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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Zhang Boshu: The Way to Resolve the Tibet Issue

October 17, 2008

Zhang Boshu
China Digital Times
October 16, 2008

Here is an assessment of the Tibet situation by Zhang Boshu (???) of
the CASS Philosophy Institute in Beijing, translated for CDT by a
reader who wishes to remain anonymous:

Zhang was born in Beijing in 1955. He received an MA in economics
from Zhongguo Renmin Daxue in 1982 and in 1985 passed the entrance
examination for the Institute of Philosophy of the graduate school of
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His research has been on
critical theory in continental Europe in modern western philosophy.
He obtained MA and PhD degrees in philosophy in 1988 and 1991. He has
held a post in the Philosophy Institute of the Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences from 1991 to the present. In recent years he has
striven to understand the lessons of success and failure in the
history of the past century of China's democratic transition and
institutional modernization. He has gradually settled upon criticism
of 20th Century Chinese despotism as his main research topic.

Ever since March, the issue of Tibet and the Olympics have been
stirred up together, drawing the attention of the entire world. Short
sighted politicians in our own country have been pleased that their
petty schemes to stir up nationalist sentiment have been so
successful. This not only manipulates domestic opinion but also uses
so-called "mainstream public opinion" to oppose the criticisms coming
from international society. On the other hand, this serves to push
for the consolidation of the situation in Tibet in the hope of
getting through the Olympics peacefully. They did not realize that
the Tibet issue has already become a major factor affecting China's
future. Solving the Tibet issue will take courage and great wisdom.
Petty scheming could ruin Tibet and ruin China.

How did the Tibet issue arise?

The Tibet issue is first of all a human rights issue.

Although the authorities are not willing to admit it, I want to say
it plainly. This problem that plagues the leadership of the Communist
Party, if we look at its origin, was created by the Chinese Communist
Party itself as the ruler of China.

We don't have to look too far back in history. Whether in fact the
relationship between the Tibet government and Beijing from the Yuan
Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty was one of relatives or of equals is a
matter of dispute among academics. For now, we don't need to pay any
attention to controversy. What is most important is that from 1912
onwards, Tibet was for a long period in a de facto "state of
independence". That situation continued until 1951 when the Tibet
local government signed an agreement with the Beijing central
government — the "Seventeen Point Agreement on the Peaceful
Liberation of Tibet". The document was moderate and constructive. The
agreement stressed that Tibet is part of China but also recognized
that Tibet's current system would not change and that the Dalai
Lama's position would not change. We can call that the earliest
version of "One Country, Two Systems" in contemporary China.

In 1954, the 19 year-old Dalai Lama and 16-year old Panchen Lama both
went to Beijing to take part in the First National People's Congress,
attending as honored guests of Mao Zedong. They were appointed Vice
Chair of the NPC and Vice Chair of the National People's Consultative
Congress, respectively. Tibet's future seemed bright. Problems began
to appear in 1955. Mao Zedong's utopian socialist social
transformation began to accelerate that year. Ripples spread from the
Chinese interior to Changdu and the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Yunnan,
Qinghai, and Gansu Provinces. In these areas, which were not bound by
the 17 Point Agreement, "democratic reform" broke out on a
spectacular scale. Radical local Communist Party leaders sought to
carry out "democratic reform" and "socialist transformation"
simultaneously so as "to make spectacular progress in just one step".
They struck hard against the masters of the serfs and their
"representatives", confiscating the lands and property of monasteries
and forcing collectivization, slandering the religious beliefs of
Tibetan people, and forcing upper class people, lamas and monks to
"reform their thinking".

The result was that they stirred up dissatisfaction and resistance
among the Tibetan people. During 1956 - 1958, armed conflicts in the
Tibetan areas grew larger and larger in scale. When one died out
another arose but were soon were put down by campaigns by the PLA to
put down rebellion and wipe out rebels. Tens of thousands of Kam and
Amdo region Tibetans fled across the Jinsha River into Tibet. This
sowed the seeds for the 1959 Lhasa "rebellion". These historical
circumstances led to the "rebellion" and indeed were a necessary
condition for that event to occur.

