoming increasingly big concerns for the U.S. government and U.S. companies doing business in China.

The mixture of accusations coming from Google, and Clinton’s calls for a Chinese investigation into the allegations, have left a somewhat confusing message about what Google seeks from Beijing in the upcoming discussions over its refusal to continue censoring search results.


We actually sympathize with the idea that Media should not be monopolized by Big Business, but when private people in China, and even international Google,  tell us that the Chinese do not get full free flow of internet information we know China is not talking truth. We are also worried about China inpact on dissemination of information by multinational organizations like the UN where they insist on having a superviser appointment to be given to one of their nationals.


Posted on on October 30th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


Climate Change Adaptation: It’s about Water! 
— Global Water Partnership’s contribution to the climate change dialogue

Water is central to the world’s development challenges. Whether it is food security, poverty reduction, economic growth, human health—water is the nexus. Climate change is the spoiler. No matter how successful mitigation efforts might be, people will experience the impacts of climate change through water.

The Global Water Partnership is participating in ‘Water Day’ at the climate change negotiations in Barcelona. GWP Executive Secretary Dr Ania Grobicki will be the lead speaker on water and transboundary issues on Tuesday, November 3. The venue is the Fira Congress Hotel, opposite the conference centre. The opening session starts at 9 am and lunch will be provided.

Recently, the GWP’s Technical Committee released its 14th Background Paper: “Water Management, Water Security and Climate Change Adaptation.” It argues that investments in water are investments in adaptation. The paper can be downloaded on or ordered free at

Climate Change: How can we Adapt? – a one-pager about GWP’s key messages on this subject – is available here:

GWP has been accepted as an Inter-Governmental Organisation with Observer Status at  COP 15 in Copenhagen in December and has submitted an article to the delegate publication. But more information on that will follow later. 

More resources about climate change and water and more information on GWP’s involvement in the global dialogue on climate change is available on this page:


——————————————————–Steven DowneyHead of CommunicationsGlobal Water Partnership (GWP)Drottninggatan 33SE-111 51 Stockholm, SWEDENPhone:   +46 8 522 126 52Fax:      + 46 8 522 126 31E-mail: steven.downey@gwpforum.orgWebsite:
A water secure world  the mission of the Global Water Partnership is to support the sustainable development and management of water resources at all levels.


Posted on on October 18th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

We had the following as a posting on our future events button. Now we update after the events.


Posted on October 12, 2009:

Dr. Perkins, a student of leadership, to speak October 15th at the Explorers Club annual Dinner.

Dr. Dennis Perkins is Keynote Speaker at the Explorers’ Club,
Lowell Thomas Annual Awards Dinner,
October 15th, 2009 Cipriani Wall Street, NY, NY

Dr. Perkins is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, served as a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam and subsequently received an MBA from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Perkins has spent his lifetime evaluating and analyzing leadership and teamwork of successful and doomed expeditions, first as a front line military leader and subsequently in the field and as faculty at our nation’s top universities. Dr. Perkins’ passion to experience and understand risk has taken him to disparate places including Antarctica, where he retraced the footsteps of famed explorer, Ernest Shackleton; and to Australia, where he sailed the Midnight Rambler, winning the challenging Sydney to Hobart Race, a 628 nautical mile race — often called “the Everest” of offshore racing – using a Volvo 60 racing boat.

Dr. Perkins has written extensively on leadership and organizational effectiveness all in the context of risk assessment and optimization.


I was intrigued by the interest in risk as described in the Explorers Club info material. Indeed, now I can report that both events did indeed stand in the shadow of the RISK idea – but please mind – this was not in the sense of getting involved in adventures for the sake of adventure, but rather the cold assessment of risk, and the intelligent process of learning how to get out from under dangerous conditions. You get to risks at the edge and might look at the brink – said one speaker.

The speakers were all old style explorers and by nature of this concept – risk takers. Those that were honored at the dinner were obviously members of the older generation, but at the Saturday “Mountain Stories” event we saw also younger people – so there is still a future for those that want to allow for risk taking. Now the problem is to find places to explore – but I learned that there is no shortage of such possibilities. Climbing new peaks in areas that were less accessible in the past is just one possibility, but going back to mountain peaks that have been explored many times in the past, but using new equipment, it is possible to open up new roots and even get a minor peak called by your name.

Going in the foots of Shackleton in the Antarctica, Dr. Perkins said that the good news was that we have been there before and we know how to do it.

Perkins speaks of “Balanced optimism grounded in reality – you damn well got to be optimistic to go on such a trip.” You must be wiling to take the big risk – not the unnecessary risk.”

What the explorer must do is to look calmly at the situation and step up to the risk worth taking. The challenge is to find innovative solutions to problems under least favorable conditions.

Dr. Perkins, when he speaks, he peppers his mental pictures with ideas from the world of business and policy – such as: “The IMF says global recovery has begun – but does not say when things will get better – so may be we cannot predict the future.”

We know we will have bad days, but we must be ready to take the worthwhile risk, and ended by saying “Thank you very much – go for the edge.”

Yvon Choinard, a Patagonian man, climed mountains on every continent. Long time ago, he looked for the true source of the Nile at Mt. Stanley in Uganda. He said that he never goes on an adventure trip – it just happens when you take small risks on the way.

Richard Wilson, told about racing a boat for 120 days and 28,000 miles, from Port la Foret, Brittany. 

Eventually someone defined the topic of risk as – “Risk is to take new exploration and the unknown, and this without knowing about success.”


The Saturday event was set up to honor further six outstanding explorers and mountain climbers. I was there for three of the six.

The last presenter was Jennifer Loew-Anker – born in Montana to the outdoors from birth – she sounded like a proof that genetics, or call it upbringing – have something to do with it. When you ride a horse at two years of age, and horse-riding is in effect more dangerous then mountain climbing … you get my point.

Jennifer is an artist with wildlife her major topic. She presented to us her book “Forget Me Not” about her first husband – her childhood friend from Montana – Alex Lowe, who died in 1999, in an avalanche on the Himalayan mountain Shishapangma. Alex was considered one of the greatest modern climbers. Jennifer showed us a movie about their lives – she herself also a great climber. After 18 years of marriage, she was left with three children. Eventually, two years later she remarried another climber who worked with Alex.

Jennifer told us about climbing done in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, and of philanthropic work she does now with the Alex foundation. They built a climbing wall in Mongolia and established a school for sherpas when they realized that the sherpas actually never learned to take care for themselves, and the number of casualties among the sherpas is so much higher then among the foreign climbers.

The other two – actually three speakers – were the pair Freddie Wilkenson & Janet Bergman, and Kevin Mahoney. All of them from the Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, Mountain Climber community.  All of them connected to the Dartmouth Club and to “Mountain Hardware,” and from their base they work as guides and climbers all over the world.

Kevin Mahoney sees his job as a “mitigator of risk – so people discover their own worth.” He defined himself as a winter person – he climbs ice. He said that skying has many more accidents then ice climbing.

Freddie Wilkinson and Janet Bergman are young people from Kevin Mahoney’s group. They gave us a run down on today’s ice climbing – mentioning that 95% of climbing is done in a handful of peaks in the Himalayas. They described themselves as a great team as Freddie looks for opportunities and Janet for barriers – this when trying to identify new targets for climbing or new ways of climbing in areas that have been covered earlier.


Now I come to the real reason why I looked at these two fascinating programs at the Explorers Club – this because of an obsession I developed at the UN when I realized that the New York based Explorers Club is an NGO affiliated to the UN, but not part of the environmental NGOs active at the UN. I realized at the time that the Club was dominated by people that would rather shoot an elephant and turn it over to a taxidermist so it be a trophy for them. Could they find the last dinosaur, they would have stuffed him also. That might have been right for the days of President Theodore Roosevelt, but I thought that today you ought  not love the outdoors in order to kill them. Also climate change is a rather important issue and I saw tremendous potential here to get the Explorers involved. Eventually I approached a young new President of the Club, we met but nothing happened.

Now, at the Saturday event I spoke with some of those that were honored at the event. These were young people and clearly not of the riffle kind, but still did not find a feel for activism present on our kind of issues. Nevertheless, I found hope for change.

When I asked Kevin Mahoney if he found signs of climate change in Nepal, he started to tell me about the farmer who complained that he has to go higher uphill with the sheep he owns, because there is no grass for them as there is a lack of water. So he goes up higher to areas that used to be covered snow! This clearly gave me the opening to talk a little about the melting glaciers, and I found real interest among the young climbers. So there may be hope that someday the Explorers might indeed become Environmentalists as well – provided by that time there will still be left some  environment to explore. Just think of the snow caps of Kenya and Tanzania and my statement above might not sound absurd at all. 

Is this a different meaning for RISK?


Posted on on September 17th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Around New YorkTown,
Performance: at Peter Norton Symphony Space
World Music Institute presents:

China Underground – Sounds from the Mongolian Grasslands – Hanggai
Friday, September 18, at 8:00 pm
Hanggai, composed of young musicians from Beijing and the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, is at the forefront of a modern Mongolian folk revival in the heart of Beijing. The musicians are pioneers of “Chinagrass” – contemporary Chinese folk music (often performed by or influenced by Chinese minorities) that reclaims roots music from the grasslands. Mixing khoomei (throat singing – a fascinating vocal technique in which a single musician produces two notes simultaneously), morin khuur (horsehair fiddle) and tobshuur (2-stringed lute) with guitar, bass and percussion, the group draws on a repertoire that all but disappeared during China’s recent turbulent past.

Peter Norton Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th Street, NYC
Box office (212) 864-5400
Info/tickets (212) 545-7536 or


Posted on on August 3rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

China and India probe Himalayan glaciers.
By James Lamont in New Delhi
The Financial Times,  August 3 2009.

