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Hardliners' Approach to Tibet

posted May 24, 2011, 6:31 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
By Tenzin Pema, Earlham College, Indiana, U.S.A.

The Tibetan exiles’ third general election of Kalon Tripa (Prime Minster) and Dalai Lama’s subsequent decision to relinquish centuries old Tibetan traditional practice of politics raised concerns among Tibetan people in and outside Tibet about the future trend of Tibetan political movement. The level of anxiety is particularly high in Tibet with growing repressions and continuous crack-downs on people opposing the Beijing’s policies on Tibet. The concern of Tibetan people reflects not only Tibetan people’s growing frustration under China’s military rule but it is also the ultimate symbol of our national unity. Beijing is known for its ingenuity and censorship of the information flow. Such censorship isolates the repressed people from seeing the world beyond the wall of propaganda that covers the shaky legitimacy of the communist party’s rule in China. Unfortunately, the post Tiananmen Square world no longer provides the same platform that the communist party used to silence the voices of people. Tibetan people inside Tibet closely monitor the election process and offer prayers for a successful political transition. This is a clear indication that while Tibetan people inside Tibet remain under Beijing’s iron fist, their hearts and minds are still with Dalai Lama and Tibetans outside Tibet. Beijing should rethink its Tibet policies and must wake up from the illusion that the Tibetan issue will just fade away someday.

China’s reaction to Dalai Lama’s decision to transfer his political power to the elected leaders is nothing more than the same old hardliner rhetoric; dismissing the existence of Tibetan people rights to self-determination. Ironically, Beijing starts to question the legitimacy of democratically elected new leaders and the legality of the Central Tibetan Administration. Recently hardliners in Beijing issued a statement about the political development in the exiled Tibetan community. Some of them even rejected talks with new leaders on the deflated claim that the CTA is an illegal organization. If Beijing is seriously concerned about the rule of law, they should ask this question to themselves first – what is the current status of Tibet under China’s occupation? Tibet had been a de facto independent country for centuries before China’s annexation and international law perspective; Tibet is a nation with a right to self-determination.

After the tragic incident of 9/11, China vowed to support American Global War on Terrorism. Although Beijing did not contribute militarily, but it extended both vocal and financial support behind the scenes. The intention of Beijing’s political move to support American global war on terrorism is becoming clear. The Beijing’s primary intention is to suppress political movements in Tibet and Xinjiang in the name of terrorism. China’s definition of terrorism based on the doctrine of three evils, namely, extremism, separatism and unofficial religious groups. This bleak definition of terrorism lacks legal standard. By 2003, China officially declared Xinjiang based East Turkistan Islamic Movement as a terrorist organization. More recently, China started labeling Tibetan Youth Congress as a terrorist organization. In March 22, the communist regime’s forefront mouth piece daily news paper so called “People’s Daily” published an article under the name “Terrorist poised to rule "Tibetan government in-exile"? written by Li Hongmei even called the youngest candidate and Harvard trained Tibetan legal scholar Lobsang Sangay as a terrorist. This kind of hardline approach to Tibet only distorts the realities at ground, thus hindering the creation of a congenial atmosphere for a dialogue based on mutual trust. Until today, Beijing lacks the confidence to move forward to resolve the issue that shares concerns of both parties.

For more than five decades, His Holiness the Dalai Lama placed trust in communist leaders for a successful dialogue to resolve Tibetan issue based on mutual interests, benefits and respect. However, communist leaders failed to bring any concrete outcome and negotiation has almost reached a point of deadlock. Beijing continues to blame Tibet for the failure. If we carefully read the history of negotiation between Beijing and Dharamsala objectively, communist leaders should rethink about their hardliner approach. From the Tibetan side, we made the biggest concession in history; the surrender of our sovereignty in search of mutually satisfactory solution.

Tibetan exile government led by Dalai Lama has been boldly pursuing the “Middle Way” as reasonable political approach with regard to China. The Middle Way policy seeks a solution to Tibet within the political and legal framework of People’s Republic of China. This means that the Tibetans government, which is the most legitimate representative or the voice of Tibetan people, does not seek separation but rather seeks an autonomy which is a constitutional right within the legal framework of China as well as a right that China agreed to in the so called “Seventeen Points Agreement” of 1951. China has been using this document as a legal justification for its continued occupation of Tibet. China is not willing to talk with the new Tibetan leaders, which means it’s not obligated by terms of the Seventeen Points Agreement, under which the status of Tibet is autonomy. If this is the case, the so called “Seventeen Points Agreement” has no legal weight which has been the case from Tibetan side but China has repeatedly insisted on using it as a legitimate legal document.

Today, China is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the birth of “Seventeen Point Agreement” under its coercion and military force. If China does not comply with the terms of this document, the celebration does not amount to more than window dressing propaganda. In reality all these shows only fool their own people and make them prisoners of ignorance, blind to the changing reality of the world outside China. Communist leaders must be careful in handling these issues, the black and white legacy of communism will be recorded in the history even if communist party itself is buried in the sands of time. The inevitable fact is that both Tibet and China will remain and what we do today will have an impact on the lives of generations yet to come. Therefore, hardliners in China must rethink their policy on Tibet before it is too late.