Americans have been told that this country is “in terrible shape”, and some have chosen to believe it. They long for a return to some vague, unspecified and non-existent time when everything was rosy for everyone (or at least for white males). Today I want to take a brief moment to show those who are feeling deprived, a life they have never seen and cannot even begin to imagine, and then ask them to step back and tell us all how horrible this country is.
I take you today to the small village of Jiqie No. 2 Village, just outside of Tibet, China, a scattering of tents and yaks in a scenic, sweeping grasslands valley. 27-year-old Tsering Tso works hard at her job as a Yak herder, and in her spare time she searches for tiny brown mushrooms called ‘caterpillar fungus’, which she can sell for its medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities to supplement her family’s income. Though she works hard, she is a happy girl, and has a boyfriend, a Buddhist priest. On this particular afternoon, Tsering’s boyfriend calls and tells her that he is ill and asks her to come visit him. But she finds him in the local police station, in the company of two local policemen, drinking beer. Tsering apparently joined the group and that was the last anybody is known to have seen her alive.
The next morning, her body was found bruised, her clothing in disarray, and a gash on her head, as she hung by the neck from a tree. Her death was ruled a suicide and her boyfriend, who had rather an unsavory reputation for a religious man, has disappeared.
Family and neighbors protested the suicide ruling and called for a police investigation, but instead, on the day of Tsering’s funeral, hundreds of soldiers marched into the village, severely beating and tying up over 40 people, then taking them to jail. Tsering’s family members saw their homes ransacked, their food supplies such as rice ripped open and thrown on the ground. Police also confiscated all photos of Tsering from homes, even checking cell phones. Most were released in the days that followed, but five members of Tsering’s family were sentenced to prison for refusing to sign a statement absolving the police for responsibility for her death.
“My daughter was healthy and happy. She wouldn’t commit suicide,” said Tsering’s mother Adhey. “My beloved daughter was murdered without any justice being given by the government. Instead, they simply arrested more innocent people and sent them to jail.”
Human Rights Watch catalogued nearly 500 arrests across Tibetan parts of China between 2013 and 2015, most were ordinary citizens accused of such things as criticizing local officials or protesting a mining development. In a brave move, some 700 villagers from 13 local villages composed a letter to Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, calling for an investigation into Tsering’s death and the subsequent actions by police and military. The letter is far too long for me to reprint here, but has been translated into English and gives an enlightening glimpse of life in Tibet, the human rights violations, and the suffering of those who live under Chinese oppression.
I challenge anyone who feels that our government is “horrible”, that President Obama is “the worst president in history”, and that what this nation needs is a circus clown to make the country “truly great again”, to read the aforementioned letter, to read the full story of these events, to consider the lives of those under Chinese rule, as well as many other countries where democracy is not the law of the land. And then … think about it.