India and China are to collaborate in monitoring melting glaciers in the Himalayas, a border region crucial to both countries’ water supplies and one over which they have gone to war.

Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, said academic research bodies on both sides would share information. He also told the FT that New Delhi was also open to a dialogue about water resources with Beijing, saying the two countries had shared concerns.

He warned India would not allow Chinese scientists “to climb all over India’s glaciers” but wanted a collaborative research programme.

The Himalayan region and the Tibet plateau are strategically sensitive for the neighbours. In 1962, China and India went to war over disputed territory in the region – a military humiliation for India that still rankles.

Seven of the world’s largest rivers, including the Ganges and the Yangtze, are fed by the glaciers of the Himalayas. They supply water to about 40 per cent of the world’s population.

Water supply is likely to become an increasing security priority for both India and China as they seek to maintain high economic growth rates and sustain large populations dependent on farming.

The Indian government has requested that the Indian Space Research Organisation and the department of science and technology undertake extensive glacial surveys across the Himalayas to assess their condition.

“Historically, India has contributed little to the creation of the climate change problem. Conversely, India has a lot to lose from the effects of climate change,” said Vinuta Gopal, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, the environmental lobby group.

Mr Ramesh is visiting China this month to strike a pact with Beijing ahead of the Copenhagen talks on climate change in December.


Posted on on August 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Xinjiang Crisis Creates Ripples Overseas.
Antoaneta Bezlova

BEIJING, Jul 29 (IPS) – In recent days, China’s mainland intellectuals have publicly displayed a wave of patriotic support for the Xinjiang cause. They have expressed anger against “hostile foreign forces”, whom they blame for inciting the recent violence in the ethnic Muslim area.

But much of this is suspected of being stage managed by the country’s communist leaders. And behind this fervent display, there is a welling up of anger in a section of the Chinese literati who are critical of Beijing’s policies towards its ethnic minorities. The Xinjiang crisis, which erupted in early July, claiming 197 lives, has now spilled far beyond the borders of China’s resource-rich western autonomous region.

Last week, this issue created ripples in Melbourne, which is hosting Australia’s largest film festival. Several Chinese film makers decided to boycott the festival in a gesture of protest against the inclusion of a documentary in the festival about Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uyghur leader accused by Beijing of instigating the unrest from abroad. Among the directors who withdrew their works from the festival is Jia Zhangke, one of China’s award-winning independent filmmakers.

His refusal to participate in the Melbourne festival spurred Beijing to highlight that artists operating outside of the mainstream film umbrella are “patriots” who are unwilling to compromise on issues of national sovereignty. The Beijing Youth Daily reported that Zhangke felt repulsed by the idea of appearing on the same stage as Rebiya Kadeer.

“We feel that appearing with Rebiya in a thoroughly politicised festival, crosses the line of what our emotions and behavior can accept, and [it] is not appropriate. Therefore, Xstream (Jia’s production company) unanimously decided to withdraw, in order to express our attitude and position,” said the press statement released by Zhangke.

The film festival’s organisers said they were unable to verify whether his decision to withdraw was under duress. Zhangke has not been available for any independent comments since then.

But the walkout from the festival has been very publicly supported by a slew of famous film directors and film industry heavyweights. Director Feng Xiaogang, known as the master of sweet-sour modern Chinese dramas, told the state agency Xinhua last week that film festivals should be a platform for cultural and artistic exchanges.

“However, the Melbourne film festival organisers have turned it into a political drama by inviting Rebiya Kadeer, a political liar,” he said.

The works that were withdrawn from the festival were not state-endorsed film products by any standards. Zhangke’s “Cry me a river” is an elegy of lost idealism swept by the tides of China’s fast modernisation. “Petition”, another withdrawn film, by director Zhao Liang, is a documentary about the evolution of the ancient Chinese tradition of petitioning central authorities over the abuses by local officials.

Beijing’s chances of pushing its version of what happened in Xinjiang as legitimate have got a boost with artistic rebels like Zhangke appearing to be on its side.

Riots were reportedly ignited in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, on July 5, as college students other citizens protested against the death of two Uyghur migrant workers in a factory located in Shaoguan, Guangdong province.

But Beijing claims that the riots were instigated by Uyghur terrorist units from southern and western Xinjiang who had infiltrated Urumqi shortly before July 5.

Chinese leaders have blamed Rebiya Kadeer, a 62-year-old former business tycoon, now exiled in the United States, for inciting the violence. Beijing claims that the “East Turkestan forces” — a Uyghur independence movement accused by China of having terrorist links — have long portrayed Kadeer as an international spokesperson for Uyghur people, similar to the role Dalai Lama plays for Tibetans.

Beijing’s claims have received a mixed response overseas. Japan has irked China by issuing a visa to Kadeer despite Beijing’s repeated concerns that she might engage in “anti-China separatist activities”. India, however, showed more consideration for Beijing’s concerns and denied Kadeer a visa even before the July riots.

Domestically, Beijing has attempted to muzzle dissenting voices on the causes of the protests. But Chinese intellectuals have been prodding the roots of ethnic unrest since the Tibetan riots last year which exposed the facade of harmonious society painstakingly maintained by the leadership.

The debate on China’s dealings with its 56 ethnic minorities is gathering pace despite official frowns. Two polarised views have emerged. The first is about defending the right to development of the majority Han Chinese, who make up 91 percent of the country’s population. The other traces the roots of ethnic resentment among Tibetans and Uyghurs. Beijing’s imposed economic modernisation of their homeland, observers say, has led to the social marginalization of these ethnic groups.

Ma Rong, a professor of sociology at Beijing University, represents the former view. He argues that while Beijing did not grant its minorities the right to self-determination, as the former Soviet Union did, it did offer several social privileges that are currently being exploited by hostile elements.

Those rights include exemption from China’s “one-child” policy, educational privileges and a slew of financial and infrastructure programs aimed at boosting their economic development. Ma warns against treading the path of the former Soviet Union. The right of autonomy for its ethnic minorities led to the politicisation of ethnic identities and ultimately to the break up of the Soviet Empire.

“Modern China’s policies on ethnic minorities were hugely influenced by the Soviet Union’s theories on nation-building, and therefore there exists a clear danger of nationalist separation in China too,” Ma wrote in a research paper, excerpts of which were published in the Southern Weekend newspaper.

The opposing lobby argues that the lack of adequate rights to development has led to the flaring up of ethnic unrest. Investigating the causes for the wide-spread Tibetan riots in March last year, members of the liberal group Gongmeng, or Open Constitution Initiative, came up with a report detailing a list of grievances among ethnic groups.

Their paper, posted briefly in June on Chinese websites before being censored by the authorities, argues that Beijing has not given ethnic minorities a fair share of the profits from the exploitation of their homeland’s resources. It also states that ethnic Han Chinese migrants enjoy a monopoly on jobs in all service industries promoted by the central government as ways of ending poverty.

When the Urumqi riots broke out in July, investigative reports revealed the same picture. The two migrant workers who died in a toy factory brawl in southern China were part of a government-funded labour export scheme aimed at relieving poverty in a Xinjiang area, where jobs for locals were few and far between.


see more details:…

China-Turkey and Xinjiang: a frayed relationship.

The violent unrest in China’s western region has cast a chill over the prevously warming links between Ankara and Beijing. The deeper roots of their dispute lie both in history and modern geopolitics.

write Igor Torbakov and Matti Nojonen, 31 – 07 – 2009, from Finland, as reported on

Igor Torbakov is a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)
Matti Nojonen is director of the Transformation of the World Order programme at  FIIA.

The violent ethnic clashes in China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang on 5-6 July 2009 have had effects far beyond the region. The pressure from the Chinese government to halt the showing at the Melbourne film festival of a documentary film on the exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer – followed by the withdrawal of Chinese films from the programme and electronic harassment that disabled the festival’s website – is but one example.

The countries which host significant numbers of the Uyghur diaspora, or which have close ethnic or cultural ties with the Uyghurs, are among those that have expressed concern about the bloody events in Xinjiang and Beijing’s ruthless crackdown’s. Where such countries also have valuable economic and trading links with China, the potential for the violent episode to create political complications is evident.

This indeed is the situation with regard to Turkey, whose government has as result been torn between its desire to protect its economic ties with China and pressure from public opinion that it does something to stop the Chinese persecution of their Muslim and Turkic kin in “East Turkestan”.

In this position Ankara, under the leadership of the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice & Development Party / AKP) of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,  is attempting to perform a delicate balancing-act. But the difficulties of the moment – reinforced by the AKP’s desire to be seen as no less nationalistic and pro-Uyghur than the opposition – raises concern that Turkey and China could be on a collision-course.

* * *

A positive dynamic

The two countries have forged a good economic and political relationship in recent years. This was symbolised only one week before Urumqi erupted, when the Turkish president (and former foreign minister) Abdullah Gul made an official state visit to China, which included a stopover in Xinjiang – the highest-level ever Turkish visit to the region.

[Also on the Xinjiang crisis in openDemocracy please go via the link:

James A Millward, “China’s story: putting the PR into the PRC” (18 April 2008)

Henryk Szadziewski, “Kashgar”s old city: the politics of demolition” (3 April 2009)

Yitzhak Shichor, “The Uyghurs and China: lost and found nation” (6 July 2009)

Henryk Szadziewski, “The discovery of the Uyghurs” (10 July 2009)

Kerry Brown, “Xinjiang: China’s security high-alert” (14 July 2009)

Dibyesh Anand, “China’s borderlands: the need to rethink” (15 July 2009)

Temtsel Hao, “Xinjiang, Tibet, beyond: China’s ethnic relations” (27 July 2009)

Ross Perlin, “The Silk Road unravels” (28 July 2009)]
The state visit had taken place on the invitation of the Chinese president, Hu Jintao. It reflects the Chinese leadership’s appreciation of Turkey’s positive efforts to promote constructive dialogue with Beijing – which has included Turkey’s repeated emphasis that Xinjiang is an integral part of China (including references to “Chinese Xinjiang”).