There is no need to go into detail about what happened after that.
The victorious "suppression of the rebellion" at Lhasa showed that
the central government had achieved absolute control of all the
Tibetan areas including Tibet itself. It also marked the rapid move
of Tibet towards "socialism". Chinese of my age grew up hearing songs
like "The Red Sun is rising about the snowy mountains" and seeing
movies like "Serfs". In those days we really believed that under the
leadership of the Communist Party "the serfs have been liberated" and
were living happy lives. Later, after reading a lot of historical
materials, I learned that there were many untruths in the propaganda.

The dictatorship system of the Communist Party, the arrogance and
ignorance of leaders, and the extreme leftist policies pursued by
them in the Tibetan areas brought terrible disasters to both the
religious and lay people of Tibet. In 1962, the Panchen Lama, who was
ranked as a "national leader," wrote a letter to Premier Zhou Enlai
expressing his deep sorrow at what he had seen and heard of the
suffering of the Tibetan people. Since the Panchen Lama was certainly
not opposed to the leadership of the Communist Party, and was loyally
and faithfully reporting to the Party the actual situation in the
Tibetan areas, this letter known as the "70,000 Character Document"
can be seen as a document that accurately reflects the difficult
situation of the Tibetan people during those years. I might as well
quote from it here:

* On "class struggle" in the Tibetan areas: "In most or in many
areas, the cadres didn't care if the campaign was planned or carried
out well. They were intent on making a spectacular display that would
strike terror in people. They didn't care if they attacked the right
people. The objective was to do the campaign on a big scale and
achieve numerical targets." They attacked many people whom they
shouldn't have attacked. Often "those who were the objects of
struggle meetings had not done anything particularly bad or committed
serious errors. So they had to make up many false and serious
accusations. They exaggerated at will, turning truth and falsehood
upside down." Many innocent people were forced to flee abroad against
their will. Those who stayed behind lived in terror.

* On the lives of the people in the Tibetan areas: "Because of the
rise in the agricultural areas of the five unhealthy tendencies [Tr.
Note: post Great Leap Forward Party critique of GLF excesses -- wu
feng -- over-egalitarianism, the common practice of exaggeration,
confused orders, too many compulsory orders, and special privileges]
and excessively tight controls on grain, and the standards for the
amount of grain the people could retain was set too low, a severe
grain shortage resulted, …and many households had no grain. In some
areas some people even starved to death. Formerly Tibet was a dark
and barbarous feudal society but there had never been a shortage of
grain like that, especially since Buddhism permeated the society,
everyone rich and poor, had the custom of helping the poor and giving
alms. People could easily support themselves as a beggar, so we never
knew of anyone ever having starved to death."

* Implementation of "dictatorship" resulted in the improper deaths of
many prisoners: After the "suppression of the rebellion," the
proportion of prisoners in the Tibetan population reached several
percent, something completely unprecedented. In 1959, Chairman Mao
set forth a policy that since the population of Tibet was small,
people shouldn't be killed or at most only a few people should be
killed. But in fact, just the opposite happened. Except for the
somewhat better treatment of imprisoned members of the upper classes,
most people who were locked up in prison endured very bad conditions.
The prison wardens didn't care about the lives or health of the
prisoners. They often verbally abused and savagely beat prisoners.
Moreover, wardens deliberately moved prisoners back and forth between
very warm and cold places so that the prisoners could not adapt and
their clothes were always unsuitable. Their clothes could not keep
them warm, their mattresses were not waterproof, and the wind and
rain entered their cells. They never got enough to eat, living in
miserable conditions, yet they still had to get up early to do work.
The hardest work was always given to these people. They became worn
out physically, often came down with diseases. As a result of no rest
and inadequate medical care, many prisoners died who should not have.
[Tr. Note. Chinese text: ?????.]

