ABOUT ME - William Poy Lee, Esq.
Independent-thinker, political activist, & ABC
Born of a Political Refugee Mother
& Economic Refugee Father
FULL DISCLOSURE #1 - that yeah, this website is amateurish even for a home-made one. But what's important are the ideas and questions . Still, early readers are pleased that this resource, TibetChinaAccuracyProject.com, is up & running!
FULL DISCLOSURE #2: I AM - an ABC born and raised in San Francisco, California, with one foot in the traditional Diaspora community of Chinatown San Francisco and one foot in the avant-garde bohemian North Beach milieu of painters, jazz musicians, beatniks, dissidents, and poets.
My family fled China as refugees to America - my grandfather in the 1910s as an economic refugee and my mother in 1950 as a political refugee. Her oldest brother, a Nationalist Party official, mysteriously “committed suicide ” during the Communist liberation of 1949 and so she was anti-PRC. My father however, an independent thinker nurtured my intellectual independence. He was against the Nationalist because of their corruption and respected the independence of the PRC under the CCP My father. helped me to come to my own opinions about China (and many issues). So raised in a strongly Nationalist community, yet I rejected its propaganda and concluded that the CCP had indeed liberated kept it independent, that the world was starting to respect modern China.
Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s' civil rights movement, I spoke out and organized for equality for Chinese Americans. We were then still second class citizens in America, especaily in San Francisco, despite our 100+ years there and our large community. Later, at UC Berkeley, I expanded that activism and joined ranks with fellow students against our country's unjust war against the Vietnamese fight for national independence.
So from an early age, I learned to think for myself, and not be afraid to express the facts and truth as I saw them. The 1960s and 1970s were dangerous times for free thinkers. Many friends were beatened, jailed, and even killed for taking principled stands.
It is this same fierece desire to seek the truth, even in risky, controversial situations, and to speak it objectively and loudly that led me to develop this website.
THE RISK OF FULL DISCLOSURE #2: KNEE-JERK DISMISSAL OF THE PROJECT'S INCONVENIENT FINDINGS
ON THE ONE HAND, many PRC Chinese will cite my mother's "KMT" background to dismiss this website's findings.
ON THE OTHER HAND, many Free Tibet supporters will cite my "Chinese" ethnicity to dismiss this website's findings.
HANDS DOWN, both sets of partisans miss the point: The Free Tibet movement has succeeded into the role formerly occupied by the Free China movement - i.e., as much a tool of anti-Chinese sentiment as for legitamate Diaspora Tibet's heartfelt desires for their homeland. And it is because of my very background as an independent thinker and activist that I can see this so clearly.
This is also the opinion of Patrick French, co-founder and former head of the London office of the Free Tibet Campaign, that overseas Tibetans have lost control of their own movement.
In a 2008 March 22 op-ed in the New York Times Patrick French wrote:
"The International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, is now a more powerful and effective force on global opinion
than the Dalai Lama’s outfit in northern India. The European and American pro-Tibet organizations are the tail that wags
the dog of the Tibetan government-in-exile."
"These groups hate criticism almost as much as the Chinese government does. Some use questionable information. For
example, the Free Tibet Campaign in London (of which I am a former director) and other groups have long claimed that
1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese since they invaded in 1950. However, after scouring the archives in
Dharamsala while researching my book on Tibet, I found that there was no evidence to support that figure."
In the1950s to 1970s, we Nationalist Chinese became America's "Teacher's Pet," i.e., America's favorite immigrants. We suddenly graduated to the higher status of model minority in contrast to Blacks, Chicanos, Native Americans, and and others. Accordingly, we received special and kind treatment in our schools, in social service agencies, and public hospitals.
In a similar fashion, although not completely so, the Tibetan Diaspora has succeeded to our former place. Consequently, the media narrative and other conventional political wisdom, unfortunately, is selective and uncritical. In similar fashion, and more exaclty than not, the PRC once again, is their slogan-spouting atheist oppressor.
The Anti-Communist China "Playbook" - we Chinese Nationalists been there, done that
But there was a price - unthinkingly anti-Communism and unquestioningly Pro-American, under all circumstances. That included not questioning the Jim Crow racism that Dr. King was stridently seeking to change and "knowing our place" in San Francisco Chinatown and other cities. That included not questioning America's genocidal war in Vietnam, whose people remarkably resembled ethnic Chinese and whose lives during the Vietnam war, apparently were not as "valuable" as westerners.
In other words, we Nationalist refugees knew and played our role in the anti-Communist China Playbook. We had an ideal spokeswoman - Madame Chiang Kai-sek, elegant bespoken beauty and well-spoken English gentle-woman. She was Christian, graduate of Wesleyan College. We too, had thousands of refugee stories of torture, mayhem, and confiscation of property and wealth. Many true, many apocryphal. And the mythology was we wanted our free and democratic China back. Our capital and liberated base was on Taiwan Island, across from mainland China, and would take all of China back. Soon.
But more importantly, we convinced the world for 25 years that Twian were the legitimate government of China even though all we controlled was an island and 100% dependent upon American dollars.
So, this is how as a teen-ager and then a young man, I began my first epistemological investigation - into the deeper complexities of America and how we control events in the world.
That epistemological investigation led to my becoming a Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War activist as well as a community organizer for Asian American equal rights.
So now, I am look deeper into the Tibet-China conundrum. Has this situation also been "fluffed up" to de-legitimize modern China as our own Taiwan mythology? As with most Americans, and as a regular reader of liberal news media, everything predisposed towards me towards supporting the Free Tibet position.