Indeed, Beijing’s trust in Ankara’s “one-China” stance is measured in its granting President Gul the rare opportunity to deliver a speech at Xinjiang University. In his 28 June address the president said that Xinjiang constitutes one of the most important bonds between the two countries, and that the Uyghur people in Xinjiang form a bridge of friendship between China and Turkey.

Many of Turkey’s economic ties with China have been through Xinjiang, one of China’s least developed areas. It seemed a good strategy for both sides: mainly low-end Turkish products cannot compete with domestic Chinese brands in the developed coastal regions of China, but could provide an entry-point for Xinjiang to international markets and help diversify China’s sources of foreign direct investment (FDI).

More widely, the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet reports that the visit to Beijing secured trade deals involving eight Turkish companies and worth $3 billion. There have also been expectations of more strategic ties, including a plan by the Chinese company Chery Auto to build a car-factory in Turkey (though this will depend on government support).

This gradual development of political trust and economic exchange makes the Xinjiang crisis – and the Turkish reaction to it – all the more unsettling for both countries.

* * *

Turkey’s dismay

The boisterous and competitive Turkish media intensively reported the Urumqi events from the start. The majority of victims of the initial rioting (197, according to the official death-toll) may have been Han Chinese, but many media outlets announced hundreds of casualties among the Uyghurs. This contributed to a steep rise in nationalist sentiment in Turkey in which the Uyghurs seemed confirmed as a close cousin of the Turkic family.

“China should know that when East Turkestan is hurt, Turkey is hurt”, one commentary in the Bügün daily warned. “East Turkestan is bleeding”, echoed Sabah; “Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the sufferings of its ancestral lands.”

Some Turkish commentators even invoked the idea of independent Xinjiang – an argument destined to enrage official Beijing. “Although the riots failed to be successful today, they will open the way of hopes for tomorrow”, wrote Sabah’s columnist Nazli Ilicak; she added that one day East Turkestan might free itself from China’s oppressive rule and become an independent country like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

The weight of press coverage, reflecting widespread public sentiment, had near-instant political effects. The opposition was quick to criticise the government’s initially muted response to the “Urumqi massacres”, leading the AKP leaders to toughen their own rhetoric. Regep Tayyip Erdogan, at the G8 summit in Italy – from where Hu Jintao had abruptly returned to China on  news of the unrest, described what had happened as amounting to “almost genocide” against the Uyghurs and urged China to stop the “assimilation” of its Uyghur minority.

Turkey’s prime minister was emphatic: “No state, no society that attacks the lives and rights of innocent civilians can guarantee its security and prosperity. Whether they are Turkic Uyghurs or Chinese, we cannot tolerate such atrocities. The suffering of the Uyghurs is ours.” Erdogan said that Turkey, as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, was determined to bring the issue of the Chinese crackdown onto the council’s agenda.

Bülent Arinc, a co-founder of the AKP and currently deputy prime minister, echoed his leader, saying “we have profound historical ties to our brothers in the Uighur region” including a 300,000-strong Uighur community in Turkey. The industry minister Nihat Ergün went even further when on 9 July he called on businessmen and consumers to boycott Chinese products (though this was followed by a qualified retraction).

These acerbic remarks have begun to impinge on the potentially disruptive issue of Turkey’s stance towards Rebiya Kadeer, the millionaire businesswoman-turned-political dissident living in the United States whom Beijing accuses of masterminding the Urumqi riots. Ankara has in fact twice refused to issue a Turkish visa to Kadeer, in an apparent wish to avoid upsetting the Chinese leadership. This attitude seems to be changing, with Erdogan (on 9 July) saying that a new visa application would be accepted.  Kadeer responded by telling the Cihan news agency that she planned to visit Turkey soon, and that believed “Turkey wouldn’t sell out the Uyghurs, who have Turkish blood in their veins.”

* * *

China’s retaliation

For its part, Beijing took a week before responding to the first official Turkish outcry. In an official statement China demanded that Turkey withdraw its leader’s remarks on genocide and assimilation, which the state-owned China Daily denounced as “groundless and irresponsible.” The Chinese foreign minister also made a personal phone-call to his Turkish counterpart strongly advising Ankara to retract its harsh words.

At the same time, the Chinese media reported the Turkish public commentaries in a quite restrained manner, certainly when compared to the frenzied denunciation of France’s government and media over perceived support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan protestors’ cause in 2008. Even the notoriously partisan Chinese blogosphere seemed not overly agitated, with writers confining themselves to warning Turkey about interference in China’s internal affairs or questioning the nature of the relationship between Uyghurs and Turkey; though some netizens are reported in official media as having called for Turkey to be “punished” over its attitude.

Beijing’s stance would of course significantly harden if Turkey’s leaders indeed host Rebiya Kadeer. The director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Bulent Aliriza, says: “All hell is going to break loose if she shows up in Turkey, especially after the comment that Erdogan made.”

China’s sensitivity over Rebiya Kadeer is clear in the formulaic comment of Qin Gang, China’s foreign-ministry spokesman: “We resolutely oppose any foreign country providing a platform for her anti-Chinese, splittist activities.”

The pressure on Turkey could escalate. China squeezed the French nuclear and aircraft industries in the wake of the Tibet controversy in 2008, and citizens’ boycotts of French goods targeted Carrefour department-stores. France refused to make the unilateral apology China demanded, but the two sides did agree a joint communiqué on 1 April  2009 in which both sides “(reiterated) their commitment to the principle of non-interference” and France affirmed its (objection) to all support for Tibet’s independence in any form whatsoever.” The question now arises: does Turkey have the economic and political leverage to demand a politically face-saving joint communiqué, or will it too have to yield to making a unilateral apology?

Turkey might already be looking for ways to compromise. A group of Turkish parliamentarians plans to visit Xinjiang, and intend (according to the Turkish media and the head of parliament’s human-rights committee) to be “careful” – neither interfering in China’s internal affairs nor harming Sino-Turkish economic relations. A Turkish media delegation that has already been allowed to visit Urumqi (representing mainly the state-run media outlets) was instructed to make conciliatory noises. There were no problems between Turkey and China, one member of the delegation was quoted as saying.

* * *

Ankara’s isolation

There are three strong reasons for Turkey to avoid embracing too zealous a nationalistic or even outright pan-Turkist stance over the Xinjiang events. First, it risks isolation. The international community – including the United States – is in no mood to annoy the Chinese leadership at a time when it needs China’s cooperation over managing the global financial crisis and addressing climate change. Most powerful states are preoccupied more with China’s stability than seeing it progress toward democracy and inter-ethnic harmony.

China in any case has already dismissed Erdogan’s proposal to discuss the crisis at the UN Security Council, saying the incident was of no concern to the outside parties, a position backed at the Yekaterinburg summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on 12 July (in which China plays a leading role together with Russia).

Second, Turkey itself is open to severe criticism over how it deals with ethnic and national minorities on its territory. A Turkish analyst argues: “If Turkey were to go beyond calls to respect human rights in the (Xinjiang) region and appear to be supporting Uyghur separatism, it is clear that this will rebound – with China referring to the Kurdish issue and minority rights in this country.”

Third, any Turkish sponsorship of the Uyghurs may actually hurt the Turkic population in Xinjiang; for this could make them “more of a target in China” and even “lend credence to Chinese paranoia over foreign plots.”

It is indeed striking that Ankara appears to have found itself diplomatically isolated, globally and even regionally, in its pro-Uyghur position. The prominent foreign-policy analyst Cengiz Candar noted that “we don’t see any Turkic republics or a single Muslim country or a single western ally standing beside Turkey.” This state of isolation, Candar warns, makes Ankara vulnerable to possible “fierce” retaliation by China.

* * *

A volatile region

It might appear that in the brutal calculus of modern geopolitics, Ankara has made tactical mistakes over the Xinjiang violence. But in a broader historical context, the tensions provoked by the incidents in Urumqi are near-inevitable: rooted in the political, cultural, and national fault-lines of the larger region.

The territories of greater central Asia were divided between the Chinese (Qing) and the Russian (Romanov) empire in the 19th century. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of five independent “Stans” in what used to be Russian-ruled Turkestan released powerful social forces – including the nationalisms of the local Turkic peoples and the rise of Islam. It is only natural that these same factors are at play across the Chinese border in Xinjiang – historic East Turkestan. It should also come as no surprise that, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s unravelling, Ankara’s interest in the “Turkic world” – an interest that lay dormant since the time of the Young Turks and Enver Pasha’s (and the historian Ziya Gökalp’s) fantasies of Turkish central-Asian empire – has undergone a certain revival.

These lands are a mosaic of utmost social, cultural and ethnic complexity. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have sizable Uyghur populations – there are 50,000 in Kyrgyzstan and 300,000 in Kazakhstan (including the country’s prime minister, Karim Masimov). The pattern works the other way, with an estimated 1 million ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang. The “Stans” today live in the shadow of China’s rising power, mindful of their own vulnerability, and keen to partake in Beijing’s financial largesse; these considerations to a great extent undercut any particular interest in promoting the Uyghur independence cause.

Amid these regional complexities, Turkey is trying to position itself as a rising regional (even global) power – making a degree of tension with China natural, even if there are many contingencies in the current situation. Ankara’s policy elite sees its ethnic, cultural and religious ties to the Turkic world as valuable strategic capital; and its ability successfully to mediate in the security and political crises that punctuate the region as a sure way to enhance Ankara’s international stature.

