Canadian activist: Games are time to talk Tibet

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

David Emerson, Canadaâe(TM)s foreign minister, attended the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games and made it clear that he felt that this was not the appropriate time to talk about human rights, "We're no shrinking violet on [the human rights] issue but we don't see the Olympics as the venue to make that point."

Perhaps Emerson was concerned that the world would be impolite about Canadaâe(TM)s human rights record when Vancouver hosts the 2010 Winter Games.

Melanie Raoul, a Tibetan rights activist originally from Vancouver, has a different point of view. Last year, on August 7, 2007, Raoul rappelled down the Great Wall of China to make her point, unfurling a banner that read, âeoeOne World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.âe Earlier this year, Raoul spoke about the Olympics and Tibet with rabble.ca editor Derrick Oâe(TM)Keefe.

Derrick Oâe(TM)Keefe: With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics set to take place on unceded land, indigenous solidarity issues will be a big focus of demonstrations and organizing around the Games. With Tibet there are also issues of indigenous rights. What parallels do you see there?

Melanie Raoul: Itâe(TM)s almost like in what is happening in Tibet right now we see what has happened over 500 years of colonization in North America. You can draw a lot of parallels with history of occupation, history of colonization and just totally sweeping a peopleâe(TM)s cultural integrity under the carpet because of these Olympic Games.

There are so many parallels you can draw there, and I think itâe(TM)s important that groups use the creative type of means that we are trying to use to get the Tibetan issue into the spotlight with First Nations issues in North America when it comes to the 2010 Olympics.

The same goes for housing and other social issues facing Vancouver that are being totally blindsided by the Olympics coming there.

What were, in your view, some of the root causes of the uprising earlier this year in Tibet?

Well, one of the main arguments that the Chinese government always uses is that they have put so much economic funding into Tibet, they have put huge funding in for development. And that Tibetans are basically ungrateful, they are not thankful for the economic boost that China has given the region.

And what we constantly see coming out of Tibet is that people donâe(TM)t want "development." Their water is more poisoned than it has ever been. There are more mines in Tibet than there ever have been and, as a side note, most of those are actually run by Canadian mining companies.

So they are seeing massive environmental degradation happening, and their main message is âe~take your development away, take your mines away, take your industry away and just give us our freedom.'

Thatâe(TM)s what it boils down to and I think thatâe(TM)s what this uprising really represents. And itâe(TM)s no coincidence that is happened on March 10, which is Tibetâe(TM)s National Uprising Day. And I think it just really reflects over 50 years of occupation, over 50 years of being silenced by the Chinese government and also ignored by the international community.

What is your response to certain people and groups on the left internationally who have basically sided with the Chinese government, saying that this is an internal issue or a âeoeseparatistâe issue?

In terms of progressives today and how the issue is being approached, I think that, whatever your politics are, associating yourself with one of the governments that has one of the most brutal human rights records on Earth and is without any doubt torturing, imprisoning and killing Tibetans for no other reason except for promoting unity in their country and wanting to keep a hand on Tibet [for] the economic benefits they can reap from that area, speaks for itself.

I donâe(TM)t think anybody who would consider themselves progressive would associate themselves with any of those policies, so whether you are left or right I think is irrelevant. I think looking at Chinaâe(TM)s policies [is] what is most important and there is no doubt their policies are brutal towards the Tibetan people.

I think thatâe(TM)s one thing that is unique in the Tibetan movement, is that you have people who have come from all different political backgrounds and are involved in the movement for different reasons. And I think that rather than compromising the movement, I think this in fact makes it a lot more effective and richer in some ways.

At this moment what really matters is that this is an oppressed people that needs the support of the world.

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.