viewer discussion


I came across the special by chance and was glad that I did. Much of the actions by the Chinese government disturbed me. One of the things that bothered me the most is that the Chinese would kidnap and hold hostage a six year old boy. What kind of crimes could he have committed? I urge everyone to raise up their voice in this matter. Make your feelings known to President Clinton and your representatives in Congress. With the upcoming meetings with the Chinese, this is an opportunity for our government to take a stand. Also make your feelings known with your wallets. Show your support for the upcoming movies, especially the Disney one. Show businesses that there are other sources of revenue than foreign blood money.

Brian McWIlliams
Boulder, Colorado


I am so proud of you for your coverage about Tibet on tonight's program, Oct. 28, 1997. The Tibetan people are very beautiful and have a rich culture which has already been largely destroyed. It is a shame that Tibetan people are now scattered throughout the globe, having lost their original unity as a people.

I intend to boycott Disney unless they can fully support human rights and
worry about profits later. I feel for Martin Scorsese, and hope that he is able to make his film the way he wants, and survive the political pressure.

Its time for the UN to act to re-establish an independent Tibet, and to
demand freedom for the 6 year old future Dalai Lama.
Thanks for making this avenue available for responses. Again, thank you so much for your program. It is the best show I've watched on television in quite some time. The American public does know good television and does want intelligent programming. Please keep it up. I will watch next week's show!

Karen Hadden
El Paso, Tx.


I have watched a lot of excellent documentaries on PBS, so I was very disappointed in the quality of this weeks' edition on Tibet, it is far from being objective and perceptive, which make it more like a propaganda than a documentary.

I am from china, but I am not a communist, nor a nationalist or a chauvinist. I don't know a lot about Tibet and don't have an opinion of what is the best for Tibet yet. I was hoping to gain more insight from this edition, but was disappointed.

I don't know an awful lot about Tibet, but I am finding out most people
here, apparently including the director and the crew of this film ( and Harrison ford and brad Pitt), know less than I do. At least I know before 1950's, Tibet was neither under capitalism nor feudalism, it was under slavery, Lamas and monks have absolute power and dictation of all properties, including the lives of all the other Tibetans; at least I know killing in this religion is allowed not only to animals,(which make the scene about saving mice in "seven years in Tibet" unrealistic, affected and ridiculous) but also to any Tibetan slaves, as a matter of fact, human skulls were used
as liquor mugs and butter lamps, and more often simply as embellishments by monks and lamas; at least I know in the black and white documentary what the Tibetans were burning enthusiastically were a hill of deeds of their lands and themselves and high-interest I.O.U.s. Of course they were happy, and that is not faked.

This film elaborated on the personal tragedies of Dalai Lama and other monks, of course they are sad. But what about most Tibetans have to say? There were scenes Tibetans talking about their feelings and their history, but they are all shrugged off as propaganda. The film sighed about the loss of beauty and harmony and the great religion and philosophy, but is that what Tibet was or just western imagination of shangri-la? (By the way, the word was coined in 1933 by a English novelist, who has never been to Tibet. How many westerns have been there besides the nazi friend of dalai lama) Religion, when in absolute power, is worse than poison. Think about what the Catholic church did during the dark ages, they denounced William Harvey, imprisoned Galileo, and burned Bruno (and millions other heretics) at the stake. Tibetan monks were only different, perhaps, in that they might be more material than spiritual.

I am always amusingly intrigued by Americans' enthusiasm in Tibet, (and
Taiwan). How many Americans really feel guilty and indebted to native
Indians, feel they should honor the great philosophies and cultures of
Indians and return them their lands and their peaceful nomadic living
style? Talk about cultural holocaust, who are Americans to judge and

yugang liu


Thanks to your for an honest depiction of the plight of the Tibetan people. The extreme subjugation and genocide of the most peaceful people has been ignored entirely too long by the rest of the world. It can never be stressed enough that what we are witnessing here is such an extreme contrast.

The Tibetans only wish to not be killed. This is in violation of the policy
of the Chinese government. In the face of this treatment, the Tibetan people are praying for their enemies. Has there ever been a greater example of the depth of the human spirit than this? Please continue to stand up for these most beloved peoples. Thank You!

Andrew Geimer
Imperial Mo. U.S.A.