In my case, I even had a chance to meet the Dalai Lama in a small setting, as a board member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, a leading modern American Buddhist Center, and as a leader in their Diversity Council. Modern American Buddhists of course treat the Dalai Lama as our informal Pope, i.e., one whose authority and pronouncements are not to be questioned, but revered as truth.
Through my then partner, an internationally renowned author, I also chatted personally with one of his brothers at a small, private dinner. We were the only two who smoked, I favored Macanudo cigarillos, and he was an inveterate cigarette smoker. So we went outside, it being San Francisco where smokers are pariahs, and chatted in both English and Mandarin for about a half an hour. At evening's end, he invited us to visit Dharmsala as a guest in his home there. I never got there, but after we separated, my partner eventually did.
The Same Playbook Twice - Different Characters, Repeat of Another Same Old "Black-White" Story Line
But despite all this access, what kicked-off my rethinking and investigation into the Tibet situation was an uncomfortale and growing awareness of barely disguised racism against Chinese as people. Not just against the government - but downright & personal against Chinese as a people, and an alarming momentum towards violent confrontation.,
1. So much of the conventional media criticism of PRC policies were against "the Chinese" as a racial group, i.e., personal and sounding not so very different to the racist stereotying my grandfather, father, and myself faced over our generations living in America.
Often, in dinners, gatherings, and demonstrations, this was voiced with a vindictiveness and anger bordering on and actual racial hatred towards Chinese as a race. Such view-points often conflated the relationship between Han and Tibetans as akin to that of the Nazis towards the Jews. This widely-held held acceptance of the 1.2+ million genocide as fact certainly legitimized this conclusion. And since this was repeated by mainstream American media routinely, it was thus believed by Americans as true.
This tone was so rotely present in my Buddhist retreats at Spirit Rock, that once I emailed a rather sharp exception to members of the Teachers' Council. To the credit of the teachers, many replaced the term "Chinese people" with "Chinese policies" in their dharma talks
But still, did anyone in America really know the facts? That had never been questioned since, as I knew. The warm, kind, and inviting public image and private presence of the Dalai Lama confirmed their general and specific veracity. And in the eyes of Americans, His Holiness was as lovable and truthful a spokesperson as the perfectly-mannered, English fluent, bespoked, Christian Madame Chiang Kai-shek in her time. For she served as the symbol of America's then favored politicized refugees - we - the Nationalist Chinese.
Neither Madam Chiang nor the Dalai Lama seems like the type of person to fabricate or exaggerate. Au contraire!
2. But it was the Olympic Torch Run demonstration by Free Tibet protestors that finally catalyzed me into action. Protestors had attempted to grab the torch during it's run in Paris and London. Hundreds of Chinese students showed up at San Francisco's Torch Run to support China. At times, things got quite heated and I personally interceded with my body to break up two fights.
But what really struck me was the disdain and anger that both Tibetans and their white Amercan supporters expressed towards the Chinese students. I witnessed a number of discussions where pro-Tibet protrestors - white Americans, treated Chinese students like they were "stupid brain-washed people."
Yet, many of these Chinese, who apparently believe that America was a land of respectful freedom of speech, were sincerely trying to engage in an exchange of facts and ideas. In their turn, as frustrating as it must have been for them, the Chinese students always stayed respectful towards their American counterparts.
It never even crossed Free Tibet supporters' minds that perhaps we Americans did not possess the facts and in fact equally as indoctrinated. Instead what I clearly observed was:
RACISM - in the name of human rights. HATRED in the name of self-determination.
INCREDULITY that foreigners think they know a place on the other side of the world better than locals.
OPPOSITION that Americans in this day and age would deign to tell modern Chinese what to do, and how to act.
In other words, the polarization of ideological positions on both sides.
And given my history as an activist against racism and unjust war, I needed to get involved. A self-described bi-cultural and "bridge person," I thought that I might be in a better position to independently investigate than others. "There's got to be a way to understand the situation in a non-polarized, non-ideological way." was the intellectual challange now firing up inside me.
The result of these efforts are reflected in this website AND they are on-going. I hope that you will join me in this Epistomology - an investigation into how we know what we know; of distinguishing truth & fact from deep seated beliefs and reflexive opinion.
And share with us. I'll post your findings here or link up to your on-line site.
It is my hope, that together we can map this situation out objectively...and in doing so, realistic solutions can manifest and supplant the paralysis of polarization.
OTHER BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES:
In my twenties and thirties, I worked as an international banker lawyer with Bank of America, as an advertising company co-principal on behalf of Fortune 100 companies, and as an independent contractor in Silicon Valley.
I taught English in Lhasa in the summer of 2010, and presently write and teach in Chinese universities. Subjects have include Introduction to Post-2000 America, Introduction to the Western Bible, Advanced Oral English, Debate, Writing, and Basic American Legal Procedure. My classes regular comprise Tibetans and other National Minorities. At the Central University for Nationalities - or MInzu University, I co-led a Sunday English corner for Tibetan students.
The rest of my time is spent observing this complex country - and its national minority inter-relationships - evolve, adapt, and move forward.
Oh, I also spend self-study to improve my Mandarin language skills and plan to study Tibetan.
To contact me:
(Please no trolling, OK?)
Let's Dialogue - Respectfully...
an investigation into how we know what we know;
of distinguishing truth & fact
from deep seated beliefs and reflexive opinion.
This trek just started...please join us...