Barry Sautman’s recent column in South China Morning Post is hard to stomach. Sautman is one of the most notable Western academic defenders of Chinese policies in Tibet. This is a fine thing, since he tends to make rational arguments in favor of his opinions. Even if we don’t agree with his conclusions, his arguments give us an opportunity to reflect more deeply on our own opinions and so see the world more clearly. Obviously, that doesn’t put him above critique, which is richly deserved in the case of his new article, “The Tibetan Impasse”, a response to an earlier article by Lodi Gyari. Sautman’s basic thesis, as stated in his first paragraph, is that, “Three decades of ‘negotiations about negotiations’ between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and Beijing have not made progress because, although exile leaders claim they are not separatists, they continue with assertions and actions that belie that claim.” Thus, he places blame squarely on the shoulders of the Tibetans. Continue reading ‘Are the Tibetans to blame for the failure of negotiatons?’
Archive for the 'Critique' Category
By Jigme Duntak
In 1979 a book titled Great Changes in Tibet was published in the People’s Republic of China. Within this book the early 20th century Tibetan society, prior to its occupation by the PRC in 1950, is described as a “hell on earth where the labouring people suffered for centuries under the darkest and most reactionary forms of feudal serfdom.” This depiction of traditional Tibetan society is promoted and maintained by the PRC who argue that before 1959 all but 5 percent of the entire Tibetan population were slaves or serfs in a feudalistic system where they were treated as “saleable private property”. Consequently, the PRC perceives itself not as the invaders of Tibet in 1950 but rather as the liberators of the serf and slave masses that had comprised the other 95 percent of the population. This perception of Tibet has also become increasingly spread throughout the West through works like Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth by Michael Parenti in which he writes of a pre-Communist Tibet characterized by oppression, manipulation, mutilation and torture.
In spite of what is depicted in the works of Parenti and the PRC, it should be addressed as to why it is inaccurate to depict the early 20th century pre-Communist labour systems in Tibet as a system characterized by abusive “feudal serfdom”.
Nima R. Taylor Binara
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
As a Tibetan, it is bittersweet to see Tibet on the front pages. The world is finally seeing Beijing’s repressive rule there, but the tragedy is that it has required such bloodshed. As Chinese forces now attempt to crush the protests, the crisis in Tibet has laid bare two important issues: the Tibetan people’s unresolved demands, and how these aspirations impact Tibet, the world and China itself.
For more than 50 years, Tibet has been a land of simmering resentment. Tibetans have various grievances, but the common thread is that Tibetans want what all nations want: to control their own lives, society and religion. Tibetans are not simply protesting specific policies; they are demanding their right to self-determination. It is no coincidence that in many protests, Tibetans are attacking symbols of state power, ripping down the Chinese flag and replacing it with the banned Tibetan one.
Unlike the demonstrations in the 1980s, the protests have spread far beyond the capital, Lhasa, to towns and villages across Tibet. Tibetan exiles are staging sympathy protests worldwide, including when Beijing’s Olympic torch comes through San Francisco today. These actions feed off one another, thanks to the Internet, digital cameras, cell phones and shortwave radio. This unity among Tibetans inside and outside Tibet represents a far stronger challenge to Chinese rule than before, and will give Tibetans renewed inspiration regardless of whether the protests in Tibet are temporarily suppressed.
For the international community, it is now impossible to accept Beijing’s narrative that Tibetans are happy as part of China. The economic growth that Beijing touts in Tibet is exposed as a synonym for Chinese colonization. The world now sees that, like East Timor and other former colonies, the Tibetan people’s demand for freedom may be temporarily repressed but is destined to boil over. The only question is whether the world will do anything to support these legitimate aspirations.
China’s self-absorbed myth that it “liberated” grateful Tibetans has also been shattered; its central narrative justifying Tibet’s place in its empire has vanished. Its policy of “Sinicizing” Tibet through immigration of Chinese settlers and vilifying His Holiness the Dalai Lama is just adding fuel to the fire. For the first time, Beijing has actually admitted that the Tibetan protests are widespread and conducted on a large scale.
Beijing has now resorted to a new propaganda tactic, casting Tibetans as violent criminals and Chinese as victims. This is largely because Beijing needed a domestic response to images seeping into China of Chinese forces attacking Tibetan protesters. State-controlled media are now broadcasting images of Tibetans attacking Chinese settlers; ignoring, of course, that the demonstrations in Lhasa were peaceful for days, and that most other Tibetan protests have been wholly nonviolent (the same cannot be said for Chinese forces, who used live ammunition against unarmed Tibetan protesters. The result of China’s new propaganda strategy has been to create an “us versus them” backlash among many Chinese vis-À-vis Tibetans. This is a reckless and potentially dangerous incitement of Chinese nationalism, but also has the effect of changing Chinese perceptions of Tibet. Tibetans are no longer portrayed as colorful if slightly backward “minorities.” Tibetans are now ungrateful colonial subjects in open rebellion. This is significant, because recognition of the difference between Tibetans and Chinese is the first step to recognition that Tibet is not China.