I very much enjoyed Dreams of Tibet on 10/28, but the show awakened a certain ambivalence I have towards Chinese occupation of Tibet. As a Buddhist who is entirely capable of romanticizing "Old Tibet," I recoil in horror from reportage about Chinese atrocities and the absurd imprisonment of the Panchen Lama. Yet I cannot shake this feeling that we're deluding ourselves with our dreams of Tibet. Routinely we refer to the world over which the Dalai Lama reigned as "feudal." The last time I checked, the word carried pejorative content, and I cannot say I am convinced by those who claim that serfs with beautiful smiles on their faces are anything more than serfs.

It would take a good deal of courage and perspective, but Frontline perhaps should consider an "objective" look at the Tibet we dream of. I urge such a report not to undermine opposition to the Chinese, but to empower it. I suspect many Chinese in authority over Tibet truly believe they are yanking the populace out of a form of enslavement. Understanding the Chinese perspective is a substantial first step towards preserving Tibetan culture. We must understand the Chinese point of view to show the Chinese that they do not have to destroy what is beautiful in Tibet to free it.

Geoffrey Wren
Portland, Oregon


Your report is so one sided!! where is the balance report that we are accustomed to see from Frontline???? where is the Chinese side of the story? Is there always two side to a story? how can you make decision based on one sided information?

Go to any United States library and you will see the Tibet is on the map of china since 300 years ago? are all these maps wrong? or your reporters are too lazy to find out the fact from your own library?

In regarding to religious suppression and genocide charges, How about what we did to the American Indian? Did we try to christianize the American Indian and suppressed their religion? Why are not we leave America and support American Indian's independence?

How can we be so hypocritical? Thou shall not do to other that one does not do upon itself!

Sincerely yours
Kin Lee


I thought your frontline production of dreams of Tibet was very well documented. Before watching this program I had no idea of the pain and repression that the Tibetan people undergo. I have just recently been exposed to more and more of the history of Tibet and the suffering the Tibetan people experience daily. I believe that as a part of the western society we should all become more educated about the issues over in Tibet.

This is because through your show, I have learned the power of the communist party in China has; not only in Tibet and China but in western society (ie. Walt Disney etc..). I hope in all my heart that one day Tibet will be free. Also, all my prayers are with the young 6 year old boy being held by the Chinese government. I hope one day he will be free and will be able to serve the role he was destined to serve.

Mark Lau
Toronto, Ontario


The government in China believes that it can obscure the facts, rewrite history and thus remain in power by placing political and economic pressure on it's critics in the public and private sectors. They do not realize that the world is no longer in the control of those in traditional seats of power.

It is changing without the consent of those that would manipulate, control or resist change. Today change is driven by political, economic and social forces that are beyond the scope of what one government can manipulate. The current government in China will eventually suffer the fate of all governments that will not change. Hopefully that will be soon.


I am writing after having seen your episode on Tibet. I found it informative and I also found myself recalling the disgust which I first experience during the Tenniman (probably spelled that wrong, sorry) Square massacre. During your report people kept mentioning how much money was at stake with the Chinese. Is our country's economy going to fall apart or will the people starve tomorrow if we never traded another dime with the Chinese? Not hardly. So, what is the problem? We as a country have a serious moral flaw when we begin to consider blood money (and people are literally dying for our profit margins) over the value of human life. If the Chinese wish to play hardball to get us to quit demanding the right thing, then we should play hardball back. They want to be part of the world stage. We are already on that stage. In other words, we have the leverage. Not them. It is time we use it for human rights.

Jett Holland
Joplin, Mo


I am a Chinese student now studying in the US. Although felt a little uncomfortable, I liked the program as a whole because it gave me much information that I would not otherwise know.

However, one thing I would like to comment is that when the program mentioned Culture Revolution destroyed many temples and killed many Tibetans. To give a clear picture to the viewer, the program should also mentioned that Culture Revolution also it also destroyed many Chinese temple and killed tens millions of Chinese outside of Tibet. It was a disaster not only to Tibetans but also to Chinese ourselves.

Milwaukee, WI


Thank you for providing a documentary record of China's intimidation of Hollywood. It's depressing how effective this intimidation has become, and even more depressing that, as Martin Scorsese says, the current movies "slipping through" the system may turn out to be the last (dream) images of unmolested Tibetan culture.

Having said that, however, I feel compelled to complain about your uncontextualized presentation of Henry Kissinger's "expert" opinions on China. Like Sony and Disney, Henry Kissinger has deep, personal financial interests in China that would suffer from his honest assessment of human rights violations there. Any man whose financial entanglements could lead him to say that no government could have been expected to endure the demonstrations in Tianenmen Square should be clearly presented as what he is--a money-grubbing creep who will say anything for a buck, no matter how many people it hurts.
See Ken Silverman's article in CounterPunch for a list of other U.S. "experts" on China whose opinions should likewise be qualified.