*On religion and nationalities issues: "Under the so-called
'elimination of superstition', the first priority was opposing
religion. The second priority was destroying images of the Buddha,
Buddhist scriptures, and stupas." When they demanded that monks and
nuns return to secular lives, "first in all the temples and
monasteries, under the pretext of 'study' and 'mobilization', they
brought all the monks and nuns together into a large hall or room,
and made them study nervously day and night, forcing them to
criticize each other in order to create a big wave of sharp struggles
and attacks. People who openly express their belief in religion were
given labels such as a superstitious element or someone who doesn't
like the revolution. They were constantly attacked without rhyme or
reason. Even worse, in some places they made the lamas stand on one
side and nuns and lay religious women stand on the other. They were
then forced to chose each other in marriage. In Tibet, there were
originally over 2500 temples. After 'democratic reform' there were
only 70 left. Originally there were 110,000 monks and nuns. Ten
thousand fled abroad, leaving 100,000 behind. After 'democratic
reform' there were only 7000 monks and nuns left. What especially
cannot be condoned is that in some areas there was deliberate
desecration and insults to religion such as the Buddhist Canon used
for compost. Many paintings of the Buddha and scriptures were used to
make shoes or other objects. There is absolutely no reason for this.
Because there were many insane things done that even a lunatic
wouldn't do, people in all classes of Tibetan society were deeply
shaken. Their emotions were in chaos and they became exceedingly sad
and shed tears. They said 'Our land has been made into a dark place,'
quoting a Tibetan proverb that means 'a place without religion'".

Alas, when I read these characters, my own heart bleeds and my face burns.

Most of these problems also existed in the Chinese interior as well.
But they were more serious in Tibet. They were more extreme and more
widespread there. No matter how well-meaning or noble was the initial
motivation of those in power was to use their social ideals to
transform Tibetan society was, its shocking results are all crimes.
These are crimes that resulted from ignorance, arrogance, rage and violence.

Under these circumstances, the over 100,000 Tibetans who fled to
India and other foreign countries called upon the entire world to
support the human rights of Tibetans. Therefore the Tibet issue
became a symbolic issue for the entire world. What can be surprising
about that? Moreover, this was going on during the Cold War and so in
the minds of western people, Tibet became a focal point in the game
of competing national interests in which China, the Soviet Union,
India, the United States and other countries were engaged.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency did in fact provide funding,
technical and other support to Tibetans in exile. That was part of
the effort of the United States to contain the "spread of communism."
Chinese can of course curse the damn Americans for plotting to "split
China" without revealing their real intentions. But on the other
hand, if the Communist Party had not done so many stupid things in
Tibet and forced Tibetans to flee into exile, what would other people
have been able to say? What pretext could they have to butt in? I
haven't even mentioned the Cultural Revolution. That "historically
unprecedented" "revolution," because it was even redder and even
further left, was even more extreme and more cruel. Of course it
created even greater disasters for the Tibetan people. I won't
discuss them here.

Enlightened Communist Party Leaders Once Reflected on the "Leftist"
Misfortunes that Brought Disaster to Tibet

Objectively speaking, there has been no shortage of enlightened
people within the Chinese Communist Party leadership. At different
times and in different positions they have opposed leftist work
methods in Tibet. However, under these historical circumstances, they
could achieve only limited results.

Xi Zhongxun, from northwestern China, was a Vice Premier and
Secretary General of the State Council in the 1960s. He was
responsible for contact with the Panchen Lama. He made a very
complete report to the State Council about the how the "Seventy
Thousand Character Document" came to be written by the Panchen and so
was charged with "accommodating and not interfering with the Panchen.
The Tenth session of the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party
dismissed Xi Zhongxun and, in addition to the major crime of "using a
novel to attack the Communist Party," also charged him with
"accommodating and not interfering with the Panchen."

