Timor Leste falls by the wayside as the focus shifts to Tibet

JOHN TEO

THERE was a little-reported event in Sarawak last year that foretold the troubles now besetting Tibet.
Sarawak regularly hosts beauty pageants. These put the state on the tourist map and provide a distraction to local folk.

One such pageant saw the participation of a petite “Miss Tibet”, who attracted publicity as she went on walkabouts with other participants but, more ominously, drew the attention of the Chinese consul-general in Kuching.

Word was discreetly put about by the diplomat that as with “Miss Hong Kong”, it would be kindly acknowledged that “Miss Tibet” was representing Tibet, China.

Miss Tibet went into a tizzy at the suggestion and was not to be mollified until bundled out of state before the pageant in Sibu.

She stood no chance against the clout of China.

One is struck by the parallels with Timor Leste. Tibet is now the flavour of the moment for interest groups and non-governmental organisations in search of the next cause celebre to grab global imagination.

Like Timor Leste, Tibet has its own Nobel peace laureate in the Dalai Lamato spearhead its cause internationally.

As with Timor Leste vis-à-vis Indonesia, Tibetans seem not to be content with the huge investments China pours into Tibet; investments the landlocked territory high up in the Himalayas could only dream about were it to be independent, as Timo – rese are now learning to their huge cost.

But somehow I do not envisage Tibet going theway of Timor Leste into fully independent statehood.

Which is not to say some Tibetans will not go on fighting tenaciously, aided and abetted by inter national busybodies, and even despite the example of what a Pyrrhic victory Tim – orese independence has become.

For one, the Timorese cause was sustained in the United Nations, where the territory’s erstwhile colonial protector Portugal ensured Indonesia’s annexation of the territory remained unrecognised by an annual UN vote, thereby keeping the issue in the spotlight.

Indonesia, unlike today’s China, had limited global reach and resources to effectively counter the international campaign on behalf of Timor Leste.

Moreover, Tibet is generally accepted by most nations to be a part of China.

What Tibet has going for it, as with Timor Leste, is little more than international sympathy for a people strug – gling to break free from the clutches of a stronger power.

What I find far more compelling, though, is the rapidly-evolving picture of a China turning the commonly- held notion of freedom on its head and having its way by virtue of its sheer size and growing power.

China is out to prove that “free – dom” as commonly understood is not the be-all and end-all, and will not take kindly to those who deign to tell it otherwise.

The emerging “Beijing consensus” looks unstoppable and will soon provide us an alternative vision and definition of “freedom”, something the West has suppressed till now.

The Dalai Lama is smart enough not to even hint at the possibility of Tibetan independence, but will not make headway as long as Beijing suspects his flowing robes hide a Western Trojan horse.

Those likely to be hurt are the people in Timor Leste, who are left to their own devices as those claiming to fight for them move on to new battlefields, such as Tibet.

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