My father escaped Maoist China and no, Durham University is not comparable – Palatinate


By Tara Jackson Rigchung

Freedom of speech, “wokeism” and “cancellation of culture” seem to be common topics of discussion in the mainstream media lately. The “culture war” fabricated by the right-wing media has already struck near our home, but never closer than an opinion piece by a freshman from Durham in the United States. Daily mail comparing student protests against Rod Liddle’s invitation to a Christmas ceremony at South College in Maoist China. As a student of Tibetan heritage, this comparison could not be more odious.

When I was a child, I had many friends with dual heritage, and many parents were refugees or migrants. They would visit their families abroad at least once a year. They would tell me about their Oma and Opa, Dziadek and Babcia, Waigong and Waipo, and how excited they were to visit them, the foods they would eat and the games they would play. I could not identify with them because my family lived in Tibet.

I was not able to visit them because Tibet still felt and continues to feel the effects of the Communist occupation.

Many of them had been killed under Mao, whether by execution, starvation or in fighting with the Chinese army. Many had been imprisoned for no crime and without trial, and often tortured. The others suffered “wrestling sessions”, restriction of their religious freedoms and destruction of their language and culture. I was unable to visit them because Tibet still felt and continues to feel the effects of the Communist occupation: movement limited in effective containment of the “autonomous” region of Tibet, a very small part of historic Tibet.

The “[i]The supposedly ubiquitous “tolerance for dissent” in our university and decried in the Daily Mail article in question has been compared to Maoist China. For me, “dissent intolerance” in Maoist China has been characterized by execution, imprisonment, and human rights violations used to punish my family for the crime of ethnicity.

A lecturer or student who disagrees with someone and chooses not to listen, come out or protest is clearly incomparable to the horrors committed against ethnic minorities in China, both historically and today. .

Clearly the two are incomparable

The fact that I cannot visit my family or the country to which I feel so closely connected is a grave injustice and shows how the restriction of human rights is passed on from generation to generation. During my twenty-two years, I only went to historic Tibet twice and never set foot in the Tibet Autonomous Region, while my friends could visit their families abroad to Christmas or their summer vacation.

If I said “free Tibet” in Maoist China, I would be jailed, tortured or executed. If you say you agree with Tim Luckhurst, or Rod Liddle’s comments at Durham University, the worst that can happen is other people won’t agree or like you very much. Clearly, the two are incomparable.

Entering Durham was, of course, a dream for me. So far, the only affront I have felt against my culture and my family has been people who casually call themselves Maoists. However, claiming that students are emerging from an unexpected speech by one of the country’s most controversial columnists, along with the protests and reaction of the university administration that followed, is somewhat comparable. what my family has suffered is nothing short of an insult.

Freedom of speech is not the right to be heard, and students in the South have also exercised their freedom

The nature of any university guarantees ubiquitous discussion and debate in seminars, conferences and societies. I have been actively involved in the Durham University Debating Society for the past two years, and we would be happy to welcome those who disagree with any of us politically for a heated debate. A speech at the end of the dinner is not a discussion or a debate, it is exactly that – a speech.

Freedom of speech is not the right to be listened to, and students in the South also exercised their freedom by going out and going to the pub instead. If these comments had been made at a seminar or panel discussion, where dissenting opinions are given an equal platform, those who sacrifice their own respectability on the altar of “free speech” might have a leg to stand on. But they weren’t, so they don’t.

In England my father kept our culture alive by teaching me and my brother through food, language, religious ceremonies and traditions. I have a Tibetan name, just like my brother and his son. I call my grandmother and grandfather Ama-La and Anye, I participate in Buddhist traditions like burning incense and reciting prayers (and I myself became a Buddhist later). I stuff myself with momos, thenthuk, tingmo, thukpa (and I avoid sepen, my father’s homemade chili paste). Our house is decorated with Tibetan rugs, thangkas, an altar and prayer flags floating on the apple trees in the garden. I appreciate the freedom of speech we have in this country even more given my family history, and I recognize the importance of universities – both in their proliferation of debates, as well as their duty of care. .

You would be lucky if you escaped with your life, let alone your sanity

To those who compare the perceived restriction on their freedom of speech to Maoist China, know this: You would not be able to write articles about it in Maoist China. Your teacher wouldn’t give you chocolate and you wouldn’t have student elections. You wouldn’t have debating societies. You wouldn’t be able to complain about a student protest because there wouldn’t be one. You wouldn’t be given a signature in a national newspaper. If you were Tibetan, you wouldn’t be able to speak your language, hoist your flag, or practice your religion.

You can still be jailed for sending an email saying “Free Tibet”, saying “Free Tibet” out loud, teaching the Tibetan language, or singing a song about Tibet. You would be lucky if you ran away with your life, let alone your sanity. Consider your analogies before making them.

Image: Iori Sean Thorpe