Another dismissed, high-level Communist Party official was Li Weihan,
who was an old communist who had been head of the United Front
Department since 1947. During April and May 1962, at a Nationalities
Work Conference held in Beijing, some of the nationalities religious
figures offered some sharp criticisms. Li Weihan remained calm and
honestly said that he welcomed criticism from everyone. He praised
the talk of the Tibetan Buddhist Lama Xijiashenzhi [romanization of
Chinese name], saying that he was "open and above board, with "a
heart as clear as a mirror" and stands as a symbol of "patriotism in
the area of national minorities religious affairs". Li Weiquan's
action was later severely criticized by Mao Zedong who said that "The
United Front Department is neglecting the class struggle and is being

After the end of the Cultural Revolution, many issues in Tibetan
affairs were neglected. Nationalities policy and the relationship
between the Han nationality and the Tibetan nationality needed to be
adjusted and the lives of Tibetans needed to be improved. In May
1980, just after Hu Yaobang had become General Secretary of the
Chinese Communist Party, Hu and Wan Li flew to Tibet for an
inspection visit. On the plane, Hu said to the accompanying Xinhua
News Agency journalists: "In our policies in the national minority
areas, we must always seek truth from facts, and adjust measures to
suit local conditions so as to fully respect the autonomy the
Tibetans have to govern their minority area themselves. That is the
crux of all the Tibet issues." On May 29, in the work report that Hu
Yaobang presented at the meeting with the cadres of the Tibetan
Autonomous Region, he stressed that the development of Tibetan must
resolve "six big issues."

The first is, under the unified leadership of the center, to fully
implement the autonomy rights in the nationalities areas. "Any
document, order or regulation which is not suitable for the
conditions of Tibet should not be implemented." "You should according
to your own characteristics, draft specific decrees, laws and
regulations, and rules to protect the special interests of your own
nationality." The second: "Under the present difficult conditions in
Tibet, you should carry out a policy of recuperation and rebuilding
and considerably reduce the burden on the people." "We have decided
that within several years required purchases by Tibetans will be
abolished." Third: "Tibet should implement special flexible policies
to promote the development of production." Fourth: "Devote the
resources that the state is providing to Tibet to the development of
agriculture and herding and the daily necessities most needed by
Tibetan people."
Fifth: "With the condition that the socialist road be followed,
develop science, technology and education in Tibet."

Hu Yaobang especially stressed: "Looking down on Tibetan history,
language and art is totally wrong" Loving the minority people is not
a matter of empty words. Their social customs and habits must be
respected. Respect their language, respect their history, respect
their culture. If you don't do that you are only speaking empty
words." Finally, Tibetan cadres should manage Tibet. Within two
years, Tibetans should make up two-thirds or more of the cadres in
Tibet. "We have been here for thirty years. We have completed our
historical mission." "Today there are 300,000 ethnic Han, including
military, in Tibet. How can that ever do?" The above can be
summarized in six characters "cut taxes, open up, and withdraw
personnel". These were the "emergency measures" energetically
promoted by Hu Yaobang to resolve the Tibet issue. (3)

These views, strong criticisms of social evils, were enthusiastically
welcomed in the Tibetan areas. Of course because of historical
conditions, the enlightened leaders of the Chinese Communist Party
were unable to discuss and consider institutional perspectives on the
problems that occurred in Tibet. Hu Yaobang in his May 29th speech
said that we should not look back on the past but rather "unify
ourselves and look to the future".4 This reflects Hu Yaobang's
experience and resourcefulness and the frustrations of a generation
of reformers in the Chinese Communist Party. After all, the many of
the tragedies in contemporary Tibetan history are directly linked to
the Communist Party system and the social policies that that Party
carried out. This is all a result of these policies. If we do not
reflect upon the origins of the Tibet issue, then we will not be able
to resolve it.

New Symptoms Arose in the Tibet Issue During the Years of Reform

With opening and reform, especially since the early 1990s and the
turn of the new century, the Chinese economy has grown very quickly.
The central government has also certainly invested a lot of capital
in Tibet and devised a series of special preferential policies and
measures to accelerate the development of Tibet. There have been
direct state investment construction projects, Chinese central
government financial subsidies, and support for projects from
partners around the country for the modernization and construction of
Tibet. The overall economic level of Tibet has improved considerably
as a result. However the political structure has remained the same as
before with the Party exercising control over political, economic,
cultural, and religious affairs just as before. An autonomous region
in name, but in actual fact, autonomy was in the same lamentable
state as before. The core of the Tibet issue has not been truly
solved, and under the new social conditions a variety of new problems
have arisen.

