Letters to the West

seven years in Tibet-in-Exile (and counting …)

Archive for the ‘tibet under china’ Category

letter to google

as a result of reading the news … (i didn’t use to do that — dang, my life was so much simpler then) …

… the thoughts kept churning, and what happens to me when the thoughts churn, is they form into a writing. It’s kinda like milk turning into butter — a natural, unstoppable process. And then i have this big gob of butter, and i have to put it somewhere. So here it is.

This time it turned into a rant. I kept trying to write a calm and reasoned explanation of my issues with Google, but it kept exploding into this — under the influence of experiences with the people i work with, and to now-personally-relevant world events. That’s how writing is sometimes.

What protects me and my personal info on Gmail?

So ok, i start thinking about that, and i do a search, and find out that as a Gmail user, i can set my options to always use https.
Yah that protects me on the front end, from those bad hackers. Ohhhh i’m so scared of them. They want my credit card. A lot of good it will do them.

What is going to protect me from Google itself?
If i have a gmail account, Google is searching alll my email all the time. Sure sure, “it’s just a program.” Still, i just don’t like it. It’s creepy.

But wait, there’s more:

What if some Google database administrator or programmer follows the trails of my gmail contents and contacts, and decides it should be reported (in the present US climate, witch-hunting is now going on). Will Google allow it to be reported?

What if he does it on his own watch? Dept of “Homeland” (that name always makes me laugh, it’s so 1950s USSR … or 2010 PRC … oh wait … now i don’t feel like laughing any more … ) Security, FBI, and others love to follow up on these things — it is now their stated policy.

Or the US government comes to Google and says “we need all emails and all related info for this person’s account – he is spouting anti-American rants on Twitter and websites, plus is aiding Tibetan terrorists” … what will Google do? I know what Google will do: “<pant pant pant> oh it will just take a sec <type type> here you are.”
(Update 9 jan 2011: Whaddya know. Our Big Daddy the USofA is doing it — (not after me personally, yet, but when they get Twitter @WikiLeaks info, my name will there as a Twitter follower) — and Twitter is standing up to them as much as it can. Google? haven’t heard a peep, yet.)

(Actually i don’t use Gmail, for these reasons. But people i am working with do. And my mail to them is in their Gmail folders.)

I do know these are difficult problems to solve …

But — aaaaahhhh … listen … so sweet and soft and far away … “my little tiny violin playing a tiny sad song”.
aka, “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”
The “heat” not being the technical problems, of course! Us bitches love technical problems.
But these “problems” concern real people who are affected every day by Google’s anti-privacy, anti-human-rights actions.

I’m a programmer myself, with web, with databases. Sure, not anywhere near the scale or level of you guyz. But i know that the front end is all walled and fortressed, and beautiful UX, and nice promises to users; and behind that impressive facade is just a funky dirty steamy engineering room, wide open, unlocked, unguarded, full of gears and steampipes and t-shirted sweaty tech-brains, where anything can happen. I try to explain this to people i work with. I refuse to build or advise on anything for them unless they have policies — and actions! — addressing this. Some things are sensitive enough that i refuse completely; i do not want that responsibility. (anyway my job is teaching, not doing)

If protecting people’s privacy, rights, and lives, is too hard, Google should rethink that “don’t be evil” b.s. It is really really really hard not to be evil. It takes a hell of a lot more than a nice motto, and feel-good faces over the cute Tibetan monks visiting with their mandala.

So what can Google do?

Probably nothing. Living in this world involves trade-offs. I make my own trade-offs to do what i do. … But luckily for the world, i don’t have anywhere near the power that Google has!

In my dream world, Google would ponder the sayings:

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Google would think about the ramifications, in real time, to real people, of searching people’s email, of google maps, of street view, of harvesting wifi data, of tracking searches, of colluding with governments (including the increasingly fascist US govt), of whatever else they are doing that we don’t know about.

