Persistent American interference in Tibet and its affairs is something to which Beijing has become wearily accustomed. In April, for instance, three uninvited staffers of Washington politicians spent 10 days 'assessing China's treatment of the Tibetan people'. The congressmen, including the arch-priest of liberal political correctness, New York Democratic Senator Daniel Moynihan, apparently didn't feel the issue sufficiently important for them to make the trip themselves. Instead, they sent delegates. The result of this 'assessment' supported the current Western liberal gospel that China's policies pose a grave threat to the survival of Tibetan religion and culture. Very likely true. And welcome, I would have thought, seeing as Tibet's former rulers were despotic religious dictators who ruled a cowed population stifled by superstition and ignorance. The American message boys also found evidence of a 'significant Chinese civilian population in urban areas'. Well, bless my soul. What are these Chinese doing in China? Where did the delegates get the information for their report? They admit much of it is based on stories told by monks and nuns. These religious 'witnesses' complained of restrictions on the number of monks or nuns admitted to the many monasteries, of 'duties imposed that restrict time and ability to get a full religious education', and heavy tax burdens. Of course. Why wouldn't they complain? In the past, it was the Tibetan farmers who fed these unproductive mouths, who supported hordes of monks and nuns who stayed, untaxed and idle, in their temples, whirling prayer wheels and living off the farmers. Naturally, with their rice bowls broken and their being forced to work to feed themselves, they are going to complain. Equally naturally, foolish idealists who cling to romantic legends are going to believe them. These foreign meddlers also point the finger at China because the language of instruction at Tibet University is Putonghua. So it is all over the nation, where Manchus, Zhuangs, Mongols, Yis, Miao and the other 50 registered national minorities are taught in standard Chinese. What language of instruction is used in New York universities, Cherokee? And what schools were there in Lhasa before liberation? A handful of religious institutions that taught that the Dalai Lama and other monks were semi-deities. Tibet today has 3,400 primary schools, 70 middle schools, 16 secondary technical schools and four colleges; more than 300,000 students go to classes. That's pretty impressive in a population of 2.3 million. If American politicians are going to send prying eyes to examine the woeful conditions of certain peoples, they do not need to go to the roof of the world. It would be far cheaper and, doubtless, just as ineffective, to study the conditions of the native population of Alaska. How, for instance, have their religions and cultures survived the impact of colonisation by the United States? If Washington politicians feel this is a subject worthy of investigation in far Tibet, surely it is also of concern in their own backyard. Truth is, of course, that the indigenous population of Alaska has been swamped in a cultural invasion of outsiders, notably by the great gold rush just before the turn of the century and the oil boom which still continues. The current population of Alaska is about 620,000. Of this, a mere 15.7 per cent are native Americans. Whites make up more than three-quarters of the population; the rest are blacks, Hispanics or Asians. Of course, the United States' presence has been of immense benefit to the peoples of Alaska. Just as China has taken education, medicine and industry to Tibet, so has America introduced roads, welfare and housing to Alaska. While the United States profits gigantically from processing Alaska's natural resources, Americans target China for criticism because of lumber industries cutting Tibetan forests. Why is there always this double standard? The American argument about China 'destroying Tibetan culture' is intriguing. How do the traditional values and beliefs of Eskimo and Inuit stand today after 130 years of American occupation? Do young Eskimos seek to return to a subsistence existence of hunting whales or chasing seals over the ice floes, or are they happier in an air conditioned house watching television, sipping Coke and eating a Big Mac? Eskimos ride snowmobiles instead of hunting on foot. Has this ruined their natural environment and destroyed their culture? Similarly, Tibetans now travel in buses and trucks. Is China supposed to slam on the economic brakes, withdraw education, close hospitals and shut factories, so Tibetans can go back to following a herd of starving sheep with their total belongings piled on the back of a yak? In both cases, of course not. Alaska is a state of the United States of America, with as many of the rights and privileges and responsibilities as the states of New York or California. Tibet, similarly, is a province of China, although most of its territory is administered as an autonomous region. It has been 'Chinese', on and off, for centuries, ruled in various degrees of brutality and efficiency by the Mongol Yuan dynasty, the Chinese Ming and the Manchu Qing. China's claim to Tibet is historically, geographically, politically and realistically as indisputable as is Washington's claim to Alaska. There is one major difference. China does not tell Washington how to administer its territory. The United States never tires of lecturing China about how it should run its internal affairs.