The market economy has become an economy controlled by influential
people. It is that way in the Chinese interior, and it is that way in
Tibet. The blending of the system of Party dictatorship and the
policy of opening up created a new privileged stratum that includes
Han and as well as Tibetans who have positions in Party and
government institutions and cultural institutions. Faced with swarms
of merchants coming from the Chinese interior, many ordinary Tibetans
in Lhasa and other areas fell discriminated against and marginalized.

Even worse is the all encompassing control of religious affairs. On
the surface, religious life in Tibet has already been restored. The
state spent great sums repairing damage and protecting symbolic
Buddhist structures, the temples are filled with burning incense. The
Buddhist Canon will never again be used for compost. But this is just
the surface of things. There is a deeper reality that is hidden
behind these things as if beneath a mask.

The independent scholar Wang Lixiong has done much research on, and
taken many trips to, Tibet. His conclusion: In Tibet there is no true
religious freedom. On one hand, the government strictly controls the
registration of religious activities in the temples, limits religious
personnel to a certain "authorized personnel complement", and forbids
ties between temples. Religious activities outside the temples are
forbidden. On the other hand, spontaneous religious activities
outside government control are rigorously suppressed so that they
will not have any influence.

In the Kang region of [Tr. note: ethnographic] Tibet, not far from
the county seat of Sela County, is the mountain valley of Larong with
its Wuming Buddhist Institute [Tr. note: also known as the Sertar
Tibetan Buddhist Institute, Sertar, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous
Prefecture, Sichuan, China ?? ??? ??? ???????]. When founded in 1980,
there were only 30 or so people at the Institute. At the end of the
1990s, there were nearly 10,000 Tibetan and Han monks there. This
worried the Chinese government. The authorities ordered that they
reduce the number of personnel from the authorized number of 4000
nuns to just 400 and 4000 monks to just 1000. All the 1000 Han who
had come to study Buddhism were forced to leave. This requirement was
rejected by the Living Buddha who ran the Institute because to make a
monk return to secular life involves a serious violation of vows. The
government took action, sending people to destroy the housing of the
monks. On July 10, 2001 during the height of the destruction of
monastic housing, 1700 monastic cells were destroyed in a single day.
"I have heard people describe that scene, the sounds of houses being
destroyed, the dust rising up everywhere, on one side one thousand
nuns crying, as if the world itself were shaking. In the area around
the Wuming Buddhist Academy were many nuns in groups in the
countryside hiding out to avoid pursuit by the government.(5)

An even more deadly consequence of the strict control of religion has
been breaks in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism. Traditional
Tibetan religion has an internal control mechanism. For example,
although their is a reincarnation system for the Dalai and the
Panchen, but in the Geluga School, eminent monks and heads of
monasteries have a set term of office. They are chosen from among the
most learned lamas. The winners in the competition can become the
head of the Ganden Monastery — that is a natural teacher for the
Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. This system has continued for
several hundred years without a break, thereby ensuring the
authenticity in the transmission of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism
from generation to generation and ensuring as well the excellent
character of eminent monks. But since 1959 this continuous process
has been interrupted. From the 1980s to the present, although on the
surface religious activities have been renewed, it has become hard to
find a trace of the very core of the religion — the pious beliefs of
eminent monks, deep research into Buddhism and teaching aimed at
enlightening all sentient beings.

