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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?"

Written Interview with Kalon Tripa Prof. S. Rinpoche on "Greater Tibet"

February 27, 2010

Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)
By BI Yantao
February 25 2010

Boxun News

Prof. Bi Yantao: Greetings! I am very happy for
having this opportunity to ask on issues which
are closely followed by the people inside China.

When looking at the Tibet issue, I pay special
attention to the term "Greater Tibet". I have
repeatedly read the text of your statement on
'Greater Tibet' (including the English version ).
You said, "Tibet is Tibet. There is no greater or
smaller Tibet". However, the fact of the matter
is, during the dialogue process between the
Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Beijing, the issue of one autonomous
administration for all the Tibetan people has
been raised. Obviously, it seeks to unify Tibetan
areas in Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai Provinces
into the present day Tibet Autonomous Region
(TAR). Given the size of administration, it is
indeed a 'Greater Tibet'. Therefore, on account
of that, the 'Greater Tibet' which Beijing
asserts is not wrong because the reference was
made from the present status of Tibet. You have,
on one hand opposed the usage of word 'Greater'
as in 'Greater Tibet', while on the other hand,
maintained that 'size should not matter whether
big or small'. Are not these two statements contradictory?

Kalon Tripa Prof. S. Rinpoche: Before answering
your questions, we would like to stress two
important points which are the root cause of
difference in perceptions between Dharamsala and
Beijing. The first is lack of trust and
confidence in the mindset of Beijing's leadership
as illustrated by the popular Tibetan saying,
"Tibetans are ruined by hope, and Chinese are
ruined by suspicion." Beijing views everything
with suspicion and always fear that to consider
anything which is proposed by Dharamsala will
bring consequences of disaster or loss of face.
Therefore, they always project every petty issue
as a potential threat of separation.

With such mindset, Dharamsala could not convince
Beijing, no matter how sincerely the Tibetan side
puts its faith in the People's Republic of
China's (PRC) leadership, or, no matter how
rational and reasonable the request is.

The second is lack of political will in the PRC's
leadership to find a solution to the Tibet
problem. The leadership always suffers from
immeasurable fear that if they do anything with
Tibet issue, it might bring more problems or may
lead to the loss of Tibet. It is for this reason
that we are not able to communicate with each
other from a right perspective and in a positive manner.

National integrity cannot be maintained without
mutual trust. We are afraid that if the present
PRC leadership's approach to minorities in
general and Tibetans in particular remain
unchanged, it might lead to separation or
annihilation of the minority nationalities.
Either of these ends will not be in the interest
of anyone. If both sides are able to view each
other with trust and self-confidence, this
problem can be resolved quickly and amicably.
Both sides will be in a win-win situation.

Another, small but important point is the nature
of language. In Chinese and Tibetan languages,
there is no difference in expression of "Great"
and "Greater". In the English language there are
two different words. Thus "Great Tibet" may be
understood as honorific word but when we use the
word "Greater Tibet" it may create more
confusion. This expression might encompass the
national boundaries and may include the cultural
and language domain. Therefore, in this reference
we better use "Great Tibet" in English instead of "Greater Tibet".

Now coming to your question, what I mean by
saying - Tibet is Tibet - is that there is no
smaller or bigger Tibet in the context of the
constitutional provisions of national regional
autonomy for the minority. The Tibetans are one
minority nationality among the 55 minority
nationalities of the PRC. One minority
nationality must not be divided into "small,
great or greater". Of course, if all these
autonomous areas are administered by one
administration, then the area of administration
of the autonomous region will definitely be
enlarged compared to the present areas which are
administered by several autonomous
administrations. But it does not mean that the
Tibet or Tibetans are becoming bigger or greater.
So therefore, there is no contradiction in my statement.

Our basic concern is how the PRC presents this
issue to the world. As a matter of fact, Tibetans
are asking for one administration for all the
Tibetan autonomous areas. But the tone of
language in saying that Tibetans are demanding
the "Great Tibet or Greater Tibet" sounds as if
we are seeking separation or re-demarcation of
Tibetan areas. This sentence appears to us as
being formulated intentionally to mislead people.

Prof. Bi: The Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama has raised the need of 'One administration'
for the whole of Tibetan areas. However, others
find this very intricate and complicating.
Perhaps, the Dalai Lama's side did not feel it
necessary to condense the expression "One
administration" by some other word which is more
comprehensible and rich. Beijing's assertion of
'Greater Tibet' is similar to giving a name to
the concept of 'One administration'. This is true
according to economics of language . If in case
the Tibetan government in exile (TGiE) has used a
definite term from the very beginning, then there
is no reason for the PRC to pronounce it
differently. Therefore, does the TGiE feel the
need and importance to have a specific term? How
does it plan to respond to this in future?

