November 23, 2007

The Chinese Way of Life

Imagine a candle-light vigil across from the White House. A group of students and activists protesting against the Patriot Act. Charlie and Linus take a few pictures of the event on their new digital camera, and give them to Lucy. Lucy uploads the pictures from her laptop to Flickr, and invite a few of her friends in India to view them. Charlie's camera, Lucy's laptop, and the Flickr server, were all made in China.

The total cost of this picture sharing? Peanuts!

Return to earth. More precisely, Lithang, Tibet. Men and women in colorful clothes, celebrating the annual horse festival. Peaceful demonstrations and speeches in support of the Nobel Laureate Dalai Lama's return to Tibet follow. Armored vehicles appear from nowhere and pour out soldiers from the Red Army. They quickly disperse the gathering with "shock grenades, tear gas, and beatings". Runggye Adak, who led the demonstration is arrested and sentenced to serve 8 years in prison.

Armed soldiers in riot gear march towards the informal Tibetan encampment south of the town

Adak Lupoe, a senior monk at Lithang monastery, and Kunkhyen, a musician and a teacher, take pictures of the demonstration and give them to their friend Jarib Lotho. Lotho sends them to a few media and human rights organizations run by the Tibetan community in exile. Lupee, Kunkhyen, and Lotho are arrested by the Chinese, and charged with criminal action that posed an imminent "threat to national security". The three are produced in front of the intermediate court in Kardze, Sichuan province, which convicts them all — probably for espionage or treason.

The total cost of this picture sharing? 21 years in prison — 10, 9, and 3 years respectively for Lupee, Kunkhyen, and Lotho.

It's the Chinese way of life. A model of equality, fairness, and justice for all.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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