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Independence: Tibetan People’s Right

posted May 24, 2013, 11:52 AM by The Tibetan Political Review
By Cao Changqing (May 17, 2013)
Translated by Ogyen Kyab

Tibet issue has always been a controversial topic. Both the governments of Taiwan and China hold different views from the Tibetan govt-in-exile regarding the Tibet issue, which is also a topic contested between the Chinese home and abroad.These differences are actually due to the level of understanding of Tibet’s history and reality and the “Value Scale” used while dealing with the Tibetan issue. Therefore, while discussion of Tibet issue helps us understand the true history of Tibet and its reality, it also prompts us to rethink certain value concepts and conflicts between the free will of man and territorial integrity;freedom to choose and the form of state; national self-determination etc. How the Chinese people look at these values will directly impact their road to freedom and democracy. 

1. Historical fact about Tibet:

Both the govts across the Taiwan Strait claim Tibet an inalienable part of China while The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan govt-in-exile deny this claim as not historically true and say that Tibet was an independent country.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) asserts that it sent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into Tibet and “liberated” the Tibetans from serfdom and made immense prosperity and progress there. However, the Tibetan govt-in-exile feels Tibetans have been enslaved and deprived of basic human rights since then.

Which of these two radically different views is more realistic?

(1) Historical contour of Sino-Tibetan relations:

Let’s open history books and have a look at the Sino-Tibetan relations during the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing (also Manchu) dynasties, five major dynasties during which relations of the two were noteworthy.

BC 127, in the beginning of China’s Han Dynasty, Tibet’s first king Nyatri Tsenpo acceded to the throne, followed by several centuries of internal tribal rivalries and civil war.

Tibet became powerful during Tang Dynasty of China. In the seventh century, the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo unified all the tribes into a country and expanded its territory. The Tang emperor offered Princess Wencheng to Songtsen Gampo to seek peace and friendship with Tibet. Tibetan army once even invaded the then Chinese capital Chang’an (present Xi’an).

At the end of Song period, like China, Tibet was also conquered by the powerful Mongol cavalries and founded the Yuan Dynasty on the central plains in China. However, in Tibet, the Mongol king Kublai Khan revered the Tibetan Lama Phagba as the supreme spiritual master for the entire Mongol Empire and thus entrusted political and religious administrations of Tibet to him; the Mongols never directly ruled Tibet as they did in China.

After the collapse of Mongol Empire, Tibet had no much dealing with the succeeding Ming Dynasty.

During the Chinese Qing Dynasty, most of the period, China had friendly relations with Tibet. Qing army entered Tibet four times upon The Dalai Lama’s requests to expel the external aggressions and quell internal rebellions, and thereafter the army withdrew from Tibet each time. In the end of Qing period,Tibet experienced incursions from the Nepali Gurkhas and British India. In1909, the Qing Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager died in succession; soon theQing army marched into Tibet and invaded it. But two years later, revolution broke out in China and the Qing army in Tibet split into Royalist andRepublican factions and started infighting. Tibetans took the opportunity to rise up, defeated the Qing army, drove them out and The 13th Dalai Lama declared Tibetan independence.

In early 1950, PLA attacked Tibet; under threat, Tibet sent its representatives to Beijing for negotiation but made to sign the “17-PointAgreement” under duress. In the Agreement, Beijing promised that everything would remain the same in Tibet and Tibet to permit PLA peacefully enter Tibet.But soon after PLA marched into Tibet, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) started implementing the devastating socialist transformations; consequently Tibetans were increasingly dissatisfied and that eventually led to the 1959 Uprising,which the Chinese govt calls “rebellion” and suppressed militarily. These events resulted in the 14th Dalai Lama’s escape to India with about100,000 Tibetans and established the Tibetan Govt-in-exile.

(2) Historical basis and flaws of claiming Tibet a part of China:

Both the Chinese govts across the Taiwan Strait claim Tibet a part of China from the ancient times. This claim is based largely on five points: 1) The Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo married to the Tang Princess Wen Chen, who later possessed great power and stature. 2) During the Yuan Dynasty, Tibet was also merged into theMongol Empire and fell under the Mongol jurisdiction. 3) During the Qing period, Qing army entered Tibet to defend it several times. 4) The Dalai Lama’s title was conferred by the Qing Emperor. 5) Chiang Kai-shek’s govt dispatched Wu Zhongxin, chairman of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, to Lhasa to “preside over” the 14thDalai Lama’s coronation (enthronement of the 5-year-old Dalai Lama as Tibet’s highest spiritual and political leader).

Both historical data and common sense cannot justify any of the above five points:

First,the Tang Dynasty offered Princess Wenchen to Songtsen Gampo to seek friendly relations with Tibet, claiming this offer as a proof that Tibet belongs to China is a reason can’t be more ridiculous.

Second,Genghis Khan’s cavalries occupied China and established Yuan Dynasty on the central plains of China. Considering Yuan Dynasty as a Chinese Dynasty just because the Mongol regime was founded on the Chinese soil is a logic crippled in itself. What is more flawed is that the Mongols occupied Tibet and brought Tibet too under its rule and thus inferring Tibet being a part of China.Suppose this logic can be established, then the descendants of Genghis Khan have the right to lay claim of sovereignty over Tibet, the central plains of China and large parts of Russia as these were once conquered by their forefathers;then present China should belong to the Republic of Mongolia. As per this rationale, present-day Vietnam and Korea should all be parts of China as China once conquered these regions.

