Monday, July 22, 2013

Virtues of Tibet's Resolution on China

By Tenzin Lekshay

Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay
Over the last few decades, exiled Tibetan administration under the political leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama pursued Middle Way Policy to resolve Tibet's long pending crisis with People's Republic of China. In 2011, Sikhong Dr. Lobsang Sangay after succeeding His Holiness the Dalai Lama when latter voluntarily devolved Tibet’s political authority pledged to continue embracing Middle Way Policy. Since day one, Sikyong called for dialogue anyway and anytime. But the Chinese government did not respond positively despite having been complimented by many Chinese people. Even many world leaders urged China to resume the dialogue, which went deadlock in 2010. It is particularly interesting to know why China is indifferent yet continues to enforce hard line policies inside Tibet. As a result of such repressive policy, we have witnessed widespread demonstrations in 2008 and a wave of self-immolations that continue to burn Tibet, calling for freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As a background, In 1979, when Deng Xiaoping, the then Chinese paramount leader proposed possibility of discussing issues other than Tibetan Independence, His Holiness the Dalai Lama propitiously responded by sending delegations to Tibet and China. Such initiative enabled exile Tibetans to connect with Tibetan brethren inside Tibet for the first time. It was considered a significant breakthrough in the Sino-Tibetan relations, which happened at the time when China marched towards reforms and economic liberalization. However, in the late 1980s, Martial law was introduced in Tibet amidst the series of peaceful demonstrations in Lhasa. Similar demonstrations happened in Tiananmen Square, Beijing where Chinese people demanded freedom, justice and liberty.

After nearly a decade of silences from the Chinese counterpart, the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Tibet and China in 2002 and met Chinese leaders on nine different occasions to resolve the Sino-Tibetan problem. The last meeting happened in 2010 and since then the Chinese government curtailed the dialogue process. 

During the eighth round of talks, the Tibetan delegation delivered ‘Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People’ to the Chinese leaders and later handed over the Note as well. Even though the memorandum is based on the principle of Middle Way Policy of the Exile Tibetan Administration, which construes within the framework of the Chinese Constitution and the National Regional Autonomy Law of China, Chinese leaders reject it as opposite to the Chinese Constitution and had warned of deepening the struggle against the Dalai clique.1

What is Middle Way Policy?
This approach was initially conceptualized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and was later sealed into policy through democratic process among the Tibetans. It is a mutually beneficial policy based on the principles of justice, compassion, non-violence, and friendship. Such policy was laid on the spirit of reconciliation that ensures beneficial to Tibetans, Chinese and the entire humanity. It is an approach that stands in between two extremes i.e. Independence of Tibet and the present conditions inside Tibet. Middle Way proclaims that Tibetans will not seek independence and at the same time do not accept the present conditions of Tibet under the People’s Republic of China. It is integration within People’s Republic of China but demands an introduction of genuine autonomy for Tibet consisting of all three traditional provinces of Tibet. This policy does not propagate victory for oneself and defeat for others.2

The exile Tibetan administration consistently continues to adopt this policy for more than three decades. But due to the critical conditions inside Tibet and the fruitless attempts of Middle Way Policy, many Tibetans are somehow becoming skeptical as well as impatient with the success of middle Way Policy. This could lead to an unfavorable position for China in the future, if China ignores to take the Tibetan aspirations seriously.

Typical Bottleneck for Dialogue:
Even though, Tibet issue is one of the core issues of China, and the continuing Tibetan struggle is considered taboo, Chinese leaders are making no efforts in resolving the Tibet issues sooner. China claims as a savior, and had applauded themselves for liberating Tibet from feudalistic rule, which they termed it similar to medieval Europe.3 Whatever it may be, China persistently declares that Tibet was historically an inalienable part of China, whether be time immemorial, 7th century or 13th Century. It is interesting to find that China shifts back and forth in claiming Tibet historically. Even among the Chinese populace, many believe that Tibet was historically a part of China but remain confused in their own historical claims of whether they should consider Tibet as part of China since time immemorial, 7th century, 13th Century or 1951. Contrarily, Tibetans have their own historical narration that can justify its own independent history. So, there is a conflict in understanding the past history of Tibet.

Regardless of that, Middle Way policy is a forward-looking approach to resolve the Tibet issue. It seeks a solution for future rather than giving importance to the past history. But for China, historical Tibet being part of China remains the core precondition to resume the dialogue. In a nutshell, the difficulty lies in the conflict of priorities as Tibetans are longing for future but China gives importance to the past history. Such a precondition blocks the dialogue to move forward.