So long as the lands of historic Turkestan remain volatile and their geopolitical status uncertain, the outside powers’ competition for influence in the region – often quiet, occasionally sharp and vocal – will continue. It seems that Turkey intends to press its claim to be one of these main players – alongside China, Russia and the United States. This means that, however the current Xinjiang crisis ends, Ankara and Beijing might well again collide over “greater Turkestan”.


Posted on on July 10th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


The riots in Xinjiang

Is China fraying?

From The Economist print edition

Racial killings and heavy-handed policing stir up a repressed and dangerous province


IT BEGAN as a protest about a brawl at the other end of the country; it became China’s bloodiest incident of civil unrest since the massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square protests 20 years ago. The ethnic Uighurs in the far western city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, accused Han Chinese factory workers in the southern province of Guangdong of racial violence against Uighur co-workers. By the time Urumqi’s Uighurs had finished venting their anger, more than 150 people were dead and hundreds more injured.

Much is still unknown about what happened on the afternoon of July 5th. A protest by several hundred people in the city’s central plaza, People’s Square, moved southward into Uighur areas, including the Grand Bazaar, a large shopping centre. Somehow—perhaps, overseas Uighur activists say, because the police opened fire—it became an explosion of anger, in which random Chinese were clubbed and stoned to death.

Xinjiang is no stranger to unrest among its more than 8m Uighurs (about 45% of the population according to official figures, which tend to undercount Han Chinese migrants from elsewhere in the country). Many Uighurs resent rule by China, which they accuse of trampling on their Muslim Central Asian culture. It is not clear why the police failed to stop the killings, nor how many of the deaths were caused by the security forces themselves. Uighur exiles gave far higher estimates of the numbers killed, which they said included many Uighurs.

The suddenness and scale of the violence, and its racist nature, were reminiscent of rioting in Lhasa on March 14th last year that triggered sympathetic protests by Tibetans across the Tibetan plateau. The government fears that Xinjiang could face a similar convulsion. Both Tibet and Xinjiang are sparsely populated, with vast areas of mountain and desert. But together, and including Tibetan-inhabited areas bordering on Tibet proper, they make up 40% of China’s territory—in an area of enormous strategic importance, bordering on South and Central Asia.

Chinese officials were quick to accuse an overseas group, the World Uighur Congress (WUC), of having “masterminded”, “instigated” and “controlled” the unrest in Urumqi, but have yet to offer proof. They have particularly attacked the WUC’s leader, Rebiya Kadeer, a former member of Xinjiang’s political elite. Ms Kadeer was one of the region’s wealthiest entrepreneurs until she fell foul of the authorities because of her sympathies with Uighur nationalism and spent six years in prison on state security charges. She now lives near Washington, DC.

Remarkably for an incident so politically sensitive, the authorities let foreign journalists go to Urumqi to cover the aftermath. (After last year’s unrest in Lhasa, Tibet was all but barred to foreigners, journalists included.) The government was also unusually quick to provide casualty figures—156 dead as The Economist went to press, and another 1,080 injured. It seemed confident that journalists would confirm official accounts suggesting that those killed were overwhelmingly Hans. But oddly, since hospitals keep records of the ethnic origin of patients, the authorities have provided no racial breakdown.

Foreign journalists who arrived on July 6th found the riot area full of broken shop windows, fire-damaged buildings and scores of burned-out cars. The manager of a car showroom said several hundred rioters had attacked his business late on Sunday night, damaging or destroying more than 50 vehicles. Among the dozens of riot victims admitted to the nearby Urumqi Friendship Hospital was Huang Zhenjiang, a 48-year-old Han-Chinese taxi driver, who described how he was attacked by rioters with stones and clubs at the end of his shift. It was, he said, “terrifying” and “unimaginable”. Many residents spoke of rioters smashing rocks on the heads of victims as they lay on the ground, and even cutting off a girl’s leg.

The authorities may have been remarkably inept at preventing and curbing the violence (especially since, as officials admit, they had evidence that a protest was being planned). But they were swift to start rounding up suspects once the rioting had died out later that night. More than 1,400 people have so far been arrested. Urumqi’s Communist Party chief, Li Zhi, said those who had used “cruel means” during the rioting would be executed. Xinjiang’s governor, Nur Bekri, who is a Uighur, said officials would use “all means” to maintain control in the city.

They failed. On July 7th thousands of young Han Chinese rampaged through the streets, calling for vengeance against Uighurs for the earlier riot. “This is no longer an issue for the government,” said one man, with a club in his hand. “This is now an ethnic struggle between Uighur and Han. It will not end soon.” Carrying meat cleavers, axes, clubs and shovels, Han demonstrators roamed in packs of 20-200, swiftly changing direction whenever someone claimed to have spotted a Uighur. “Kill Uighurs!”, they cried. “Smash Uighurs!” and “Unity!” One self-styled leader called out, “Don’t break things!” as he exhorted a large group towards an area surrounding a mosque. His call was met with cries of “Don’t smash things, smash Uighurs!” Police often made only half-hearted attempts to stop these crowds.

More unrest boiled up on July 8th, even as President Hu Jintao flew home before the G8 meeting in Italy to handle the crisis and thousands more armed riot police poured into Urumqi’s city centre in trucks, troop-carriers and marching ranks. Many Urumqi residents believe the new arrivals, though kitted out as members of China’s paramilitary police force, include regular army troops. Groups of angry Han Chinese, mostly unarmed this time, ignored government warnings to stay at home. They surrounded one-on-one fights between Hans and Uighurs and urged on the Hans. Crowds also snatched away Hans who had been detained by the police and set them free.


Closing the mosque

The Uighur side of the story has been slower to emerge. Many Uighurs dismissed the government’s account that the July 5th riot was part of a separatist plot. But very few—such was the terror of police or Han recrimination—were willing to say much. One Uighur owner of a clothes shop, who claimed to have witnessed the riot from the beginning, said it started as a demonstration calling on Xinjiang’s governor to come out and talk about what had happened in Guangdong. In the fracas there on June 25th, Han Chinese workers had accused Uighurs of rape. At least two Uighurs were killed in the fight.

After about 90 minutes the police told Urumqi’s protesters to leave, said the man from the clothes shop. The police then began shoving and pulling demonstrators who refused to go. When some Uighurs responded by smashing windows, the police used greater force, beating people and firing their weapons. Violence by Uighurs then began to flare across the city.

The response to the rioting elsewhere in Xinjiang has so far been less explosive than the authorities feared. On July 6th in Kashgar, 1,080km (670 miles) south-west of Urumqi, a group of Uighurs tried to stage a protest in front of Idh Kah mosque, a city landmark. Two Western tourists who witnessed the event said as many as 100 people took part, shouting slogans and jabbing their fists in the air. Security forces dispersed the gathering in less than an hour, without obvious violence, and took away several protesters. The plaza in front of the mosque was sealed off by riot police carrying clubs, and the mosque was closed.

The authorities may well have been better prepared in cities like Kashgar. These places have more of a history of Uighur unrest than Urumqi, which has long been dominated by Hans. The police say they have “clues” that efforts have been made to organise protests in Aksu and Yining. Yining, on the border with Kazakhstan, was the scene of rioting in 1997.

The likelihood is that, as in Tibet, the authorities will clamp down hard, and that this will fuel anger across a broad swathe of the population. Xinjiang’s most powerful official is a Han Chinese, Wang Lequan, who is also a member of the ruling Politburo in Beijing. He has held the post of Xinjiang’s party chief since 1994, outranking Nur Bekri, and has impressed fellow Chinese leaders with his tough approach to Uighur nationalism. (One of his deputies, Zhang Qingli, went on to become party chief of Tibet in 2005, an appointment that, in Tibetan eyes, doomed any prospect of a softer government hand in their region.) President Hu is no liberal on such issues himself. As party leader in Tibet in the 1980s, he imposed martial law in Lhasa after protests there in 1989.

Repression had already been stepped up in Xinjiang long before the rioting. The escalation dates back to the launch of America’s anti-terror campaign in 2001. China then began linking long-simmering separatist tensions in Xinjiang with the same forces of extremism that America faced. It said one Uighur group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, was part of al-Qaeda. America backed this assertion, but Western human-rights groups said there was little evidence of al-Qaeda’s involvement in Xinjiang. China was playing up the connection, they said, in order to justify harsher measures against Uighur nationalists.

Twenty-two Uighurs were indeed caught by the Americans in Afghanistan and sent to Guantánamo Bay. Four of them were freed in June and resettled in the Bahamas. The Pacific island of Palau has offered to take 13 others. The Uighurs insist they were not involved in any anti-American operations in Afghanistan. But their capture helped to bolster China’s argument that it too faced an organised terrorist movement backed by foreigners, even though occasional attacks in Xinjiang hardly seemed well organised. Only primitive weapons were involved in the two bloodiest incidents last year that were blamed on terrorists—one against police in Kashgar that left 17 officers dead in August, and bombings in Kuqa the same month that killed two people. Suicide attacks, a hallmark of Muslim militancy elsewhere, are hardly known in Xinjiang.

Economic jealousies

Since 2001 the authorities have banned private visits to Mecca and insisted that those making pilgrimages there must go on organised tours. The authorities have tightened controls on mosques in Xinjiang and rules that ban children from receiving religious education. They have warned students and civil servants not to observe Ramadan. A group of Uighur women staged a protest in Khotan last year against local government efforts to ban head coverings. (The niqab is often seen in Xinjiang, especially on older women.)

