Sandwiched between the Reiki Level I training by the sweet if somewhat too-leftover-Hippie-stereotype German ex-pat while overlooking the once-crystal-clear-but-now-muddied-by-upstream reservoir construction along the Ganges in yoga-capital-of-the-world Rishikesh, and paragliding at 10,000 through the snowy Himalayan foothills near Manali, I dropped in for a masala tea with the Deputy Director, Department of Environment, Tibetan Government in Exile.
Slide after Power Point slide, statistic after statistic, I felt like I was being repeatedly punched in the gut … by the Chinese government. Not a pretty picture – the destruction of sensitive permafrost, vast deforestation, mining, forced relocations, nuclear waste dumping … and, of course, that’s just for starters.
I had just walked down the hill from McLeod Ganj, where I had stumbling into a conversation (and, of course, more tea) with Tsering, a book-seller who, five years earlier, had turned down a personal invitation by Dalai Lama to become the future Prime Minister. When I asked Tsering about the DL’s ‘middle way’ approach to coexistence between Tibet and China, he replied: ”If you see a young girl across the street being raped, do you stop and assess whether your Judo skills are sufficient? Do you watch and evaluate the strength of the attacker? No, you take action and stop the attack.”
The rape of Tibet – environmentally, culturally, politically – is anguishing to watch, even (or perhaps more) from a safe distance. And, as I sat there, in this tiny Ministry of Environment, with a total of five staff running countless research and education programs, I listened to story after story of political refugees barely escaping persecution, of peaceful protesters of extractive nickel mining being arrested, hunger strikes, of a culture being systematically destroyed.
Last Fall, when I visited China, I remember watching an English-language documentary on China state-run TV – a skillful piece of Soviet-style propaganda, admiring the ‘peaceful’ and ‘bloodless’ liberation of Tibet; my conversations with young, urban Beijing-ites whose access to any non-governmental information about Tibet was non-existent; about last year’s dealings between Google and China over censorship issues – I had all this floating through my head, when I received the following screen-shot from my friend in the Tibet Gov’t in Exile, Department of Environment …
This is a log of Tibetan official’s personal gmail account being accessed, repeatedly, from China … shortly before his account was crashed altogether.