The governing authorities operate a "reverse elimination" selection
system among the leaders of the monks. "Any monk leader who insists
on religious principles, refuses to be a tool of the authorities,
will be subject to pressure and purging or even sentenced to prison
as a warning to other clergy. Any monk with a relatively high
traditional rank who keeps silent and doesn't cause trouble is a
candidate for recruitment by the United Front Department. He will be
given rewards but a club will be always be ready to intimidate him.
Any monk willing to put personal advancement first, who is
opportunistic, gives up religious principles, and willing to be a
tool of the government will be given all sorts of advantages,
membership in the National People's Congress, the National People's
Consultative Congress or even higher government positions. The green
light will be given for their activities, resources will be provided
so that they will be a model who can draw in other leaders among the
monks." In sum, therefore, although the Chinese Communists boast of
religious freedom but their religious policy is aimed at the
destruction of Buddhism, no less than it was in the days of Mao
Zedong. Mao Zedong wanted to completely extirpate Buddhism. In
Tibetan history there were eras when Buddhism was extirpated yet
Buddhism still continued because the religion lived in the hearts of
believers and so could not be destroyed by an external force. Today
the Communist Party religious policy aims at the degeneration of the
monk stratum of Tibetan society. This is a mortal danger to Buddhism." (6)

As a consequence of all this, although Tibet has made considerable
economic progress over the past thirty years and the lives of
ordinary Tibetans have improved, Tibetans are still dissatisfied and
"events" occur over and over again in the Tibetan regions. The
Tibetan issue is still "an issue" that is the focus of constant
international attention. The events that have occurred since March
are just new developments in the course of this ongoing transformation.

Demonizing the Dalai Lama is Extremely Stupid

After the "hitting, smashing, stealing and burning" event of March
14, the Chinese government immediately announced that this was
instigated by the "Dalai Clique". When in April there was
interference with the transmission of the torch, the authorities
again asserted that the "Dalai Clique" had instigated "Tibet
independence elements", with the aim of destroying the Olympic Games,
in order to further the cause of "Tibet independence".

The "human rights issue" was substituted for the "independence issue"
to serve the needs of people in authority. This is easy to see. But
in their effort to dump this pile of shit on the head of the Dalai
Lama, we can see how preposterous the traditional political logic of
the Chinese communists is. This also reveals that the rulers lack a
long term strategic vision and political wisdom.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He is
also one of the most famous political figures in the world. The year
the Dalai Lama fled Tibet he was 24 years old. In half a century of
exile, this ethnic Tibetan sage has blended the essence of Buddhism,
magnanimity, liberal democracy and other universal values of
contemporary civilization. Already in 1987, the Dalai Lama proposed
the "Five Point Peace Proposal" which includes the suggestion that
Tibet become a "peace zone", that "China end its policy of moving
settlers into Tibet", that there be "respect for the human rights and
democratic rights of the Tibetan people", that the government
"restore and protect Tibet's natural environment", and that the two
sides "hold sincere talks about the future status of Tibet and the
relationship between the Tibetan people and the Chinese people".

In 1988, the Dalai Lama also made the "Strasbourg Proposal," which
proposed that "Tibet should become a self-ruled democratic political
entity in union with the People's Republic of China, in which "the
Chinese government would be responsible for Tibet's external affairs,
but Tibet could establish offices overseas for the religious and
cultural aspects of foreign relations" etc.7

During the last seven years, the Dalai Lama has at many times and in
many places stated clearly that he does not seek Tibet independence,
only real autonomy for Tibet. On the methods and ways of achieving
this he strongly calls for a peaceful "middle way", which would
involve honest dialog with the central government and negotiations to
resolve issues. Ever since 2002, the Dalai Lama's special envoy has
met with representatives of the United Front Department in Beijing
six times in order to explain to the ruling Communist Party rulers
the "middle way position" but has not gotten any response to the proposal.

The rigid stance of the Chinese Communist Party is very easy to
understand from their political tradition. The institutional
arrangements for Tibet have already been decided. So what is there to
talk about? Accepting the so-called "autonomy" of the Dalai Lama
would shake the foundations of the party-state, so there can be no
yielding on this point. Therefore, "talks" are for the Communist side
just a perfunctory exercise and only done for show, and so of course
there can be no concrete results from them. Yet these delays cause
more and more difficulties for the Dalai Lama since he has to explain
things to both the Tibetan exiles and to believers within Tibet.

