Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cuba and Tibet's shared calendar of hope and tragedy

Free Tibet demonstration on March 10, 2012 in London, UK

Cubans and Tibetans share two things in common despite our profoundly different histories and religious traditions that bring us together in shared misery. We both have suffered under tyranny since the early 1950s and over a half century later continue to struggle for the restoration of our freedom. China became a communist regime in 1949 and immediately began asserting territorial designs on Tibet. Communist China invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950. Cuba was a free and independent republic with a constitutional democracy until March 10, 1952 when Fulgencio Batista overthrew the democracy in a coup d'état against the last democratically elected president Carlos Prio Socarras.

Both Cubans and Tibetans looked to 1959 as an opportunity for democratic restoration and liberation. Instead tyranny entrenched itself. The Cuban nightmare began amidst the hope on January 1, 1959 that the departure of Fulgencio Batista into exile would mean a democratic restoration and an end to authoritarian tyranny instead it was the beginning of a new totalitarian communist tyranny headed by Fidel Castro. Cloaking itself in the legitimacy of nationalism and anti-Americanism it justified the systematic denial of human rights in the rhetoric of anti-imperialism and the “Yankee threat.”

Tibetan hopes that a national uprising that erupted in Lhasa on March 10, 1959 would drive the Chinese occupiers out of their homeland. Instead His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to flee to India to avoid imprisonment or assassination as the Chinese communists crushed the uprising.

However, as first witnessed with the regime’s support of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and later its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 their so-called anti-imperialism demonstrated ideological exceptions. The same holds true for Tibet. Fidel Castro in his March 31, 2008 “reflection” titled “The Chinese Victory” denies that Tibet was ever independent justifying and defending the Chinese occupation of that small country. It is a shameful rewriting of history.

It is time to hold both Fidel Castro and the Chinese communists accountable to the truth.

On February 24, 2011, Students for a Free Tibet at Florida International University co-sponsored with the Free Cuba Foundation the 15th anniversary silent vigil of the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. Today, March 10, 2012 in London we participated in a march from White Hall 10 Downing Street to the Chinese Embassy protesting 62 years of Chinese occupation and repression.

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