Amy Brooks
Santa Fe, NM


After viewing your Frontline Dreams Of Tibet I became incensed that any humanbeing company or government could care about ruffling some feathers in Beijing so as to be allowed a few billions of dollars worth of business with a people whose government would send a half a dozen men to beat a defenseless priest to death. What was my father and uncle fighting for in the last world war but for freedom and culture and especially human rights. Should the government in china be worried about losing face to the rest of the world or to their people who are without any freedom or democracy they seem to a faceless nation whose leaders have buried their heads in the sand and given the mounting world protest their feathers are being plucked. They have no pride or dignity or good face to show the world or to their own people.

They are a ruthless criminal oligarchy that have to use force to exert their will that are never going to fly a proud flag, ever. You can't stop good will or the people.! Those companies that deal with China are co-cospiritors in genocide. The guilt of this history will be shared by those companies and their shareholders.

Terry Kosick
Vancouver B.C.


The documentary on China's oppression of Tibetan Buddhists was very informative, but I personally felt that it was slightly one-sided. China does a lot of things that I don't think America should necessarily approve of, and religious persecution in Tibet is one of them. However, if you ask a monk what he thinks, you aren't exactly going to get an impartial opinion on the issue. The simple truth is that no one in America really knows what it is like to live in China, as a Chinese person. Or as a Tibetan person, for that matter. This episode of Frontline said many times that the West tends to view Tibet as an impossible ideal, and I think that your documentary might have done just that. However, instead of a charming mountain utopia or Shangri-La, the ideal put forth in the documentary was a bad one. It was an example of "ideal" religious persecution. While I certainly don't doubt the truth of the documentary or the validity of the opinions expressed therein, I do wish that more opinions on the opposite side of the issue had been expressed. The one opposing opinion that I did see was so extreme and racist that it was laughable.
Thanks for your time.


In the mid-19th century, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" helped galvanize public opinion in the American north against slavery. Your reporting, along with Hollywood's portrayal of the reality in China and Tibet could have the same effect.

Michael Eisner, and other amoral "business leaders" like him, are no different than drug dealers, who put profits ahead of moral imperatives. (Funny how "Disney" used to mean "good," but now means "immoral.") America will only be great as long as America is good. If the United States will assert its moral leadership on this issue by refusing to renew MFN, the short term loss of business (as suffered during the South African embargo), will lead to positive change in China. As your commentators so eloquently pointed out, the Chinese recognize that Clinton's earlier statements on human rights were simply political rhetoric, and that he can be (and has been) bought.

An excellent program -- first class journalism!
(This sort of programming might change my mind about public funding of PBS.)

Mark Johnson
Little Rock, Arkansas


It may be unfair to say that all Americans are unaware of the cultural genocide being practiced for so long by the Chinese. It's more than Hollywood which has many citizens of the world alarmed by what's happened in Tibet. For myself, the only person in the world I think worthy of the title, "His Holiness", is the Dalai Lama. His compassion reaches out to all sentient beings. He exemplifies the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism in such a way that all may learn, even though they choose other spiritual paths. I am very ashamed of the current administration (for which I voted twice) for dropping human rights violations from the dialogue we're currently having with China. The issue of Tibet is popular because the freedom of Tibet is the right and moral thing. It's a shame the administration chooses to ignore this.

Cindy Ellegood
Louisville, Kentucky


How timely that I catch tonight's Frontline program after just seeing "Seven Years in Tibet" in the cinema. I have lived in Japan, and while Japanese schools of Buddhism differ from Tibetan schools, the similarities and foundations culminate in the Buddha's teachings. Echoes--ever fainter--of these teachings can still be found even in the Westernized Capitalist country of Japan (I am not referring merely to the abundance of temples and shrines). Shinto monks abound, yes, but monks hidden away in mountain monasteries do not constitute the backbone of a living Faith. Do not shed tears for desecrated temples in Tibet; pray instead for the souls of the Tibetan people: that they endure the insurgence of fire and blood of Red China, and maintain their peaceful serenity and dignity. Let no one move these people to raise arms in anger and violence. Let us listen to His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and protest with our words and prayers the atrocities and injustice in Tibet--and indeed, in all places around the world. But know that the struggle there is not one of nation against nation: the liberation of Tibet cannot be viewed as a geographical struggle. It is yet another blatant example of the strong longing to control the weak...but the joke's on the Chinese. For Tibetans are not WEAK, they are MEEK. And their serene dignity is stronger than any treads of tanks, border fences, or lies of politics. We mustn't pray for temples: they will be rebuilt in great splendor for the sake of tourism. No, we must pray for the people. Between the two most powerful political paradigms in the 20th century, Communism and Democracy, they are working to destroy the Living Dharma of Buddha; whether blatantly as China in Tibet, or subversively as the United States in Japan (which I have seen first hand, and no one can deny the cultural genocide that is almost complete there). That is the true struggle represented by the occupation of Tibet.

