Sunday, February 28, 2010

Creating Shangri-la

By Anthony Vasquez

The meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama in the White House earlier this month briefly put Tibet in the headlines once again. Beijing’s public show of disappointment with the event was expected.

For many in the United States, Tibet is viewed as a land of peace, a place where for centuries spiritual liberation has been found amid the Himalayas. Beginning in the late 1980s, the Free Tibet movement has given the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, a chance to tell the world of China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet and continuing human rights violations there.

Of course, it is not as though Tibet had a utopian society before the People’s Liberation Army made its way onto the Tibetan Plateau in 1950. As with most things, it is more complicated than that.

Donald S. Lopez Jr., author of Prisoners of Shangri-La, uncovers the sources of some myths about Tibet, myths which Lopez argues that when told as fact undermine an honest appraisal of contemporary Tibet and the Tibetan people’s future.

In “Seven Things You Didn’t Know about Tibet”, Lopez outlines his argument. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Shangri-La" is a fictional name for Tibet. James Hilton invented the name in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, which was made into a film by Frank Capra in 1937. "Shangri" has no meaning in Tibetan; "La" means "mountain pass." The name is apparently a garbling of Shambhala, a mythical Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas. "Shangri-La" quickly came into common usage as a place where all that is good and true is preserved.

The Chinese government has capitalized on the allure of Tibet. In 2002, a town in Yunnan Province was renamed to Shangri-La and the tourists have been pouring in.


The China Beat
Reading Round-Up: Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama
February 18, 2010

The Wall Street Journal
Shangri-La, or Not
By Leslie Hook
November 3, 2008

BBC News
Regions and territories: Tibet

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Crossing into Arizona

By Anthony Vasquez

Despite the chance of failure and a steep price, some Chinese still take the risk of entering the United States illegally.

The prospect of a better life here continues to draw people to come here undocumented. The U.S. Border Patrol reported that in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 332 Chinese were detained in the Tucson sector, a dramatic jump from the 30 caught the year before.

Smuggling Chinese immigrants is a lucrative business. A price tag of $40,000 is typical. With increased security in the nation’s ports, smuggling Chinese across Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is a safer option. Most of these recent immigrants are from Fujian Province in southeastern China opposite Taiwan.

The first Chinese arrived in the United States during the mid-1800s and settled mostly in the West. Attracted by the California Gold Rush, thousands came with high hopes. Segregationist laws against Chinese immigrants were passed late in the century, laws not repealed until World War II.

Beginning in the 1980s, many Chinese from Fujian began coming here illegally. But now instead of sneaking them in on cargo ships, smugglers use fake documents to fly them to Mexico. From there it’s on to the United States. U.S. border officials say that Mexican smuggling groups are also involved.

Peter Chan, A businessman in Tucson who also works as an interpreter for the federal court there told The New York Times that the immigrants left China due to a lack of educational and employment opportunities.


New York Times
In Arizona, a Growing Stream of Illegal Immigrants from China
By Stephen Ceasar
January 22, 2010

Smuggled Chinese Travel Circuitously to U.S.
By Irene Jay Liu
November 20, 2007

Chinese Immigrants Chase Opportunity in America
By Irene Jay Liu
November 19, 2007

Center for International Research, U.S. Bureau of the Census
Population and Migration Characteristics of Fujian Province, China
By Judith Banister, Christina Wu Harbaugh and Ellen Jamison
November 1993
This is an HTML copy of the PDF file

More about Fujian: Here is a video on Fujianese tea from a tea video podcast by Andrea Serrano filmed in Tucson, Arizona

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