During his mid-November trip to China, Mr. Obama said something that went mostly unnoticed, but which needs to be discussed. According to our president, “We recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. We are not in favor of independence.”
Since 1951, China has occupied Tibet. Any resistance to China, any dissent, any pro–Dalai Lama, pro-independence remark by a Tibetan is met with swift punishment from Chinese police and soldiers — who detain, arrest, and murder whomever they want. In 2008, a British director named Jezza Neumann secretly shot a documentary in Tibet. When he returned to Britain, he summed up what he’d seen to the Daily Mail: “I haven’t met anyone who had been arrested and wasn’t tortured.”
Neumann’s documentary was prompted by a 2006 Tibetan escape attempt. Seventy-five Tibetans were trying to leave their home and join the Dalai Lama in his Indian exile. The Tibetans were unarmed; Chinese border guards stopped them and, without provocation, began gunning them down. At least two were killed — a young man and a 17-year-old nun; 32 others were captured and thrown in a labor camp, of whom 17 were never heard from again. Of those 17, 10 were children. Some of the party made it to India and reported what had happened. China denied the reports, but a Romanian mountaineer happened to have seen, and filmed, the entire thing from a nearby climbing camp. The video can be found on the Internet; it’s chilling.
One of the captured Tibetans, a teenager named Jamyang Samten, was released after months of hard labor. After his release, Samten tried a second escape to India; he made it, and was interviewed by Neumann. He said Chinese policemen had chained him to a wall, shocked him with an electric cattle prod, and beaten him — “They beat us using their full strength. Sometimes they forced us to take off our clothes. We were locked up in a room with our arms and legs handcuffed and they beat us.” At the time, he was only 14 years old.
Inside Tibet, Neumann witnessed the bitter oppression of the indigenous population. He spoke to nomads whose livestock had been confiscated and who had been forced into “concrete camps without schools, clinics or bus services” (in the words of the Daily Mail). He discovered entire villages flooded by new dams. He spoke with a woman who had been forcibly sterilized — “They cut [my] Fallopian tubes and stitched them up. It was agonizingly painful. They didn’t use anesthetic. They just smeared something on my stomach and carried out the sterilization.”
Not everyone was so willing to talk to Mr. Neumann — “There are spies everywhere,” he says. “There are the uniformed police and army, the secret police in their suits and dark glasses and then a spy network of Chinese and Tibetans. It’s like the Stasi in East Germany. It’s got to the point where brothers don’t trust their sisters and mothers don’t trust their children.”
The president of the United States responded to this by standing shoulder to shoulder with the president of China and saying, “We recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. We are not in favor of independence.”
Mr. Obama qualified his remark by adding that the American delegation did “encourage Chinese authorities to take steps to preserve the unique cultural, religious, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.” Those “steps” weren’t specified publicly. They probably weren’t specified at all, but either way, I wouldn’t count on tepid obsequiousness stopping Communist China’s carefully considered proto-genocide; the only way China’s dictatorship is going to preserve the Tibetan identity is in a museum. (Hitler kept a Torah, which he planned to put into a post-Judaism Jewish museum; it’s not clear that President Xi will be as considerate.)
Mr. Obama said that his meeting with Xi included “a healthy exchange around” the “issues” of “fundamental human rights.” That meeting resulted in Tibet’s being thrown under the bus, and it appears that the Communist government’s crimes against the Falun Gong were ignored completely.
Falun Gong is a religious movement related to Buddhism. The Slaughter, a recent book by journalist Ethan Gutmann, lays out China’s treatment of Falun Gong adherents; National Review’s Jay Nordlinger reviewed it in August. Falun Gong’s “leading tenets are ‘Truth, Compassion, Forbearance,’” writes Nordlinger. “The practitioners have had a lot to forbear.”
“I will not subject you to a complete list of torture methods — that would require several pages, in any case — but we should not be spared entirely: After all, the most we are asked to do is think about these things, briefly, not endure them. Communist authorities violate people with electric batons. They hang pregnant women from ceilings and beat them while forcing their husbands to watch. They throw naked women into cells of hardened criminals, to be gang-raped.”
And that isn’t the whole picture. The subject of Gutmann’s book is the harvesting of organs from followers of Falun Gong: “A liver goes for about $90,000; a heart, lung or cornea goes for a lot more,” says Nordlinger; “ . . . a human being could be worth up to $300,000 if all his organs can be ‘transplanted efficiently.’ . . . Exactly how many Falun Gong practitioners have been harvested is hard to determine, of course. The CCP goes to great lengths to cover up its barbarity. But Gutmann’s best guess is 65,000 — that is, 65,000 live harvests.”
Gutmann wrote his book after discovering that followers of Falun Gong were having their organs extracted while they were still alive.
In 2008, president-elect Obama called for us Americans to “rededicate ourselves to the advancement of human rights and freedoms for all, and pledge always to live by the ideals we promote in the world.”
That doesn’t really square with abandoning Tibet and the Falun Gong to torture and genocide, or with President Obama using his trip to toast China’s dictator: “To our people and the resolve we share, I wish the best of health to President Xi, his family, and the people of China — may we continue to walk the path of friendship and cooperation for the benefit of ourselves and for the world.”
Frankly, the whole thing was disgusting.
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard.