Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who Hacked Bi Hua’s Computer?

By Therang Buengu

After days of wondering why Bi Hua was abruptly removed from a key Tibet post in the United Front, I was struck by Hong Kong media reports attributing the unceremonious dismissal to the hacking of Bi Hua’s office computer and the subsequent loss of highly confidential documents concerning Tibet.

Bi Hua was formerly a rising star for Tibet policy in the United Front. A Tianjin Nankai University graduate, Bi Hua, 53, rose in the ranks under the tutelage of conservative strongman, Zhu Xiaoming, during the 1990s. She published a number of important commentary on Tibet under the pen name “Hua Zi” in the Chinese official press. But as the latest round of dialogue with the Dalai Lama's envoys began in 2002, the Central Government removed both Zhu and Bi from the agency. Bi Hua was appointed as one of the deputy heads of Beijing's Tibetology Center. More recently, she was transferred back to the United Front and promoted to the directorship of one of the bureaus in charge of Tibetan affairs. It was her long time dream post.

According to the Hong Kong publication Ming Bao, sources in Beijing claim that “Bi Hua's work computer has been intruded by ‘hackers’ and a large number of confidential document on Tibet policy has been stolen, leading to the major leakage of internal information on the central government's work in Tibet.” Ming Bao reports that the incident has “shocked the top leadership of the central government,” and even Hu Jintao has supposedly ordered an investigation.

If you are hoping to find out who hacked Bi Hua’s computer through this blogpost, then I must disappoint you. I not only do I not know who hacked Bi Hua’s computer, in fact I don’t know anyone who knows anything about hacking computers as such, let alone hacking a highly secured computer like Bi Hua’s. But I do know a thing or two about the culture of secrecy of those who handle China’s Tibet policy: it is a culture pervaded by an intense paranoia about forces—China's enemies—who are out there using Tibet to get them at any moment. That mentality may be the real “uninvited guest” (in Chinese hacker translates as heike, which literally means ‘black guest’).

Perhaps one important lesson from Bi Hua’s removal is that China’s greatest enemy is its very own paranoia.

The Chinese Communist Party from its infancy has been obsessed with secrecy and often paralyzed by its own paranoia. Don’t get me wrong. I do know that for political parties—whether underground revolutionary organizations or stable ruling parties of the state apparatus—a certain degree of confidentiality is vital. But throughout contemporary Chinese history, the intensity and extent of the CCP’s secrecy and paranoia have ruined many people’s lives and indeed led to the murder of countless innocent people. Of course, as China has embarked on a path of reform, the party organs and government operations have become relatively more transparent and less burdened by a bunker mentality. Yet the United Front has led the management of China’s Tibet policy in the opposite direction.

Among the many new Tibet related work units (danwei) that have been created over the past two decades, a disproportionate number of them are in one way or other engaged in secret operations. Look at Lhasa’s eastern area these days, where there is a range of high walled security related work units. Taken together, this area might be as big as the entire city of Lhasa during the Cultural Revolution. During the past twenty years, every Tibet related regional, provincial and national level agency built their own institutions to collect so-called overseas’ Tibet related information. At a one point I was naively hoping that through this massive information gathering, they might learn more about the Dalai Lama and better understand how the world community sees Tibet and China's policy. That might have helped them recognize their own idiocy.

Instead these institutions have become the key instruments through which to exaggerate and even outright fabricate evidence of the so-called “Dalai clique” and the western anti-China plot to create disturbances in China. It has now reached the point of a vicious cycle. These institutions now need to exaggerate and fabricate the threat of outside enemies in order to justify their enormous expenditure and promote their own important role in safeguarding China's social stability.

Most westerners are bewildered by what China has been doing in Tibet and by what China has been saying about Tibet and the Dalai Lama. It is a simple yet complex issue. If you have an intimate relationship with people working in these institutions, if you know something about their individual careers and lavish lifestyles—and in many cases their institution's very existence are integrally dependent on these perceptions—then these dynamics are simple to explain: they are acting in their own self interest, not what is in the interest of the society at large. But it is much harder to understand why they are able to continue to do this at the expense of ethnic tensions and the tarnishing of China's international image, which it seems they care so much about.

As long as China's top leadership and ruling elite don't have the courage to confront reality, those currently in charge of Tibet policy will have a powerful interest to continue their agenda of creating a bubble of fear around Tibet. I'm sure in the whole world only these people can tell you with a straight face that the recent unrest in Tibet was a creation of the Tibetan Youth Congress. It is in their vital interest to make these stories believable. And to prove their correctness, they not only destroy other lives, they themselves also, on occasion, inadvertently fall victims to this machine--one that was their own creation.

Bi Hua is an unlikely victim of China's Tibet policy. She too, it seems, has fallen prey to the forces of fear and paranoia around Tibet. Whether the sudden loss of her dream post was due to a hacker’s intrusion or simply her colleagues’ paranoia—most likely a combination of the two—it seems that she too has become a victim of the paranoid bunker mentality of China’s Tibet policy. As such, she is yet another one who has met a similar fate.