But there is little evidence that Xinjiang’s Muslims have been widely affected by extremist movements elsewhere in the region. In the rioting in Urumqi, racial discrimination is likely to have been a bigger source of grievance than religious repression. Uighurs have faced more such discrimination in the past year as a result of security measures in the build-up to the Olympic games in Beijing in August. Police harassed Uighurs then because of their perceived potential links with terrorism. Hotels had to report the registration of Uighur guests to the police.

Security is again being tightened across China as the authorities prepare to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country’s founding on October 1st. This will involve a huge military parade through central Beijing, which the authorities fear could become a target for discontented minorities. The event coincides with the 60th anniversary of communist rule over Xinjiang. Even without Urumqi’s unrest, Uighurs had been likely to feel the pressure as the celebrations draw near.



How Hans dominate these days

Economic factors come into play, too. Many Uighurs resent what they see as the business advantages enjoyed by Han Chinese immigrants, whose clan, commercial and political networks extend across China. The recent economic crisis may have exacerbated problems faced by Uighur migrant workers in other parts of China, such as those in the skirmish in Guangdong. Millions of people have lost their jobs as a result of China’s recent export slump.

Many Uighurs feel that their culture is being threatened by a massive influx of Han migrants in recent years. China has stepped up investment in the western region to give the area a greater share of the prosperity that the east has enjoyed. The government denies it is trying to change the ethnic mix of Xinjiang, but Uighurs complain that Hans have enjoyed the lion’s share of dividends from the investment drive. Some of them also worry about China’s efforts to promote the use of Mandarin in Xinjiang’s schools. Uighurs complain that the Han Chinese tend to look down on them as uncultured ruffians. The violence in Urumqi is likely to reinforce both these stereotypes—and the Uighurs’ vivid sense of alienation.

Who to talk to?

After the unrest in Tibet, China could at least placate Tibetan and Western opinion by talking to the Dalai Lama. It failed to pursue this option effectively, holding three rounds of discussions with the Dalai Lama’s representatives but offering no concessions. In the case of Xinjiang, China is even less likely to open a dialogue.

Ms Kadeer, the figure with greatest clout among the Uighur diaspora abroad, also commands some respect in Xinjiang itself. But she has been so vilified by China that contact is barely imaginable. She also lacks the Dalai Lama’s political clout. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, an American NGO, says she is hardly known in the Xinjiang countryside. China’s official media have heaped scorn on what it says are her ambitions to gain the kind of respect that the Dalai Lama enjoys in the West. Even though President George Bush met Ms Kadeer in 2007, few outside the Uighur nation have heard of her.

With the West itself preoccupied by the threat of Islamic extremism, China is even less reticent about cracking down in Xinjiang than it is in Tibet. Journalists have long been largely barred from visiting Tibet. But after the attacks of September 11th 2001 China became increasingly willing to allow foreign media to travel around Xinjiang, even without official permission (though some were still stopped by the police). It may have calculated that media visits would reinforce images in the West of a China beset by Islamist militancy. In Urumqi this week, the authorities set up a press centre and organised visits to affected areas for foreign journalists.

The government, however, was unusually quick to restrict internet and mobile telephone communications. It has been spooked by the role of the internet during recent unrest in Iran. The Iranian opposition has sparked considerable online discussion in China, as well as disapproving coverage in the official media. Within hours of the Urumqi riot, internet access was cut across Xinjiang (the first time such a wide outage has been reported anywhere in China, even during the unrest in Tibet). International telephone calls were blocked. Within 48 hours text-messaging services were also suspended. A few broadband lines were kept open in an Urumqi hotel for the media.

But China could be heading for the same spiral of anti-Western sentiment that followed the unrest in Tibet. Urumqi’s unusual openness to foreign media contrasts with an outpouring of contempt for Western media coverage of the event in the Chinese press and on the internet. A similar response last year fuelled nationalist anger among urban Chinese and strained China’s ties with some Western countries. (A few foreign journalists in China received death threats because of their coverage of Tibet.) The Western media have been accused of being too sympathetic to the Uighur rioters. The Global Times, an ardently nationalist publication published by the party’s main mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, has been among the leaders of the anti-foreign-media charge.

Last year public anger over Tibet was particularly aimed at France, because of the disruption of an Olympic torch parade through Paris in April by pro-Tibetan protesters and a suggestion by President Nicolas Sarkozy that he might boycott the Olympics. Mr Sarkozy turned up in the end, but relations between China and France were soured for months, and were further aggravated by a meeting between Mr Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama at the end of the year. In the Xinjiang case, America is more likely to be in the line of fire as the host of Ms Kadeer, who sought asylum there after being released from prison on medical parole in 2005. China has long been grumbling about America’s refusal to repatriate Uighur detainees at Guantánamo Bay to China because they might be mistreated.

China can count on strong moral support from its Central Asian neighbours, with which it is co-operating closely to try to combat cross-border militancy. In the old alleyways of Kashgar, now being rapidly torn down as part of an urban-renewal programme that is fuelling yet more resentment among local Uighurs, official painted slogans condemn Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group calling for a universal caliphate. The group, which has roots across China’s borders, has started to gain recruits in Xinjiang, but is not thought to be widespread. China’s efforts to establish common cause with its neighbours, and to encourage them to stamp out Uighur militancy in their own territories, may partly explain the prominence that Kashgar’s authorities give the organisation.

America feels these closer ties with Central Asian countries are being forged at its expense. But it appreciates China’s quiet support for the anti-terror campaign, including intelligence-sharing. America has no interest in supporting Uighur nationalism and exacerbating instability in an already volatile region. Xinjiang for now is one unstable Muslim area of the world where America is not a public enemy, at least among its Muslim population. It will require a skilful balance between the preservation of crucial ties with China and support for the rights of an aggrieved minority to ensure that this remains so.

Finance and Economics

China and the dollar

Yuan small step

Jul 9th 2009 | HONG KONG
From The Economist print edition

The dollar’s role as the world’s main reserve currency is being challenged
Illustration by S. Kambayashi


THE Chinese used to call dollars mei jin, which means “American gold”. Buying black-market dollars was considered the safest way to protect one’s savings. Yet in June when Tim Geithner, America’s treasury secretary, told students at Peking University that China’s official holdings of Treasury bonds were safe, the audience laughed. Faith in the greenback is waning.

In the build-up to the annual summit of G8 countries, which began on July 8th in the Italian city of L’Aquila, officials in China, Russia and India all called for an end to the dollar’s dominance in the international monetary system. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, declared on July 5th that the dollar system is “flawed”; his central bank has been reducing its dollar holdings. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, repeated its call for a new global reserve currency in June and is now taking the first steps towards turning the yuan into a global currency.

Beijing is particularly influential in this debate. The dollar accounts for 65% of the world’s foreign-exchange reserves (see chart), only slightly less than a decade ago and well ahead of the euro’s 26% share. Three-quarters of all reserves are in the hands of emerging economies; China alone holds one-third of the global stash.


So China has particular cause to worry that America’s massive printing of money in response to the financial crisis will undermine the value of its dollar reserves. There is much domestic anger about the potential losses China may face as a result of its lending to rich Americans. The government would like to diversify out of dollars: its new purchases of Treasury securities have fallen sharply this year. But any attempt to dump its stock of dollars would risk triggering a plunge in the currency. Instead, officials are mulling two ways out of the “dollar trap”: persuading the world to adopt a new global currency and encouraging the international use of the yuan.

In an essay in March, Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the PBOC, argued that basing the international financial system on a national currency will tend to exacerbate global imbalances. The dollar’s reserve-currency status let America borrow cheaply, causing the country’s credit and housing bubbles to persist for longer than they otherwise would have. Mr Zhou proposed that the world should replace the dollar with a global reserve currency, the SDR (Special Drawing Rights). Created by the IMF in 1969, and now based on the weighted average of the dollar, euro, yen and pound, the SDR was designed as a reserve currency but never took off. SDRs today add up to less than 1% of total reserves.

Under Mr Zhou’s plan the amount of SDRs would be hugely increased and the basket expanded to include other currencies, notably the yuan. Mr Zhou also proposes an SDR-denominated fund, managed by the IMF, into which dollar reserves could be exchanged for SDRs. Countries could then reduce their dollar exposure without pushing down the dollar (although it is unclear who would bear any exchange-rate losses).

Brazil, India and Russia have backed Mr Zhou’s proposal. But the SDR is unlikely to become a reserve currency any time soon. It would take years to develop SDR money markets that are liquid enough to be a reserve asset. Although the IMF’s executive board approved the first issuance of SDR-denominated bonds on July 1st, as the fund attempts to boost its resources, the bonds can only be bought and traded by central banks, not by private investors.

China’s alternative ploy is to promote the yuan’s use in international trade and finance. Starting on July 6th selected firms in five Chinese cities are now allowed to use yuan to settle transactions with businesses in Hong Kong, Macau and ASEAN countries. Foreign banks will be able to buy or borrow yuan from mainland lenders to finance such trade. In June Russia and China agreed to expand the use of their currencies in bilateral trade; Brazil and China are discussing a similar idea.

The PBOC has also signed currency-swap agreements with Argentina, Belarus, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea. The central bank will make yuan available to pay for imports from China if these countries are short of foreign exchange. In another recent move, Hong Kong banks are now allowed to issue yuan-denominated bonds, a step towards building an offshore yuan market.

Qu Hongbin, an economist at HSBC, predicts that by 2012 nearly $2 trillion of annual trade (over 40% of China’s total) could be settled in yuan, making it one of the top three currencies in global trade. Others reckon this is too optimistic. Although Chinese firms are keen to invoice in yuan, trading partners will be more reluctant. There is no real forward market for the yuan, making it hard to hedge risk, and it is not accepted by most other countries.