There are many different organizations and groups among the Tibetans
in exile with different political positions. There are radical ones
like the "Tibet Youth Congress" which has attracted a lot of
attention lately. It's political position is very different from the
Dalai Lama's "Middle Way". The Tibet Youth Congress was founded in
1970 mostly by second and third generation Tibet exiles. Membership
is now several tens of thousands with organizations in 40 countries.
At the outset the Tibet Youth Congress stood for non-violence, but is
has changed its position over the past several years. At its 2007
annual meeting, the leader of the Congress said that the non-violence
propounded by the Dalai Lama is good, but he has been saying this for
many years without result. "Very many people don't believe in it.
They say it doesn't work." If it doesn't work , then what? The Tibet
Youth Congress is inclined to use violence to solve the problem,
including preparing a "popular uprising movement" in the Tibetan
areas. It is said that over 700 Tibetans have volunteered and that
they are willing to give up their lives to protect what they "stand for".

The Dalai Lama has stated clearly that he opposes any scheme or
action involving the use of violence. He said that if such an act
should occur, he may have to "resign" to show his true position.
Several days ago, the Dalai during an interview with Asia Week
[Yazhou Zhoukan] said that he believes that giving up the Middle Way
of setting aside efforts to achieve Tibet independence in favor of
seeking a high degree of autonomy is still the mainstream view of
Tibetans in exile as well as the mainstream view of people in the
Tibetan areas. As for the Tibet Youth Congress, the Dalai Lama said
that he can only admonish the Tibet Youth Congress not to take the
radical road. However, he has no way to order the Tibet Youth
Congress to shut up. 9

Beijing may not completely trust the statements of the Dalai Lama
because overcoming political enmity built up over a long time will
take time and face-to-face communication. However, indiscriminately
demonizing the other side, charging that the Dalai Lama is the
commander in the "Tibet independence camp" and should certainly be
punished by the entire nation, and reviled by everyone, can only put
the Dalai Lama in a difficult situation (while he is trying to put
pressure on radical forces among Tibetans) and lead the Chinese
communists into a political dead end (frozen into the rigid face of
the dictator ), giving up the freedom of maneuver needed in political
negotiations. Isn't this an extremely stupid way to behave?!

Yet, in the final analysis, this is the obstinate and stubborn
traditional political logic that haunts the Communist Party.
According to this logic, there can be no equal negotiating partners.
There can only be enemies locked in a life and death struggle. Even
worse is how the rulers are haunted by their own logic of interests —
for according to this logic, Tibet "autonomy" is intolerable. It
would be a fundamental threat to the party-state, and a threat to a
large group that benefits from this system. Considered in terms of
these two logics, the demonization of the Dalai Lama becomes easy to
understand. But where is justice? What are the prospects for the
great family of the peoples of China? Considering the puerile and
shallow "patriotism" and "nationalism" shown in the recent turbulent
tide of meticulously planned and instigated demonstrations in both
China and abroad by the new "Boxers", as well as the very deep
problems facing the country, one is left with a bitter and confused
taste in one's mouth and troubled deep into sleepless nights.

The Solution to the Tibet issue Should be Sought Within a
Constitutional Framework

The Tibet issue is first of all a human rights issue. But it is not
only a human rights issue. Abuses of human rights are an "effect",
not a "cause". An irrational system of political dictatorship is what
caused the "Tibet issue."

Didn't the Communist Party initially seek to help the Tibetan people
and the million "liberated serfs"? I believe that this is true. Yet
the history of the world is full of examples of evil deeds done with
good intentions. During the late Qing, the court made great reforms
in Tibetan affairs and promoted reforms in order to prevent the great
powers from continuing to encroach upon Tibet. In 1907, Zhang Yintang
gave to the Qing Court "Twenty-four proposals for the governance of
Tibet". During 1905 - 1911, in the the provinces of Sichuan and Kang,
a reform to "change from indirect control through local chiefs to
direct control by the central government". The purpose in addition to
consolidating Qing rule was to transform social traditions for the
"good of" ordinary Tibetans. However, these "reforms" were strongly
resisted by Tibetan people. Half a century later the Communist Party
did the same thing in the Tibetan areas, albeit more systematically
and with more determination. The result was larger scale harm to the
people, religion and culture of the Tibetan areas.

