“Shame upon @tntmagazine for promoting #tourism to occupied #Tibet.” Seems lobbying group Tibettruth wasn’t too impressed with our Tibet travel feature last week, and took to Twitter to denounce us.
The organisation’s anger poses an interesting question: how far should the politics of a place determine whether you deign to visit?
I don’t think anyone would try to deny that Chinese oppression of Tibet is anything short of horrifying. (Well, apart from the Chinese). And the terrible truth of the matter is that most – if not all – of your tourist dollars will fill the pockets of the brutal government that has claimed Tibet for itself.
But is there something to be said for seeing this with your own eyes? For meeting the Tibetan people who have, as we said in our feature, kept their country “defiantly Tibetan” in spite of the “heavy hand of the Chinese”? For confronting the difficult truths of life here, as well as exploring what remains good: the unique spirituality of the people; experiencing the roof of the world?
I have always thought that travel is about trying to understand a world outside the confines of your own. But regardless, does it make sense to boycott tourism in certain countries?
If we’re going to rule out Tibet, shouldn’t we also rule out China? Should we have also refused to holiday in the US after Guantanamo? Must we cross Malaysia off our list because the government keeps trying to imprison the opposition on invented charges of sodomy?
If we were to screen all destinations in terms of politics, I fear there’d be few places left to go.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of the traveller’s personal choice.
What do you think?