Attila Lewis Lendvai
Guelph, Ontario, Canada


As a member of Students for a Free Tibet, and International Campaign for Tibet, I greatly appreciate your work on the program "Dreams of Tibet". As an American, I realize that your program will be an impact on the people of our country. As an American, I can express my appreciation. As you know, there are many who cannot thank you for your work. These are the enslaved, frightened, and battered people of Tibet. These are the 1.2 million Tibetans killed since 1949. These are the women subjected to forced sterilization. These are the 700 political prisoners held by the Chinese government. Though I will never be able to understand the tortures of Tibetan life, and though I have no authority to speak on their behalf, I wish to express the appreciation of the oppressed. Your film will touch the hearts of Americans, but it will save the lives to Tibetans. You have done a great thing. Thank you.

Matthew S. Whitt
Williamsburg, VA


I watched the documentary "Dreams of Tibet" last night. I was very disappointed to see that again, the American news media is distorting the images of both China and Tibet, sending the wrong message to ordinary American people. In this so biased documentary, there is nothing about the ordinary life of Tibetans in the past and in the present, how they struggle to survive the harsh natural environment and slavery, let alone the efforts the Chinese government and sino people put into Tibet to better Tibetans' life. China is moving forward rapidly, so does Tibet. I have to point out that it is unfair drawing conclusions without telling or even seeing the truth.

As a Chinese, I saw Tibetans and sino people live together peacefully and happily; tension comes only when religion and politics combine to take power. Why not leave some space to China to figure out its own way to solve all the conflicts derived from differences in cultures and religion, I would be happy to know if Americans have any constructive suggestions on this issue.

Best wishes,
Sincerely yours,
Jia-Jia Liu


Another great job Frontline for bringing the sore subject in front of us in such a timely matter. Since our government figureheads have proven quite ineffective in talking the Chinese government into reason, it's up to us -- the people -- to take the matter of Tibet into our own hands, by boycotting all Chinese-made goods. With a growing trade deficit between China and the USA, let's use some persuasive arguments to make the Chinese leadership understand that the American people won't support bullies and their business.

J.F. Lanvers
Park City, UT


I watched your program "Dream of Tibet" and as a Chinese American, I was very offended by it. Tibet has been part of Chine since Han Dynasty 2000 years ago. Tibet has their spiritual leader, but politically, the Tibetan government has never been an complete independent state from the Chinese Empire in the history. The relationship is more like grown up children and his parents. They can choose their way of life, but they can never deny their roots. Even the title "Dalai Lama" is given by the Qing Dynasty emperor 400 years ago, and the word of origin is Mongolian. I understand that Tibetans are not the same race as the majority of Chinese, but since when that has become a problem for Americans? Should Michael Jordan claim that he is a citizen of Republic of Africana Chicago? Should Foxwood Casino become the Inca Empire capital? Texas was part of Mexico, and Hawaii has every right to declare independent. What if Chinese people start a campaign for the freedom of Alaska, so the Eskimos will have their own country, how would you feel?

Now let's talk about human rights. By my standard, the people on the streets of U.S. cities looking for a shelter on a cold winter day don't have their right to live well protected, and that is a much basic right than the political right. I have never see a homeless get to vote for the president of the U.S.A. I know for a fact that I am much better protected if I were put into a Chinese prison than in a U.S. prison.(I know I won't be forced into being someone's lover there) Does Timothy Mecvei think himself a political prisoner? Well yes, he killed innocent people for his cause, but so did Nelson Mandella in South Africa. What if Chinese people want you to free Timmy boy, will you say yes? So you will perfectly understand why we say no when you want to free so call political prisoners. By the way, your so call hero Harry Wu was put into prison for attempting rape of an underage student of his. So he is as good as those two murderers that killed the poor little boy. Thank you for letting me voice out my opinion,

Jong from Boston


I greatly appreciate your production of Dreams of Tibet. I am a loyal American, but I realize that we cannot count on the Federal government to respond appropriately to the horror and injustice that the Chinese are inflicting upon perhaps the most peaceful culture in the world. Perhaps we needn't expect them to. America is not just its federal government. The strongest response that America could make to this calamity would come from its citizens, through peaceful protest, boycotts, etc. But this requires that our citizenry be informed. To mask the hypocrisy of their position, our national leaders increasingly minimize and ignore China's crime. We must count on other institutions to inform us. I think you did a pretty good job on that score tonight. Thank you.

