Ignoble act

  • 2009-05-28


The histories of the Baltic States and the tiny mountain kingdom of Tibet bear striking similarities. Both represent highly strategic geographical areas and both were forcibly occupied by a powerful communist neighbor.
Both have suffered aggression and the destruction of culture, along with insidious migration policies that have seen millions of Russians and Chinese transferred across the borders of their respective countries.

The people of the Baltic States always maintained, as the Tibetan people and their government do now, that their nations were subject to an unlawful occupation.
The Baltic States have since regained their independence and full sovereign right, but for Tibet the struggle continues.
With shared histories of oppression and struggle, it is indeed shameful to see Lithuania withdraw its hand of friendship to Tibet.

The Lithuanian government's decision on May 21 not to adopt a resolution supporting a free Tibet and condemning human rights violations is telling.
For one, it came at the same time as events for the Lithuania-China Forum kicked off, amid concerns the resolution would disrupt relations with its powerful Asian ally.
The news came as a relief to Foreign Minister Vytautas Usackas, who is tasked with strengthening ties with China, and disgracefully labeled parliament's decision a "gift."
The decision, after all, means Usackas will not be answerable to such delicate questions about his country's show of ideological support.

It also means that a major upcoming Eurasian conference will go ahead as planned after China threatened to boycott the event if the resolution was passed.
The decision by Lithuanian parliament comes as somewhat of an about face as the Tibetan cause had previously received support from within Lithuania's political circles.
Lithuania was also the site of recent protests by Tibetan freedom fighters.

Tibet has rightly become the center of world attention and an international cause celebre.
The country's government and its elected parliament in exile, headed by spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, have been campaigning to keep the struggle for freedom alive from their base in India's far north for some 31 years.

But the path remains a difficult one.
The challenges Tibet face are formidable. Its oppressor is determined and ferocious; a world player not afraid to assert its power for personal interest.
Western governments have frequently balked at providing anything more than qualified support for fear of incurring the Chinese wrath.
Lithuania's decision therefore is not entirely surprising, after all many countries have bowed to the might of Chinese pressure.

However, in a country that once staged home based guerilla warfare against occupying forces in its fight for freedom, this decision is at best disappointing and at worst, gutless.