Looking forward, as with many colonized nations, there comes a tipping point when a sufficient number of people rise up and say “enough.” That point has been reached in Tibet. Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun who became a political prisoner at age 12, once declared, “There is fire inside our bodies, but we dare not let the smoke out.” Now, the smoke has escaped, and for Tibetans in Tibet and across the Tibetan diaspora, there is a renewed push for freedom. And China? China will resist losing its colony, but then so did France with Algeria, Serbia with Kosovo, and Imperial Japan with Manchukuo.
The magnitude and vociferousness of the protests across Tibet demonstrate that Beijing cannot forever contain Tibetan demands for self-rule. Trying to do so only leads to instability. Through their courage and resilience in the face of a half-century of military occupation and religious and cultural oppression, Tibetans have made it abundantly clear that they want more than ever to determine their own future. The world should stand by their side.
Nima R. Taylor Binara is a member of the board of directors of Tibet Justice Center, a not-for-profit organization based in Berkeley that advocates the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination. www.tibetjustice.org.
Coffee sippers who think it might be a good idea to free Tibet from China are about 58 years too late. China is not going to free Tibet, and Western encouragement of Tibetan resistance will only get people killed needlessly.
Tibet was part of China for centuries. In 1913, when China seemed to be falling apart, the British Empire encouraged Tibet to declare its independence. It did, and that lasted until 1950, when, at the end of the Chinese civil war, China invaded and reclaimed the area. By then, the impotent British Empire was in no position to help anyone even if it had been so inclined. America chose to do nothing.
If you are not willing to make your way to the Tibetan plateau and face Chinese guns and prisons, then you certainly should not sit around some coffee shop and urge Tibetans to do so. Tibet is a strategic area of China, and the Chinese government is not going to give it up or grant it independence or even autonomy. To paraphrase a famous outlaw, it is enough that we know that China will do what it has to do.
As for us, we should do nothing. Tibet is part of China, and what happens there is an internal affair of China. The rest of the world has no right to interfere, and other than bloviating for a while, I seriously doubt that it will. Unfortunately, in this age of global communications even bloviating can cause bad things to happen to people.
Boycotting the Olympics is a foolish idea by a tiny minority of fanatics. The Olympics have nothing to do with Tibet, just as they had nothing to do with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Boycotting the games would be a cruel blow to athletes who have been sweating and training for four years. It would accomplish nothing. It would further politicize the games, which should be encouraged to return to their amateur status.
China was awarded the Summer Games in a fair international competition and has spent a lot of money getting ready for them. Any attempt to spoil the games will do a great disservice to the athletes, the Chinese government and the Chinese people. It will do nothing positive and will only harden attitudes and end up making the world even more dangerous than it already is.
Americans in particular should keep in mind that we are currently engaged in mismanaging two occupations of two countries that we illegally invaded. Neither enterprise is going well. Neither is our economy. In short, we have enough on our own plate without trying to steal a bite off of China’s plate. We should make sure that Afghanistan and Iran are the last wheezes of the sick American Empire and shut it down and return to our republic.
I don’t know why some Americans seem to have trouble realizing that the days of the European empires are over. Part of the problem is that we have way too many vocational intellectuals and way too few real intellects. A vocational intellectual is someone who makes a living writing or talking. Such people tend to live inside their heads. Delusions of grandeur and fantasies about the real world are constant occupational hazards for such people.
No country in the world has to do what we tell it to do. Certainly that’s the case with the big powers like China, Russia, Japan and India. As you can see every day in your morning paper, even a little country like Iraq can cause us more trouble than it’s worth. It’s a crime against humanity that our sons and daughters are dying in the desert dust while fat politicians cavort about in Washington. Don’t encourage Tibetans to die in some futile fantasy about independence. They are not independent. They are part of China, and part of China they will stay.
March 29, 2008
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
As Tibetan protesters take to the streets in the biggest and most bloody challenge to Chinese rule in nearly 20 years, Dispatches reports on the hidden reality of life under Chinese occupation after spending three months undercover, deep inside the region. Dozens are feared dead after the recent clashes and crackdown by Chinese troops, but with reporting so rigidly controlled from the region little is known of living conditions inside Tibet.
To make this film, Tibetan exile Tash Despa returns to the homeland he risked his life to escape 11 years ago, to carry out secret filming with award-winning, Bafta-nominated director Jezza Neumann (Dispatches Special: China’s Stolen Children). Risking imprisonment and deportation, he uncovers evidence of the “cultural genocide” described by the Dalai Lama.
He finds the nomadic way of life being forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land and livestock and are being resettled in concrete camps. Tibet reveals the regime of terror which dominates daily life and makes freedom of expression impossible. Tash meets victims of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and “disappearances” and uncovers evidence of enforced sterilisations on ethnic Tibetan women.
He sees for himself the impact of the enormous military and police presence in the region, and the hunger and hardship being endured by many Tibetans, and hears warnings of the uprising taking place across the provinces now.
