News / Asia

Q&A with Lezlee and Stefan Halper: 'Tibet: An Unfinished Story'

FILE - A Tibetan monk walks along the halls of the Jokhang Buddhist temple in Lhasa, Tibet.
FILE - A Tibetan monk walks along the halls of the Jokhang Buddhist temple in Lhasa, Tibet.
The West has long been fascinated with Tibet; its culture, its stunning landscape and myths beyond belief. For the past 60 years, the fascination has been in conflict with Chinese occupation of the region and a forced integration into Han Chinese society. Western response has been limited in direct forms. Indirectly, a soft power has been at work aiming to allow Tibetans to live as they choose. Lezlee Brown Halper and Stefan Halper have spent more than a decade researching Tibet’s struggle and putting it into perspective in their book, Tibet: An Unfinished Story.
   
STEFAN HALPER: We traveled out to Tibet in the late 1990s. We were actually guests of the Chinese government, which was an interesting thing. They were trying to show us around China and get us to think positively of China. But when we got to Tibet, at our request, we encountered a situation which was absolutely horrific. The Tibetan monks, the monasteries, were under tight surveillance. We found we could not have conversations with monks, even on the stairways, which weren’t being recorded, both audio and video.
 
We sensed a real fear amongst the population in downtown Lhasa. We slowly began to realize that the Chinese had systematically proceeded to deconstruct Tibetan society. We were deeply affected by that. You have to acknowledge that the Chinese have put a great deal of money into Tibet. The assumption has been “well if we [China] improve the material well-being of these people, they will sort of move away from their culture and accept China as the motherland.” This is what has not happened.
 
STEVENSON: A large problem for Tibetans and other groups is they have very little or no leverage to affect their position or change what has happened with the Chinese coming in, and very little support from the outside as well.
 
STEFAN HALPER: There is no leverage as you say available to the local Tibetans to resist this Chinese influx. But there is an odd type of leverage available within the global community. Tibet exercises a unique soft power. It is the power of moral condemnation. People around the world look at what the Chinese are doing in Tibet, and they ask very probing questions. What kind of culture could be doing this to these Tibetan Buddhists? That power of broad condemnation and criticism, that’s really driving the Chinese nuts because they don’t have a way of containing it. That leads me to think that this six-decade long occupation of Tibet by China has really benefitted neither China nor Tibet.
 
STEVENSON: Where does Tibet go from here and how will the West approach it?
 
STEFAN HALPER: In the West, and we talk about this a good deal in the book, we have come to be fascinated with the myth of Tibet. It started with Herodotus in the fifth century who claimed to see gold digging ants. It went on to the 1400s where the missionary Odoric came back with tales of fantastic beats, women with teeth as long as boars tusks, led to the sense that Tibet was a truly mystical and sometimes frightening place. That myth was picked up when the British were there in the 18th and early 19th century, and the whole myth continued with [U.S. President Franklin] Roosevelt who named [the presidential mountain retreat] Camp David as Shangri-La, and on into the present time.
 
America presents itself in global terms as having certain beliefs and values and wanting to by a beacon of rationality on issues. Unfortunately, we have not managed to see those values or principles reflected in the Tibetan experience. There are a lot of reasons for it. The fact is Tibet really is on the other side of the world. It is not bounded by water. We have no obvious way in to be helpful. So where do we go from here? China relies upon the rivers that flow from Tibet to provide water to large portions of central China. So they are not going to give the area up. But they might moderate their domestic governance. If we could encourage that, that would be a wonderful thing.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid