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Xi-Li Administration – High Expection is Inappropiate

posted Mar 26, 2013, 10:57 AM by The Tibetan Political Review
 
By Tsewang Norbu*

I would like to thank the organizers of this conference in giving me the opportunity to share with you today my personal views on the prospects of change in China´s Tibet policy in the aftermath of this leadership transition.

For the second successive time in the history of Communist China a smooth transition of power has taken place from the 4th to the 5th leadership generation, called first officially core and later leadership collective.

While the guiding ideology of the first leadership generation under Mao Zedong and later the Gang of Four was the class struggle and socialist revolution, the second leadership generation with Deng Xiaoping at the top, who also played a key role in the first generation, refocused the guiding ideology to economic construction and stability.

In the aftermath of students protest of 1989 Deng Xiaoping, the then paramount leader, hand-picked Jiang Zemin to succeed Zhao Ziyang as leader of the Communist Party of China and with it the era of the third leadership generation began. Jiang initiated economic advancement combined with cultural development und political consensus.

For the first time in Communist China a smooth transition of power to the 4th leadership generation with Hu and Wen at the top, mostly engineers and technocrats, took place in 2002. This leadership propagated socio-economic policy and harmonious society or socialism with Chinese characteristics, leaving - as we have seen – no room for dissenting views.

With the election of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the CCP and Chairman of the Central Military Commission at the 18th Party Congress on November 8, 2012 it inaugurated the transfer of power to the 5th leadership generation comprising of more experts from management and finance sector as well as a few successful entrepreneurs, mostly from the public but also a few from the private sector. Two factions “Communist Youth League” of Hu Jintao and "princelings" or Shanghai faction of Jiang Zemin vie for power.

As a result of Jiang's opening the Communist Party to non-proletarian blocks, the road to power in China is now open to others who are increasingly becoming assertive in challenging the two elite factions with a silver spoon. The National People´s Congress now in session is expected to endorse Xi Jinping as the new Head of Chinese State.

Deng Xiaoping while enjoying himself almost absolute power like Mao Zedong ensured that no outgoing party boss can choose his own successor although Deng himself elevated Jiang and Hu at the party top. According to this system an outgoing party boss selects a successor to his own successor. It amounts to denying the successor absolute power, ensuring leadership collective or consensus governance.

The leadership collective with innate conservative propensity almost rules out the emergence of a new Deng Xiaoping, let alone a new Gorbachev to bring about the long awaited and needed political reforms in China. The Bo Xilai scandal, however, has made it clear that China cannot put off political reforms and must address the rampaging corruption, increasing arbitrary inclination of the political and economic elite, paternalism, increasing unequal distributions of wealth, the cry of the emerging middle class for the rule of law.

The 5th leadership generation will have to address sooner or later among others the grave social, political, economic, judicial, environmental problems that threaten to undermine the power monopoly of the Communist Party and as such it can indeed be interesting for Chinese dissidents to conduct a careful analysis of the background, political and ideological inclinations and power equations of different factions within the Communist Party.

But it will be all together a completely different matter to the Tibetans and I am quite sure that this will also be true with the Mongols and Uyghurs as we have seen throughout the past 4 leadership generations. The people of these occupied countries could only hope for some fringe improvements as long as the Chinese leadership is confident that the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people see these so-called “national minorities” as “ungrateful people” who pull China internationally in the dirt, although China has been so generous to them.

In this context I still remember vividly the words of Harry Wu in Vienna 12 years ago, who is also present here today, when he said at the gathering of Tibetans and their supporters on March 10, 2001 that the Tibetans have managed to build up an impressive circle of support around the world, particularly in the West. But as long as the Tibetans are not able to win the support of the Chinese masses, the Chinese leadership will not feel compelled to comply with the wishes of the people of Tibet.

Although increasingly more intellectuals and middle class Chinese begin to understand our position, but the fact is that one hundred thousand or even a million will be only a small drop in the ocean of more than a billion Chinese and it is unrealistic to hope that this number will increase significantly in the coming years. Tibetans had to face this hard reality in 2008 when Chinese in democratic and open societies in Europe and North America in the second, third or even fourth generation were overwhelmed by “Chinese Nationalism” and many felt that the Tibetans and their supporters were anti-Chinese.

As such, in my pessimistic view of China´s policy towards East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia and Tibet, it will all remain as it is, particularly in the light of conservative propensity of leadership collective, preventing the emergence of any bold leaders like Gorbachev.

A review of the changes in China today compared to the founding times of the PR China are on the paper indeed very impressive, particularly in the economic field. Of course today even the Uyghurs, Mongols and Tibetans have better food or housing facilities. But at the same time the rate of marginalization proceeds unimpeded and the increasing migration of Chinese in these occupied countries is accelerating and cementing this gap.

