On a bus ride to visit a model yak farm, our group of Western journalists witnessed an incident that adds to the colonial atmosphere of Chinese-ruled Tibet.
We saw a Tibetan with two small children walking along the rough road in the same direction we were traveling and we saw an opportunity to chat with them. We ushered them into our bus with ceremony. The children, shy at first, quickly responded to our friendship and curiosity.
Sadly, we hadn't caculated on the reaction of our officials Chinese hosts who were appalled.
They ordered the Tibetans off the bus in arrogant and peremptory tones. We protested strongly.
The Tibetans finally were pulled physically off the bus and the mood was hostile. Perceiving this, one of the Chinese said the Tibetans were trying to go to Lhasa even though we could see that they were walking in the same direction we were heading.
After five more minutes of shouting, the officials agreed that we could proceed and then pick up this family which by now was several hundreds feet ahead of us.
The bus started up. We sat down somewhat mollified and off we went. As we approached the family, however, the bus speeded up and when we shouted for it to stop, the senior Chinese official at the back motioned to the driver to proceed.
This was the kind of arrogance and summary behavior we were to see often from Chinese officials in Tibet. We could only guess its effects on tibetans.
We were not amused several hours later when the same official made an unctuous and flambuoyant offer to a model Tibetan herdsman at the model yak commune to drive him -- 400 yards with to his model living quarters.