No Shangri-La

No Shangri-La
No Shangri-La

When I was a young student in socialist Yugoslavia, criticism of the regime was dismissed by those in power as ‘Western propaganda’. It was always enough to say threateningly: ‘We know whom such reasoning serves.’ To my surprise, the critics of my letter on Tibet and China rely on the same manoeuvre: my statements are dismissed with the claim that they repeat Chinese propaganda (Letters, 5 June). But I base my claim that Tibet before 1949 was an oppressive and corrupted feudal society on by far the best and most extensive study of the Tibetan legal system, Rebecca Redwood French’s The Golden Yoke: The Legal Cosmology of Buddhist Tibet (1995), which has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese propaganda.

If it were the custom to dedicate letters, I would dedicate mine to the Tibetan exile settlements in Mundgod and Bylakuppe in southern India. All the media attention is on upper-class Dharamsala: nobody – the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere included – talks about the destitute thousands in these two larger camps.

[Appeared in London Review of Books on June 19th 2008.]

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