The yuan will be used more widely for trade over the next decade but the idea that the yuan can become a reserve currency in the near future is ridiculous, says Arthur Krober at Dragonomics, a research firm based in Beijing. Not only does China lack the economic and political track record required to underpin a reserve currency, but its currency is not fully convertible. China would need to scrap capital controls so foreigners could invest in yuan assets and then freely repatriate their capital and income, but the government is wary of moving too quickly. A reserve currency also requires a deep and liquid bond market, free from government interference. This, says Mr Krober, implies a big retreat from China’s state-led model of credit allocation.

Even if China immediately scrapped capital controls the yuan would be unlikely to challenge the dollar as a reserve currency for years. The dollar did not replace sterling until half a century after America’s economy had overtaken Britain’s. America’s GDP is around three times as big as China’s, and its total trade is still larger.

Both the SDR plan and measures to internationalise the yuan also seem to assume that China’s problem is simply that too many of its reserves are in dollars. But China’s real problem is that it is running a persistent current-account surplus; in order to keep the yuan closely tied to the dollar it has to keep buying more dollar assets. If China really wants to reduce its exposure to the greenback it must allow the yuan to rise. It would incur a loss on its existing reserves but stem future losses. But so long as China maintains its current exchange-rate policy, it is, ironically, helping keep the dollar dominant.


A night-time curfew has been reimposed in the restive western Chinese city of Urumqi, officials have announced.
The BBC, July 10, 2009

The curfew had been suspended for the last two days after officials said they had the city under control.
Mosques in the city were ordered to remain closed on Friday – but at least two opened at the request of crowds of Muslim Uighurs that gathered outside.
The city remains tense after Sunday’s outbreak of ethnic violence that killed 156 people and wounded more than 1,000.
Thousands of people – both Han Chinese and Uighurs – are reportedly trying to leave the city.
The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, who is in Urumqi, said the authorities announced the city would be under curfew on Friday from 1900 local time (1100GMT).
‘Safety is paramount’
News of the curfew came as hundreds of Muslim Uighurs defied an order to stay at home for Friday prayers.


Quentin Sommerville, BBC News, Urumqi
After Friday’s prayers, a small group of Uighur Muslims marched along an Urumqi street demanding the release of men detained for their alleged role in last Sunday’s riot.
A large number of riot police surrounded the group, they punched and kicked the protestors – one officer used his baton to beat one of the Uighurs. A number of foreign journalists had their equipment seized, some have been detained.
Earlier the group said they feared for their safety. There’s no word from the authorities as to what happened to them.
Officials had posted notices outside Urumqi’s mosques instructing people to stay at home to worship on Friday, the holiest day of the week in Islam.
One official told AP the decision was made “for the sake of public safety”.
But worshippers gathered outside a number of mosques in the city demanding to be allowed in.
“We decided to open the mosque because so many people had gathered. We did not want an incident,” a policeman outside the White Mosque in a Uighur neighbourhood told the Associated Press.
One worshipper, speaking after attending prayers, said they had been warned to be careful.
“They told us safety is paramount and we should quickly finish our prayers, go home and have a good rest,” he said.
After the prayers, riot police punched and kicked a small group of Uighurs protesters, who demanded the release of men detained after last Sunday’s violence, our correspondent says.
Mass exodus
Meanwhile, the city’s main bus station is reported to be crowded with people trying to escape the unrest.
Extra bus services have been laid on and touts are charging up to five times the normal face price for tickets, AFP news agency reports.
Main ethnic division: 45% Uighur, 40% Han Chinese
26 June: Mass factory brawl after dispute between Han Chinese and Uighurs in Guangdong, southern China, leaves two Uighurs dead
5 July: Uighur protest in Urumqi over the dispute turns violent, leaving 156 dead – most of them thought to be Han – and more than 1,000 hurt
7 July: Uighur women protest at arrests of menfolk. Han Chinese make armed counter-march
8 July: President Hu Jintao returns from G8 summit to tackle crisis
“It is just too risky to stay here. We are scared of the violence,” a 23-year-old construction worker from central China said.
Many are university students, who have been told to leave the city earlier than they might have planned.
The violence began on Sunday when Uighurs rallied to protest against a deadly brawl between Uighurs and Han Chinese several weeks ago in a toy factory in southern Guangdong province.
Officials say 156 people – mostly Han – died in Sunday’s violence.
Ethnic Han vigilante groups have been threatening to take revenge, leaving many Uighurs afraid to leave their homes.
The atmosphere remains tense, with troops in place across the city and armed police surrounding Uighur neighbourhoods.
More than 1,400 people are thought to have been detained.
Tensions have been growing in Xinjiang for many years, as Han migrants have poured into the region, where the Uighur minority is concentrated.
Many Uighurs feel economic growth has bypassed them and complain of discrimination and diminished opportunities.


Posted on on June 26th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

China ‘to block’ Hummer takeover

Hummer had thrived from its military image and demand for large cars.

A Chinese firm’s bid to buy the gas-guzzling Hummer car brand will be blocked on environmental grounds, according to Chinese state radio.
Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery emerged as the surprise buyer for the brand earlier this year. But China National Radio said Hummer is at odds with the country’s planning agency’s attempts to decrease pollution from Chinese manufacturers. But Sichuan Tengzhong disputed the accuracy of the radio report.
“The fact that it is from an article from a state media organisation does not mean it is government policy,” the company said in a statement. “Some people may have views and speculation, but the Chinese government has a process that we respect.”

The acquisition from General Motors needs Chinese regulatory approval.

‘Lacks expertise’
The value of the bid was not disclosed at the time, but analysts say that GM would have made about $100m ( £61m) from the sale.

National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) will also block Sichuan Tengzhong from buying Hummer because the Chinese construction equipment maker lacks expertise in car production, the state radio added.
Sichuan Tengzhong said: “The view expressed on China National Radio’s website did not quote or source anyone at NDRC.”
“We do not yet have a definitive agreement, but are developing our proposals with GM and Hummer and we will continue to engage with the appropriate authorities in an appropriate manner.”
Hummers were originally built as military off-road vehicles by a company called AM General.
GM bought the Hummer brand in 1999.
The brand took off as US consumers flocked to large cars and sport utility vehicles and were favoured by celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But sales have suffered as the military image has become less popular and petrol prices surged.
Hummers weigh up to five tons and have fuel consumption of around 15 miles per gallon.
The sale of Hummer, known as “Han Ma” or Bold Horse in China, has been part of GM’s plan to reinvent itself by concentrating on fewer brands.


Posted on on June 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

                        Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University.

Revisioning Human-Earth Relations

The Forum on Religion and Ecology is the largest international multireligious project of its kind. With its conferences, publications, and website it is engaged in exploring religious worldviews, texts, and ethics in order to broaden understanding of the complex nature of current environmental concerns.

The Forum recognizes that religions need to be in dialogue with other disciplines (e.g., science, ethics, economics, education, public policy, gender) in seeking comprehensive solutions to both global and local environmental problems.

Forum Coordinators:
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Yale University

Forum Administrative Assistant:
Tara C. Maguire Knopick, Yale University

Forum Web Content Managers and Newsletter Editors:
Sam Mickey and Elizabeth McAnally, California Institute of Integral Studies

With thanks to Anne Custer for the original development of the Forum Web site, and Ann Keeler Evans and Donna Rosenberg for their administrative work with the Forum.


Summer Solstice Celebration with Paul Winter & Friends

Dear Forum community,

We want to inform you about the Summer Solstice Celebration with Paul Winter & Friends on Saturday, June 20, 2009. The two-hour concert will begin at 4:30 a.m. and will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY).

Paul Winter will be joined by an array of outstanding musicians from different musical backgrounds for a festival of the Earth’s music as we greet the summer and one of the longest days of the year. The Summer Solstice Celebration is a sublime experience; the first rays of sunlight filter through the Cathedral’s stained glass above the High Altar as guest artists and members of the Paul Winter Consort perform in different parts of the Cathedral. The musicians meet at the stage in the Great Crossing as morning overtakes night and we welcome the day.

This celebration will be dedicated to Thomas Berry.

For more information, including free music downloads, visit:

Tickets are now on sale at:…

The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale


Posted on on May 17th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Buddhists Taking on Climate Change — The Dalai Lama Endorses the 350 Target!
By Will McKibben,   11 May, 2009

Announcing… “The Time to Act Is Now — a Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change” just launched by our new friends at the Buddhist Climate Project.   This is a truly profound statement (and website, if you ask me).   And it’s most especially exciting to see the Dalai Lama’s official endorsement of the 350 target!

Here is what the website says in the introduction to the declaration:

“In the run-up to the crucial U.N. Climate Treaty Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Declaration that follows will present to the world’s media a unique spiritual view of climate change and our urgent responsibility to address the solutions. It emerged from the contributions of over 20 Buddhist teachers of all traditions to the book A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. The Time to Act is Now was composed as a pan-Buddhist statement by Zen teacher Dr David Tetsuun Loy and senior Theravadin teacher Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi with scientific input from Dr John Stanley.

The Dalai Lama was the first to sign this Declaration. We invite all concerned members of the international Buddhist community to study the document and add their voice.”

Click here to read the full declaration, (which includes specific mention of the 350 target), and share it with any Buddhists you know!

There is much to report this week about communities of faith joining in the movement for 350 (sneak peak). If you’re not Buddhist, stand by for more interfaith action, but for now, enjoy this news from the Buddhist world.

UPDATE: The Buddhist Declaration — “The Time to Act Is Now” — has generated 800 signatures in it’s first five days online, including 25 Buddhist teachers from all traditions and many countries!