I’ve wanted to write something for a while in the wake of the latest developments in Tibetan regions. But after seeing press reports by media outlets from home and abroad, I don’t know whom to believe in. I lost my judgment. I tried to start writing, but then couldn’t continue because my feelings are too complex. This afternoon, I talked to a colleague again about this issue and the conversation escalated into a fight. The colleague finally used a very “Chinese Communist” style to stop me from “venting angry words.” Faced with irrationality, I zipped my mouth. I’ve worked with a variety of people, but I didn’t imagine that there are people who have been brainwashed so much, and I started to realize this issue isn’t a small matter!
The key is, a lot of Han and some ethnic Tibetans with vested interests have become blind to the blue sky, white clouds, green mountains and water. Amidst the long history and mystical culture of Tibet, their brains are only thinking about how to commercialize these things. They don’t know that many aspects of the Tibetan way of life, religion and custom, culture and values are gradually being dismantled. Neither do they know that the dignity of Tibetans is shedding tears, and many Tibetans are struggling…
Looking at Tibet, I sometimes feel ashamed to be a Han. Since first coming to Tibet in 2006 I often think about these issues: What on earth does Tibet need, how should it develop and who does it need to lead that development? I have no power to resist anything, nor do I have the intention to resist, after all our motherland is slowly making progress and our party is gradually inching toward democracy. As an ethnic university graduate and a Han who now works in the Tibetan region, these topics have surrounded me every day of my working life.
In a civilized world in the 21st Century, when something incredible happens in a certain area but many people around us (including Tibetans) yell out about a crackdown and mass killing, should we seriously reflect on ourselves: Why? I have picked an article by an alumni [of the Central University of Nationalities] below. As a member of the Chinese nation, no matter which ethnicity, we, the future of the country, shall rethink the whole issue!
Those Who Throw Out Angry Rhetoric Please Apologize to Tibetan Compatriots
What I write has no intention to be separatist or to damage ethnic solidarity. I love my motherland, love my people and love all my compatriots. I only hope that in this huge family, we can truly love one another, understand and tolerate one another, and truly live a harmonious life.
We always mistakenly believe that whatever we do is progressive, but we are repeatedly committing mistakes.
While walking on the streets in Lhasa, I always have a subconscious sad feeling. In a sacred place like Lhasa, I cannot find where I belong, and I’ve lost my direction. Jiangsu Road, Beijing Road, so on and so forth, these names pop up in front of my eyes. Roads named in Tibetan are few in number, and the city makes one feel like being in a mainland town. Children beggars swarm around me and when I see their aspiring eyes and the joy of getting some money, my heart bleeds, and language becomes pale. Occasionally, made-up ladies cozy up and wave toward me, wanting to saying something but I understand they are not just saying hello to me.
The whole sacred city is filled with aid construction. I am not saying this is not good, and Tibetan people very much appreciate the help from other ethnic groups and the care from the central government. But those Hunan-aided and Shandong-financed post boards stand up high on the top of buildings, fearing that not enough people will recognize their generosity. But this philanthropic advertising is overstretched. Every ethnicity has its dignity, so imagine, will this hurt the feelings of the Tibetans? And the assistance buildings are not constructed based on Tibetan culture and ideas, but wild shapes and structures. Will Tibetans like these houses?
Nowadays, there are so many prostitutes on the boulevards and small lanes, they number at least in the thousands. There was once a women’s movement that put out a slogan that says “Sichuan women get out, husbands return home.” Imagine how many people are engaged in prostitution! We cannot blame the Tibetan ethnicity, these are imports from the mainland. And their influence is so deep that it’s unimaginable. Those colorful women fill the streets wide and narrow and beam their seductive eyes around the crowds, which is for sure a blasphemy on Lhasa’s image. Still, we have no regret and, instead, have turned the sacred town into a setting of indulgence and satiating lust.
Some even say that Tibetans are dark-colored and dirty. Yes, Tibetans are dark-skinned, but they have a red heart and pure belief. Look at us who believe ourselves to be light-colored. We feel proud about our faces being covered with chemical compounds. Tibetans are not dirty, and their hearts are pure and kind.
We always stress the importance of Mandarin. Indeed Chinese is important and it’s our national official language. But in Lhasa and many Tibetan ethnic regions, there is a popular saying that goes, “Tibetan is a formality but Mandarin is the rice bowl.” That’s exactly as I see it–Many Tibetan students work hard on Mandarin for their future, and, as a result, many forget their own language. Of course there are a lot of reasons for this, for example some schools don’t have Tibetan language curriculum at all, and classes of mainland students are not allowed to speak Tibetan, etc. Language is the root of an ethnic group and to a great extent is a symbol that distinguishes one race from another. Without a language, an ethnic culture will also die along with it. On the other hand how many Han people understand Tibetan language and script? Which makes us feel deeply ashamed and sorry. There are so many Tibetans who can fluently speak Mandarin. I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad about this, but I feel there’s a serious lack of understanding between the two ethnic groups.
Han people have their own holidays and customs, so do the Tibetans. In Lhasa, along with more contact with other ethnic groups, many Tibetans started to celebrate Han holidays, such as dragon boat festival and tomb sweeping festival, etc. But few spend Tibetan holidays with Tibetans. Some say Han culture is so tolerant and so influential. But do you truly understand the Tibetan holidays?