Google can stand up on their hind legs, remove their lingual apparatus from the PRC govt’s most voluminous and attractive rear end, and tell the world that they made a huge mistake in trying to “work with” them four years ago. That appeasement doesn’t work with totalitarian fascist governments, it didn’t work with Nazi Germany, and it won’t work with the PRC. That without a real basis in human rights in the law, and true compassion in the heart, all that lovely commerce and moolah, all that nice “trickle-down” fantasy, has nothing to stand on.

In the years when Cisco, Nortel, MicroSoft, Google, etc., were helping the PRC build their massive censorship and snooping apparatus, there was a chance that things could have turned around, if just one of those big companies had stood up like actual men with actual balls, and said “this is wrong”.

People are right now this second, while we sit in our comfy chairs, being horribly tortured in prisons in China and in Tibet because of the actions of these big western companies. At least one Chinese is imprisoned and tortured right now, because Yahoo gave his emails and info to the PRC government. That one is documented. How many others are not known about? How many times has Google done it? Google has given me no reason to believe, other than nicey-nice spoutings on their blog, that this hasn’t happened, or wouldn’t in future.

Sorry i’m being so intense …
um, no wait. (Dang that wussy side of me anyways.) I’m not sorry. Not at all.

Not when i think of some of the kids i know. Kids who left their only family, walked for days or weeks through Himalayan rock and cold, risked (or endured) frostbite, shooting, rape, and prison, for only these things: to get an education, and to see their Dalai Lama. Any single one of these kids has more guts in their one pinky finger than i can even imagine.

Or how about this?
Go to ltw home (or scroll up) and look at that photo for as long as you can. (My personal best is 20 seconds)
So, you see that guy there, in red. (The one on the ground there, with the police boot on him. With the extra red floating around. Yeah him.) Now, imagine his skin is white, and his eyes are round. Imagine his name is Scott, or Steve, or Matt. Or Joshua or Mary.

No, i don’t know his name — he is one more of the million Tibetans who are dead or disappeared. His name is likely to be Tenzin, or Lobsang, or Tsering … same as most of my friends in Dharamshala. “Tenzin” is one of the names of His Holiness Dalai Lama himself.

Why he’s layin all messy on the ground there? Well i don’t know his specific details. But there are many like him — you can read the verified stories at TCHRD.org, and of course, find more on the web. The causes of their unpleasant conditions is usually: Carrying a Tibetan flag. Owning a photograph of His Holiness Dalai Lama or His Holiness Panchen Lama. Refusing to say the Dalai Lama is a bad person. Saying that they don’t appreciate all the Han Chinese taking over their country, their land, their jobs, their lives. Sending their child to India for a decent education and to be able to practice their own religion. Putting a poster on a wall with one or more of these things on it. You know. Really bad stuff.

Google could put this photo above everyone’s monitor, and have everyone remind yourself that everything that you do, as part of one of the most powerful entities in the human world today, has the potential for this result. If you are not working with that image, or one like it, in your mind at all times, with the power you have in the world, your concern for “social problems” is a total total total farce.

“We are thinking of the long term, trust us.” No. That doesn’t cut it any more (if it ever did).
The blood is running now. And blood has already been running for much too long.
Just like with the ecology of our world, the “long term” is over, folks. We are here.

We will have to repent in this generation,
not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people,
but for the appalling silence of the good people.

   — Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Note: Yes yes yes, “citation needed” all over the hecka place. I didn’t want to clutter my beautiful rant with all those blue links. However everything i am saying is based on easily-findable news articles, and my opinions are based on personal experiences as well as those events. Am happy to provide as many links as you want, i have hundreds. Of course … you can always …. google it :)

If you want some curated links — in fact, they are ones i would put here — you can always take a look at https://twitter.com/#!/tometaxu But, full disclosure: I follow @wikileaks feed. So Big Brother, following me, may like to take a look at you also.)

Well well, look at this: The following items came up just in the past 3 weeks since i wrote this thing! It’s good they came up after, otherwise damn i’d be churning out another lump.
* Talk about “Search leakage” is not FUD. Google, please fix it. – 21 January 2011
* Google’s relationship with NSA and US goverment – 25 January 2011
* Google censoring search – 27 January 2011
* What does Google’s subtle censorship say about us? – 28 January 2011

Giving up our lives …

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”
Helen Keller – American writer and activist, deaf, dumb, and blind from age of 19 months.

