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

Beijing talks fail, but hope flickers

February 7, 2010

Claude Arpi
The Pioneer (India)
February 5, 2010

Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s special envoy, and
his colleagues recently visited Beijing and met
officials of the United Front Work Department of
the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee.
Nothing special happened during the meeting, but that was only to be expected.

Since early-1980, the Dalai Lama has regularly
sent representatives to Beijing for talks with
little or no purpose served. All these years, the
Chinese have brought the same topic to the table
— the Dalai Lama’s status. In 1980 itself the
Tibetan leader had clarified that he was only
interested in the fate of six million of his
people living in Tibet and not his position.

In July, 1981, CPC General-Secretary Hu Yaobang
had told Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama’s elder
brother, that Beijing was ready to talk: “The
Dalai Lama and his representatives should be
frank and sincere with the Central Government, not beat around the bush."

At that time, China’s central leadership was keen
on the Dalai Lama’s return to the ‘Motherland’.
"This (the offer of talks) is based on the hope
that they will contribute to upholding China’s
unity and promoting solidarity between the Han
and Tibetan nationalities," Mr Hu Yaobang had said.

Mr Hu Yaobang was specific -- the Tibetan leader
would enjoy the same political status and living
conditions as he had before 1959. However, there
was a catch: He would have to remain in Beijing.
Mr Hu Yaobang had added: "Of course, he may go
back to Tibet from time to time." Unfortunately,
the talks never went further and even a visit of
the Tibetan leader to his native land in 1985 was
not permitted by the Chinese authorities.

Nearly 30 years later, where are we? Since 2002,
the Tibetan envoys have had eight meetings in
China, apart from a meeting in Switzerland, with no apparent progress.

Today, China has become a superpower, the second
economy of the world; Beijing has brilliantly
hosted the Olympic Games and has not only
survived the global financial crisis, but is
considered a crucial player for the recovery of
the world’s economy. Despite these tremendous
changes in the Middle Kingdom’s status, the Dalai
Lama remains a major headache for Beijing’s leadership.

Over the years, the Chinese stance has hardened;
today the CPC bosses don’t even want to hear the
name of the Tibetan leader whom they call a
"splittist." Lodi Gyari’s interlocutor, Mr Zhu
Weiqun, UFWD’s Executive Vice-Minister, declared
that the Dalai Lama does not represent" the Tibetan people.

On his return to India, Lodi Gyari publicly
objected to this: "It cannot be disputed that His
Holiness legitimately represents the Tibetan
people." The Tibetan envoy said that he had asked
Beijing "to stop baseless accusations against His
Holiness and labelling him a separatist."

It is clear that as long as the Chinese
authorities are not ready to recognise that the
Dalai Lama has a role to play in the future of
Tibet, the ‘talks’ will continue to be fruitless.
During his Press conference, Mr Zhu Weiqun said,
"The private representatives have no legal status
to discuss with us" They are only the Dalai
Lama’s private representatives, so they can only
talk about the prospect of the Dalai Lama." Where
do we go from here? Probably nowhere.

A noticeable change, however, is that Beijing
admitted to having met the Dalai Lama’s envoys.
In the past, when asked, the spokesperson of the
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs would just
state that some "overseas compatriots" have
visited Beijing. Not only a communiqué was
issued, acknowledging the visit, but Mr Zhu
Weiqun held a Press conference attended by Chinese and foreign journalists.

Mr Zhu Weiqun reiterated that Beijing does not
recognise the "the so-called ‘Tibet
Government-in-exile’ composed of those who
defected to India as it absolutely violates
China’s laws." Without giving any explanation, he
also rejected the Memorandum for All Tibetans to
Enjoy Genuine Autonomy presented in November 2008
by Lodi Gyari which offered a solution based on the Chinese Constitution.

At the end of his media briefing, Mr Zhu Weiqun
suggested that the "Dalai Lama should correct his
mistakes," without listing the ‘mistakes’.

Many young Tibetans are not unhappy about the
standstill in the ‘talks.' The day the envoys
arrived in Beijing, Xinhua circulated a news
story which will help you understand why. The
article boasted, "Tibet is expected to have
100,000 Internet users this year, a 15 per cent
rise from 2009, according to the Tibet Autonomous
Regional Communications Administration.” The
story was accompanied by a photo showing two
young Tibetan women using a smart phone in Tingri county, near Mount Everest.

Beijing speaks of the development that it has
brought to Tibet, but nobody is fooled. Any
search containing words like ‘Tibet’, ‘Dalai
Lama’ or ‘Tiananmen’ is blocked by the Great
Firewall of China which filters the Internet. Why
should young Tibetans who enjoy freedom in India
and elsewhere in the world suddenly decide to
return to a Tibet under military occupation and
constant censure? They won’t even be able to Facebook their friends!

Step for a minute into an ordinary Tibetan’s
shoes. While they immensely respect their leader,
they are also well-informed and aware about the
situation inside China (and Tibet). For example,
they were shocked when the Dalai Lama was
recently accused of "pleasing his Indian masters"
by describing himself as "a son of India."

During his Press conference, Mr Zhu Weiqun said
that a meeting between US President Barack Obama
and the Dalai Lama would "violate international
rules." He threatened that China would take
"necessary measures" to counter it. The White
House, however, has confirmed that Mr Obama plans
to meet the Dalai Lama when the latter visits the US.

The Tibetan delegates may not have brought back
anything from Beijing, but clearly the mighty
Communist Party has lost one more chance to deal
decently with the non-violent Tibetan people.
Remember Mr Hu Yaobang’s words. He had said, "The
Dalai Lama should contribute to upholding China’s
unity and promoting solidarity between the Han and Tibetan nationalities.”

If the Chinese were sincere, they would have
realised that the Dalai Lama remains their best
bet, as he is the only person who can today
bridge the insuperable gap between Tibetans and
Hans. Beijing should take advantage of this reality, not repudiate it.
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