We are meeting here in Lhasa, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Tibet as intellectuals to discuss opportunities and challenges enjoyed and faced by the People’s Republic of China in the struggle for the development of Tibet. This invitation by the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, through its Director-General, Lu Guangjin, to the Fourth Forum on the Development of Tibet, China is highly appreciated. It provides us with the opportunity not only to present and share our views as intellectuals on the theme of the Fourth Forum on the Development of Tibet, “Opportunities and Challenges for the Development of Tibet,” but also with the opportunity to see Tibet and its people. Edward Said, who best and effectively represented the people of Palestine as an intellectual doing research and lecturing at the universities in the United States of America until he passed away on 25 September 2003 and, as an independent member of the Palestinian National Council from 1977 to 1991, articulated opportunities and challenges enjoyed and faced by intellectuals in representing the people in the strategic area of development. According to Robert Fisk, he was “the most powerful political voice” for Palestinian people. In his Reith Lectures of 1993 published as a book, Representations of the Intellectual, Said defines the intellectual as:
an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public. And this role has an edge to it, and cannot be played without a sense of being someone whose place it is publicly to raise embarrassing questions, to confront orthodoxy and dogma (rather than to produce them), to be someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d’eter is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug. The intellectual does so on the basis of universal principles: that all human beings are entitled to expect decent standards of behaviour concerning freedom and justice from worldly powers or nations, and that deliberate or inadvertent violations of these standards need to be tested and fought against courageously.
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Written by Sehlare Makgetlaneng, PhD, Chief Research Specialist Programme Leader: Governance and Security, Africa Institute of South Africa – part of the Human Sciences Research Council