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Demonstrators in Labrang, Tibet on March 14, 2008 during the 2008 Tibetan uprising, which kicked off a decade of uprisings in China’s peripheries (photo: Mark Ralston, AFP)

The power of the peripheries

Over the past decade, major uprisings in Tibet, East Turkestan, Taiwan and Hong Kong have challenged Chinese Communist hegemony.

…following on my previous article about June 4, which stressed the need for solidarity and cooperation between all peoples opposed to one-party dictatorship in China.

Ten years of uprisings

It all started in 2008, the year of the Beijing Olympics, lest we forget — it already seems so long ago. In March, protests broke out across the Tibetan plateau and continued for about two weeks. It was the largest uprising of Tibetans since 1959, and it occurred across a very wide geographical area, encompassing nearly every part of Tibet, including both areas traditionally considered restive and quiet. These were followed in April by pro-Tibet protests along the global route of the Olympic torch relay that repeatedly disrupted the torch’s progress and forced organizers to change the route to avoid protesters.

The Communist Party is imperialist to the core

The dynamic of imposition and resistance on the peripheries makes clear the the imperialist nature of the Communist regime. It claims sovereignty over large swaths of territory without regard to the political desires of the peoples who live there. They are not ruled by force, not consent. Their consent has never been asked for or obtained, let alone freely given. Indeed, whenever they attempt to assert their political desires, they are met with repression.

Peoples of the peripheries, unite!

Not only do we peripheral peoples need to more fully recognize our common goals and values of self-determination, freedom, democracy and human rights, we also need to share information and ideas and learn more about each other; we need to get better at communicating with one another, strategizing, coordinating and organizing together; we need to recognize our power and develop it. Above all, we must show solidarity with one another, a substantive solidarity that can come about only through understanding one another.

The common debate: autonomy within China or independence?

Within the different peripheral communities there are similar debates about what the periphery’s relationship with China should be. Some argue for some kind of co-existence within a Chinese sphere of control, often referred to as the “real autonomy” position. Others advocate out-and-out independence.

The power of the peripheries

And in that lies our power, the power to withhold consent, the power to resist imposition and tighter control. This is no small power. It has succeeded in delegitimizing the regime, not in its heartland, among the Han, where propaganda and censorship prevail, but in the peripheries themselves and in the eyes of much of the rest of the world, at least those who are watching and paying attention to what is going on. In the last ten years, stories of the Tibetan uprising and self-immolations, the Sunflower Movement, the Umbrella Movement, and the resistance and oppression in Xinjiang have made headlines around the world.

Written by

Author of ‘Umbrella: A Political Tale from Hong Kong’ and ‘As long as there is resistance, there is hope: Essays on the Hong Kong freedom struggle…’

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