Editorial: China in Tibet – deadly

As Beijing’s attempts to dominate a non-compliant Tibet presents itself in violent suppression of rebellion, the Vatican’s pronouncement of a renewed list of capital sins is timely.

As Beijing’s attempts to dominate a non-compliant Tibet present themselves in violent suppression of rebellion, the Vatican’s pronouncement of a renewed list of capital sins is timely.
Last month the Vatican’s head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, told the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, that the church needed an updated list of its seven capital or deadly sins first established by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century and popularised during the Middle Ages by Dante in the Inferno.
Bishop Girotti said that, as well as the original list, which includes lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride, it was important to look at the impact on the world of the social dimension of sin manifest in environmental damage.
‘You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbour’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos,’ he said.
Bishop Girotti may well have been referring to the wholesale mining of the earth’s resources in such countries as Papua New Guinea, Bougainville and Tibet.
The Tibetan way of life has long precluded the sort of environmental degradation caused by such mining as that undertaken by the Sydney-based Sino Mining International which is part of the China National Non-ferrous Metals Corporation.
Ed Douglas wrote last month in the Guardian Weekly that, since China invaded Tibet in 1950, the occupation has meant for the Tibetan people starvation, murder, torture, imprisonment and marginalisation.
China says it has rehoused 10 percent of Tibet’s population in 2006, building 279,000 new homes. The high-tech, high-altitude railway, opened in 2006 and tying China more firmly to its Tibetan fiefdom, has brought a wave of new investment along with more migration.
‘When I first visited Lhasa in 1993, people still defecated in the street. Now it is a modern, much bigger city, albeit a largely Chinese one,’ Douglas wrote.
There is no doubt of China’s interest in Tibet’s mineral wealth. Some $US128 billion in copper, iron, lead and zinc, and an estimated $US335 million in gold deposits in the Tanjianshan mountains make the area one of the world’s richest. But mining would destroy much of the forestry and the Tibetan way has been to use what can be easily accessed from the surface rather than engaging in the sort of environmentally destructive mining China proposes.
Nevertheless, the Beijing Olympics are fast approaching, and China would do well to heed Bishop Girotti’s warning about sin and lay off Tibet.
Bishop Girotti included in his list, the taking or dealing in drugs, and social injustice which caused poverty or ‘the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few’.
He said the Vatican continued to be concerned about abortion, which offended ‘the dignity and rights of women’, and paedophilia, which had even infected the clergy itself and so had exposed the ‘human and institutional fragility of the Church’.
We might not hear much about sin these days, but it is good that we are being encouraged to focus beyond ourselves on the sort of alienation that comes with a corporate, single focus on business interests that privilege a few at the expense of many.