When some people talk about sky burial, they associate it with cruelty and horror. But have you ever thought about that when a dead body is incinerated it perishes and when it gets buried it becomes part of the soil, while heavenly burial benefits other animals and alleviates their hunger, thus protecting them. What a noble burial and selfless funeral is this. But it is regarded as barbarian, primitive, cruel. So when you talk about this please read up a little and understand more about it!
Many still stubbornly believe that rice is the best staple food. But when told that Tibetans eat Tsangba [roasted barley], their facial expression reflects shock, contempt, dismissal. It’s ridiculous and stupid and ignorant because tsangba is actually a pure and unpolluted natural food.
All these examples are beyond reason but they happen around us. Some only know that there are Tibetans in Tibet, but don’t know that there are Tibetans in other provinces. Some only know there’s a Lhasa in Tibet but don’t know any other place there. But they still randomly say outrageous things about Tibet.
Let’s also talk about those cadres who assisted the development of Tibet. Were/are they really coming to help Tibet? So many of them have returned to their home bases for promotions after a short stint in Tibet. I heard about a friend’s uncle, who stayed in Tibet for less than four years and took 800,000 yuan back to the mainland. There are many stories like this, going back home from Tibet to skyrocket in their career or buy villas, so on and so forth. Did they come to Tibet to work for the good of Tibetans? How much contribution did they make to Tibet? Where did the money go after the state earmarked it for Tibet? I don’t even want to imagine, the more I think about it the more frightful it gets.
Let me also talk about the inner land (neidi) classes for Tibetans. I don’t know about other ethnic groups’ neidi classes but I know quite a bit about the Tibetan ones. Everything they study is written in Mandarin and the history they learn is also Han history. What about Tibetan history? As a Tibetan who doesn’t know his/her own history, is he/she still a Tibetan? Of course there is reason for this but shall we consider their racial feelings and ethnic belonging? Many years later, many kids have made tremendous progress in Mandarin but their Tibetan level is still elementary.
Let me also talk a bit about March 14.
China’s coverage of it has been indeed thorough and detailed. But some issues have been haunting me still. For instance, in the news, a lot of information was “according to reliable sources/materials.” I don’t know how reliable these pieces of information are. Where on earth are the sources? Why not tell us, the public?
Videos on March 14 shown on the Internet are truly saddening. No matter which ethnic group, it’s heart-wrenching. But let’s look at the comments and our netizens, who speak about killing or exterminating in every sentence. Why are we so extremist? Why so partial? How about let’s try not to preemptively judge certain people without getting the whole story?
No ethnic group is composed of all good people. Why not say things like that? Shall we also reflect upon our own behavior and our own mistakes? To kill all Tibetans, isn’t it a little irresponsible?
We did make efforts to develop solidarity and the growth of Han and Tibetan cultures. But we ignore the feelings and belief of Tibetan compatriots. We did give, but we didn’t do it sincerely enough and not perfectly enough. Not only shall we give in terms of material, but also spiritual, support. We shall offer our help with an equal and caring attitude, not just to do cosmetic work. Think about it: China has run Tibet for so many years and now we have this situation over there, there are so many things we should reflect on about ourselves. We cannot always think that we are always right and we are the best.
For those who randomly say outrageous things, please apologize to our kind Tibetan compatriots. Only mutual understanding and trust can build up our truly harmonious society…
(Note: this article has been deleted three times on campus Internet forum. It was delayed for republishing today [April 1], only to express my opinion, there’s no other motive. Viewers’ tolerance is greatly appreciated.)
Beijing, March 22, 2008
Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation by Some Chinese Intellectuals
1. At present the one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity. We call for such propaganda to be stopped.
2. We support the Dalai Lama’s appeal for peace, and hope that the ethnic conflict can be dealt with according to the principles of goodwill, peace, and non-violence. We condemn any violent act against innocent people, strongly urge the Chinese government to stop the violent suppression, and appeal to the Tibetan people likewise not to engage in violent activities.
3. The Chinese government claims that “there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique.” We hope that the government will show proof of this. In order to change the international community’s negative view and distrustful attitude, we also suggest that the government invite the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights to carry out an independent investigation of the evidence, the course of the incident, the number of casualties, etc.
4. In our opinion, such Cultural-Revolution-like language as “the Dalai Lama is a jackal in Buddhist monk’s robes and an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast ” used by the Chinese Communist Party leadership in the Tibet Autonomous Region is of no help in easing the situation, nor is it beneficial to the Chinese government’s image. As the Chinese government is committed to integrating into the international community, we maintain that it should display a style of governing that conforms to the standards of modern civilization.
5. We note that on the very day when the violence erupted in Lhasa (March 14), the leaders of the Tibet Autonomous Region declared that “there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique.” This shows that the authorities in Tibet knew in advance that the riot would occur, yet did nothing effective to prevent the incident from happening or escalating. If there was a dereliction of duty, a serious investigation must be carried out to determine this and deal with it accordingly.
