Love Letter to My Ancestors' Country

China, land of my ancestors I do not pretend to know you well, but I know you better than most Americans.  Not just intellectually but in my heart.  When Hong Kong was returned to you, I felt a surprising release of anger that I did not even know was in me.  "At last!" I thought, "at last the imperialists are gone from Chinese soil!"  I am my parents' daughter.

I know that from the Chinese perspective, you were not "invading" Tibet in 1950.  Your relationship goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years, and if Tibet had appeared "independent", it's because the same British who had taken Hong Kong had loosened your control of Tibet.  I also know that cleaving Tibet away from you, as the Westerners want to do in the name of liberty, weakens you.  I can't help but feel it's convenient that many Westerners cast their most critical eye on the country whom they fear as a rival, while ignoring the human rights abuses in other countries.  And  I know that Buddhists are human beings - some peaceful and some not, and that the West's depiction of Tibet as a land full of peaceful monks is a romanticized caricature.

Lastly, I know the importance of "face" in Chinese culture.  I know how important the Olympics are for you, as an opportunity to show the world your beauty, ingenuity, and power.  I know you're angry that what was supposed to be your shining moment has been hijacked by some very PR savvy protesters.

All of this I know and feel, China, so I hope that you can see that I am on your side even if I say things you initially may not want to hear.  It is because I want what is best for the proud country of my ancestors that I endeavor to speak the truth to you. 

What you are doing in Tibet is wrong.  I know you want to keep order, but it is wrong to use lethal force against unarmed civilians, even if they are violent.  Those who have more power have the responsibility to show more restraint.  I know you want to maintain face, but it is wrong to keep the media out of Tibet.  You may not want the world to see the violence and the loss of control, but by keeping the media out, the world imagines the worst.

Lastly, and most importantly, your policy of migrating millions of Han into Tibet in order to integrate the region is wrong.

Perhaps you don't quite see why.  After all, you are developing, modernizing, and bringing in new job opportunities.  Perhaps you feel you are doing the Tibetans a favor.  But as a Han Chinese living in the U.S., I know what it's like to be a minority. I know what it's like to be told that the culture of my ancestors is inferior, and that I should assimilate for the good of everyone.   I have seen my parents' pain as they watch their culture slip away in front of their eyes.  Surely, you would not want your descendants, even those who are living over seas, to lose their Han identity?  Then perhaps you can see why the Tibetans are so upset by the threat to theirs.

China, most Americans may not know it, but I know that you are a land of many ethnicities and cultures – each one a precious gift.  Please, cherish these different gifts.  Do not destroy them for the sake of “progress.”  There will always be the opportunity for progress.  But once a culture and people are destroyed there is no way to bring them back.  Think of the collective history and culture that was lost during the “Great Leap Forward.”  Please, do not be like the Imperialists who invaded you.  Be kind to those living under you domain - Han and Tibetan and everyone else.  Show the world what it means to be civilized - what it means to be China.

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Fri, 10/31/2014 - 08:11
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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative