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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people: a difference of opinion?

August 1, 2008

Tibet Space
July 30, 2008

The Edmonton Sun (Canada) today ran an important article on the
Tibetan response to the Beijing Olympics. The article is important
not because it brings to light issues that we were unaware of, but
because it takes these issues and puts them all on the table
simultaneously.  What are the issues?

1. The Beijing Olympics presents Tibetans with a now-or-never
opportunity for real reform, even independence, within their country
. . . but that opportunity has a shelf life.  We've all felt this,
and we've all wondered how to respond to it.  If I'm Chinese, I'd
play the waiting game here, and there's no reason to suspect that's
not what the Chinese are doing.  Western leaders have abandoned the
boycott anyway, and after the Olympics are over, Tibetans lose one
substantial plank of their platform.  But few commentators have made
very much of this.  It's difficult -- and counter-productive -- to
view the Tibetan struggle as having only several more weeks to go. Of
course, in reality, that's not true; the Tibetans struggle will
endure as long as Tibetans do.  But it's hard to read accounts of the
Han Chinese streaming into Tibet month by month and to think that a
better opportunity for awareness-raising will present itself anytime soon.

2. The Chinese have remained inflexible, His Holiness ... not so
much.  John McCain, for example, was recently scolded by the Chinese
for meeting with the Dalai Lama in Colorado.  The Chinese argue
tirelessly for the sovereignty of a country's domestic affairs until,
apparently, it involves the Dalai Lama, and then Beijing is full of
condemnation regarding those domestic affairs.  The point here is
that China, in its history of "talks" with the Dalai Lama have turned
that process into a mockery, giving nothing and seizing the
opportunity to turn their megaphone toward the world stage.  His
Holiness's flexibility, at this stage, has been unrewarded by the Chinese.

3. A radical difference of opinion, concerning the future of Tibet,
exists between His Holiness and many Tibetan people. The numbers are
uncertain, but this much is clear:  The Tibetan Youth Congress, the
most important Tibetan NGO in exile, supports Tibetan
independence.  The Dalai Lama supports autonomy.  If you ask Tibetans
in Dharmasala, in Majnuka Tilla in New Delhi, and in the settlements
around Drepung Loseling Monastery in Karnataka what they make of this
difference of opinion, you get a range of answers.  All of the
Tibetans that I spokeTsewang_rigzin  with so deeply respected His
Holiness and what he's given the Tibetan people that they were loathe
to disagree with him, even in the mildest way.  Tsewang Rigzin,
President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, reminded me this summer when
I spoke with him in Dharamsala that His Holiness had handed them a
full-fledged democracy "on a silver platter."  When compared to the
blood that was shed to set up, for example, American democracy, this
is a real accomplishment.  But still the differences between arguing
for autonomy and independence are real, and they speak to concepts of
nationhood and cultural integrity that run deeply in all
Tibetans.  One Tibetan--who has worked for many Tibetan political
organizations in exile--told me that no matter what Tibetans tell you
in the daylight, when they put their heads on their pillows at night
they dream of a free and independent Tibet.

So have a look at the piece by ""Too good for the job -- Dalai Lama
is spiritually incapable of hardline negotiating for Tibet" Lisa Van
Dusen in The Edmonton Sun. Canada, as you know, has a substantial
Tibetan population, and their newspapers often provides articles of
this sort that cut to the chase.  This one is no exception.
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