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Thoughts on the Self-immolations

posted Nov 28, 2011, 7:13 AM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Tsewang Namgyal

The self immolation of our fellow Tibetans in Tibet generates in me strong emotions from sadness, compassion, anger and a mix of the above. However, I realize what our brave Tibetans who made the ultimate sacrifice want is positive change. The change they demand is from the Chinese government officials. Unfortunately, what most Chinese government officials appear to care most about is their own short term self interest. Many do not even appear to have the interest to make long term decisions even for China's own benefit.

His Holiness and our Kalon Tripa have been doing the right thing by using the self immolation publicity to attack the Chinese government policies. This appears to have the best chance to bring the attention of the Chinese people and few of the more moderate officials to their government's bad Tibet policies.

As of now, it appears the Chinese government media has successfully hidden from the public the recent self immolations. I also understand that the little news that does appear in China about the self immolations interpret the immolations as acts by fanatical Tibetan independence activists who are a threat to China's modernization and stability. But it is encouraging that due to the power of many brave Chinese people and the internet, Chinese people are starting to hear and see the facts.

Outside of China there have been well motivated recommendations to His Holiness and Kalon Tripa to openly discourage Tibetans not to self immolate. As someone who also does not believe this is a positive tactic I understand the background of the recommendations. However, I feel if our exile leadership does not stay in the offensive in using the media attention to criticize the Chinese government policies this will "waste" the sacrifices of our brave Tibetans.

Soon after the March 2008 demonstrations the Chinese government blamed His Holiness and our exile administration for the demonstrations. His Holiness and our exile leadership on those critical days did spend much of their energy discouraging violent demonstrations. Instead of the Chinese government acknowledging the efforts of our exile leadership, the Chinese government appeared more interested in justifying our exile leadership's participation in the demonstrations.

During those critical days when the media covered our issue, we were not able to focus the discussion on attacking Chinese government policies. One of my Chinese friends told me later on that the Chinese government was able to very easily turn the table around by putting the Tibetan exiles into a defensive position. If we had continued to stay on the offensive, the end results may have been better.

Hindsight is 20/20. After March 2008 the Chinese government worsened their policies. Even innocent Tibetans like Karma Samdrup who tried to bring genuine harmony were given long prison sentences on fake charges. Only the future will tell us whether our exile leadership's more offensive tactic will be more fruitful. It is clear that His Holiness and our exile leadership do not support self immolation as a tactic. I appreciate the very difficult position they are in.

Many in our community often ask what is the best tactic to achieve freedom for the Tibetan people. Personally, I believe it is less from sacrifice but more from self empowerment. I have shared this thought in more detail in a past opinion piece titled: Tibet's Development through Personal Progress. I feel stronger about my opinion than ever.

A negotiated settlement between two parties requires ability and willingness on both sides. This is the same for any transaction. To buy a house the buyer and seller need both ability and willingness. On the Tibet issue, I believe we Tibetans lack ability while China lacks willingness. By focusing on our ability through good planning and execution this has the best chance of changing China's willingness.

At an individual level rather than complaining about corruption in our community, think of becoming an accountant or supporting a young Tibetan to become an accountant; instead of complaining about Tibet's environmental destruction think of becoming an engineer or supporting a young Tibetan to become an engineer; instead of worrying about our community's ability to become self sustainable become an entrepreneur or support our business people. If we all focus on increasing the number of professionals as promoted by our Kalon Tripa, depending on one's passion this will strengthen our community. I believe ultimately this has the best chance to leverage change in global geo politics.
More importantly this has the best chance to change the Chinese government's willingness. This is because a bully is more likely to relent to a stronger opponent than to a desperate one.

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