6. If in the end it cannot be proved that this was an organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated event but was instead a “popular revolt” triggered by events, then the authorities should pursue those responsible for inciting the popular revolt and concocting false information to deceive the Central Government and the people; they should also seriously reflect on what can be learned from this event so as to avoid taking the same course in the future.
7. We strongly demand that the authorities not subject every Tibetan to political investigation or revenge. The trials of those who have been arrested must be carried out according to judicial procedures that are open, just, and transparent so as to ensure that all parties are satisfied.
8. We urge the Chinese government to allow credible national and international media to go into Tibetan areas to conduct independent interviews and news reports. In our view, the current news blockade cannot gain credit with the Chinese people or the international community, and is harmful to the credibility of the Chinese government. If the government grasps the true situation, it need not fear challenges. Only by adopting an open attitude can we turn around the international community’s distrust of our government.
9. We appeal to the Chinese people and overseas Chinese to be calm and tolerant, and to reflect deeply on what is happening. Adopting a posture of aggressive nationalism will only invite antipathy from the international community and harm China’s international image.
10. The disturbances in Tibet in the 1980s were limited to Lhasa, whereas this time they have spread to many Tibetan areas. This deterioration indicates that there are serious mistakes in the work that has been done with regard to Tibet. The relevant government departments must conscientiously reflect upon this matter, examine their failures, and fundamentally change the failed nationality policies.
11. In order to prevent similar incidents from happening in future, the government must abide by the freedom of religious belief and the freedom of speech explicitly enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, thereby allowing the Tibetan people fully to express their grievances and hopes, and permitting citizens of all nationalities freely to criticize and make suggestions regarding the government’s nationality policies.
12. We hold that we must eliminate animosity and bring about national reconciliation, not continue to increase divisions between nationalities. A country that wishes to avoid the partition of its territory must first avoid divisions among its nationalities. Therefore, we appeal to the leaders of our country to hold direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama. We hope that the Chinese and Tibetan people will do away with the misunderstandings between them, develop their interactions with each other, and achieve unity. Government departments as much as popular organizations and religious figures should make great efforts toward this goal.
Wang Lixiong (Beijing, Writer)
Liu Xiaobo (Beijing, Freelance Writer)
Zhang Zuhua (Beijing, scholar of constitutionalism)
Sha Yexin (Shanghai, writer, Chinese Muslim)
Yu Haocheng (Beijing, jurist)
Ding Zilin (Beijing, professor)
Jiang peikun (Beijing, professor)
Yu Jie (Beijing, writer)
Sun Wenguang (Shangdong, professor)
Ran Yunfei (Sichuan, editor, Tujia nationality)
Pu Zhiqiang (Beijing, lawyer)
Teng Biao (Beijing, Layer and scholar)
Liao Yiwu ()Sichuan, writer)
Wang Qisheng (Beijing, scholar)
Zhang Xianling (Beijing, engineer)
Xu Jue (Beijing, research fellow)
Li Jun (Gansu, photographer)
Gao Yu (Beijing, journalist)
Wang Debang (Beijing, freelance writer)
Zhao Dagong (Shenzhen, freelance writer)
Jiang Danwen (Shanghai, writer)
Liu Yi (Gansu, painter)
Xu Hui (Beijing, writer)
Wang Tiancheng (Beijing, scholar)
Wen kejian (Hangzhou, freelance)
Li Hai (Beijing, freelance writer)
Tian Yongde (Inner Mongolia, folk human rights activists)
Zan Aizong (Hangzhou, journalist)
Liu Yiming (Hubei, freelance writer)
Liu Di (Beijing, freelance writer)
See Article: Electing a New Dalai Lama
In this article by exiled Tibetan writer and activist Jamyang Norbu, the issue of the Dalai Lama’s political role is discussed. He believes that the Dalai Lama should modify his role to that of a constitutional monarchy comparable to that of the King of Thailand’s. Jamyang explains that in this way “His Holiness need not be burdened with the routine problems of government or with the unpleasant squabbles and strife of political life, but still retain a constitutional role to advise perhaps even arbitrate, in the case of a major national crisis.”
“The system we have now can in no way be regarded as a genuine democracy. The closest thing I can think of is Nepal’s former “panchayat” democracy. You can also quite safely compare it to those “managed” or “guided” democracies that you find in Russia, Zimbabwe, and other places in the third world.“
Jamyang also believes that by giving full political power to the Tibetan people, this would in fact help in dealing with the eventual absence of the Dalai Lama by maintaining the hope and unity of Tibetans and averting a possible breakdown of the governmental system.
“…the promise of a true democratic Tibet will be an effective repudiation of repeated Chinese propaganda claims that Tibetan independence would mean a reversion to theocratic feudalism”
“…the early and effective implementation of a genuine democratic process in our exile-society becomes a clear proof to the Tibetan people of the Dalai Lama’s absolute sincerity in his commitment to democracy for Tibet”.