In fact, history has already shown that China's 20th century
communist revolution was a mistake. It was a big wrong turn during a
century of social transformation. It not only brought misfortune to
the Han nationality, it also brought misfortune to the minority
peoples. Today, people are thinking deeply about that history. Things
that are past cannot be called back. But we should remember the
lessons of history, and look at the issues of today and tomorrow with
a scientific attitude. This is the responsibility of the present generation.

Respect for the fundamental rights of citizens, and respect for the
distinctive cultures and traditions must be implemented in a
constitutional political system. This is the basic path for solving
the Tibet issue.

Recently Taiwan successfully changed the ruling party for the second
time. This shows the superiority of the democratic system of
government. It also demonstrates the necessity and urgency of
changing the political system on the Chinese mainland. Clearly, the
party dictatorship system of the Chinese Communist Party cannot
accommodate unification between Taiwan and the mainland, just as it
cannot accommodate true autonomy for Tibet. Only by dissolving the
present system and creating a constitutional democratic system in
accordance with the universal values and principles of modern
civilization can the day come when Taiwan finally returns to the
motherland, Tibet achieves true autonomy, and Han and Tibetans get
along with each other in harmony.

 From the beginning of the 1960s, the Tibetan government-in-exile in
Dharamasala, India started to experiment at building a system of
democratic government. In his Strasbourg Proposal, the Dalai Lama
said that "the Tibetan government should be composed of an
independent administration and legislature chosen by the vote of all
citizens and a court system." The Dalai Lama even proposed changing
the Tibetan form of government that combines politics and religion.
He didn't worry if he might become the "last Dalai" in Tibetan
history.10 Tibetans have already made preparations for a democratic
political system. Shouldn't the central government in Beijing make
similar preparations?

Certainly for the Chinese Communist decision-makers who now hold
power, changing the present system and creating a new institutional
framework would take a great deal of courage and wisdom. This would
not be just for Tibet or for Taiwan; it would be for all the 1.3
billion citizens of the People's Republic of China. To be honest,
even after China has established a constitutional form of government,
finding the reasonable sharing of jurisdiction between the central
government and the nationalities areas will not be easy.

I once wrote an article entitled "Two Track Republican System: A
Proposal for the Reform of the Chinese System of Constitutional
Government". In this article I pointed out that it is an uncontested
fact that the "division of powers" and "autonomy" strengthen the
rights consciousness of citizens and increases their participation in
public affairs (in the nationalities areas, autonomy also helps
preserve the cultural traditions of nationalities and protects their
special interests). Yet there is another aspect to this problem, that
is the tendency of interests to expand and the "logic of collective
interests". The latter will certainly create some "problems of the
commons" which will have to be solved by the intervention of a public
power at a higher level that is above local interests, especially
intervention by the central government.

Returning to the present, there is still a chance for the central
government to solve the Tibet issue. That can be done by conducting
genuine negotiations with the Dalai Lama. Recently Beijing has
already said that it is willing to resume contact. That is good. Even
if it is just a pose, it is positive. Everyone hopes that the takes
can produce genuine results so as to create a harmonious bridge
between the Han and Tibetan peoples while the Dalai Lama is still
alive. If this issue is not handled well, then "splitting" might
become a real and present danger.

As a Chinese citizen, I naturally don't want to see Tibet split off
from the household of our motherland. We should believe that the
trend of human civilization is towards unifying rather than towards
splitting. Unity is helpful for solving many of the problems that
humanity is faced with. As a Chinese proverb goes, the melon that is
grabbed roughly cannot be sweet — unity needs to be a voluntary unity
based upon a community of interests. Forced compliance cannot produce
good results. This simple truth can also be applied to politics.

(This article was written April 22 - 28, 2008 in Beijing.)

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