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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Dalai Lama continues to give China fits

October 24, 2007

The Columbus Desptach
October 20, 2007
By Maura Moynihan

On Wednesday the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal,
Congress' highest civilian honor, and China is throwing a fit. "We are
furious," the Chinese Communist Party's secretary for Tibet, Zhang
Qingli, declared. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there
must be no justice or good people in the world."

China abruptly withdrew from a summit on Iran and canceled a meeting
with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received the Dalai Lama in
September. Beijing, which, according to The Washington Post, "solemnly
demanded" that the Bush administration cancel Washington events
planned for the Dalai Lama, is determined to punish and intimidate
anyone who might pay tribute to Tibet's Nobel laureate.

Why is the mighty People's Republic of China so petrified of this
72-year-old Buddhist monk? True, he is no ordinary scholar and
teacher; he is the living symbol of the Buddhist faith. It seems that
Beijing's cadres fear his moral authority and do not want the global
community to examine their record in Tibet, because they have a lot to
hide.

It has been 48 years since the Dalai Lama eluded capture by the
People's Liberation Army and escaped to India, whereupon Chairman Mao
Zedong began to plunder Tibet's wealth and murdered more than 1
million of its people. In the mid-1990s, the Chinese politburo
implemented the "Strike Hard Campaign," which declared Buddhism "a
disease to be eradicated."

News of major protests in Tibet has not been widely disseminated in
recent years, and the survival of Tibetan civilization has reached a
tipping point. In 2000, China launched a vast campaign called "Opening
and Development of the Western Regions" and embarked on a new phase of
subjugation. Construction of rail and road links to Tibet, such as the
Qingzang Railway, which opened last year, has accelerated Beijing's
surveillance of Tibetans and has advanced the Sinofication of the
Himalayan and Turkic peoples in China's western territories.

Exploiting Tibet's resources for the mainland's industrial base is a
strategic and economic priority for China's government, which
suppresses manifestations of Tibetan identity or nationalism with
blunt force. After a Tibetan exile from New York and a few Americans
unfurled a "Free Tibet" flag on Mount Everest this spring, Beijing
cracked down hard: Foreigners' work permits, visas and prepaid tours
were canceled, and hundreds of Tibetan officials were fired and
replaced by politburo hard-liners.

But even police-state tactics have failed to extinguish the people's
devotion to the Dalai Lama. Demonstrations have erupted across the
Tibetan plateau. Last month, for instance, electric cattle prods were
used on teenagers who had painted Dalai Lama slogans on a tavern wall.
In July, a festivalgoer in eastern Tibet who shouted, "Long live the
Dalai Lama," was dragged out by riot police. The International
Campaign for Tibet reported this week that pilgrims to Buddhist
shrines are being harassed by Chinese soldiers and that persecution of
Buddhist monks has intensified.

China is accustomed to reacting with brutality when its supremacy is
threatened, but now the state is imperiled by forces that neither
Maoist thought nor martial law can control. Rapid growth has caused
calamitous environmental damage that could lead to food shortages and
unhygienic living and working conditions, which in turn could lead to
epidemics and, eventually, chaos.

China's 1.3 billion people need solutions, not ordinances dictated by
the Communist Party's Central Committee. But Beijing, unwilling or
unable to relinquish one-party rule, clings to an obsolete worldview
that demonizes the Dalai Lama instead of engaging the statesman in a
meaningful dialogue on Tibet and China's future.

The Dalai Lama has been a refugee since 1959. He is still rea-ching
out to China's leaders in an effort to heal the wounds of the past and
move forward peacefully. This week at the Capitol, he said: "I have no
hidden agenda; I am not trying to divide China. . . . I am sincere in
my wish to work with them." Chinese President Hu Jintao would
rightfully earn international acclaim if he abandoned Stalinist cant
and listened to what the Tibetan leader has to say while there is
still time to do so.

Maura Moynihan, an author, worked for Radio Free Asia from 1998 to
2000 and was a consultant with Refugees International. She wrote this
for The Washington Post.

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