Third,Qing army going to Tibet to help Tibetans drive out foreign invading forces and suppress domestic rebellions too cannot be the reasons for China to claim sovereignty over Tibet. If these are valid reasons, then several years ago, theU.S. too went to help Kuwait defeat Iraqi invaders, should the U.S. too have sovereignty over Kuwait? Should the U.S. claim Haiti to be a part of it after helping Haiti people reinstate their elected president Aristide overthrown by the military?

Fourth,arguing that the 5th Dalai Lama’s title was conferred by the Qing Emperor and thus Tibet belongs to China too doesn’t conform to historical facts. After the CCP came to power in China, the historian Ya Hanzhang was
authorized to research on Tibet. He compiled the history of all the fourteen Dalai Lamas into a book called The Dalai Lama Biography; in the preface, he writes, “To the needs of the struggle, I’ve been asked to write a book on Tibetan history. It is to be used to refute the slanders spread by the opposition groups[sic], but also to be used on the Tibetans for anti-imperial patriotic education.”[1] Historians should respect facts, but he wrote it to serve political interest. Still in his book, he writes that the title “Dalai Lama” was not conferred by the Qing Emperor to the 5th Dalai Lama as claimed but by the Mongol king Altan Khan to the spiritual leader of Tibet Sonam Gyatso during the Ming period of China. [2] “Dalai” is a Mongolian term, meaning ocean; “Lama” is Tibetan,meaning spiritual master or guru. “Dalai Lama” henceforth came into being.Tibetans call even Sonam Gyatso’s previous two incarnations as 1stand 2nd Dalai Lamas, and Sonam Gyatso, the one who first got the title, as the 3rd Dalai Lama. [3]

The Qing Emperor offered the 5th Dalai Lama a 24-characteredappellation, but meanwhile, the Dalai Lama too gave the Qing Emperor many names and titles.[4] Offering titles to one another expresses respect and friendship,it doesn’t mean domination and subordination.

Fifth,Tibet was completely independent for 40 years from the Chinese Revolution of1911 to 1950. Although important events took place in Tibet during this period– passing away of the 13thDalai Lama and succession by the 14th– Tibetans never agreed to Chiang Kai-shek’s demand for Tibet’s subordination to China. The book Anthology On the 13th Dalai Lama’s Demise And Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama (hereafter referred to as “The Anthology”)co-edited by China Tibetology Research Center and China Second Historical Archives has a collection of 478 letters and telegrams of the then Chinese Kuomintang govt.[5] I’ve read all these documents and found that Tibet never accepted Chinese sovereignty during this period.

Both the Taiwanese and Chinese govts argue that the then Chinese govt sent its envoy Wu Zhongxin to Lhasa, representing the “central govt” to “inspect and determine” the 14th Dalai Lama and to “preside over” His enthronement, thereby proving Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. However, in The Anthology, it’s clear from the telegrams sent to Chiang Kai-shek by Wu Zhongxin that he was permitted by the Tibetans to meet the little Dalai Lama and participate in the enthronement ceremony merely as a gesture of goodwill. In The Dalai Lama Biography, Ya Hanzhang writes, “The so-called ‘inspection’ was actually a face-saving tactic of the Kuomintang govt, which in reality had no veto power.”[6]An argument occurred over the seat arrangement – Wu Zhongxin was given an unimportant seat, however, in the end, the Tibetans reluctantly gave him a seat equivalent to the seat used to be given to the Qing Dynasty’s resident minister in Tibet. Regarding this, Ya Hanzhang writes, “The ‘seat issue’ was no more than a face-saving issue for the Kuomintang govt, Wu could at least win an identity at par with the resident minister.”[7] He never presided over the Dalai Lama’s accession ceremony.

A newspaper of the Kuomintang govt once published a joint photo of the Dalai Lama and Wu Zhongxin, making it as evidence of “presiding over” the Dalai Lama’s enthronement ceremony. However, Ngapo Ngawang Jigme, the then member of the National People’s Congress points out in his speech published on Tibet Daily that the photo was taken few days after the ceremony when Wu met the Dalai Lama.[8] Two of the telegrams in The Anthology I’ve read can prove this – the 439th telegram sent to Wu by Dong Xianguang, deputy chairman of Central Propaganda Department of Kuomintang govt, saying that the U.S. Associated Press wanted to publish a photo of the enthronement ceremony, to save time, he asked Wu to directly send one to an Indian newspaper to let it transfer the photo to the Associated Press.[9] Wu in this reply (441sttelegram) said that the ceremony had taken place in the morning and thus not convenient to take photos, indicating he did not have a photo of the ceremony. Wu said that he would send some photos of other scenes to the Associated Press.[10] Photos of other scenes could be taken but exactly the ceremony, the one most important to the Kuomintang govt, “presided over” by the special envoy Wu along with a contingent of over a hundred envoys couldn’t be taken, and yet claiming that the ceremony was presided over by Wu is hard to convince people.

