Monday, February 1, 2010

Retrospection: Tibet Work Forum

Tenzin Lekshay, 01 February 2009

If we questioned the Chinese leaders of four generations to air their views on Tibet, it is of certain that they will talk down in length of old Tibet as a feudalistic society, authoritarian rule, backward, serfdom and slaves. Then, they will patronize themselves as the crusader, saviors of humanity, to rescue and emancipate serfdom, modernize, and liberate Tibet. Whether the Chinese called it liberation, democratization or modernization, the main purpose hidden behind all these initiatives was to invade Tibet and to unify it into the periphery of Middle Kingdom. The liberation and modernization of Tibet are few of the frontline tactics of Chinese colonization, despite the fact the China themselves strongly rejected Imperialism and colonization for more than a century. However, if we retrospect the modernization and development of Tibet for the past sixty years since the inception of People’s Republic of China (PRC), China proclaims that they have done a remarkable improvement in Tibet economically. At this present juncture, there is a need of serious and thorough evaluation on this whole developmental spectrum. PRC for the past few decades had been working tirelessly to project new and prosperous Tibet under their leadership. It can be widely seen as an over rated expression of material development in their communiqués on Tibet and other government mouthpieces.

Liberation: Early Chinese Colonization tactics

Napoleon rightly prophesied China as a sleeping Dragon, which amazes the world when she awakes. When Mao Tsetung became the Supremo of Chinese Communist party and acceded to the leadership of PRC, China started invading Tibet. He initially planned to adopt policy of gradualism with a central command of strict instructions to all the cadres to move in peacefully without creating any disturbances to the local Tibetans. Thus, the democratization of Tibet was the initial step to intrude into the Tibetan society by touching upon elimination of serfdom. After a year or two, Tibetan realized the horrendous intention of China when thousands of PLA troops marched into Tibet with guns and artilleries. Many resistant movements in defiance took places with many clashes and bloods. Upon reaching Chamdo in 1951, China signaled the Tibetan Government to come to the peace terms and Ngapo, the then governor in charged of Chamdo was designated to negotiate with China. 17 Point Agreement was signed In Peking, which was considered to be signed under duress. With little help from outside world, Tibetan Government succumbed to the policy of PRC, which toppled the hierarchy of Tibetan government establishment by instigating the serfs to revolt against them. Introduction of land reforms and electoral system were initiated under the aegis of PRC, with an aim to gain confidence and legitimacy of the regime in Tibet.

Since 1949, Tibet suffered a colossal and rampant disaster for three decades with a destruction of more than 6 thousand monasteries and learning centers, along with dead of more than a million Tibetans. The Cultural Revolution, occurred in mainland China moved parallel into Tibet which toppled the very existence of Tibetan civilization. Monasteries were ruined, the statues were destructed and the texts and literatures were burnt into dust and fumes. Subsequent famine hit all over Tibet with an eclipse of traditional Tibetan economy, due to the large influx of Chinese troops.

Liberalization: New model of Development

After Deng Xiaoping ascended to the Central power, China started looking west (both Tibet and the world) with market oriented policy of developing China. Therefore, PRC claims that Chinese system of Socialism is unique and adaptable to the conditions made by the leaders. Mao’s socialism was a mixture of Marxism and Stalinism. Therefore, with the mixture of various theories into practice, China degraded heavily with huge societal breakdown accompanied by a disastrous economic failure. Deng, earlier labeled as a ‘rightist’ boosted Chinese economy with foreign collaborations and succeed widely that charms the Chinese with profitable and advancing economy. Few of the top brass leaders of liberal reformists like Hu Yobang and Zhou Ziyang backed Deng’s formula of economic liberalization.

On Tibet, a new framework of policy was established in a more liberal and relaxed manner, integrating economic development strategies. Hu Yaobang’s official visit to Tibet in 1980s drew a positive change in Tibet rejecting the forgone policies as a blunder. He, like Late Panchen Lama, was critical and had vehemently stressed upon helping Tibetans in their developmental works. In 1980, the first Tibet Work Forum was held in Peking in order to strive building a new socialist Tibet. The purpose of such high level meeting was to unify Tibet with special focus on economic prosperity with special interest on reviving the Tibetan civilization. Since then, China claimed to have spent 496 million Yuan (72.66 million U.S. dollars to alleviate its effort to aid Tibetan development through various preferential policies. Every year, 262 million Yuan were allotted to improve Tibet’s infrastructure.

Following the renewed contacts with the Dalai Lama in 1979, many fact finding delegations of exiled Tibetan Government based in Dharamsala, India visited Tibet several times to witness the situation inside Tibet. Despite, China’s routine declarations on prosperous and happy Tibet, the exile delegations were not impressed by the overall situation in Tibet.

In 1984, the Second Tibet Work Forum was held in Beijing with the dual aim of political stability and economic development in Tibet. 43 small and medium scale development projects were undertaken including new energy, transportation, culture, education and religion with a monetary aid of 480 million Yuan. After the forum, such projects like Lhasa Hotel, Tibet’s Great Hall of the People and stadium were completed. Chinese called these projects as ‘43 Pearls on the Tibetan Plateau’.

Security as a priority: Hardliner’s domination

After the gap of ten long years, Central Government convened yet another conference on Tibet in 1994, which was supposedly called the third Tibet Work Forum. In this forum, China reversed its earlier policy on Tibet by hardening its stand based on national security. It goes with the implementation of 62 large-scale projects with the total cost of 4.86 billion Yuan. In this meeting, China launched rigorous attack on His Holiness the Dalai Lama by signaling a total crackdown of separatist movement. For more information,

In 2001, development and stability were stressed again during the Fourth Tibet Work Forum, where the focus of attention was rather more political than socio-economic development. 31.2 billion Yuan was allocated to undertake 117 projects in Tibet including environment, farming and animal husbandry, and science and Technology and education. PRC’s Central leadership wowed to wage clear-cut, tit for tat struggle against secessionism and earnestly maintaining Tibet’s stability, Ethnic solidarity and the unification of China. In doing so, they claimed “Tibet’s stability is the prerequisite guaranteeing the sustainable development of various Tibetan undertakings and the gradual improvement of people's living standards. Tibet's stability is of important significance to the country's reform, development and stability” (

Early this year, a rare strategy meeting on Tibet was held in Beijing after a gap of ten years. We do not know much of the things happened in the meeting simply because of the lack of sources or communiqués. It may, I guess considered a secretive meeting of more than 300 tight-lipped senior party leaders, where the information was not shared to the public. Normally, the speeches of the President Hu Jintao in many occasions were instantly uploaded in the Government websites after he delivered his statements. But on this Tibet Work Forum, Chinese mouthpiece did not cover even a single piece on this meeting except for the fact that they covered a ‘Retrospect: National Conference on Tibetan Work’ in featuring all the previous Tibet Work Forum. However, there is an indication of no change in the government policy adhering to the stability of Tibet. While judging through the recent developments taking place in Tibet, one can assume that PRC will maintain its strict and hard line policy in Tibet to bar an ocurrence of similar kind of 2008 protest.

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