Kalon Tripa: The constitution provides that
"Regional autonomy is practiced in areas where
people of minority nationalities live in
concentrated communities; in these areas organs
of self-government are established to exercise
the power of autonomy". In accordance with this
provision Tibetans live in a concentrated
community in a particular geographical area which
is not scattered over different parts of the PRC,
nor are these areas separated or divided by non-Tibetan areas.

Therefore, one organ of self-government is
sufficient for all the Tibetans and that is the
essence of the constitution too. We do not find
any other word more suitable than "one
administration or self-government" to define our
aspiration. We also don't believe that if we
substitute this word by any other expression it
will be acceptable to the PRC authority. If
anyone can suggest more appropriate expression, we would welcome.

The basic objective for seeking one
administration is not for political or economic
interests. It is only for preservation and
promotion of the unique Tibetan language,
culture, spiritual heritage and traditions. One
administration can easily execute uniform policy of education and culture, etc.

Prof. Bi: You have said, "Moreover, we are not
seeking additional areas to be included in the
Tibetan autonomous areas. It is only to make
alterations in the administration. Instead of
having several autonomous administrations, one
autonomous administration should be established.
It neither affects China's borders with other
countries nor its domestic boundaries between
autonomous areas and non-autonomous areas,
nor..." In my view, this explanation , has
created more confusion. Whether TGiE's request to
unify all Tibetan areas under one administration
implies redrawing of the boundaries of the
provinces and autonomous region?   If not, then
how do you propose to implement one administration to all Tibetan areas?

Kalon Tripa: At present, autonomous areas in
various provinces are already having well defined
boundaries. There is no need to change these
boundaries. What is going to be changed is the
administration. Those with several
self-governments will be substituted by one
self-government and that self-government will be
directly controlled by the central government
instead of by several provincial governments.

One may argue that the administrative areas of
those provinces will become smaller if autonomous
areas within their province are governed by one
self-government. Yes, this may be true but if the
provisions of national regional autonomy are
implemented in all sincerity then the provinces
do not have much role to play in the autonomous
areas. Therefore, the incorporation of autonomous
areas outside the provinces or remaining within
the provinces will not make much difference to the concerned provinces.

Prof. Bi : It is true that there is precedence of
boundary re-adjustments in the PRC. If the
'Greater Tibet', which the Dalai Lama's side
seeks, is to be constituted, it is going to be
the biggest re-drawing of the boundaries between
provinces and autonomous regions since the
inception of the PRC. This will, therefore,
certainly mean redistribution of benefits, and it
invariably relates to the issue which does not go
well with the sentiment of the people. However,
everyone knows that to maintain status quo is
less expensive than to change it. Therefore, if
the boundaries of the provinces and autonomous
region are to be re-adjusted, there must be
strong and compelling reasons to do so. I
personally think that the central government
would not take the  political risk s of such
magnitude and the TGiE alone is not powerful
enough to advance the re-drawing of the
boundaries . How does the Dalai Lama's side think and speculate on this matter?

Kalon Tripa: As mentioned in response to question
no 3, we do not perceive that the change of
administration does not necessitate the redrawing
of boundaries. As a matter of fact, boundaries
between provinces or autonomous regions may not
have much importance as all of them will remain
as an integral part of the country.

Nevertheless, changing boundaries between
autonomous areas to non-autonomous areas may have
some importance for the provinces and autonomous
regions but we have never asked for inclusion of
any non-autonomous areas into the Tibetan autonomous region.

Our recommendation is to integrate into one
administration those Tibetan autonomous
prefectures and counties which are already
defined and recognised as autonomous areas.

Prof. Bi : You mentioned Beijing's approach of
"dividing concentrated areas of minority
nationals" is unconstitutional. However, the
constitution explicitly states that "Regional
autonomy is practised in areas where people of
minority nationalities live in concentrated
communities; in these areas organs of
self-government are established to exercise the
power of autonomy". It does not specifically
mention about establishing one autonomous organ
for each minority nationality. Article 2 of the
National Regional Autonomy Law further adopts
that national autonomous areas shall be
classified into autonomous regions, prefectures
and counties. Therefore, the present approach of
the central government is in accordance with both
the constitution and autonomy law. I think your
understanding of the constitution and autonomy
law is different from anyone else. How do you intend to settle this difference?

Kalon Tripa: The basic concept of national
regional autonomy aims to preserve and promote
the unique identities of the minority
nationalities. To achieve this objective there is
need to maintain administrative unity within same
nationality, unless this unity is impossible due
to geographical conditions. Apart from that,
article 4 of the constitution says, "Any act
which undermines the unity of the nationality or
instigates division is prohibited".