(3) Unique status of Tibet as a theocratic state:

Both the Taiwanese and Chinese govts deny Tibet being an independent country mainly because Tibet had no formal diplomatic relations with other countries plus Qing troops were sent to Tibet on several occasions to deal with domestic chaos and foreign invasions.

These phenomena were because of Tibet’s special status as a theocratic state.

Tibet and China came closest to each other during the Qing period through “priest-patron”relationship. Qing Emperor being the patron, offered immense wealth to the priest, the Dalai Lama, who was in charge of not only religious and political affairs of Tibet, but also to be the spiritual leader of imperial China. Inreturn, the Dalai Lama’s religious image and influence in as far as Mongolia,East Turkistan, Korea, Burma etc. helped stability of the Qing Empire. Both benefitted each other through secular and religious cooperation.

For example, the relationship is like a village and a monastery on the outskirts of the village. The village chief,
being secular leader of the village, has the village power vested in him. Most of the villagers follow Buddhism, including the leader, and worship head lama of the monastery. The leader doesn’t have power over the monastery. However, when robbers intrude into the monastery or monks in the monastery rebel, the head lama seeks help from the village leader,who then send troops and once order is restored in the monastery, the troops withdraw. As the patron of the monastery, the village leader provides food too to the monastery. His reverence for the head lama and friendly relations with him would win more support from the villagers and thus help political stability in the village. The monastery doesn’t need to develop military power as Buddhism forbids killing, it can seek help from the village during emergencies. The monastery doesn’t need to declare independence either as it has never been under the jurisdiction of the village. Thus, nature of relationship between the leader and the lama is mutual benefiting.

This relationship is somehow similar to the relationship between Italy and Vatican. Although Vatican is in Italy, it’s not a part of Italy or doesn’t fall under Italy’s jurisdiction. But when the Pope and His church are attacked, He would call for help from Italy, Italy too would immediately help. But after the help,Italian troops would withdraw, never keep occupying Vatican. For such a relationship to break down, the village leader is most likely responsible. When the monastery is in difficulties, he may ignore, or develop an evil design to occupy the monastery himself. The monastery survives upon spirituality and has no military strength. In case the village doesn’t respect religion and speaks with military power, naturally the monastery is the weaker side. If the village chief doesn’t believe in religion, not only would he invade the monastery, but also attempt to transform the community of monks by force, then the monastery is doomed to suffer.

This unique status of Tibet as a theocratic state, plus the priest-patron relationship with the Qing Dynasty resulted in its being a typical independent country without formal diplomatic relations with foreign countries. This is mainly what has made the Chinese people mistakenly believe Tibet being a part of China.

(4) Two pieces of evidence that can prove Tibet not a part of imperial China:

The 5th Dalai Lama’s courtesy visit to Beijing upon the invitation by the Qing Emperor Shunzhi indicates that Tibet was not under Qing rule. Ya Hanzhang writes in hisThe Dalai Lama Biography that before The Dalai Lama arrived in Beijing, the Emperor convened a meeting with the ministers to discuss on how to welcome the Dalai Lama. A Manchurian minister suggested – The Dalai Lama was the spiritual leader of the empire and so the Emperor should personally go and greet Him so that the Mongolians would pledge allegiance to the Qing Empire as they followed Buddhism too. A Han minister opposed –the Emperor is lord of the whole world, receiving the Dalai Lama personally would lose dignity. Finally the Emperor, in the name of “hunting”, went forty miles out of Beijing and met the Dalai Lama “by coincidence”. [11] In the entire history of Chinese feudal dynasties, forget about any emperor personally going out of the city to receive someone under his own rule, even the powerful British envoys were made to Kneel and kowtow to the emperor in the end of Qing period. This special treatment for the Dalai Lama clearly shows Tibet was not subordinate to the Manchu rule.

Another obvious example is that if Tibet belonged to the Qing Dynasty, it too should offer “tribute” to the Qing court like other Qing provinces or vassal states did. But history has no such records, in turn, the Qing Dynasty used to send a lot of tributes to Tibet because the Manchus regarded Buddhism as their state religion and the Dalai Lama their supreme spiritual leader.

(5) Primary reasons why Tibet was actually an independent country:

Modern Tibet had diplomatic relations with just few neighboring countries such as Nepal. Except diplomatic relations, Tibet fulfilled all other conditions for being an independent country. The following eight areas can testify:

1)Tibet had its own way of securing head of the state, the Dalai Lama. It had all the state machinery; 2) Its own capital, Lhasa; 3) A legal system developed by Tibetans themselves; 4) Taxation, currency printing and issuance, independent financial system; 5) Though not large in scale, it always had its own military force; 6) More importantly its own culture and customs, and Tibetan language which is totally different from Chinese; 7) A natural territory based on altitude.8). An entire history of independence.

2. Present reality of Tibet:

(1) Respecting Tibetan history:

Peoples from both Taiwan and China don’t know much about the true history of Tibet. Because both the govts claim Tibet a part of China, so any books related to independence of Tibet can’t be published. Besides, when it comes to country,Chinese always have “grand unification” mindset, the first thing they think about Tibet is Tibet can’t split. Chinese knowledge about Tibet has mostly been instilled by the govt.

