Worldly conflicts warrant concern

Canada plays a part in international injustices

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet that led to the current exiled government led by the Dalai Lama in India. The Chinese government has consistently oppressed the Tibetan people for 50 years now and still, not much has changed.

The issue has made its way overseas and Free Tibet has become a popular buzz phrase in North American culture. Most recently, MTV and TMZ viewers were entertained by reports that Chinese authorities banned rock group Oasis from performing in China because Noel Gallagher played at a Free Tibet concert 12 years ago.

While some attention has been paid from Western industrialized countries, the dire situation has not caused international uproar since the 60s.

On March 10 in Toronto, the third largest expatriate community of Tibetans filled the streets with protests, urging the Canadian government for support in putting pressure on the Chinese government. One young Tibetan skipped school to hoist a Canadian flag at the rally.

Ironically, just over a week later, Ontario’s opposition parties discovered the legislature had been buying provincial flags from China. The outrage that followed was concerned solely about Ontario jobs and “Buy Ontario” policies. There was no mention of the questionable relationship Canada fosters with a country failing to uphold basic human rights.

In this sense, Canada has failed to be an effective critic of China and its treatment of the Tibetan people; instead, its economic relationship has taken priority. It leaves Canadian citizens with a conscious in a difficult place.

Ideally, I would boycott all things made in China. But this is next to impossible considering almost everything everywhere is branded with a “Made in China” label. Of course, there are other countries that should be criticized for human rights violations too; however, China is at the forefront of this issue because of the mass physical presence of such products in Canada.

For students, in particular, it poses a unique challenge. Even if consumers were offered the same products but made in Canada, or any other country that values freedom and democracy, they would certainly cost significantly more, creating a dilemma for financially restricted students.

Furthermore, a recent documentary revealed that both Google and Yahoo agreed, upon demands from the Chinese government, to remove any mention of the Dalai Lama from their search engines in China. Essentially, if you search his name, the only results will be those approved by Chinese authorities. This compliant censorship that under-handedly supports an oppressive government is seriously concerning.

However, just as real as with the difficulty of avoiding all Chinese-made products, it only took about two minutes to realize that no matter how deeply I disagree with Google and Yahoo’s actions in this sense, using their service is unavoidable. Even Western uses Google for its website’s search engine.

The most important thing is that Canadians, especially students, be conscious of international conflicts. Recognizing injustice and participating in an informed dialogue will help to keep these realities from being ignored.

Canadians will still have to buy products made in China. But I try to avoid it as much as possible. When I can’t, I feel bad about it and I think that’s a good thing.

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