Associated Press

‘Campaign in India To Boycott Chinese Goods’
by Penpa Dolma
(Associated Press | December 30, 2002)

Thermos bottles, toy guns, canned pork and chili paste – almost everything the Tibetan refugees sell on the streets of this hill town is made in China, despite many Tibetans' view of the Chinese as foreign occupiers in their homeland.

Tibetans in India have long lived with the paradox of fighting China's control of their homeland and selling Chinese-made goods to make a living. All that might change.

"Boycott Made in China," read the bright red posters pasted on the walls in Dharmsala, the north Indian town where Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, set up his exile government after fleeing China in 1969.

Tibetans and their supporters will launch on Jan. 1 an India-wide campaign against buying Chinese goods, organizers said Saturday.

More than 1,300 volunteers from the Friends of Tibet organization in India will coordinate the campaign, which follows similar boycott calls in the United States, Canada and Europe.

"The only way to hurt China is to strike China's economy. We have no military or political solutions," said Tenzin Tsundue, general secretary of Friends of Tibet in India.

Tsundue added that counterfeit brands from China were being smuggled into India, hurting local industries. He also said China was exploiting prison labor to produce cheap goods.

Many Tibetan refugees sell the Chinese goods to finance their escapes to India and support themselves. Many consider Chinese goods to be cheaper and better than Indian products.

The exiled government in 1996 passed a resolution urging Tibetans to boycott the Chinese goods. It drew little response.

"I think it failed to cut the problem at the root. It remained a very symbolic idea and it never went beyond that," said Tsundue. He hopes that the new campaign will be more effective.

Merchants in Dharmsala, however, have a different view.

Lobsang Wangyal, who sells Chinese-made shoes and garments, said he would wait for the government in exile to clear his homes of the Chinese products before he stops selling them.

"If the government is not serious about it, maybe it (selling Chinese goods) is not as harmful as they make it sound," Wangyal said.