In October 1992, PRC published its Whitepaper on Human Rights in Tibet. The whitepaper quoted Deng Xiaoping’s instructions and states, “The fundamental issue is Tibet is a part of China, right or wrong, should be judged on this basis. [Sic]” [12]

Irrespective of right or wrong, Tibet is a part of China – how rude! Unfortunately, many Chinese think in the same way as Deng did, as soon as you talk about Tibet, they would think that it cannot be independent. They disregard the historical facts, don’t explore the reality and don’t want to hear what the western Tibetologists have to say about Tibet, let alone listening to the voice of Tibetans.

(2) Objectively looking at Tibet’s reality:

Respecting Tibet’s history is the pre-requisite to understanding the Tibetan issue. More importantly, we must objectively look at the reality in Tibet under the communist govt and true aspirations of the Tibetan people. The basis on which we can assess the real situation in Tibet should be: under 45 years of communist rule, politically, whether Tibetans have been liberated or deprived of political rights; economically, private ownership of property has been protected, became richer, or stripped of this right; religiously, freedom of faith has been respected or trampled on; on environmental and humanity grounds, Tibetan culture and environment have been protected or destroyed; in terms of ethnic relations, Tibetans as a minority, have been respected, or discriminated.

If we try to understand a little, we will find, the truth gives both pain and fury.

Politically, Tibetans are completely deprived of right to choice. Like in China, Tibetans never had a chance to vote, all levels of govt have no popular support. The highest authority in Tibet is the party secretary. Since the so-called“counter-insurgency” in 1959 till now, there were seven party secretaries – Zhang Guohua, Zeng Yongya, Ren Rong, Yin Fatang, Wu Jinghua, Hu Jintao, Chen Kuiyuan,except Wu Jinghua being a Yi minority, the rest were all Han Chinese.

Tibet, also like China,has no freedom of press and expression. Any protests are militarily suppressed.A leaked document of CCP’s Tibet Military Region reveals 87,000 Tibetans were killed in the “counter-insurgency” of 1959 alone.[13] According to a statistic collected by the Panchen Lama, ex-vice president of the People’s Congress, 10–15%of entire Tibetan population was imprisoned then, out of which 40% died in prisons.[14] According to Amnesty International, there were about 150 cases of Tibetan protests in Lhasa that met with military suppression.[15] Especially in 1989, two months before the Democracy Movements started in Tiananmen Square,there was a massive crack down on Tibetans and martial law was declared in Lhasa. Tang Daxian, a reporter of Beijing Youth Daily, who was then in Lhasa,later published abroad on the inside story of the military suppression he witnessed and materials of CCP official documents he acquired about the suppression. According to him, more than 400 Tibetans were slaughtered, about a thousand injured and more than 3,000 arrested.[16] Other sources reveal that urban residential permits of more than 40,000 Tibetans related to the protests were canceled and expelled from Lhasa.

The Dalai Lama in his speech in Yale University in the U.S. said that more than 1.2 million Tibetans had died of starvation and persecution during 40 years of CCP’s rule.[17] The Tibetan govt-in-exile has a detailed breakdown of this figure – 170,000 Tibetansdied in prisons, about 160,000 killed, 430,000 died in battlefields, 340,000died of starvation, 100,000 forced to commit suicide and died in the “struggle sessions”. The total number of Tibetans died in entire Tibet – Kham, Amdo and U-tsang combined – accounts for one-sixth of the entire population, one out of every six Tibetans died of unnatural causes.[18]Such a proportion of death is indeed rare to find in the human history of modern times![19]

Economically, Tibetans have been deprived of private property. They were forced into socialist movements that made their life poorer. In 1980, when the then general secretary of CCP Hu Yaobang visited Tibet, he witnessed the abject poverty of Tibetansand on the Communist Party meeting of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), he said inwrath, “Have you cast the funds allocated specially for Tibet into the Brahmaputra?!”Consequently TAR party secretary Ren Rong was sacked and replaced by Yin Fatang. Hu Yaobang instructed the officials to restore Tibetans’ standard of living to the level prior to 1959. Later Yin Fatang wrote an article on Red Flag magazine, saying that at the time of Hu Yaobang’s inspection visit to Tibet,the prevailing situation in Tibet was actually one of poverty and backwardness.[20]

In recent years, with economic reforms in China, the living standard of Tibetans too has improved. However, as per those who are familiar to Tibet, those who make greater fortunes there are mostly Chinese. As all economic activities in Tibet arebased on “relationships” and “hooks”, there is no fair competition. Only Chinese have relationships with Beijing and mainland China and thus get most ofthe opportunities. In the most prosperous Bhakor Street in Lhasa, there aremany more Chinese stores than Tibetans’.

Religiously, Tibetans suffer more persecution. According to the data from Tibetan govt-in-exile, asof 1979, out of 6,259 monasteries, only 8 left, the rest were all destroyed. Out of 590,000 monks, 110,000 were persecuted to death and 250,000 forced to become laymen. In 1988, on the inaugural meeting of Tibetology Research Center, the Panchen Lama complained with bitterness, “In all the Tibetan populated areas, all monasteries were destroyed, of those seven or eight survived, none are in good condition.”

