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Dalai Lama: Re-set Harmony with Soft Autonomy versus Cultural Nihilism

October 5, 2011

The Dalai Lama needs a new Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet and a better team

On the other side the position of the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama are weakened by two factors:

First: no clear and short Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet has been published and promoted by him with precise demands and proposals and outlining the first pragmatic steps forward. His negotiation team has concentrated in the nine rounds on confidence building measures, which lead only to vagueness and produce not even small results.
It must be made clearer which areas should be included in the Tibetan autonomy. The Dalai Lama wants to include “Old Tibet” with all three original provinces: U’sang, Kham and Amdo. But Kham and Amdo are now largely incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan.
Old Tibet is very large and covers 25 percent of the territory of the PRC now. When talking about Tibet the Chinese politicians mean only the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) established in 1965 which includes less than half of the traditional Tibetan land.
According to a Chinese census in 2000, ethnic Tibetans comprise 92 percent (2.4 million) of the population in TAR. Another one million Tibetans live in the province of Qinghai (23 percent), 455,000 in the province of Sichuan (53 percent), 117,000 in Kunan and 330,000 (51 percent) in Gansu.
In total approx. five million Tibetans live in China with a focus in TAR and Qinghai. So any autonomy must consider this population outside the TAR as well.
Second: his team of negotiators with China looks weak. It is headed by the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and supported by senior assistants Tenzin P. Atisha, Bhuchung K. Tseringnand Jigmey Passang from the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations without long-term political experience in diplomacy and politics.
The negotiations with Beijing since the 1980s are burdened by these negative influences. The Dalai Lama is weak because his team is. He must integrate experienced foreign advisors and make a visionary plan for Tibet out of all elements known to be successful or he will not prevail within the next years.
The Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet should start with elements from the 1951 agreement with the Communist Government and integrate the following points as a compromise:
1. In the next five negotiation rounds a pragmatic reconciliation approach and double strategy of economic progress and cultural respect implemented in small steps discussed and agreed between the Chinese and the representatives of the Dalai Lama. Both sides should enter the next rounds with a list of first steps and a time-table. Beijing could show goodwill to improve the cultural identity of the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama should praise the PRC for it and as well for economic progress. Thus trust can be build up in several small steps.
2. Separate standing working-groups to focus on important areas of progress like education, language and culture, religion in more detail.
3. It could even be possible to carve out the issue of political autonomy and which parts of Old Tibet should be included and agree on a ‘soft autonomy’ providing more religious and cultural autonomy all over Old Tibet only. After five years the second round could discuss the more complicated issues. Maybe by then China will have reformed itself and become self-confident enough to give more political rights to local communities.
4. The basis of the status of Tibet and reconciliation with China should be the re-vitalization of the 17 point agreement from May 23, 1951, between the Central People’s Government and the local government of Tibet including:

The right of national equality and regional autonomy of Tibet.
The Central Authorities will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the 14th Dalai Lama who is also entitled to pick his successor as a purely religious matter.
The policy of freedom of religious belief will be protected as well as language, life-style, monasteries, Tibetan Buddhism and culture.
Tibetan and Chinese as equal official languages for all documents, street-signs, and at schools.
5. No independence for Tibet but a ‘soft autonomy’ in domestic and cultural affairs. There are several benchmarks and best practices to learn from with concrete improvements such as the Accord on South Tyrol by the Republics of Italy and Austria from 1972; the bilateral agreement and treatment of the Danish and the German minorities in the state of Schleswig-Holstein in North Germany or the Sorbian minority in the German state of Saxony. Autonomy can have different faces. It is never separatism but a maximum of respect and cultural diversity avoiding the domination of the central state over the wishes of the local population. Small steps and signs are important and good-will day by day as well. Foreign, security and macro-economic policies will continue to be represented by Beijing.
6. ‘Flexible autonomy’ which can be limited to the Tibet Autonomous Region as the core of Tibet but with all cultural guarantees for all other parts of old Tibet in Qinhai and Sichuan as a territorial compromise. The term ‘autonomy’ could be filled with more or less content and maybe even changed to the term ‘harmonious friendship”. Important is real respect and preservation of the Tibetan culture and religion – including full autonomy of all monasteries and the Dalai Lama as religious leader – in all parts of Old Tibet and concrete reconciliation of the five million Tibetans with the Han-Chinese and the Beijing government. The benchmark in China could be the agreement and successful experience in Hong Kong.
7. Use of peaceful means only and a polite wording in the public.
8. General amnesty for both sides for any previous violations and establishment of a Tibetan Truth and Reconciliation Commission as was very successfully done by Bishop Desmond Tutu after the Apartheid in South Africa and copied by more than 20 countries to promote deeper reconciliation. Release of all prisoners.
9. Establishment of a Permanent Round Table in Lhasa with the local government promoting reconciliation efforts on all levels (see for details for politicians).
10.Annual Progress Report Tibet published by the Round Table to be presented to Beijing. Before such an agreement is reached the exiled government of Tibet should publish an annual Progress Report Tibet including positive and negative developments.

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