Jamyang believes that there are many Tibetans who wish to make their marks on Tibetan politics and make a difference in their society but he believes they are marginalized by the lack of the ability to truly effectuate change due to the lack of real power within the government. By giving real power to the Tibetan Government in Exile he believes this will help bolster the ranks of it’s current demoralized officials, who largely leave in large numbers to emigrate to the West.
“…the Kashag (the advisory board of the Tibetan government-in-exile) and the Assembly are marginalized in terms of real political power and have no meaningful role in formulation of national policy”.
The Tibetan people’s strong criticism of the current Tibetan government while praising the Dalai Lama is also said by Jamyang to be linked to the administration disregard by foreign officials who instead choose to deal directly with the Dalai Lama.
“Gradually the government has become marginalized and even Beijing has managed to add to this with its so-called “negotiation” that has created the impression that the Tibet issue is nothing but a personal matter of the Dalai Lama’s return”.
“…[during] the Gold Medal ceremony at Washington DC, it was observed that some front-row seats at the function were reserved for heads of Dharma centres in the West, such as Sogyal Rimpoche and Nyarakhentul Rimpoche. The Tibetans involved in the organizing had not even bothered to issue an invitation to the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, who I understand was finally instructed by Parliament to attend, and just managed to do so at the last minute.”
“If the Tibetan Parliament and Kashag continually become sidelined and trivialized, then the government-in-exile will almost certainly collapse when His Holiness is not with us. The only way for it to survive and even gain legitimacy and authority is if Tibetan people all over the world feel they have a direct stake in its formation and operation, and also feel that their participation in the process is necessary, meaningful, and will bring about genuine results. Such an outcome can only be realized through a multi-party based democracy. Such a system, because of the role of a standing legitimate opposition, will also produce accountability and when required, change. No other system will be able to keep the Tibetans united when His Holiness is not with us.”
See Article: As Dalai Lama gains, Tibetans lose
In this article by Claude Arpi, an expert on Tibetan history, Arpi writes that as the Dalai Lama is recognized with international awards and honorary citizen awards, Tibetans in Tibet are further oppressed by harsher measures by the Chinese government which are directly in retaliation of these awards.
“When the Dalai Lama received the Gold Medal in the Washington, the Chinese authorities, recalling the massive demonstrations of 1987, deployed the PAP in several strategic monasteries. Another incident of shooting at Tibetans fleeing to Nepal through the Nangpa Pass was reported on October 18; nine have gone missing and four were arrested from the original group of 46 Tibetans.”
See Article: Dalai Lama must balance politics, spiritual role
In this article the authors write about how the Dalai Lama “must balance the concerns of a wary Indian government – which hosts his government in exile – and the desperation that Tibetans in China have expressed through their recent unrest”. The Dalai Lama also must “as a Buddhist monk, match his words and actions in the worldly political arena with the nonviolent philosophy at the heart of his spiritual practice”.
“What the Dalai Lama is currently doing is walking a tightrope,” says Srikanth Kondapalli, a Tibet expert atin .
That balancing act, adds John Bellezza, a Tibet scholar who knows the Dalai Lama, is made all the harder because “his temporal and spiritual leadership don’t always harmonize as well as they might. Many of his difficulties are due to the underlying tensions he feels between the two hats that he wears.”
For now, however, the Dalai Lama “is the only unifying force” capable of delivering any kind of agreement with Beijing, says Baker. “If he disappears,” he says, “all the pent-up frustrations will arise in ways that no one will have the moral authority to control any longer.”
See Article: China Needs the Dalai Lama
In this article by professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies Robert Thurman, The Dalai Lama is said to be vital to the Chinese government if they wish to solve the current problems in Tibet.
“the Nobel Laureate, the living Gandhi, and the apostle of nonviolence, intelligent dialogue, and unbending hope. He has all along continued to offer them the open hand of friendship, aiming to find a solution that will be satisfying for China as well as for Tibet. It’s time, now, for President Hu Jintao to reach out and welcome his help”.
Should the Dalai Lama step down from politics?
Would the granting of real political powers to the Tibetan government:
- Entice more Tibetans to get involved in their own government?
- Repudiate Chinese propaganda claims that Tibetan independence would mean a reversion to theocratic feudalism?
- Eliminate the Chinese oppressive reactionary measures against the Tibetan people in Tibet whenever the Dalai Lama is given praise through awards by various countries?
- Allow the policies of the Tibetan people to reflect the will of the Tibetan people through democratic process and representation?
- Help the Tibetan government in possibly being recognized in international politics? (See Article: Reflections on a political solution)
- Diminish the Dalai Lama’s abilities to help the Chinese government and Tibetan people in finding a solution to the problems of Tibet and its people?
Updated: 2008-03-22 09:04
Pictures from some media websites, including CNN and BBC, with untrue reports about the riots have been posted on chatrooms, drawing criticism.
“I used to think the Western media were fair. But how could they turn a blind eye to the killing and arson by rioters?” asked a posting at pic.qikoo.com.
The pictures illustrate how news can be manipulated.
The BBC News website carries a picture with the caption saying “There is a heavy military presence in Lhasa”, while the photo clearly shows an ambulance bearing the red cross symbol.