I would like to draw your attention to two official slogans of the Cultural Revolution “Han Chauvinism versus Local Patriotism”. However since the 3rd leadership generation under Jiang Zemin we hear only what amounts to combating “local patriotism” without using the slogan as such. The Ferrari car crash of the son of Hu Jintaos advisor Ling Jihua in March 2012 in Beijing, interestingly with a Tibetan and Uyghur girl which one media unit called “in a state of undress” definitely prompts more questions than answers. Have the Tibetans and Uyghurs in the post-Mao China managed to get access to the elite political and economic circle or are they like “black women” in the US being misused by the White Americans in the not very distant past.

Without wanting to be nostalgic of the Cultural Revolution, because it was indeed brutal and most oppressive, I would nevertheless like to share with you the views of some very eloquent Tibetans who were well versed in the communist ideology. They all in unison told me in India in the early 1990s that during the Cultural Revolution they felt for the first time in their life as Tibetans as being accepted as equals. For Tibetans it was quite irrelevant on whose side they stood and fought. What mattered was they had for the first time the right to criticize and attack Chinese. Such things may also have, I am quite sure, been true in East Turkestan and Southern Mongolia.

The people in Southern Mongolia, East Turkestan and Tibet are trying to address their grievances in various forms. Tibetans in Tibet at the moment use self-immolation as manifestation of their protest. As such Tibet is burning. Since March 2009, 107 Tibetans - many of them teenagers – have tried through self-immolation actions to draw international attention to the dire situation in their occupied homeland. At least 88 of them have succumbed to their injuries. Many survivors have been abducted by the security forces and we know almost nothing about their condition. It is feared that they are being severely tortured.

The latest, a young monk, died on February 25. Tibetans and their supporters are deeply shocked that an increasing number of Tibetans are resorting to such drastic actions. They appealed to governments and international community to immediately act upon the Chinese leadership so that Beijing puts an end to her repressive policies to avert such drastic actions. Although some governments have expressed their concern publicly but little concrete actions followed. Unfortunately Beijing under the new leadership generation has so far shown no signs of changing her high handed policy.

What's going on in Tibet? What lies behind this wave of self-immolations?

China claims to have liberated Tibet more than 60 years ago, but after all these years, it has failed to win their heart. Tibetans continue to flee to India and their affection to the Dalai Lama is undiminished, despite concerted smear campaign and a ban on his photos being carried on.

Even if I talk of only Tibet, I am well aware that my statement is also true to East Turkestan and Southern Mongolia. The influx of Chinese into Tibet continues unchecked, which has long turned Tibetans in many parts of Tibet into a minority group. They are marginalized politically and economically and their culture sinicized. Most of the Tibetans and a large number of Chinese hardly benefited from the much-vaunted economic boom in China. The gap between the rich and the poor in China in general and between the Tibetans and Chinese in particular are growing wider. In times of turbo-capitalism in China the discrimination in the field of health and education is growing. Particularly young Tibetans do not see any perspective.

Although Mao promised in the beginning that the Tibetans will enjoy autonomy and religious freedom and even have the right to self-determination, they never enjoyed the right to freedom of opinion and religion or free information. They have always been second-class citizens in their own country. Civil society efforts of any kind are being suppressed immediately and brutally in the name of social stability and national integrity.

The so-called religious freedom is only a farce as the example of the Kirti monastery clearly shows. Many of the monks who self-immolated themselves in recent times come from this monastery. The monastery has been sealed off by police and the inmates are forced to undergo political re-education behind closed doors.

Tibet today is like a police state. A deep sense of powerlessness and humiliation for decades is creating a climate of hopelessness. Those who rebel and protest publicly have to reckon with serious consequences of torture or even death. Under such situations Tibetans are left with only such drastic options to sacrifice their precious lives for their country and people in individual actions. The protesters first swallow gasoline, then pour it over themselves and finally set fire in order to escape falling into the hands of security agencies alive.

The key to resolving stopping this spate of self-immolations lies with China. The leadership transition offers a good opportunity to send clear signals to the Tibetans with concrete policy changes. However no signal has come so far and 32 Tibetans have died since November 8, 2012.

The international community that has ignored human rights abuses in Tibet for years bears responsibility. The appeasement policy of the West has harmed the reform attempts within China tremendously. The PRC always puts the blame on the Dalai Lama and sits on the fallacy that with his death the Tibet Issue would once and for all come to an end. Their tactic is playing for time. But the fact is: Without the charismatic Dalai Lama no Tibetan leadership would hardly succeed in maintaining the course of their non-violent freedom struggle. If a peaceful solution of the Tibet Issue is not reached at during the lifetime of the current Dalai Lama, it cannot be ruled out that the Tibetan freedom struggle will turn violent in the long run. In such a hopeless situation the wave of self-immolations may turn into violent attacks on others. Therefore, the Government of the PRC and the international community are urged to immediately find an acceptable solution. Lip service alone is not sufficient. "Time is running out" – the time is running out, not for Tibet, but for a peaceful resolution of the Tibet Issue. 

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Published with author's permission.

*Presentation at the International Conference “China´s New Leadership: Challenges for Human Rights, Democracy and Freedom in East Turkestan, Tibet and Southern Mongolia” in Geneva from March 11 to 13, 2013 organized by the World Uyghur Congress and UNPO, GfbV and NED.



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