Presently religious persecution is not as severe as was in past, but Tibetans still don’t have religious freedom. All monasteries in Tibet have to comply with orders from United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Management Committee.Regulations on Monks have such conditions: a monk has to be above 18 years old,has to love the country and the communist party, and with parents’ consent…….after admission into a monastery, he has to study Marxism, recognize idealism and materialism are two opposing worldviews.”

With a slight discontent over this denial of religious freedom can result in severe punishments, especially to those who advocate independence, repression is more ruthless. According to a Tibetan who has undergone torture in Chinese prison, Chinese police and prison guards not only use electric batons, rifle butts, iron bars,punching and kicking, but also burn with cigarettes, let dogs bite, even ferociously poke nuns’ vaginas with batons to extract confessions. According to a former Chinese police officer who is now exiled, there are 33 kinds of police torturein Tibet.[21]

In terms of humanities and natural environment, western scholars who study on Tibetan issue find consensus over Tibetan culture and natural environment being seriously damaged. By re-dividing Tibet’s territory, greater chunks of traditional Kham and Amdo havebeen merged with neighboring Chinese provinces such as Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansuand Yunnan, and getting these regions flooded with Chinese immigrants. From the nationwide censuses taken in the past, it can be inferred that the number of Chinese residing in the three provinces of Tibet has already reached seven million, exceeding the indigenous Tibetan population of six million.

Even if one doesn’t know the ground realities in Tibet, as long as he has lived under the CCP rule, he can easily imagine the communist tyranny’s reign of terror in Tibet. Apart from suffering the CCP’s enslavement, Tibetans have to also endure racial discrimination by Chinese. The well-known Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng recalls that his parents had never met a Tibetan, but when heard that his girlfriend was a Tibetan, they resolutely opposed the relationship, even by threatening to cut off father-son relationship. The reason why his father opposed was: Tibetans were not humans, they were half beasts.[22] Such impressions are formed through years of CCP’s indoctrination.

3. Four value issues reflected by Chinese opposing Tibetans exercising their own rights:

A considerable number of Chinese don’t respect Tibetan history and ignore sufferings of Tibetan people. They blindly and unanimously oppose when it comes to Tibetan aspiration for independence. To them, “grand unification” is above all. Both the govts across Taiwan Strait oppose Tibetan independence, this is certainly out of their own interests; however, at least Chinese intelligentsia should not follow their govts to disregard Tibetan rights to choose independence.

(1) National unification or human freedom?

People oppose Tibetan independence because if Tibet is let become an independent nation, then Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia etc will also follow, resulting disintegration of China; who would take this responsibility?

However, “state” or “man”,which one should be our point of departure? National unification or human freedom, which one is more important? In other words, which one is worse,national disintegration or individual servitude? Let’s make two assumptions: 1) Vladimir Lenin resurrects, unifies all the 15 nations formerly belonged to Soviet Union, revives USSR and implements communism. The nation is unified, but people enslaved. 2) Soviet Union disintegrates into 15 countries, the “Greater Russia”is gone, but people get freedom. Out of these two assumptions, two ways of life, which one should we choose? People of Soviet Union chose freedom, even though the “Great Russia” had to be disintegrated. Why must Chinese people have “Greater China” rather than freedom?

Concepts like boundary and state never carry ultimate values. The Helsinki Accords signed by the European countries in 1975 has such clauses: all changes in boundaries among the European countries, as long as carried out peacefully, are permissible. Main spirit of this agreement is boundaries are not eternal; value of human free will is above the values of state and boundary. There is nothing complex about this to understand – boundary, form of state, social system etc, are all created by men, these all start and end for human freedom and dignity. When these go against will of majority of people, or not compatible with human needs, people would change them, NOT adjust people’s own freedom to adapt to these concepts.

There are also people who say that if this reason is established, then what if all 29 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of China like Guangdong, Sichuan, and Shanghai want independence? The problem here is, there is no basis for such assumptions. People of a region demanding independence must have their special conditions such as different ethnicity, different culture, having independent history in the past, majority people’s aspirations and so on. It’s impossible to seek independence without reasons. For example: after the disintegration of Soviet Union, the land area and population of present Russian Federation is much bigger than those of the combined 14 countries split out, but we haven’t heard Russian people still want independence. The main reason behind this is that Russia is one nation with one culture; it didn’t split into different countries in its modern history. More importantly, majority of Russian people don’t have such an aspiration.

The three Chinese northeastern provinces were combined and formally established as a puppet state “Manchukuo” during the Japanese rule, but today nobody from there wants to be independent. Assuming that letting Tibet independent would result in independence of other Chinese provinces is like some people fearing all 1.2 billion Chinese would escape to the U.S. if those Chinese refugees in the U.S.are not deported back to China. These are assumptions absolutely impossible to take place, which are actually used to deprive people in weaker positions oftheir legitimate rights.