“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”
Benjamin Franklin – American writer and activist, co-founder of the principles on which the United States of America is (was?) based.

There are people still fighting for their liberty …

Read the rest of this entry »

China’s Tibet

Written by walker

5 November 2008 at 12:27 am

Pictures from Tibet

Maybe you already know the things i’m going to tell you now. But i want to tell some things, in case any of you don’t know. The exposition below is probably too long. That’s too bad. The last 50 years in Tibet is way too long. As is each day in prison now.

What the Chinese are doing to Tibetans (and Mongols and Uighurs in Eastern Turkestan and Inner Mongolia — and to the Chinese themselves!) surpasses any of Hitler’s dreams. The pronouncements of the Chinese government read like they were taken straight out of Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. The story that is happening also — the only difference is the species, and the extent. And the amount of blood.

And how the west is responding to it — makes me sick. Makes me angry. Makes me able to do nothing but work … except when the combination of China’s doings and the west’s response, depress me to be unable to do anything at all.

It’s all about money. When the early reports came out in March, the response in the western media boiled down to, “oh dear this is awful. But we can’t jeopardize our economic relations with China!” Dither dither, and mealy-mouthed “oh um gee you shouldn’t come down quite so hard” messages to China.

Do you know that China owns a large proportion of the US national debt?
And also a large proportion of United States companies and big buildings?
Mmmm hmmm.

I believe it is also about race and culture. It is not white people who are being tortured and murdered and displaced. They are yellow and brown. And complicated cultural and historical issues. Much harder to relate to.

And the fact that there is religion. Ah, so romantic — the best of Buddhism, and a peaceful, deeply religious people … a lovely Dalai Lama. So nice. Just watch the drama, surely it will all work out. We can have organic popcorn.

It is easier to get exercised about people’s fates when they are just plain old folks like you and me. (And China doesn’t understand at all … “They don’t appreciate all we are doing for them! They are primitive and thankless, we have to force them to become modern and advanced, it’s for their own good.”)

Sometimes i think that one factor in the lack of response, is the way it is handled by Tibetans themselves. If this was happening to westerners’ brothers and mothers and friends, there would be screaming and wailing, dramatic stories in magazines, threats to sue, appearances on Oprah. (And, at least in the 1940s, action by organisations and governments. Even bombs.)

Tibetans don’t do that.

Every single Tibetan face you see in your travels around Sikkim and Dharamshala, has a relative, friend (or knows someone who does), who is injured, dead or in prison (being tortured) in Tibet.

Tibetan mind is not like Western mind. Nor is it like Indian mind. Nor Chinese mind. I don’t know how to describe it, because when i try it comes out in Western terms. Then westerners think things like “patient”, or “passive”, or even “accepting”. (Or my favorite piece of bullshit: “passive-aggressive” …)

It is none of those things.

But maybe more bitching and complaining, would help the powerful golden west to realise the awfulness of what is happening in Tibet.

So i’m the westerner. I’ll do it.

Here are some pictures.

I will try to draw them in words for you, because there are no photos — that is the other reality of this situation — communications are extremely controlled inside Tibet, and so everything is “hearsay”.

See this:
A sixteen-year-old girl walks out on the street, holding a picture of the Panchen Lama in front of her. She walks down the street with her neighbors and friends. Soon they are surrounded by “People’s Armed Police”. Soon, she falls to the ground, shot through the head.

See this:
A large group of Tibetans gather outside a Police station in Tibet, to demand the release of an arrested Tibetan. The police come out and start shooting at them. One man is shot several times. His friends try to take him away and he refuses. He says,
“Let me die here so that the world will know.”

See this:
Over and over again, for many weeks, monks and nuns and laypeople march along streets and roads all over Tibet, peacefully protesting.
Sometimes carrying Tibetan flags, photos of Dalai Lama.
They are shot, beaten, arrested (which mean more beatings and torture).

They come out and march *knowing* that those things will happen.

And they march again. And again.

