Monday, March 17, 2008

Bullets cannot kill freedom in the heart

May Ng
Mizzima News
March 17, 2008

May Ng is from the Southern Shan State of Burma. She is NY regional director of Justice and Human Rights in Burma.

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart," teaches Buddha.

Until the Saffron Revolution, images over the Internet were not expected to have much impact in Burma, since most people in the isolated country lack access to the Internet. But when, following widely available images of the opulent wedding of General Than Shwe's daughter, August's fuel price hike left poor Burmese on the verge of starvation, the people's anger was aroused.

During September's Saffron Revolution, the Burmese military was at a loss as to how the closely guarded country leaked pictures and information about the bloody protests to the worldwide media. And after killing, imprisoning and driving political protesters underground, the Burmese army and its supporter, China, confidently announced to the world that peace and order were restored in Burma.

Since then the Burmese junta has been playing a cat and mouse game with web-surfers, deliberately slowing down the Internet connection. China reportedly employs thirty thousand cyber hackers to infiltrate individuals and governments across the globe. Last year Russia shut down a neighboring governments' Internet access during a period of heightened conflict.

In response to cyber censorship throughout the world, Reporters Without Borders launched the first Online Free Expression Day on March 12. They remarked, "We are giving all Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate in places where protests are not normally possible. We hope many will come and protest in virtual versions of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Cuba's Revolution Square, or on the streets of Rangoon in Burma. At least 62 cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned worldwide, while more than 2,600 websites; blogs or discussions forums were closed or made inaccessible in 2007".

The Burmese military is being trained in Russia in computer technology and China gives enormous support, including Internet technology, to the Burmese army. Burma related news and information network sites are under constant attack by cyber assailants in support of the Burmese junta.

Similar to events during the Saffron Revolution in Burma, the latest information from Tibet is now being delayed and distorted as the autonomous region is witnessing widespread unrest to Chinese rule. While Beijing told the world a few days ago that the outbreak of protests in Tibet has been under control and inconsequential, the situation has escalated, involving death and destruction. Instead of taking responsibility, China points the finger at exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and accuses him of plotting the violence as part of "separatist sabotage."

As fires burn in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, neither has the iron grip of Beijing prevented Tibetan news from reaching the world, nor have the iron rods beaten the desire for freedom from the hearts of Tibetans.

For six decades China has conquered the Tibetans' sky but not their hearts. To do so China must begin with truth and tolerance, which takes a lot more courage and determination than the challenges of the Olympics.

For now, China and its partner, the Burmese junta, are clearly not up to the task of facing truth or tolerance. Until they do, the Beijing Olympics will be a mockery of the ultimate human aspiration for peace and freedom.

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