Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The Dalai Lama who in the past few days has called for an end to the violent protests in Tibet and mentioned again his preference for increased autonomy within China in place of outright independence has found himself now the target of more militant Tibetan exiles.

The pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress (some of whom are shown here during a protest earlier this year) has called for a review of the 72-year-old Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' policy, which espouses non-violence and autonomy within China rather than independence.

"There is a growing frustration within the Tibetan community, especially in the young generation," says Twesang Rigzin, the leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress. "I certainly hope the Middle Way approach will be reviewed. As we can see from the protests here and all over the world, the Tibetan people remain committed to achieving independence."

The younger generation of Tibetans are the children and grandchildren of those who fled Tibet during the 1950s (many of whom were landowners unlike the vast majority of the people who were their serfs and who did not flee).

While many exiled Tibetans main concern in an independent Tibet, for many who live in Tibet the chief problem is that indigenous Tibetans are becoming a minority in their own region as a result of vast numbers of Han Chinese who have moved to the area as it becomes increasingly more accessible.

The recent protests are viewed in totally different ways by the West and by the Chinese. The West sees what has happened in recent days as a spontaneous rising up after years of religious and cultural oppression by a ruthless ruling party, while the Chinese view the protesters as a thuggish mob, ungrateful for years of support from Beijing and manipulated by the exiled Dalai Lama to split the country. Shi Yinhong of Renmin University, says, for example, China has made great efforts to develop Tibet and guarantee religious freedom after mishandling the region in the early years of communist rule. Western countries ignored such developments, he claimed, in favour of a simple focus on a “romantic” view of the remote Himalayan kingdom. “I don’t think what was happening in Tibet in the last week was very romantic,” he said. “Every government has to be able to provide a minimum of law and order and safety for its citizens.”

The true story is somewhere in between.

Further improvements and autonomy for Tibet within a Chinese framework would be a good thing. No doubt about it. However, in China, Westerners should understand, the issue of sovereignty goes beyond support for the party and touches the core of national identity. To suggest to most Chinese that Tibet should be independent from China is like telling an American that Texas should secede from the Union of which it was never a willing part.

Meanwhile, some hopeful news is reported by NPR. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today that the Chinese government is willing to hold discussions about Tibet with exiled spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Brown said China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao set two conditions for the talks, which have already been met.

"The premier told me that, subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has already said — that he does not support the total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence — that he would be prepared to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama," Brown told parliament.

This is actually a big step for the Chinese who simply do not trust the Dalai Lama whom they believe is trying to split their country. Writes Xinhua today, "The Dalai Lama's hypocrisy has put the power of his religion at stake, but he cannot cheat all the people all the time. Buddhism is no harbor for separatism."

The Chinese people are more than upset by reports of rioters in Tibet attacking ethnic Han Chinese. Indeed vidio footage showing Tibetan youths beating Han Chinese to death and burning their shops (and worse) exists, but the government of China has been hesitant to show it to their own citizens. Why?
Liu Junning, a political analyst in Beijing, tells the Christian Science Monitor, "It would spread ethnic hatred." Beijing is anxious to present an image of ethnic harmony in Lhasa, despite widespread reports of Tibetan resentment at the rising tide of migrants from other parts of China.

And while the path forward is difficult for the Chinese government, it is no simple walk in the park for the Dalai Lama either whose "middle path" strategy as indicated above may be on the verge of collapse.

Reports the Times of India just a few months ago the Dalai Lama had said that he would settle for a referendum among Tibetans on the future of his institution, hinting that the Nobel peace laureate monk would like to choose his successor before he departs from the scene.

On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama changed that stand, threatening to "completely resign" if violent clashes continued in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet.

At the same time he insisted that that Tibet's independence was "out of the question" and urged his people to "live side-by -side with the Chinese." But, later in the day, one of his closest aides told the media that the Tibetan leader was considering a referendum in the future in which Tibetans-in-exile could vote to abandon his middle way and choose to advocate independence.

The Dalai Lama is left trying to figure out what to do to prevent the Tibetan movement from slipping out of his hands and landing into the grip of activists like those in the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) who do not necessarily agree with the non-violent part of the Tibetan struggle...and who want an independent Tibet now.

The Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) describes itself as the largest Tibetan emigre NGO, with 30,000 members and over 80 chapters. The TYC’s stated “sole objective” is to “restore Tibet's lost independence.”

Out of the TYC was born in January the more radical Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement (TPUM). Their manifesto states:
The 2008 Olympics will mark the culmination of almost 50 years of Tibetan resistance in exile. We will use this historic moment to reinvigorate the Tibetan freedom movement and bring our exile struggle for freedom back to Tibet. Through tireless work and an unwavering commitment to truth and justice, we will bring about another uprising that will shake China’s control in Tibet and mark the beginning of the end of China’s occupation.

Oddly enough though the TPUM has been unheard since the recent troubles begin (although many believe they played a key role organizing it). Maybe someone decided they presented a bad image to the West which adores the Dalai Lama.

The strange truth of the matter is the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) needs the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama needs the government of the PRC.

And the people of Tibet need a solution.

The following is from Scopical (Australia).

Dalai Lama attacked for peaceful approach to China

The Dalai Lama has met with radical Tibetan exiles, where he is understood to have been attacked for his so called "Middle Way" policy on China, including a policy of interdependence.

It comes as violence and protest continues to flare in the Tibetan region, with reports of hundreds killed in the violence.

The Dalai Lama yesterday met with the Tibetan Youth Congress, where he is understood to have been questioned over a policy of peaceful demonstration and autonomy with China.

He has previously threatened to resign his post should the violence continue in the region.

Earlier, the Dalai Lama called on Tibetan protesters to exercise restraint, adding that the only way to achieve results would be through non-violent action.

While the meeting only lasted half-an-hour, it is believed that the group applied further pressure to the Dalai Lama.

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