The Chinese mentality of state outweighing individual freedom and dignity has been a long tradition. Theentire 5,000 years of history of Chinese culture and civilization emphasizes onthe collective values of kings, country, society, community etc. over the individual values of freedom and dignity. The Chinese culture designed by Confucius, Mencius and their successors revered by the present-day Chinese intellectuals, is a culture whose essence is that individuals are subordinate to masses, collectivism over individualism.

Modern Chinese novel and revolutionary scholars such as Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Chen Duxiu, Zhang Taiyan, Liang Shuming etc.too speak for strong country. Very few Chinese talk about individual rights and freedom. Even an intellectual like Yan Fu, who has translated John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty to intentionally propagate English liberalism among the Chinese, still attempts to use liberalism as a means to the country’s power and prosperity, not for individual liberty and freedom. During the CCP’s half-a-century rule, importance of the country over individual has been pushed even further to the extreme. Chinese people are deep with the sentiment of power of their country and interest of their motherland. Whether it was “April Fifth” Tiananmen Movement of 1976 or “June Fourth” Pro-democracy Movement of 1989, the main theme was always “patriotism”. Leaders of the June Fourth student’s movement demanded the govt authorities to recognize that the nature of the movement was a patriotic one. Individualism and liberalism are very weak in China. With today’s Chinese economy gaining new momentums, some Chinese intellectuals call it “neo-authoritarianism”, nature of this “ism” too shows traditional Chinese cultural mindset that prefers country over individual, social order over individual freedom.

However, the satirical part here that also makes people wonder is that the sentiment giving top priority to power
of the country that has passed down for 5,000 years, yet the country has still not become powerful. The main reason here is the Chinese people themselves, especially those pedantic intellectuals reversing the value perceptions: The outcome of giving more importance to the power of country is deprivation of individual freedom and rights. Rise of a country should not be the end goal. In contrary, protecting individual freedom and dignity is the basis from which a country obtains value and meaning for its existence. Country’s power should only be an outcome, when men are free, only then they can be creative and imaginative, only then they can create more material and spiritual wealth, and finally can bear the fruit for the power of country.Putting the cart before the horse for 5,000 years hasn’t made China powerful,in the end, human freedom too is deprived.

Prioritizing human freedomis the fundamental way to solve the Tibetan issue; it is also the key to Chinese becoming modern people and China becoming a free democratic country.

(2) Chinese or Tibetans, who should decide?

Some people say that whether Tibet should be independent or not should be decided by majority Chinese, which means it should depends on more than a billion Chinese; while others implicitly say that this should be decided jointly by both Tibetans and Chinese. This “greater majority Chinese decision theory”, in fact, deprives Tibetans of theirright to choose their own destiny. This reason is not complicated, Chinese population accounts for more than a billion and Tibetan population merely six million. Suppose Chinese population stops growing and Tibetan population grows at the world’s fastest rate of 3%, Tibet needs 1,500 years to catch up. This view that suggests majority Chinese decide actually is a denial of Tibetans tobe masters of their own destiny.

On Tibetan issue, respecting “majority’s decision” should mean respecting aspiration of the majority Tibetans. Just like “greater China” and “grand unification” should not be the end goals, independence of Tibet too should not be the most important value. What’s the most important here is to respect freedom of Tibetans to choose their own destiny, whether independence from China or unification with it.

In 1993, the United States let Puerto Rico decide if the island wanted to become the 51st state. This is a clear example of respecting freedom of people to choose their own fate. Whether the island became a part of the U.S. or not was decided through votes cast by the inhabitants of the island, not through aspirations of the U.S. people from its 50 states. If it was up to majority of U.S people to decide, then there wouldn’t be a place for the people of Puerto Rico todecide, as the indigenous population was merely three million while the U.S.had 250 million.

The referendum resulted in the people of Puerto Rico preferring the status quo, meaning they didn’t want to be incorporated into the U.S. The U.S. govt and people too did not interfere with this result and fully respected the 
wishes of the indigenous people. In turn, according to the constitution of the United States, in case people of Puerto Rico chose to be unified with the U.S. and become its 51st state, it could not automatically become a reality but a bill regarding this unification had to be introduced in the congress to get approval after discussion. The United States Congress is the country’s highest legislative body that represents public opinion and so its approval represents American people’s approval. In other words, only the majority of the indigenous people of Puerto Rico chose to be independent. Thus, in case they choose to be unified, they would also need consent of the American people.

This is very similar to the case of marriage. In the U.S, if one spouse files a divorce, court instantly approves without consent of the other spouse. However, for remarriage, consents of both the spouses are required. Divorce can be done by only one spouse but for marriage, both spouses have to agree. Intra-family relationship also operates this way in America, suppose one of the brothers living together in a joint family wants to move out and live alone, the right to take this decision belongs to himself; but later when he wants to move back in, he has to get consents of the majority of the brothers.

All these afore-said examples and metaphors embody a common notion – giving full respect to human freedom tochoice and assigning highest regard to human free will. History of mankind proves that anything good or any good modes of survival don’t need to beforcefully imposed to accept. As long as people have their freedom to choose,they would choose what is good for them. Choosing anything “good” is realized,is just because of availability of the right to choose “bad” as well.