The American Fox News website published a photo with the caption “Chinese troops parade handcuffed Tibetan prisoners in trucks”, while the photo shows Indian police dragging a man away.
CNN.com used a cropped photo of Chinese military trucks, cutting off the half of the picture showing a crowd of rioters throwing rocks at the trucks.
More notably, the websites of Germany’s Bild newspaper, N-TV and RTL TV, and the Washington Post all used pictures of baton-wielding Nepalese police in clashes with Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu, claiming that the officers were Chinese police.
“To tarnish China’s image, the West is doing whatever they can, no mater how mean and vicious,” said one netizen on http://www.huanqiu.com.
“Is this what they call Western democracy and freedom of speech?” asked another netizen.
Huai Bao, a student studying filmmaking in Vancouver, Canada, said: “I have read some news and online discussions made by those who have never been to Tibet, who have zero knowledge about China and the history of Tibet. These people have no rights to comment on Tibet.”
Bao, from Beijing, became a believer in Tibetan Buddhism after meeting his master, a high-profile lama, in the Chinese capital.
He said that some Tibetan monks set fire to shops, schools and hospitals, and attacked Han and Tibetan people, including women and children.
“My master told me that the monks involved in the riots were not real monks, as violence and crimes are absolutely against the teachings of Buddha,” he wrote in an e-mail to China Daily.
Netizens also mentioned a blog (kadfly.blogspot.com) run by a group of Western tourists traveling in Tibet during the riot, where photos and video clips of Tibet are posted.
Although their photos were used by the New York Times and the BBC, the following words did not make it into the Western press.
One blogger wrote: “I want to make one thing clear because all of the major news outlets are ignoring a very important fact the protests yesterday were NOT peaceful.”
He wrote that all of the eyewitnesses agreed that “the protesters went from attacking Chinese police to attacking innocent people very, very quickly. They appeared to target Muslim and Han Chinese individuals and businesses first but many Tibetans were also caught in the crossfire.”
A video clip was posted on the blog, in which a Han motorcyclist, an obvious passerby, was stoned by a crowd of mob.
Bao said there is a unanimous feeling of anger among his Chinese friends in Vancouver.
“Any news about China has to be negative so that they will believe it – from ‘poisonous toys to poisonous dumplings’. Some foreign media have a particular interest in bashing China over human rights and pollution. They turn a blind eye to all progressive changes.”
Reaping Tibet’s Whirlwind
by Andrew Martin Fischer
No matter how hard Beijing tries to salvage its international public image and to convince its own domestic public otherwise, its public relations myth that all things are calm on its western Tibetan front, whether through military might or economic greed, has been shattered. The international media has treated the current crisis in Tibet as if it has happened suddenly, almost unexpectedly, out of the blue. Thus many ask, “How did this happen?” “Why now?” Unfortunately, many of us who have been researching Tibet for many years and have been visiting the region regularly have been sadly predicting the current events.
Beijing has been exacerbating conflictive tensions throughout the Tibetan areas with its “western development” strategies since the mid-1990s. These strategies include an all-out push for rapid growth with massive amounts of subsidies and subsidized investments channeled through Chinese corporations based outside the Tibetan areas; an open immigration policy; an absence of protection of local Tibetan employment despite severe educational lags and a severe undersupply of education infrastructure relative to the rest of China; and an assimilationist agenda within education policy.
In a nutshell, the very mechanisms by which Beijing has been attempting to resolve the “Tibet Question” through the force of rapid growth has in fact been reinforcing underlying political and social tensions due to the marginalization of Tibetans in the face of such growth.
In other words, Beijing has been trying to convince us that the marginally improving material conditions of the average Tibetan somehow absolve all previous sins. Yet superficial incantations of statistical indicators tell us little about people’s ability to control their lives within the context of the dramatic social and economic changes that lie behind such statistics. They tell us little about self-determination. They tell us little about disempowerment. And they tell us little about why people might become increasingly discontent amidst rising average levels of prosperity.
The underlying political and social tensions are obviously related to the fact that Tibet—all of Tibet, not just the Tibet Autonomous Region—is an occupied territory. Disputes of political history aside, the Tibetan areas are ruled by non-Tibetans, and this rule has been exercised through force rather than social consent, in the Maoist past as in the present “New China.” This is a problem that will not disappear, no matter how much Beijing continues to assert that Tibetans are in fact Chinese (i.e. citizens of China).
However, recent trends have sharply exacerbated this fundamental source of contention.
The first and most fundamental has been Beijing’s fast track strategy to “develop” Tibet through the force of massive amounts of subsidies and subsidized investments, the newly constructed railway being one such example. These strategies have resulted in rapidly rising inequalities, to a level much higher than that observed anywhere else in China, where rising inequality is already a source of great concern. Rising inequality is not only occurring between urban and rural areas, but also within the urban areas themselves, dismissing facile arguments that ethnic inequalities are merely a reflection of rural poverty.