And again.

Written by walker

4 November 2008 at 11:19 pm

Posted in tibet under china

The situation in Tibet — and in China — is no better.

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Well this blog became just another example of internet abandonment. Not like any body sees it anyway. If an unread blog dies in the ocean of the Great Sea of the Web …. uh …. well obviously, No.

Things got pretty busy, especially after March 10. I had so many thoughts, i could have written a lot here. But also so busy there was no time. And the heart hurting so, feeling like squeezed in a steel cage. It was all i could do to get up every morning, and move through the day. Can’t even imagine what Tibetans must have been feeling like — and still. My most useful thing to do is write code, not blogs. So i did that.

A recent email from an old friend, who is actually being influenced by what i write, moved me to try to drop some of my mental turds into this again. If only one person gets a new idea, then everything is worth it, right? That was the whole point to begin with, the whole rationale why i sometimes, against my true nature and instinct of self-preservation, blurt out english sentences instead of for loops.

Tibetans in India are trying to March to Tibet


I know a lot of the people mentioned in this article.

I’m not quite sure what the difference is between the Indian government blocking supplies to the marchers’ camp, and the Chinese “People’s Armed Police” blocking food and water to the monasteries in Tibet.

The article says that Tenzin Tsundue has lost a lot of weight. He never had a lot of weight to lose to begin with! So he must look like a skeleton now.

These days it is almost impossible for Tibetans to get out of Tibet. And also impossible for Tibetans outside to get in. *You* are a westerner, like me. *You*, and i, can walk into almost any country’s embassy and get a visa, just like that. You (nor i) cannot imagine what it is like to have to jump through so many hoops, spend so much money and time, to be able to go out of your own country. … if you can go at all.

It’s interesting how India is so schizophrenic about its support/antoginism to the Tibetans it shelters. It’s all about money and power, and China appeasement.

“… the movement of this group of unarmed men and women threatens Beijing’s massive propaganda exercise. They are a nonviolent force dedicated to their people, their nation and the truth. They refuse to be silenced at a time when China’s long arm of oppression and manipulation stretches around the world.”

Appeasement … Bush said last week, regarding Iran i think, that appeasement never works! … but then … Iran doesn’t have as much money invested in the US as China. To whom appeasement is the name of the game for governments all over the world.

No attribution for the last. Just trust me. Google it. I’m tired again. Probly be another 6 months before another post …

Written by walker

4 June 2008 at 8:52 am

A plea to friends and family

Dear friends and relations —

I am going to beg you, to take a few minutes of your precious time, and actually read the following. I apologise that it is long. I don’t know how to make it any shorter.

At this time (3pm) tomorrow (8 August), while most of you are sleeping comfortably in your beds safely in your own country, thousands of Tibetans will be protesting (peacefully) in New Delhi, for their right to do the same.

By this time tomorrow, perhaps the Indian government will have responded in its usual fickle manner. and proceeded to beat up the peaceful demonstrators and throw them in jail.

You may not know that the country of Tibet has been crushed under the cruel and repressive rule of China for now almost 50 years.You may not know that traveling in India, and from Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, is nowhere near as easy as us westerners have it. So every single one of the thousands traveling to Delhi had to make a major commitment in time, money, discomfort, and potential imprisonment and beating (at home and in Delhi) in order to get to Delhi to voice their support of their country.You may not know that Delhi police are nothing like western police — there is no consideration of “human rights”, “guilty until proven innocent”, or any of those other niceties that we take for granted in the west.

You may not know that Indian jails are nothing like jails in the US. They are filthy, crowded, cesspits. If you want anything decent to eat, you need someone from outside to bring it to you. Access to outsiders, including lawyers, is at the whim (and bribes) of the jail keepers.

You may not know that the reason for people braving these horrendous conditions, is that for nearing 50 years, their country (Tibet) has been undergoing an occupation and a genocide that makes the German holocaust of the 1930s and 40s look like a practice run. (This is not James’ emotions talking. This is documented, historical information, that the major governments of the world have been fully aware of the entire time.) That every one of them has family and friends, (just like you, my precious family and friends to whom i am writing now), who have been jailed, tortured, forcibly sterilised, denied schooling and living wages, within Chinese-occupied Tibet.