(3) Will Tibetan independence pose a threat to the security of China?

There are Chinese realists saying that Tibetan independence will pose a threat to China’s security. This means that China and India fought a border war in the pastand now gazing at each other across the Himalayas with suspicion; once Tibet becomes independent, Indian forces will enter Tibet and with no Himalayas as a natural barrier, security of China’s hinterlands will be militarily threatened.

This idea is actually oblivious of Tibetan tradition and aspirations for their quest for peace, self-reliance and sovereignty. In the modern history of Tibet, it repeatedly endured invasions and attacks from other countries and Qing China, and now under the Chinese authoritarian rule. On what basis would we say that after independence, Tibet will be willing or allowing Indian troops to invade it orTibet will be submissive to Indian rule? Tibetan exile govt with more than ahundred thousand Tibetan refugees have been in India for 35 years, even while living inside the Indian territory for so long, they are not ruled by the Indian govt, Tibetan govt-in-exile and the refugee settlements administered by it have always been independent and on their own.

In 1987, in the U.S. Congress, the Dalai Lama first proposed the “Five-Point Peace Plan” for resolving the Tibetan issue,[23] which includes proposals for Tibet to be a demilitarized zone, a place of nature conservation and tourism. Demilitarization of Tibet is beneficial both for China and India, any of them attacking the other, has to first enter Tibet, this will be resisted byTibetans as well as condemned by the international community. Unlike this present wary and explosive state, without a buffer zone in between, any friction can instantly lead to full-fledged military conflicts. How can a demilitarized Tibet, led by a Nobel Peace laureate the Dalai Lama, who advocates non-violence, pose a threat to any country?

(4) Can Tibet survive after independence without Chinese aid?

Many Chinese layparticular emphasis on what the Chinese govt repeatedly says – Tibet was under serfdom, poor and backward, but because of a steady supply of manpower and material aids from China, living standard of Tibetans improved in these years. White paper on Human Rights in Tibet published by Beijing cites a large number of official figures to illustrate this point. This is to say “without the CCP, there would be no new Tibet”.

First of all, credibility of those figures in the Whitepaper is doubtful when there is no freedom of press and expression. When these statistics are neither subject to supervision by media nor permitted to challenge with different views, how believable would these be? Let’s say even if these figures are credible, how wouldn’t a country or region make some progress for forty-five years? Who can say Tibet’s economic development will be less by letting Tibetans govern themselves?

Secondly, many people agree that Tibet used to be a feudal serfdom and backward, but is it right to militarily occupy it and forcefully impose social transformations on it?

When Chinese talk about serfdom, they usually think about the CCP’s well-known propaganda movie Serfdom, which displays the brutality of Tibetan serf-owners; the “sufferings”of Jampa, the main character in the movie, has become a symbol of old Tibet to the Chinese. However, the “darkness” of the old Tibet has in fact been massively exaggerated by the Chinese media controlled by the CCP. Just like manipulating China’s own past, the main intentions here are to make people satisfied withthe current life style, however poor it is, and thus prove CCP’s legitimacy torule. Chinese people have always been living with such propagandas, with time,Tibet has become “serfdom” and all Tibetans are “Jampas” to them; they never attempt to learn what really happened in Tibet – the unimaginable sufferings caused by the Chinese military invasion and the ruthless social transformations that followed.

Thirdly, like the treachery of CCP – “without CCP, there wouldn’t be new China”, without CCP, would there be new Tibet? The painful realities during forty-five years of CCP’s rule brought grave miseries in China. Same is the case in Tibet, so why should they still be under the CCP’s rule? The view that without China’s help, Tibet cannot survive on its own, in fact belittles Tibetans’ wisdom, creativity andhuman commonality; it is a form of racial discrimination. Tibetan refugees in India have established their own exile govt; they also have a constitution that guarantees their right to vote, freedom of press, expression and private ownership of property. Robert Thurman, professor from Columbia University inthe U.S. and a Tibetologist, commented on this, “The Dalai Lama has rebuilt a robust Tibetan community in India and preserved Tibetan culture.”[24] When Tibetans can establish such an independent, rich and democratic community in a foreignland, how can we say that this capability will be lost when they are put incharge of themselves in Tibet? There are people also say that Tibet is not industrialized, so without China’s help, such regions cannot develop. However,people of The Republic of Mongolia too are predominantly nomadic, they can also survive; with the collapse of Soviet Union, they are even more affluent andfree. Regardless of nation, color and creed, as long as people enjoy freedom,they can create their own future. Therefore, Chinese should not always simulate the Communist Party’s thinking – wanting always to be “saviors” to others.