The fact that subsidies and subsidized investments have been mostly channeled through the vehicle of (Han) Chinese companies based outside the Tibetan areas, or else through the government itself, results in an economic structure that rewards a small upper crust of the society, mostly based in the urban areas. This upper crust, which includes a minority of Tibetans, advantages those who are well positioned to access the flows of wealth passing through the region. I have likened this to “boomerang aid,” with the result that such aid often decapitates the agency of its intended beneficiary.
These strategies result in strong ethnic, cultural and even linguistic biases with growth. Those who profit handsomely possess Chinese fluency, good connections to economic and political centers in China Proper, and thrive in Chinese work cultures. However, only about 15% of the Tibetan population has some form of secondary education and thus some degree of Chinese fluency, given that Chinese-medium education generally only starts in secondary school. As a result, the remaining 85% are poorly positioned to integrate into the urban economic boom.
The second oft-noted trend is a corollary of the first; the in-migration of non-Tibetans (most Han Chinese) from elsewhere in China. The railway has increased the number of these migrants, although this is primarily due to subsidies, not the existence of the railway infrastructure itself. These migrants are coming to Lhasa because they can make large profits in the midst of the abnormal subsidy-induced economic bubble, not because they can travel more comfortably to Lhasa. This trend has been the focus of intense disputes, although they are purely an urban phenomenon and their importance can only be understood in the context of the larger economic policies.
The third trend has been the abandonment of most previously-existing mechanisms to protect local labor in the context of such out-of-province migrant inflows. This trend is particularly important because it affects the upward aspirations of many relatively well educated urban Tibetan youths. For instance, the government recently ended its policy of guaranteeing employment for local high school and university graduates. As elsewhere in China, the old system has been replaced with competitive exams for the coveted posts of state-sector employment, although the exams, as elsewhere in China, are in the Chinese language. As a result, even relatively well educated Tibetans are easily out-competed by Han Chinese migrants, even Han Chinese migrants from Chinese rural areas.
These policy changes therefore offer insight into why Tibetan youth in particular might feel so disaffected by current growth. For instance, in 2006 there was a large demonstration of Tibetan university graduates in Lhasa over the fact that out of 100 jobs that the government offered in open competition, only two were given to ethnic Tibetans. The government has generally responded to this situation by evoking a faith in the power of “the market” that would probably embarrass even Milton Friedman.
The fourth trend has been the tightening of political control by the government in response to rising tensions. This has especially been the case in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, where increasing nationalistic agitation over the past several years has been a cause for alarm in both Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, and Beijing. National and provincial governments across Tibet have responded by replacing existing leaders with more hard-line leaders and more repressive strategies of political control.
In this context of reaction and counter-reaction, what is utterly unprecedented in the demonstrations of last week was their duration. The fact that they turned violent on the fifth day in Lhasa appears to have been a popular reaction to the severity of repression carried out by the security forces during the previous four days of nonviolent protests.
What hope does the future hold? The international response has been muted and there is little hope for more, particularly in light of the fact that most governments around the world have recognized Tibet as part of China, and thus an internal affair of China. Rather, resolution must arise from within the seat of power—Beijing.
The crisis presents two possibilities. The Central Government can continue its fast track assimilationist development strategies that severely disadvantage, disempower and alienate the large majority of Tibetans, including many elite Tibetans.
Or else, after a period of looking tough and saving face, the Central Government might take the opportunity to critically introspect its dominant strategy of the last 20 years. Having deemed this a failure for the purpose of achieving harmony and stability, it might then turn to a more culturally sensitive and preferential development strategy, one that protects local Tibetan labor in the face of disadvantage and rapid change, and one that would be coordinated with Tibetan-medium education policies.
This is the core meaning of autonomy. Autonomy need not represent anything threatening to Beijing. In fact, the already-existing minority nationality laws of China could allow for many of the latter policies without any change to the Chinese constitution or legal regime. For instance, the existing laws could allow for the stipulation that state-sector employees working in minority nationality areas must have a degree of proficiency in the respective minority language. This would immediately give a strong competitive advantage to local Tibetans over non-Tibetan migrants and would also bolster support for a Tibetan-medium education system. Such a strategy would go a long way toward addressing many of the underlying grievances driving the current protests.
Indeed, some of these policies were permitted, tried and tested in parts of Tibet during the early reform period in the 1980s. However, Tibetan demonstrations and Tiananmen in 1989 brought an end to such experiments and the return of hardliners and their assimilationist agenda, this time under the guise of market socialism rather than Maoism.
Those who are cynical often suggest that Beijing has intentionally designed its policies to marginalize Tibetans and to assimilate them into the Motherland in a subordinated and even racist manner, perhaps in much the same way that the U.S., Canada and Australia had dealt with their own aboriginal populations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Perhaps, although some of us still carry hope that an element of humanism might reside within the socialist garb of the Chinese Communist Party. Or does the emperor really have no clothes?
Dr. Fischer, a fellow at the London School of Economics, is the author of “State Growth and Social Exclusion in Tibet: Challenges of Recent Economic Growth” (Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, 2005). This is the first in a series of articles on the ongoing crisis in Tibet.