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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Tibetans' strategy: Accept status quo or seek independence?

November 28, 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle
November 26, 2008

The news that China's leaders have decided to postpone a December 1
summit meeting in Lyons, France, with their European Union
counterparts because, as Beijing sees it, the E.U. has been cozying
up too closely to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai
Lama, comes on the heels of a gathering of exiled Tibetans in
Dharamsala, India, where they discussed what the future of their
pro-Tibet movement could or should be. (Historical note: Reuters
recalls: "Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950, and the Dalai
Lama fled the mountainous region in 1959 after a failed uprising
against Chinese rule.")
Last Sunday, the Dalai Lama spoke during a news conference in the
northern-Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where the Tibetan
government-in-exile is based, and where a conference on the future of
the pro-Tibet movement recently concluded

The BBC reports that some European diplomats have indicated that
"China has been angered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans
to meet the Dalai Lama. France [currently] holds the E.U.'s rotating
presidency....Sarkozy has said he will meet the Dalai Lama in Poland
on...December [6]." A spokesman for China's foreign ministry stated:
"[W]e oppose any foreign leaders having any contact with the Dalai."
He emphasized that France risked losing certain "hard-won" gains in
its relationship with China if Sarkozy were to go ahead with his plan
to meet the Tibetan religious and political leader. (The Dalai Lama
is also the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based
in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala.)

In response to the Chinese government's
we're-not-going-to-your-darn-meeting announcement, the European Union
has issued a statement saying that the multi-nation organization
"which set ambitious aims for the 11th E.U.-China summit, takes note
and regrets this decision by China [to postpone it]," and that it
intends to continue to "promote the strategic partnership it has with
China, particularly at a time when the world economic and financial
situation calls for close cooperation between Europe and China...." (BBC)
Tibetan-exile participants in the Dharamsala conference agreed to
continue pursuing the Dalai Lama's negotiations-based

Agence France Presse reports that the gathering of some 600 Tibetan
exiles that began in Dharamsala last week and ended this past
Saturday provided an occasion for "a rare debate on the future of
their movement," even if it "failed to bring the dream of a free
Tibet any closer to reality.... " The big confab "had been presented
as an opportunity for younger, more radical Tibetan exiles to voice
their frustration with the Dalai Lama's 'middle way' of seeking
concessions from Beijing through" negotiations. In the end,
participants in the meeting agreed to back "the Dalai Lama's
long-standing policy of seeking autonomy, rather than independence,
from China." This so-called middle way approach has long sought to
avoid two extremes, that is, either calling for separation from China
on the one hand or for accepting the status quo - China's determined
rule - on the other.

Of the position the conference attendees agreed to assume, AFP notes:
"If that was a victory for Tibet's spiritual leader, it was [also]
one that will cause few sleepless nights for the Chinese authorities,
according to Barry Sautman, a Tibet expert at the Hong Kong
University of Science and Technology." Sautman told the French news
agency: "It's all words in the air to them....As far as they're
concerned, the exiles can huff and puff all they like, but they're
blowing no one's house down. The bottom line is still the same:
Unless China suddenly collapses, Tibet will not be independent, nor
will it be granted any meaningful autonomy on a par, say, with Hong Kong...."

An editorial in Monday's Independent argued that it is "easy to call
on the world's freedom movements to seek the path of negotiation over
the way of violence. But what happens if it gets you nowhere? That
was the bleak question asked by Tibetan exiles at a meeting in
Dharamsala in India that ended at the weekend. It is five decades
since Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled the country
after an aborted revolt against Chinese rule. Since then, he has
consistently foresworn violence and urged a negotiated settlement,
accepting the reality of Chinese suzerainty in exchange for autonomy."

Around the world, some Tibetan exiles would like to see a more
aggressive approach to dealing with China, and some favor demanding
complete independence; in July of this year, in Kathmandu, Nepal,
police grabbed a pro-Tibet, anti-China protester as she took part in
a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy's consular offices

The British daily pointed out that pro-Tibet, anti-China riots that
took place earlier this year and the failure of ongoing talks between
the Tibetan government in exile and the Chinese central government
prompted the Dalai Lama to call the just-ended Dharamsala conference.
He did so, the Independent noted, "partly to pressure China into a
more conciliatory policy and partly to head off the growing call
among young Tibetans to ditch" his "middle way" policy. However, the
paper's editorial added, "it will not be easy to deflect the calls
for Tibetan independence forever. Indeed, the Chinese are assisting
this trend, encouraging radicalism as a way of splitting the Dalai
Lama from his adherents and then waiting for him to reach an isolated
death. This is a dangerous policy. Marginalizing moderation, as we
know from the Islamic world, only plays into the hands of the
extremists....The call for independence, as opposed to autonomy, will
grow louder. Beijing should heed the Dalai Lama's call for the
'middle way' before it finds that events have moved beyond its control."

In fact, on Monday, a high-ranking Chinese-government official found
an opportunity to publicly blast the Dalai Lama again. Xinhua,
China's government-controlled news agency, reports that Zhu Weiqun, a
member of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, stated at
a press conference in Beijing: "We hope that [the Dalai Lama] could
correct his mistakes and get closer to the central government and do
something beneficial for the people, including the Tibetans, during
the remainder of his life, no matter if his health condition is good
or poor....[W]e do not expect him to leave an infamous reputation in
history....We believe that...most of the Tibetans in exile will not
support violence and terror...."

Yesterday, China's government "reiterated its opposition to what it
says are the 'splittist' activities of...the Dalai Lama in its first
reaction to a meeting of Tibetan exiles last week. 'China's position
is consistent and clear. We oppose the Dalai getting involved in
activities overseas to split China, and we oppose any foreign leaders
having any contact with the Dalai,' [Chinese] Foreign Ministry
spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference....China has already
rejected the Dalai Lama's demands for greater autonomy as being part
of a covert plot for independence." (Reuters)
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