Secondly, Chinese leaders interpret Middle Way Policy as a secessionist act and had coined it as independence in disguise, semi independence and Greater Tibet. But the main integrity of the Middle Way Policy is to preserve Tibetan culture, language, religion and environment. It calls for integration within People’s Republic of China and is not demanding separation from China. China fears that such demands will ultimately lead to a collapse of People’s Republic of China, like that of Soviet Union.

What will China gets if Tibet issue resolves:
With the complexity of Sino-Tibetan relations in a limelight, it is important to clarify not just Tibetans, but also the virtues of Tibetan resolution on China. Presently, Tibet issue is considered one of the longest problematic issues that International communities are witnessing so far. Over the years, International sentiments on Tibet are growing stronger that calls for justice and freedom. Many amongst Chinese people also felt that China should proceed in resolving the Tibet issue as they, including Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Laureate suggested in 2008.4 Even inside Tibet, people are attempting desperate measures to call upon freedom. Since 2009, 120 self-immolations took place in various parts of Tibet and Tibetans continue to burn themselves for freedom. Will China shuts their doors and window of Tibet to the outside world and let the tragedy happens? Will they stick to their hardline policy in suppressing Tibetan people? Or will they show courage to accept the reality and move forward in resolving the Tibet issue? There is understandably a huge challenge for the Chinese leaders to move out of the box and seek a permanent resolution for Tibet. And, such an effort is worthy enough for the lasting future that could create a positive atmosphere between the two nationalities to live amicably.

In such a future scenario, Tibet’s integration into People’s Republic of China will enhance China’s soft power, projected as ‘Harmonious Society’ and ‘China Dream’ by Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping respectively. With the preservation of the true essence of Tibetan Buddhism, it could reach out widely to other nations without putting too much of resources and efforts like ‘Confucius Institutions’. Tibetan Buddhism could play a vital role in creating a viable society that respects others. Such could also have a vibrant effect on other countries that could generate peace and friendship among nations. With that effect, Sino-Indian relationship based on hostility and mistrust could join hands to pursue lasting friendship based on trust.

The present Tibet is like a museum of ruins and remnants, where millions of Chinese people visit to take a photo with the backdrop of Potala Palace, a symbol of so called ‘Feudalistic Rule’. Many also visit Tibet searching for inner solace but landed up touring fantasyland Shangrila. Buddhism, as we know are not attached to buildings and concretes, but the dharma i.e. teaching. In Tibet, there is predominantly a vacuum in such teaching, as all the great masters fled into exile. But, future Tibet if resolve, Tibetan Buddhist masters can contribute in bringing peace and harmony within China’s nationalities. At that point of time, China need not have to put a hefty budget on their internal security, which at present is more than its defense budget.

Territorial integrity is one of the important themes of current Chinese policies and with the cooperation of Tibet as enshrined in the Middle Way Policy, China could well thrive as the giant powerhouse that can prosper internally. China can significantly reach out to her neighbors as a benevolent nation. Such will ensure unity and stability of the People’s Republic of China. The arm race and the military proliferation in the south asian region will also subside thereafter, leading to a zone of peace that His Holiness the Dalai Lama envisaged in his Five Point Peace Plan in 1987.5

Tibet, being the third pole and the water tower of Asia, the ecology will be maintained in such a way that it continues to sustain millions of lives. The haphazard way of exploiting Tibet’s ecology threatens millions of people in China and downstream nations. Such drastic exploitation of resources naturally harms the eco system that would result in an unforeseen catastrophes and calamities. Tibet’s ecology remained pristine for thousands of years and therefore, many great civilizations occurred along the banks of rivers that flow from Tibet to China, India, Pakistan and others.

Over the recent years, China leaped forward to become a super power. China virtually became asian hegemony with its economic and military might. But China by no means can excel independently without relying on other countries. In this globalize world, rising China needs other as much as other needs China. In such a case, economy and military powers alone cannot win the confidence of other nations. Similarly, economic development alone cannot win the hearts of Chinese people. It is therefore, important that there should be a rule of law, whereby Chinese constitution plays the guiding force for China’s prosperity.

Middle Way policy for resolving the Tibet issue acknowledges the importance of implementing such rule of law, whereby all the nationalities enjoy equality, justice and freedom within China. If such happens, this could be the real China dream.


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