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“Free Tibet?”


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A few weeks ago I started ruminating on why the “Free Tibet” movement seemed to have lost a lot of momentum and visibility. I came up with a few thoughts at the Diplomat:

Where has the “Free Tibet” rallying call gone? Resistance to the Chinese occupation continues within Tibet, but the visibility of that resistance in the West seems to have declined markedly since the 1990s. This has come even as relations between China and the United States have deteriorated, and as attention to China’s behavior in Xinjiang has drawn greater international criticism. Why has attention dwindled? There are several connected reasons why the volume of the Free Tibet cry has become so muted over the last decade. Altogether, it has much to do with changes in activist networks, as well as coordinated pushback by the Chinese Communist Party.

I’ll admit here that part of my interest is long-term curiosity as to why Israel-Palestine sucks up so much air in Western activist circles (both left and right) while a variety of analogous conflicts (Chechnya, Tibet, Xinjiang, Kashmir) don’t receive nearly as much attention. Tibet was, for a long time, the big exception to that rule, but even it seems to have fallen by the wayside. It’s worth noting, moreover, that focus on Israel-Palestine to the exclusion of Chechnya, Kashmir, and Xinjiang is not something that’s reflected in Islamist politics; jihadists regard all of those occupations as extremely serious, and talk about all of them in media and propaganda materials.

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