Buddhist Climate Project

Background & Dalai Lama’s Endorsement

Read & Sign it

Contents, Overview, Excerpts

Plant a Tree in the Sheltering Grove

Climate Crisis in Tibet & China

Article of the Month


The Dalai Lama’s Endorsement
of the 350ppm CO2 Target

The background to the letter

In his closing speech to the international climate talks in Poland in December 2008, Al Gore stated that former targets for fighting global warming had been rendered obsolete by new findings, and that 350 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide was the new standard for which the world should aim. His remarks drew the longest applause of the conference.

The 350 target accepts that we are challenged not only to reduce carbon gas emissions, but to actively remove huge quantities of fossil carbon already present in the atmosphere. It represents the upper limit of a safe-climate zone (300–350 ppm) for human civilization. It is the only target so far proposed that is consistent with the avoidance of runaway global warming. The existential challenge we face is expressed as a simple target figure, first defined by NASA’s James Hansen and colleagues in their key 2008 scientific paper, “Target Atmospheric CO2–Where Should Humanity Aim?” which states:

If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2   will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that… An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured, and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.

At many sites around the world, such as Mauna Loa in Hawaii, scientists
have measured man-made increases in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the
main driver of global warming. Atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuates
annually, because more is “drawn down” during summer by large Northern
Hemisphere forests. The annual cycle, shown in the inset figure, appears as
“saw-teeth” behind the yearly average rise.

The pre-industrial atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was 280
ppm (parts per million).The current level is 387 ppm—the highest for 650,000
years, long before the modern human species appeared. It is still increasing, by
2 ppm per year. Where should humanity aim? The safe-climate target for
atmospheric carbon dioxide is 350 ppm, the level that avoids the possibility of
runaway warming and maintains the planet we know.
The Dalai Lama’s letter

We are honored to present here the Dalai Lama’s official letter of endorsement of the 350 ppm target. Among the growing list of other international figures supporting this target are Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Indian environmental leader Dr. Vandana Shiva, Canadian biologist and broadcaster Dr.David Suzuki, Dr.Hermann Scheer, chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy, and SheilaWatt-Cloutier, chairperson of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

Read more


Posted on on March 13th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


Distribution: immediate – March 12, 2009, 3:50 pm
European Parliament adopts resolution on the anniversary of Tibetan uprising

In light of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet, the European Parliament adopted today (338 in favour, 131 against and 14 abstentions) a resolution that condemns all acts of violence, whether they are the work of demonstrators or disproportionate repression by the forces of law and order.

It requests urgently to Chinese authorities to reach meaningful and result-oriented negotiations without preconditions with the Dalai Lama.

Marco Cappato (Radical Party, Italy), one of the ALDE Resolution signatories, stated:

“There are two very different points of view. The Chinese regime’s opinion claims that the Dalai Lama is a violent person and the leader of a violent people who want the independence of their country from China. The Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetan authority on the other hand advocate only a non-violent policy in favour of genuine autonomy to keep their culture, their tradition, their language, their religion.”

Their principles are included in the Memorandum presented by envoys of the Dalai Lama to the Chinese Government.

“There is wide support for the proposals that I tabled with my colleagues. In the meantime I have to underline the inexplicable position of the socialist group who opposed having a resolution and voted against the joint text. The key point here is the freedom and democracy for a million Tibetan people,” Cappato concluded.

For more information, please contact:
Neil Corlett: +33-3-88 17 41 67 or +32-478-78 22 84
e-mail:  neil.corlett at
Paolo Alberti: +33-3-88 16 40 82 or +32-476-95 51 44


Posted on on March 3rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Clinton’s mistake on tour was to skip India.

By JOHN LEE CHEONG SEONG The Japan Times online, March 3, 2009.
SYDNEY — There was excitement throughout Asia last month when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton chose the continent for her maiden international voyage in her capacity as America’s top diplomat, bypassing the more traditional choices of Europe or the Middle East.

This showed good thinking on the part of the new administration. Global economic power continues to shift to Asia, despite the current global crisis. But leaving India out signaled a lack of forward thinking and, in doing so, the Obama administration missed an exceptional opportunity. The choice of destinations for the inaugural visit by Clinton was not decided lightly. It indicated the administration’s priorities.

For some, Clinton’s schedule appeared flawless. A visit to China is mandatory in any Asia schedule. Key allies such as Japan and South Korea were duly included. Indonesia — the world’s most populous Islamic country, a bustling democracy, a re-emerging Southeast Asian power and President Barack Obama’s home for four of his formative years — was a clever choice. But a visit to India — the world’s largest democracy and one of the emerging poles of political and economic power — would have made for an inspired choice.

In contrast to the waning U.S.-Pakistan relationship, America’s engagement with India is blossoming. Conclusion of the U.S.-India nuclear pact, discussed since 2005 and signed in mid-2007, was a significant milestone for relations between the two countries.

As former U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns — who played a key role in the negotiations — declared, the agreement signaled the beginning of a “strategic partnership” between the two nations. It is noteworthy that the term “strategic partnership” has not yet been used to characterize the Sino-U.S. relationship even though President Richard Nixon initiated it back in 1972.

But while the India-U.S. bilateral relationship continues to evolve, the concern is that America, under Obama, will continue to take a narrow, unimaginative view of the broader strategic opportunities of partnership with India.

American strategy in Asia is preoccupied with “managing” the rise of China. Key Asian allies such as Japan were greatly excited by various approaches, such as the one promulgated by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who pushed for the idea of working with existing American allies and security partners to “shape” the future of Asia. This means reaffirming security alliances with countries such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Australia. It also means deepening relations with American security partners such as Malaysia.

Under a John McCain presidency, the approach also would have meant trying to bring in India as a partner in shaping the future security foundations of the region. This strategy was designed not only to improve American standing and influence in the region but also to “manage” the rise of China.

Under these approaches, America recognized that its reign as an undisputed hegemon in the region was gradually declining. But by working with current allies and new partners to shape the rules and institutions of the region, the plan was to prevent future Chinese mischief and persuade China to play by agreed rules rather than subvert or revise them.

To be sure, India takes seriously its status as an “independent” rising power. Few things would be more unpalatable to New Delhi than being passed off as an American lackey. But there are reasons to believe that a U.S.-India partnership is plausible. For example, Washington would be happy to allow New Delhi a growing presence in the Indian Ocean.

Despite some cooperation, tensions between New Delhi and Beijing remain, especially since China’s militarization of the Tibetan plateau. It is estimated that China has deployed around one quarter of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles in Tibet. India might not agree to become a spoke in America’s wheel of security alliances in the region; but New Delhi and Washington have common strategic interests when it comes to “managing” China. An emerging India-U.S. partnership should be an essential pillar of this “shaping” strategy.

Although Obama’s Asian strategy is still being formed, the fear is that the centerpiece of his administration’s regional security strategy — which largely means managing China’s rise — will be to deepen its relationship with China. Critically, this might be done primarily through direct and bilateral engagement with the Chinese, while partners such as Japan and perhaps India are left on the sidelines.

American appreciation of the possibilities for India’s role in the region historically have been poor. India’s absence from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has not helped.

Any future American grand strategy in Asia, especially with respect to a rising China, cannot exclude India if it is to be successful. Secretary Clinton would have done well, and displayed admirable foresight and creativity, had New Delhi been a part of her inaugural overseas trip.

John Lee Cheong Seong is a foreign policy fellow at the Center for Independent Studies, Sydney. His latest book, “Will China Fail?,” was published in 2007.


Posted on on February 26th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Tibetans Greet New Year in Opposition.

The New York Times, Published: February 25, 2009

Asia – Tibetans Morn on New Year. Not a Single Firecracker Was Heard in That Village. bc_nytimeslogo.gif

TONGREN, China — Snow fell across this mountain valley as red-robed monks in a prayer hall beat drums and chanted in tantric harmony, a seemingly auspicious start to Losar, the Tibetan New Year.



Shiho Fukada for The New York Times
Tibetan monks leaving morning prayer on Wednesday at Rongwo Monastery in Qinghai Province, China. The Tibetan new year has come, but many Tibetans, angry over the events of the past year, are rejecting official efforts to drum up festivities. More Photos »



Times Topics: Dalai Lama | Tibet | Freedom and Human Rights in China

26tibet-graf01-190.jpgThe New York Times

There were few signs of new year festivities in Tongren. More Photos >
More video from The New York Times is available at
Tibetans Mourn on New Year
Tibetans in western China have been marking their traditional New Year in mourning for last year’s deadly riots.


But a monk watching the ritual on Wednesday morning made it clear: This was a ceremony of mourning, not celebration.

“There is no Losar,” he said, standing in this monastery town on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. “They killed so many people last year.”

A few weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and a year after a crackdown on renewed ethnic unrest in this area, Tibetans are quietly but irrepressibly seething. Monks, nomads and merchants have turned the joyous Losar holiday into a dirge, memorializing Tibetans who died in last year’s conflict and pining for the return of the exiled Dalai Lama.

An informal grass-roots boycott is under way. Tibetans are forsaking dancing and dinner parties for vigils with yak-butter candles and the chanting of prayers. The Losar campaign signifies the discontent that many of China’s six million Tibetans still feel toward domination by the ethnic Han Chinese. They are resisting pressure by Chinese officials to celebrate and forget.

“It’s a conscious awakening of an entire people,” said Woeser, a popular Tibetan blogger.

Tibetans here and in other towns, including in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, say government officials have handed out money to Tibetans to entice them to hold exuberant new year parties. On Wednesday, state-run television showed Tibetans in Lhasa dancing, shooting off fireworks and feasting in their homes.

At the same time, the government has drawn a curtain across Tibet. Officials have shut down access to many Tibetan regions to foreigners and sent armed guards to patrol the streets.

Here in eastern Qinghai Province, near the Dalai Lama’s birthplace, the boycott of festivities began as early as January, during the Chinese Lunar New Year. On Wednesday in Tongren, called Rebkong by Tibetans, one of the few bursts of firecrackers took place outside a Chinese paramilitary compound.