You may not know these things, because for some reason western governments, from the very beginnings in the 1950s, have deliberately chosen to ignore them. While millions of dollars go to produce lovely movies about exotic Tibet, to attend teachings by His Holiness Dalai Lama, to buy Tibetan books and carpets, to send money to Tibetan refugee organisations, and write articles to oooh and aaah over their cute clothes and sad situation … the torture and killing continues, with the conscious (documented!) decision by governments of other countries to *ignore* it.

You may not know these things, because for some reason the world media have deliberately chosen to ignore them. When i do a search on google for this, i find very very little about it. I believe that as well as the blood-thirsty preferences of the media, also the hand of China, and the desire to do business with China, is causing this news blackout.

You may not know that for the past 4 weeks, 14 Tibetans are sitting in an indefinite fast at the consultate area of New Delhi. Some of them are pretty old — so within the next week or so, one or two of them will probably die. There are other Tibetans waiting to take their places when they do. And these Tibetans are now taking care of these very people, while waiting to take their places! Could you do that? I couldn’t.

But then — you may not care.There are certainly way too many “causes” in the world to care about, and no way to do anything about them.I understand, i am the same way! The extent of man’s inhumanity to man *is* quite overwhelming.

For me, the extent of people’s deliberate *blindness* to this inhumanity, has become even more overwhelming. And less understandable.

So i am only asking you — in fact, i am pleading with you — as someone who is nominally a “friend” or “relation”, meaning that we possibly share some of the same ideas or world view — that you take only a few moments to

  1. Go back and reread this missive (that you just scanned over to try to find out what the heck is my point, … so you could smile indulgently, at that sweet James who is off on a high horse again, and go back to whatever you are doing …)For just a very few seconds — just a few, i promise! — try to understand what i am saying, to realize that this is a *real* thing happening, and it is happening to *real people*, who have been friends of mine for many years now, just as you have been a friend of mine for many years — and so by extension these people are “friends of a friend”, and maybe have some connection (if not only because of their essential humanity), to you.
  2. When you are cluck-clucking with others over the evening news about the sad situation in Afghanistan, or Darfur, or Iraq, or other places where violence abounds and the media feeds lustfully upon it, please add just one cluck, one little cluck, for Tibet — whose people have chosen to resist the incredible wrongs being done on them by the greatest power of the 21st century, not with guns and bombs, but with boring (and so non-media-worthy) peaceful means such as commmunication, dialogue, protests, hunger strikes, and … prayer.
  3. Think — for just a few seconds, that’s all i ask! — that there might be something a little more noteworthy, a little more deserving of attention, in the particular world tragedy of Tibet:

    If our struggle through nonviolence with a compassionate feeling succeeds, we will be creating a new way to solve problems and conflicts and thereby serve the interests of the entire human community.
    — His Holiness Dalai Lama

    Think that, if the Tibetan’s cause succeeds. King’s and Gandhi’s and Dalai Lama’s “experiments with truth” may eventually become recognised ways of dealing with conflict throughout the world.
    Think — know! — This isn’t a Beatles’ song to “imagine”. This is a real attempt by real people, ordinary people just like my friends and family, to fight unimaginable oppression with peaceful means.
    And think that — if this attempt does not succeed, it may confirm what people have always believed: that only violence will solve complex problems. And set that in stone for hundreds of years to come, for your family’s children, and their children, to live with.

I am not asking for words of support, or praise for what a “great job” i am doing. I am not the one hanging by my thumbs in a Tibetan prison. So if you feel the need to send praise, please send it to those who actually deserve it.I am asking, pleading, only that you just add one tiny spark of awareness of this situation into the world consciousness. Just one time. Just for today. While my friends are undergoing their struggle in New Delhi.And maybe, some day, Tibetan people will be able to lie comfortably in their beds in their own country.

Just like you.

Sadly, and frustratedly, yours, — james

Written by walker

7 August 2007 at 1:31 am