I read a fascinating story about the Beijing-Lhasa Tibet Railway, a monumental engineering feat by any accounting.
The article by correspondent Pankaj Mishra, The Train to Tibet, appears in the April 16 New Yorker. (The text of the article is not available online).
As an armchair railway buff, I was struck by the engineering difficulty of constructing track on the fast-melting permafrost (global warming), the systems to deliver oxygen-rich air to passengers at 16,400 feet, and the political side of the railway that we do not hear so much about. The railway serves as a delivery system for trainloads of Han Chinese, who already dominate the Tibetans, now a minority, living in their own capital of Lhasa. Many also view the railway as a British-style colonial device for plundering rich mineral resources and diverting them to Beijing.
The intense Red Guard style propaganda and blue laws, so out of date and unfashionable in Beijing, are enforced in Lhasa. You can be arrested for owning a photograph of the exiled Dalai Lama, the article reports. My reaction: when young people now carry Lenovo laptop PC’s, how can officialdom stop you from smuggling all the downloaded images you want from Google?
I’m not religious in any way that most of you out there could detect. Nevertheless, I have always admired the unflappable Dalai Lama as a powerful symbol of passive resistance and peace. We’re certainly aware of China’s immature and ineffectual efforts to regulate and control internet access as a means of censorship, but you can’t be arrested for owing a jpg image of the Dalai Lama if they can’t find it. At Google Images, I looked at results 1-20 of about 292,000 finds for “Dalai Lama”.
Although I respect Tibetan Buddhism, it would never have occurred to me to download and post a picture of the Dalai Lama unless I’d read that it was banned in his native country. I invite everyone, whether living in Lhasa or Livermore (CA), to locate and download their own image of the Dalai Lama. You can own your own copy, no matter what the officials have to say about it.