Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Real Life

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland’s newspaper of record, reports in its paper edition of August 18 that the Chinese government has announced a program to move 73,300 nomadic ethnic Tibetans in Gansu province into brick houses. Asked by a journalist why the government was forcing nomadic people to give up a way of life they have practiced for thousands of years, Wu Shimin, deputy director of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, seemed perplexed: “Human society has, after all, always developed from a lower to a higher stage. The sedentarization of human beings is part and parcel of the unavoidable progress of history. It is the only way for them to participate in industrialization. For thousands of years, many Tibetans were forced to live as nomads because they were completely dependent on the availability of grassland and water. The [Chinese] government wants nomadic minorities to have a ‘real life’ [ein richtiges Leben].” On Wednesday, the Chinese government gave a press conference under the rubric of “Progress of Human Rights for Ethnic Minorities in China.” Meanwhile, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported a couple of days ago that children representing Tibetans, Uighurs and other ethnic groups in a key part of the Olympics opening ceremony were actually members of the dominant Han ethnic group. Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, commented, “I see nothing wrong exactly with (where) the children are from… it is a tradition in China in terms of giving a performance.” Quite.