Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Last week Joanna Lumley hosted a Tibet fundraising evening. Last year she generously held it at her house and the atmosphere was so good we all stayed longer than expected. Maybe this is why this year it was held at the very atmospheric crypt at the Royal Society of Arts in Covent Garden.

The Chinese desecration of Tibet is so sad one wants to bury one's head in despair, but this won't make the issue go away.

Tibet was the size of Western Europe when it was invaded by China in 1950 and since then the country's culture, religion, human rights and resources have been under systematic assault.

Six thousand Buddhist monasteries have been destroyed, along with the centuries of knowledge they contained, while hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have been executed, imprisoned and tortured. And yet the world does nothing.

During the evening we heard a first-hand experience from Phuntsog Nyidrol, a nun who described the nine years of torture she underwent for continuing to practise her religion and support the Dalai Lama. She was one of thousands of Tibetans who are regularly imprisoned without trial indefinitely.

The Chinese think nothing of the barbaric practices of sticking moon bears in tiny cages to extract their bile or of factory-farming tigers. There are those in China whose idea of a top dining experience is to scalp live monkeys and eat their brains, so we can only hope the attention the country receives during next year's Olympics changes attitudes to people and animals for the better.

China is inflicting a raft of destructive environmental policies on Tibet. Birds have vanished through destruction of their habitat or have been slaughtered by hunting for sport and to furbish China's illicit trade in wildlife products.

This unrestricted hunting of wildlife is causing the irrevocable loss of countless Tibetan species even before they have been discovered and studied.

China continues to flood Tibet with destructive mega-developmental projects such as railway routes, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical complexes, hydro-dams, airports, motorways, military bases and new cities for migrants from mainland China. This is leading to slope destabilisation, land degradation, and hazards to human health and life.

With all this going on, it beggared belief that Michael Palin visited Tibet for his recent Himalaya series and bounced cheerfully about the place, "interviewing" Tibetans who raved about how fabulous life was under Chinese rule. What a fatuous piece of programming that was.

Thank goodness, then, for celebrities such as Joanna Lumley who use their fame to promote awareness of these iniquities. While so many celebrities fail to use their fame and simply bemoan the miseries of being in the public eye, she deflects the spotlight of publicity to the cruelties perpetuated in the shadows beyond the public's gaze.