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‘Democracy With Tibetan Characteristics’ – A Response to Norbu Samphel

posted Mar 23, 2011, 5:49 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
By Tenzin Nyinje

Sept. 18, 2010 - Norbu Samphel’s twisted democracy is indeed ‘unique!’ He advocates a sort of ‘people’s democratic dictatorship,’ wherein doubts and criticisms have no place. His democracy with ‘Tibetan characteristics’ disapproves of any Tibetan (young and old) asking questions and disagreeing strongly with our leaders! In short, to him democracy entails submission, conformity and faith driven more by religion than reason!

Norbu Samphel’s response to Jamyang Norbu’s article Dangerous Liaison is but a deep-seated resentment against, and strong rejection of, the spirit of independence and enquiry young Tibetans display in their lives. As can be seen from the conclusion of his article, the main thesis is this: Tibetan Youth Congress or for that matter any young Tibetan who strongly feels for an independent Tibet should renounce their aspiration and strive for a solution within the ‘framework of Chinese constitution!’ In plain words, according to him, Rangzen seekers are the real troublemakers - the ones who impede the blossoming of unity among exile Tibetans. They are the ones who stand in the way of a successful negotiation with the Chinese leadership!

I have listened to Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche’s speech that Jamyang Norbu referred to in his article several times. There is no doubt that Norbu Samphel failed to grasp the full import of the speech.

It appears that our respected PM is worried about what he imagines to be the increasing ‘radicalization and dogmatism’ amongst some of the young Rangzen activists. While such an anxiety may be understandable – after all a dogmatic pursuit of any goal is the surest means of self-destruction – Rinpoche made a terrible faux pas by asserting that these hardcore Rangzen seekers are more dangerous than Chinese communists or Shugden practitioners! Such a comment from the holder of the highest political office of exile government – and strongly supported by Norbu Samphel -- has serious implications and will further widen the already existing gulf between Ume-lam and Rangzen protagonists.

After all, this comment is a classic case of enemy designation! It could even potentially threaten the lives of Rangzen seekers, for they are more ‘dangerous than the Chinese communists and Shugden practitioners!’ Who knows some of the dogmatic and radical Middle Path activists are already scouring the streets of Mcloed Ganj, looking for these ‘dangerous enemies!’

Indeed, one of the time tested tactics often employed by political elites – politicians, bureaucrats, establishment intellectuals, journalists etc. – to control people in any given society is to invoke the fear of the ‘enemy’ on the other side of the fence! And this is exactly what Norbu Samphel does in the beginning of his article when he said "it is a dangerous piece of writing for Tibetan Unity (no wonder his unity is in upper case!) and a gift to Chinese leadership. They could use it again against His Holiness.”

By invoking the fear of the Chinese, who doesn’t need any excuses to undermine our struggle, Samphel is thus gagging free thought and free speech in our society. And that’s what the Chinese exactly wants – a backpedalling on Tibetan democracy!

Norbu Samphel is intrigued by what he calls as ‘a shift in the TYC’s way of doing things in relation to His Holiness’, a clear demonstration of his lack of knowledge (or perhaps amnesia) about the history of our struggle in the last more than fifty years.

Let me set the record straight here. Mr. Norbu Samphel, there has never been a ‘shift in TYC’s way of doing things.’ TYC then and still fights for Tibetan independence, through purely non-violent means. TYC doesn’t agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach of seeking genuine autonomy. But that doesn’t means TYC or for that matter any young Tibetan who believes in independence has lost faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama as our leader.

It’s a simple exercise of democratic freedom, of holding a different opinion, something that seems to have no place in Norbu Samphel’s ‘democracy with Tibetan characteristics!'


Submitted to The Tibetan Political Review by the author