“The government thinks we should celebrate this holiday properly,” said Shartsang, the abbot of Rongwo Monastery. “Certainly this year people haven’t celebrated it in the same way they did in past years.”

Shartsang was one of more than a dozen monks interviewed over three days at Rongwo, called Longwu in Chinese. The 700-year-old monastery is a sprawling complex of golden-eaved temples and labyrinthine alleyways that is home to 400 monks. It draws pilgrims from across the Tibetan plateau.

The government has stepped up security across Tibet. Here, more than 300 security officers with riot shields were seen training in the stadium on Wednesday afternoon. On Monday night, a unit of officers marched in formation along a cordoned-off road.

Chinese officials are wary of the boycott’s mushrooming into larger protests, and of Tibetans taking to the streets next month, which marks the 50th anniversary of the uprising that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight from Lhasa. Most Tibetans revere the Dalai Lama, who advocates autonomy, but not secession, for Tibet.

Last March, China was convulsed by the largest Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades. It began when the suppression of protests by monks in Lhasa led to ethnic rioting by Tibetans. Eighteen civilians and one police officer were killed, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. Riots and protests flared up across western China. Tibetan exile groups say hundreds of Tibetans died in the crackdown.

Rongwo Monastery was a locus of resistance. Even before the riots in Lhasa, monks joined Tibetan townspeople to protest the way the police had handled a dispute between Tibetans and ethnic Hui Muslims. More than 200 monks were detained in that incident. During the March uprising, security forces surrounded the monastery, only to be met by stone-hurling monks.

Over the summer, leading monks were detained in a nearby school and forced to undergo patriotic education, which meant studying Chinese law and being told to denounce the Dalai Lama.

Waves of crackdowns have fueled resentment.

“They broke into my room and took away all my photos of the Dalai Lama,” said one monk, 53, as he held up a pile of five empty glass picture frames. “Then they led monks away with their wrists bound by wires.”

Like almost all the people interviewed for this article, the monk asked that his name not be used to avoid government reprisal. The monastery is under surveillance — cameras have been installed throughout, monks say, and security officers dressed in monk’s robes wander the alleys.

Nevertheless, the monks have put photographs of the Dalai Lama back up in prayer halls and in their bedrooms. One monk held up an amulet of the Dalai Lama dangling from his neck.

“The Chinese say this is all one country,” he said. “What do we think? You don’t know what’s in our hearts. They don’t know what’s in our hearts.” The monk tapped his chest.

Some of the greatest hostility comes from 30 or so monks from the Drepung and Sera monasteries in Lhasa who have sought refuge here, even as some monks from Rongwo have tried fleeing across the Himalayas to India. Last spring, after the uprising, security forces in Lhasa cleared out monasteries and jailed monks for months. About 700 were sent to a camp in Golmud, in Qinghai, for patriotic education, then ordered to return to their hometowns, said three young monks who were at the camp.

“We want to go back to our monastery in Lhasa, but the police would check our ID cards and evict us,” one of them said. “We came here because we wanted a good opportunity to study.”

To try to maintain calm in the monastery, government officials meet regularly with a council of eight older monks. In early February, they had a frank discussion with the council, a senior monk said.

“They said they don’t want any trouble from us,” he said. “They said they punished us last year by putting us in jail. This year, the punishment will be this — ” The monk held up a thumb and index finger in the shape of a pistol.

Eager for the pretense of calm, government officials handed out nearly $100 to some families in surrounding villages to hold Losar celebrations. But Tibetans came up with a strategy.

“A lot of village leaders got together and said, ‘If the government comes around, we’ll tell them that a lot of Tibetans and Chinese were killed in the earthquake last year, so we can’t celebrate now,’ ” said a 31-year-old Tibetan man from the area.

He said that not a single firecracker had been heard in his village.


Posted on on January 20th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

China Aims at Dalai Lama With New Tibet Holiday.

The New York Times, January 19, 2009

BEIJING — Chinese leaders have never minced words when it comes to the Dalai Lama. Last year, during the Tibetan uprising, the government labeled the Dalai Lama “a jackal clad in Buddhist monk’s robes.” Now, it has come up with a name to celebrate the date the Communists declared rule over Tibet after forcing the Dalai Lama to flee — Serf Emancipation Day.

On March 28, 1959, the Chinese Communist Party announced the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region and dissolved the old Tibetan government. Legislators in Tibet passed a bill on Monday mandating an annual celebration of that event by designating a special title for the date. The bill will be reviewed by the ninth regional People’s Congress, according to Xinhua, the official state news agency.

Beijing has long said that the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, ruled over a feudal system that had kept the majority of Tibetans enslaved. Serf Emancipation Day will “mark the date on which about one million serfs in the region were freed 50 years ago,” Xinhua reported, adding that 90 percent of the Tibetan population in the 1950s was serfs or slaves.

The article added that the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region “came after the central government foiled an armed rebellion staged by the Dalai Lama and his supporters, most of whom were slave owners attempting to maintain serfdom.”

“That meant the end of serfdom and the abolition of the hierarchic social system characterized by theocracy, with the Dalai Lama as the core of the leadership,” Xinhua added.

The move to celebrate the day as a holiday comes just months before the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight to India. The Dalai Lama left Lhasa on March 17, 1959, with an entourage of 20 men, 6 of them cabinet ministers. He now lives in exile in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala, in India, where he continues to advocate for Tibetan autonomy free of China’s encumbrances.

There was no immediate reaction from the Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamsala to the new Tibetan holiday.

The Chinese government is wary of the coming anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight, and there has been talk throughout the Tibetan regions of western China that the Chinese military presence will be in full force there through March. The largest uprising of Tibetans in recent years took place last March, after peaceful protests by monks were suppressed. Tibetans in Lhasa then took to the streets and killed ethnic Han Chinese civilians, prompting a military crackdown.


Posted on on November 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Summit of Tibetan exiles rejects ‘total independence’ call.

By Clifford Coonan in Dharamsala
Monday, 24 November 2008, The Independent.

The Dalai Lama struck a sombre tone, saying the Tibetan nation was close to a “death sentence”

Tibetan exiles have shied away from pursuing total independence from China and agreed to back the non-violent “Middle Way” policy of the Dalai Lama.

“[The] majority of views have come up supporting the Middle Way path … which is right,” the Dalai Lama, 73, said at the end of a week-long meeting of almost 600 exiles in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala. “Total independence is not practical.” The Buddhist leader, revered as a god-king by Tibetans but reviled by Beijing as a dangerous splittist, also sought to quash speculation that he might step down following a spell in hospital earlier this year with abdominal pain. “There is no point, or question of my retirement,” he said. “It is my moral responsibility till my death to work for the Tibetan cause.”

The Dalai Lama called the meeting after the failure of eight rounds of talks with Beijing. At its conclusion he struck a sombre tone, saying the Tibetan nation was close to a “death sentence”. “My trust in Chinese officials has become thinner and thinner. In the next 20 years, if we are not careful in our actions and planning, then there is great danger to the Tibetan community,” he said. Exiled Tibetans backed the “Middle Way” because they fear losing international support and further heightening tensions with Beijing. The decision came as a disappointment for those groups, particularly younger delegates, who had sought a shift towards an unequivocal demand for full independence.

However, Lhadon Tethorg, a pro-independence delegate and New York-based executive director of Students For A Free Tibet, said she was happy that the issue of a more aggressive approach had been discussed. “Independence is on the table now,” she said. This was recognised in the meeting’s communiqué, in which the Tibetans said their patience was limited.

The Tibetan issue has taken on a much greater political significance in China since protests in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in March erupted into violence that spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations. Tibet’s government-in-exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in a Chinese crackdown. Beijing said the riots mostly killed ethnic Han Chinese and were the work of gangsters sponsored by the Dalai Lama and his “clique”.


Leading article: The folly of spurning the Dalai Lama

Monday, 24 November 2008, The Independent, EDITORIAL.

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It is easy to call on the world’s freedom movements to seek the path of negotiation over the way of violence. But what happens if it gets you nowhere? That was the bleak question asked by Tibetan exiles at a meeting in Dharmsala in India that ended at the weekend.

It is five decades since Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled the country after an aborted revolt against Chinese rule. Since then, he has consistently foresworn violence and urged a negotiated settlement, accepting the reality of Chinese suzerainty in exchange for autonomy.

The 73-year-old Dalai Lama has received a Nobel prize for his moderation but no Chinese concessions for his pains. The whole course of Chinese policy in the past decade has been to isolate him from his people, weaning away popular loyalty through economic investment from Beijing, asserting political control of the monasteries and weakening the ethnic basis of the country through Han Chinese immigration.

It is this latter policy that helped foment the rebellion last summer. It was these riots, and the failure of talks to relieve the pressure of Chinese rule, which induced the Tibetan leader to call this meeting, partly to pressure China into a more conciliatory policy and partly to head off the growing call among young Tibetans to ditch the policy of seeking autonomy and go for full independence. In this, the Dalai Lama succeeded, for the Dharamsala meeting ended with an endorsement of his authority, and of his policy of seeking a “middle way” between independence and Chinese rule.

However, it will not be easy to deflect the calls for Tibetan independence forever. Indeed, the Chinese are assisting this trend, encouraging radicalism as a way of splitting the Dalai Lama from his adherents and then waiting for him to reach an isolated death. This is a dangerous policy. Marginalising moderation, as we know from the Islamic world, only plays into the hands of the extremists, of which there are an increasing number amongst young Tibetans. The call for independence, as opposed to autonomy, will grow louder. Beijing should heed the Dalai Lama’s call for the “middle way” before it finds that events have moved beyond its control.