PS I intend to contribute to Public Broadcasting, for the first time, at WNET's next fund drive.

Ed Ragsdale


With its dreamy portrayal of Tibetan culture under the lamas, FRONTLINE performed a great disservice to its viewers. By contrast to the documentary's uncritical celebration of Tibetan society before Chinese annexation, the writings of Bogle, Manning, Huc, the Pundits Montgomerie & amp; Walker, Littledale, Hayden, Cosson, Burrard, Hedin and other eighteenth- through twentieth-century travelers reported a totalitarian theocracy completely hostile to any Western notion of individual human rights. These eyewitness accounts record widespread slavery, summary executions, the uncompensated expropriation of food and goods from peasants and many additional cruelties directed by the lama aristocracy. As the world's last bastion of medieval feudalism, Tibet represented the kind of place suited for a scalding FRONTLINE documentary concerning the authoritarian abuse of power.

Instead, viewers were presented with yet another Hiltonian Shangri-La, where everything in Tibetan culture remains unassailably GOOD, and all Chinese influences are BAD. Without condoning any of the depredations of the Chinese communists, one should be able to question the merits of the society ruled by the Dalai Lama and his coterie. Would human rights supporters and Hollywood filmmakers be so adamant in their support for his restoration, if Tibet's cultural history were better known to the outside world?


Not since Ed Murrow's White Papers on the South has a documentary held me so fixated and so a way mesmerized and returning to those values of the past. With the stock market attention, it is good to see PBS focus on such an issue. And for background, I have read Rodger Kamanetz "The Jew and the Lotus" and have known of this issue for a while. I have developed film smuggled out of China from students who were in Tiananmen Square. Yet this program crystallized, with no compromise, a certain value of both freedom, religious tolerance, and self determination that I have not seen in a long time. Great job. Looking for more. And I will probably double my pledge to PBS next go around. Just for this show.

And I probably will stop buying Chinese if I can help it. I have had many Chinese friends... one gave me a copy of M Butterfly and said, "You Westerners, even though you might love us or respect us or fear us, you Westerners will never understand us." I would say the same hold for the Chinese understanding of the power of the Dalai Lama's personal power and religious conviction. The Chinese will never fully dominate Tibet nor, as we learned in Vietnam, conquer it.

Beaux Bridge, La.


Thank you for this documentary. Mention was made more than once about the mythical, romantic impression the West has about Tibet. I found myself saying back to the television "well, not with me, and not with many people that I know about". After reading other comments about this program, I can see how the documentary did what was probably its intention: to raise consciousness about what is indeed cultural genocide to the Tibetan people.

My own personal consciousness was raised about Tibet only about 10 years ago, and I was appalled at my own ignorance. Especially since I was raised with stories of the Trail of Tears (the "cultural genocide" of the Cherokee) at my father's knee, and my mother's parents were exiled from the land of their birth (Russia) because of religious persecution -- they were members of the Doukhobor sect, whose sad story has really never been appropriately told. What I've come to know that persecution is persecution, and oppression is oppression. Others opinions have alluded to China just taking what's theirs, but that really is not the point. This is about religious and cultural persecution. The most emotional part of the documentary for me was the scene from the movie where it was ordered that the Dalai Lama's pictures be removed from the temples. There was just one line about likening this to ordering Catholic churches to take down their crucifixes. This could be translated to any religion. Again, oppression is oppression. I can understand how others would be bothered by the seeming superficiality of Hollywood getting involved in this sort of thing. But it is true that these movies (and rock stars) are bringing these issues to the public. At the same time, I know that there are very many organizations, other than Hollywood, that are working very hard for the Tibetan people -- folks who are much more realistic than romantic -- and it would be great to give more exposure to these groups as well. I suppose this documentary could have gone on for another hour or more, with all the information that was touched upon, but it was a great start. I hope that there is more to come.

Oakland, CA


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