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Allan Favish is a Los Angeles-based attorney whose focus is on General Insurance Defense and Litigation Insurance Coverage/Reinsurance & Bad Faith Litigation.  A UCLA graduate, he received his J.D. at Hastings College of Law in 1981.

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Tibetan History Distortion by George Bush Sr.

[This article was first published in the Tibetan Review in the February 1992 issue at page 15.]

During this "International Year of Tibet" we have been reminded of much Tibetan history, including the Tibetan people's unsuccessful March 1959 uprising against Communist Chinese invaders who have continued their genocidal attempt to violently "assimilate" Tibet that was begun in 1950. As this special year draws to a close President Bush should honor its spirit by taking note of his distortion of Tibetan history and apologize for an article he wrote entitled "Inside the New Tibet" that was published in Newsweek's November 7, 1977 issue. The article included this history of Tibet:

Tibet was once a nation dominated by Buddhist monks with spinning prayer wheels. But the religious hierarchy has been eliminated in the years since 1959, when the ruling Dalai Lama led an unsuccessful revolt against Peking, and there were no monks in evidence during our stay. Religion is not encouraged, and the Dalai Lama, who now lives in India, is the subject of constant attack for the lavish splendor of his former life-style and his callous attitude toward the people. The government maintains a rather gruesome historical museum with statues depicting various tortures supposedly practiced by the monks--cutting off peasants' hands and burying children alive.

Both Tibetans and Chinese occupy positions of authority, but there are a considerable number of Chinese troops in the streets and Tibet is clearly being assimilated by the Peking government. The Chinese seemed justifiably proud of economic achievements. ... Tibet is still quite primitive in comparison with the rest of China, and officials are the first to tell you that the region has a long way to go. Yet, the Tibetans have been permitted to retain something of their culture and native dress. ...

The article could just as well have been written by the Communist Chinese. Conspicuously absent from Mr. Bush's discussion was the Communist invasion of independent Tibet in 1950. In reality, the 1959 "revolt" was an attempt to oust an invading aggressor. The "elimination" of the "religious hierarchy" began in 1950, not 1959, and "elimination" is a kinder and gentler word for "murdered."

Mr. Bush's observation that "[r]eligion is not encouraged" is an understatement. Religion has been violently suppressed. During the 1950's and 1960's alone, the Communist Chinese destroyed several thousand Tibetan monasteries and temples. During China's "Cultural Revolution" of 1966-1976 all signs of religion in Tibet were banned.

Mr. Bush wrote that the Dalai Lama "is the subject of constant attack for the lavish splendor of his former life-style and his callous attitude toward the people." Mr. Bush's reporting was likely to leave the reader with the impression that the "constant attack" is justified. He failed to mention that the attack was coming from the Communist Chinese, who feared that the religious authority of the Dalai Lama would interfere with Communist domination over the Tibetan people. Naturally, no mention was made of the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the Communist leadership. Nor was there any discussion about whether the Communist Chinese had a "callous attitude toward the people" in light of the fact that by 1977 hundreds of thousands of Tibetans (as well as millions of Chinese) had been murdered by the Chinese Communists.

Contrary to Mr. Bush's assertion, the Tibetans did not occupy positions of authority, as indicated by the presence of "Chinese troops in the street" reported by Mr. Bush. Tibet "being assimilated by the Peking government" is like Kuwait being assimilated by Iraq. The unmentioned "economic achievements" for which the "Chinese seemed justifiably proud" included the cutting of millions of acres of Tibetan forests for shipment to China, famine inducing forced collectivization of Tibetan farms, and imposition of the traditionally inefficient Marxist economic structure which includes slave labor.

Mr. Bush's observation that "the Tibetans have been permitted to retain something of their culture and native dress," ignored the fact that such "permission" should not be necessary. Moreover, such permission has been extremely limited. Buddhism is the foundation of Tibetan culture and religious repression has been massive. The Communists declared Chinese as Tibet's official language. Since 1950 Chinese immigrants have flooded Tibet in order to obliterate Tibetan culture. Contrary to Mr. Bush's implication, the survival of Tibetan culture is due to the heroic perseverance of the Tibetan people, not the good graces of the Communist Chinese.

In Newsweek's December 5, 1977 issue, several letters to the editor were published accurately disputing Mr. Bush's version of history. Ever since, the rape of Tibet has continued with tens of thousands of Tibetans being murdered and tortured. Brutal suppression of peaceful independence protests in Tibet in 1987, 1988 and 1989, predated the Tiananmen Square murders by the Chinese Communists. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 1989. In 1990 President Bush refused to meet the Dalai Lama when he visited the United States. Only after much pressure did the President meet with the Dalai Lama in 1991.

President Bush has never apologized to the Tibetan people for his article. The close of the "International Year of Tibet" would be an appropriate time for such an apology. Such an apology would be welcomed by the vast majority of Americans and would greatly enhance the President's stature as he enters an election year. Nevertheless, the decision to accept the apology would lie with the Tibetan people.

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