In amongst the Guardian letters page yesterday (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/24/tibet) were a good few letters that looked like they had been drafted by the foreign ministry in Beijing.
We get some references to "Tibetans' benefits in China's modernisation programme" and the usual guff that "the Dalai Lama's Tibet was a feudal tyranny characterised by torture, enslavement and an exploitation more raw than anything offered by capitalist modernity".
Anyone who has been watching the current BBC series "A Year in Tibet" or who has visited Tibet would be hard-pressed to see what benefits Chinese colonialism has brought to Tibet. Yes it is more "modern" in the sense that there are some tarmacked roads (the better to move Red Army tanks down to crush rebellions) and some tractors. Pretty much the same modernisation Stalin brought to the Ukraine in the 1930s. Given that China colonised Tibet nearly 50 years ago we don't know how modern a free Tibet would be by now.
Like the Chinese people themselves, the Tibetans are on the receiving end of a regime that combines the worst excesses of Communism (zero freedom of political choice, arbitrary human rights abuses, prison camps, total disregard the cultural rights of ethnic and religious minorities) with a Dickensian model of capitalism straight out of the pages of Engels' "Condition of the Working Class in England in 1848". Current day Chinese "Communism" includes such notable features as having no free education, no free health care, no free trade unions and no welfare safety net. The USA has more claim to be "socialist" than China does.
Another letter in the Guardian warns that "China is a nation state composed of at least 70 separate groups dominated by the Han. If the Chinese leadership allows one group to win independence, this could be the beginning of the dismantling of the Chinese state."
Er... isn't that the point? I guess a similar letter in 1947 would have warned that independence for India would lead to the dismantling of the British Empire, or one in 1990 would have warned that independence for the Baltic States would lead to the dismantling of the Soviet Union.
The Han Chinese have no more right to rule the other ethnic groups in China than the British had to rule India or the Russians to rule Estonia, Georgia or the Ukraine.
The collapse of the USSR showed you cannot keep entire nations enslaved in perpetuity. Sooner or later freedom will need to come to Tibet and the other minorities in China, and democracy will need to come to the Chinese people. Someone in Beijing needs to realise that history will look more kindly on China's Gorbachev than it will on those ordering the butchery of monks and other protesters in Tibet.