It is stated in the autonomy law that national
autonomous areas shall be classified into
autonomous regions, prefectures and counties. But
it should be determined by the size and
population of a particular minority nationality,
in accordance with their areas of habitation, in
establishing an autonomous region just as
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Inner
Mongolia Autonomous Region. There is no reason or
need to deliberately divide a particular
nationality by establishing many autonomous prefectures and counties.

Dividing the Tibetan nationality despite the fact
that they have lived together for centuries in
one contiguous area is considered as a violation
of the spirit of the constitution. This is the
imperialist policy of "divide and rule". If a
minority nationality cannot integrate within
itself, then it will become more difficult to
integrate with the PRC. Emotional integrity is
the sustainable cause for national integration.

Prof. Bi : If one autonomous administration is
being implemented for Tibet, it implies that
other minority nationalities can also claim the
same. This means total upheaval of China's
minority nationality policy and a major shift in
central government's approach towards regional
governments. At present, Han nationals whether
residing in provinces, autonomous regions or
municipalities directly under the central
government, are all governed directly by their
respective governments like the Tibetans. Both
Han and Tibetan nationals are equal in this
regard. If Tibetans were administered separately
under one administration and the Hans under
several administrations, as usual, doesn't it
mean inequality among nationalities? How do you look at this issue?

Kalon Tripa: Perfect equality among nationalities
is the fundamental principle of Marxism and I
hope even today this principle is being respected
by the PRC. In order to maintain this equality
and prevent the majority's domination or
chauvinism, the concept of national regional
autonomy is envisaged. Therefore, the opportunity
of self-rule for all the minorities is necessary.

The question regarding one administration or
several administrations should be determined in
accordance with their areas of habitation.
Minority nationalities like Mongolians and
Tibetans, who inhabit one contiguous region, can
be governed by one administration and those
minorities who do not inhabit one region may be
governed by several administrations. These
arrangements will not be in any way contrary to
the principle of equality. On the other hand, it
will grant equality to all the nationalities,
regardless of their size or population.

Prof. Bi : The "Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy
for the Tibetan People", submitted to Beijing by
the Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, raises
the issue of public security in the Tibetan
areas. In your presentation on 'Greater Tibet' in
New Delhi, you have mentioned that establishment
of one administration for all the Tibetan areas
will help to contain local nationalism and ensure
unity and stability of the PRC. In my opinion,
there are several perspectives or standpoints on
this. It is possible that the central government
may thoroughly evaluate the effect of
establishing an administration of the 'Greater
Tibet'. Under such circumstances, crucial point
will be how far the central government is going
to trust the administration of the 'Greater
Tibet'. In my opinion, it is very hard to
believe, at present, that the central government
will agree that one administration will contain
local nationalism and enhance unity and stability
in China. How do you think to break this entrenched ice?

Kalon Tripa: This question is difficult to answer
because it does not relate to facts and
principles. But it is related with the mindset
and attitude of the present leadership.

Logically speaking, if they wish to achieve
stability through emotional integrity and mutual
trust, one administration will definitely enhance
the possibility of unity. Even if they believe in
using force in order to maintain unity and
stability, it will be much easier to use force if
there is one centralised administration.

Nevertheless, we do not have any handy methods to
break the ice. However, whether we are able to
break the ice or not, we shall have to put
forward our aspirations and ideas clearly and
sincerely without any ambiguity. There is no any other way.

Prof. Bi : I think 'Greater Tibet' is the biggest
obstacle for people inside China to understand
the issue of Tibet. Apart from that, other
concerns of the TGiE such as religious freedom,
economic development, promotion of education,
protection of the Tibetan culture , etc. are
understandable and I believe people inside China
will also extend their support. However, it
appears that the 'unification of all Tibetan
areas' is the biggest difference between Beijing
and the TGiE at present. If the dialogue process
does not move forward, will the TGiE change its
position on 'One administration for all Tibetan
areas' in the future? Will the Dalai Lama's side
change its strategy of the dialogue process?

Kalon Tripa: This question cannot be entertained
at this moment because there are no alternative
suggestions that are forthcoming.

 From our side, we consider the request for one
administration for all the Tibetan nationality as
reasonable and constitutional, apart from being
the legitimate right of the Tibetan people. There
will be no problem in implementing it if there is
political will in the PRC leadership. As we have
mentioned before the objective of our request is
for the preservation of Tibetan language, culture and spiritual heritage.

If there is more logical and convincing
alternative suggestions comingforth, His Holiness
the Dalai Lama is always very open to any idea
which is based on truth and reason.

(The Chinese translation of this interview has
been published in Beijing Spring, February Edition 2010)
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