According to Ming Bao, Bi Hua has currently been "placed on probation within the party". That is, she has not been entirely removed from the party work unit. Bi Hua is a smart woman. She might one day crawl out of this ditch and return once more to a key position on Tibetan affairs within the United Front. In the meantime, I hope she is reflecting seriously on the consequences of the Tibet policy she helped build.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mystery Man from Beijing

By Therang Buengu

As the upheavals of March settle into a new layer of memory, there are still a few things that linger in my mind. Among them, one still evokes in me a strange excitement every time I think about it. The mystery man from Beijing: who really is he?

In the first few days of the uprising, a person using the name of Jigme Namgyal started writing scathing articles in the Chinese language, critical of Beijing's Tibet policy. Within a few weeks, Jigme Namgyal published seven lengthy articles--a total of 30,000 or so characters. What profoundly impressed me was not the length and prolificness of his writings, but rather his intimate knowledge of Beijing's Tibet policy making circle , his intense frustration with the Beijing leadership's short sightedness on Tibet policy and his ability to express his thoughts and feelings--yes, feelings: this guy is not pretending he is a detached analyst--his articles are filled with anger, frustration and often bitter pessimism. Then at the end of May, just as he appeared suddenly out of the stormy sky, the mystery man from Beijing disappeared into the darkness of Beijing's insistence on a hardline policy on Tibet. We haven't seen his writing again. Still don't know who he or she is.

In the article entitled, "Let Our Dalai Lama Return Home", the author points out five reasons why China rejects the Dalai Lama's possible return. He then observes that "as long as CCP relies on this same irrational, inhuman, irresponsible and ineffective bunch of bureaucrats to continue managing Tibetan affairs, then the Dalai Lama will not be able to return home." In his eyes "time and time again [in not dealing with the Dalai Lama directly] China erroneously sows the seeds of ethnic and political crisis." He predicts that one day they will come back to hound the nation. In almost every line and sentence of his writing, we can feel his bitter frustration against the Chinese leadership's inability to see an alternative way to manage the Tibet issue and his outright anger against those bureaucrats whose selfishness and low IQ (di zhineng) who have been charged with this responsibility. Yet this mystery man from Beijing still holds out hope. He doesn't believe that the opportunity to resolve the Tibet issue has already "entered a an irreversible path of dead end" (西藏问题的解决已经进入了一个无可变更的死路也不竟然)". This, he believes, because it is China's interest to engage with Tibetans to resolve the issue.

In many of his articles, the mysterious man revisits the critical juncture in China's Tibet policy in the past, pointing out their political consequences in the present. To me, the most intriguing part is that when he is talking about those historical events, you can almost sense that this is not learned knowledge from books, but rather that he witnessed or even experienced them as a participant. He has in-depth understanding of Tibet under Mao's China, yet his language transcends the party phraseology to describe and analyze that tumultuous era (which is sadly not always the case--most people from that generation can't get away from using the Party language, even when criticizing the Party). Reading Jigme Namgyal's article is a rare treat. I can see the vast knowledge and experience of the older Tibetan generation, combined with the younger generation's contemporary worldview, new language and most importantly, newfound boldness and courage in his writing. This combination is a scarce commodity in contemporary writing on Tibet in the Chinese language, particularly from Tibetan authors.

We haven't seen this mysterious man's new writing for more than a half year. Yet my curiosity and desire to know this mysterious man is not only alive but grows ever more intense . Among friends, the question of the identity of the mysterious man continues to animate our conversations. Yet among all the many Tibetans we know in Beijing, those who fit in profile of this man's vast personal knowledge and have the ability to write them in the Chinese language doesn't fit the courage and passion of the author. That is precisely the most intriguing part of the story. In today's Tibetan elite, you never know what is alive deep in their hearts--who really possesses the passion and sometimes even have the courage to take enormous risks to express their sense of injustice and moral outrage against the current Tibetan predicament.

Whether this mysterious man is really living in Beijing--as he claims--or whether he is a Tibetan researcher who has been working on ethnic minority policy for many years--as he describes himself--we may never know. But I'd like to imagine that such a person exists: a Tibetan intellectual who is working on the inside the Party system, in public acting just like any other Tibetan cadre--overly cautious, obedient, most of the time blind to the suffering and humiliation that the majority of Tibetans endure--yet deep down in his heart carrying a fire of passion for Tibet that bursts forth in a time of crisis and tragedy.

Every time I think about this, I am moved.
15th December 2008, from home
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超过半年了,我们没有见到这位神秘人物发表新的文章。然而我的好奇感,与渴望认识这神秘人物的心情,不但未消失,反而更增加、更强烈。在朋友之间,有关这位神秘人物到底是谁的问题,还可以继续让我们的对话生动起来。然而在我知道的、在北京的藏人之中,符合像这位人物一样具有广博的知识、又有能力以中文写出来的人,在勇气与热情上却对不上这位作者。事实上这恰恰就是这个故事里的最令人深思的 - 在今日的藏人精英之中,你从来不知道他们内心深处还活着的是什么--谁真的拥有这样的热情,甚至是勇气,能够冒着危险,表达出他们对今日西藏困境的内心不平、与道德愤懑。


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