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An ethnic Tibetan who grew up under the Chinese Communist regime and currently works as a high-ranking Communist Party official has decided to speak out against the Tibetan atrocities currently taking place. Choosing to remain anonymous, the government official claims that the current state of Tibet is “far worse than people in the West suspect.”

When the Chinese military invaded Tibet in 1950, many Tibetans thought the Chinese would modernize the region and bring order to the land that was previously ruled by monks and monasteries. These thoughts were quickly dashed when the Chinese began erasing any signs of Tibetan culture and forcibly removing people from their homes into communes. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, Tibetan leaders were sent to Maoist reeducation camps and hundreds of monasteries and relics were destroyed. Many of these injustices are still occurring today.

The streets of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city, are still patrolled by Chinese security forces that act like occupiers. The Communist official claims that the security forces often take property and beat residents at their own discretion and without cause. During another Lhasa revolt surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the military arrested 6,000 people. The practice of self-immolation, or the public death by lighting oneself on fire, has gained popularity with monks to raise awareness for their struggle. Since 2011, over 100 people have resorted to self-immolation to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Another horrifying byproduct of Chinese rule has been the destruction of the Tibetan plateau. The Communist official alleges that the increase in cultivation due to Chinese immigrants coming to Tibet has resulted in diminished grasslands and desertification. The number of rivers that feed into Qinghai Lake decreased from 108 to 8 due to extensive irrigation systems. Furthermore, the area as a whole is said to be a toxic dumping ground for Chinese industries.

Human Rights Watch recently published a 115-page report corroborating many injustices that the Communist official is claiming. Their report focuses on the re-housing project currently underway that has relocated over 2 million Tibetans since 2006. Hundreds of thousands of nomadic herders have been placed into “New Socialist Villages” destroying their livelihoods without adequate compensation.

These obvious and blatant human rights abuses are occurring all across Tibet. The Communist official hopes to publish a book in the West detailing his eyewitness accounts of the current state of Tibet and hopes that the Chinese will someday allow public debate on the matter. He says that a style of democracy tailored to the culture and people of Tibet would be the best solution if such an option were possible.

– Sarah C. Morris 

Sources: Spiegel, Human Rights Watch
Sources: New York Times

The program is known as the New Socialist Countryside, and has provided up to 2.1 million Tibetans with running water, electricity, and access to improved healthcare and education in the past 7 years. Run by planners in Beijing, the program is ostensibly aimed at raising living standards and improving the economy of Tibet, one of the poorest regions within China.

However, a recent report by Human Rights Watch suggests that the program has had a severe effect on the traditional Tibetan way of life. Says Sophie Richardson, China Director for Human Rights Watch, “…while it may be true that some Tibetans have benefitted, the majority have simply been forced to trade poor but stable livelihoods for the uncertainties of a cash economy in which they are often the weakest actors.”

Having observed the income disparity between rural and urban dwellers, the Chinese government has relocated nearly three-quarters of Tibetans to urban areas. However, upon arriving in cities, rural Tibetans can’t compete with immigrants from other regions of China, nor with educated locals who speak Mandarin. As such, large portions of the population are being moved, supposedly voluntarily, but not being given a support structure once resettled that would allow them to survive in a setting wholly foreign to their previous nomadic lifestyle.

There are many claims for the motives of the government, including protecting the ecologically fragile grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, and facilitating improved utility distribution for the population, but at the same time the thought lingers that the relocations have more to do with control of the population and improving rural incomes to avoid unrest.

120 self-immolations have taken place in Tibet in the past five years. Sadly, civil unrest is an ongoing theme in Tibet, and with governmental policies such as New Socialist Countryside, improvement is a double-edged sword.

– David Wilson

Sources: NY Times, Huffington Post

Poverty Protests in Bulgaria Reach New Levels

2013 has been a tough year for Bulgaria. In an environment of political corruption, declining wages, and rising energy prices, the 7.3 million citizens of this Southern European nation has suffered. Bulgarians have been taking it to the streets since January in protest against the government.

Former president Boiko Borisov resigned in March in response to the protests and was succeeded by provisional prime minister Marin Raykov, who has promised to raise income levels. The movement is strongest in Sofia, the capital, where the President’s Office and other federal buildings are concentrated in an architectural complex known as the Largo.

On March 13 of this year, 53-year-old Sofia native Dimitar Dimitrov planted himself in front of the Largo, doused himself in gasoline, and lit himself on fire. Dimitrov’s act is one of seven self-immolations that have been carried out by disenchanted Bulgarians since the beginning of the year.

Like his counterparts, Dimitrov was unemployed and struggling to obtain food. The self-immolations committed by people like Dmitrov and the political activist/photographer Plamen Goranov have garnered the attention of the international community to the issue of poverty in Bulgaria. As the crisis continues,  the new leadership of Bulgaria will have to listen and respond to the needs of the people to prevent more lives from being lost.

– Josh Forgét

Source: The Economist,Reuters,BBC News
Photo: Reuters