4. The highest value should be given to human freedom

Assigning the highest value to human freedom and respecting the right of man to choice are the fundamental principles to resolve the Tibetan issue. Country, border, society etc. are designed to protect human freedom and 
rights. When this original intention is violated, we need to change it. The father of classical liberalism and English enlightenment thinker Jonn Locke, one of the founders of modern western civilization, incisively exposited in this regard 300 years ago. He opines that prior to the formation of state and law, there existed a natural law, that natural law is man’s innate freedom, equality and the right to ownership of property. State and social laws are formulated for safeguarding this “natural law”, ensuring that human freedom is not violated. When state laws and social systems violate this “natural law”, they should be changed. In the face of autocracy, people have the right to overthrow it through revolution. Locke’s theory of liberty is also reflected in the “Social Contract Theory” of Rousseau, the French political philosopher, who is of the view that the formation of government is an outcome of a “contract” between the people and the state – people authorizes government to administer affairs of the stateon their behalf, therefore aspirations of majority of the people are the basisfor legitimacy of the government. The U.S. Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson, American founding father; and American constitution drafted by James Madison, known as Father of Constitution, both embody the humanistic spirit of giving the highest regard to human life, freedom and dignity.

With this humanistic spirit as a point of departure, we must respect the will of Tibetan people.That means Tibetans have the rights to choose their own leaders, social systems, culture, form of state and mode of survival. These rights only belong to Tibetans, not Chinese. Chinese people oppose tyranny of the CCP because it deprives them of freedom. However, insisting Chinese rule over Tibet while opposing the CCP and depriving Tibetans of their freedom to choice – the same freedom Chinese themselves are struggling for – is actually a sacrilege of freedom.

Chinese people often express nationalism. Today in dealing with the Tibetan issue, they should really express it once. This is a long term bullying and oppression of a weaker people of just six million by another people of more than a billion; being Chinese, we should be ashamed of ourselves! Particularly the Chinese intellectuals should be ashamed for their silence towards the terror from the state, ashamed for even conforming to the CCP’s propagandas. The very China that suffered bullying and abuses from others in its modern history is now doing the same on Tibet. This will forever be a chapter of shame and disgrace in the history of Chinese people, especially the Han Chinese. Being Chinese, let’s wait to regret before the trial of justice that’s surely going to come.


[1] Ya Hanzhang. “TheDalai Lama Biography.” Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1984.Preface. 
[2] Same as [1]. Page -21. 
[3] Same as [1]. Page -21. 
[4] Same as [1]. Page -35. 
[5] Co-edited by China Tibetology Research Center and China Second Historical Archives. “Anthology On the 13thDalai Lama’s Demise and Enthronement of the 14th.” Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House, 1990. 
[6] Same as [1]. Page - 329. 
[7] Same as [1]. Page -330. 
[8] “Tibet Daily.” August31, 1989 
[9] Same as [5].Telegram439th. 
[10] Same as [5]. Telegram441st. 
[11] Same as [1]. Page -34. 
[12] “Tibet’s Sovereignty and Human Rights.” State Council of People’s Republic of China, Published on Hong Kong “Da Gong Bao”, September 24, 1992. Ed. 7. 
[13] John F. Avedon. “In Exile from the Land of Snows” (Chinese version). Taiwan: Huiju Publishing House. Ed. 1991. Page – 134: In 1962, Tibetan guerrillas killed a commander and several officers of CCP Tibet Western Military Sub-region in an ambush onthe Xinjiang-Lhasa transportation line and seized a textbook, Tibet Information Education Textbook written by Tibet Military Region’s political department. It’s mentioned in this book, “From March to October of 1959; 87,000 Tibetan rebels were killed.” 
[14] On the statistics ofthe Panchen Lama, refer to Uncounted Millions: Mass Deaths in Mao’s China,written by Daniel Southerland on Washington Post, July 17 & 18, 1994. 
[15] Tibetan govt-in-exile, Department of Information and International Relations. “Tibet’s Reality.” Dharamsala. Ed. 1993. Page – 20. 
[16] Tang Daxian.“Bayonets Directed at Lhasa – Documentary on the 1989 Lhasa Incident.” Published on Democracy China magazine in the U.S. August 1990, 3rdissue. Page – 33. 
[17] The Dalai Lama’s speech in Yale University in the U.S. on October 9, 1991. Published on Democracy China monthly Journal, Japan, September 1993 issue. 
[18] Same as [15]. Page –19 
[19] According to Tibet’s Sovereignty and Human Rights written by the State Council of People’s Republic of China, the total Tibetan population in the 4th census of 1990 was 4,590,000. According to the commentaries by the Chairman of the Committee of International Studies, State Council of PRC in February 1988, “The total Tibetan population is six million, out of which 2,000,000 are in TAR, the rest 4,000,000 are in the other provinces. According to documents from Tibetan govt-in-exile, total Tibetan population is 6,000,000, including those in large partsof Kham and Amdo merged with other Chinese provinces such as Qinghai, Sichuan,Yunnan and Gansu. [20] Yin Fatang’s article published on Red Flag magazine, 8th issue, 1983. [
21] Same as [15]. Page –21 
[22] Wei Jingsheng’s letter to Deng Xiaoping while in prison. Published on Beijing Spring monthly journal, February issue. Page – 59. 
[23] The Dalai Lama. “Five Point Peace Plan for the Resolution of Tibetan Issue”, published on Democracy China monthly journal, July issue of 1994, page – 33. 
[24] Claudia Dreifus.“Interview with the Dalai Lama”, New York Times magazine, November 28, 1993. 

Originally published on the February issue of China Spring monthly journal in New York, 1994; and March 29 to April 1 of 1997 on Liberty Times in Taipei.

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