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

Chinese Leaders Need Bold Vision and Courage to Resolve the Issue of Tibet: Special Envoy

September 14, 2010

By Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari
South China Morning Post
September 12, 2010

In an op-ed published in the South China Morning
Post, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama, Kasur Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, expressed hope
that the present Chinese leadership will seize
the opportunity and have the courage to confront
the difficult truths of contemporary Tibet,
reflecting the kind of boldness of vision shown
by Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang.

I have spent much of the past three decades
representing His Holiness the Dalai Lama in talks
with Chinese leaders. Through these many years of
intermittent dialogue, I have sought to make the
Chinese leadership understand the will of the
Tibetan people and the vision of His Holiness in
finding a common road to peace and reconciliation.

Over the years, I have also witnessed a drastic
change in the nature and structure of Chinese
leadership - from the sweeping boldness of the
Deng Xiaoping era to the statesmanship and
broad-mindedness of Hu Yaobang , to the
institutional constraints and lack of assertiveness in recent years.

When there was a visionary leadership, we could
see that China was able to take steps that helped
preserve the unity and integrity of the country,
promoting the interests of all its citizens and
creating a positive international image.

The attitude of the Chinese leadership to the
Tibetan issue has a direct bearing on the
building of a harmonious society in China and its image on the world stage.

As part of my work I have tried to understand the
reasons behind the current attitude of the
Chinese leadership, and can think of three
possible mindsets. The first one is the view that
China is rising and all ethnic peoples need to
modify their individual aspirations to fit in with this new identity.

The holders of this viewpoint in China seem to
disregard and undermine the distinct identity of
the Tibetan people. Beijing seems to mistake the
artificial stability in Tibetan areas as a sign
of Tibetan acquiescence. But this is not the
quiet of complacency or contentment. Rather, it
is the silence of growing desperation and
bitterness - the kind that multiplies under
repressive conditions. It is, frankly, the kind
of silence in which the seeds of future violence and instability are sown.

The second mindset is that if the Chinese
authorities are successful in improving economic
conditions in the Tibetan areas, the Tibetan
people's concerns will be addressed and the whole issue will go away.

This is, again, a very narrow approach to
resolving the Tibetan problem. The economic
marginalisation of the Tibetan people is a
reality that the Chinese leadership needs to
address, given that official statistics place the
Tibetans at the low end of the scale of economic development.

However, as Chinese scholars and experts on the
Tibetan issue know, Tibetans have a high regard
for their distinct culture, which has made a
positive contribution to the development of the new China.

This cultural and spiritual identity needs to be
given space to flourish and prosper among the
Tibetan people. That cannot be achieved solely
through economic development, however well intentioned it may be.

Economic integration without any respect and
sensitivity for their culture will lead to more
resentment by the Tibetan people. This was the
clear message that the Chinese authorities should
have received from the 2008 protests all over the Tibetan areas.

The third mindset is that China should wait until
the passing away of the present Dalai Lama, when
the Tibetan issue will naturally disappear. This
thinking is based on the belief that a leaderless
and disoriented movement would fragment into
pieces and eventually become irrelevant.

This is a misplaced mindset for many reasons, and
very counterproductive to China's own future.
Those who subscribe to this view do not
understand that fragmentation today no longer
means irrelevance; it means radical
unpredictability and vastly greater risk. Far
from fading away, the Tibetan political movement
will reinvent itself in the absence of the
current, Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and become
something far more complex and unmanageable in the process.

It is disheartening to see just how far China's
leaders have drifted from the early days of bold
reform. The leaders I came to know in the early
1980s shared a conviction about their historic
role in bringing about the difficult transition
that was needed in post-Mao China. Leaders like
Hu Yaobang understood that the greatness of
China's future lay in the responsible actions of
its leaders to conduct the necessary groundwork
for true stability. Hu called for courageous
policies relating to Tibet. Because he was open
and honest, dared to act, dared to face reality
and dared to bear responsibility, he won the hearts of the Tibetan people.

It is my hope that today's leaders will seize the
opportunity and have the courage to confront the
difficult truths of contemporary Tibet,
reflecting the kind of boldness of vision shown by Deng and Hu.

For our part, we have formally clarified His
Holiness' position in the Memorandum on Genuine
Autonomy for the Tibetan People, presented at the
Eighth Round of talks in November 2008. Through
the Memorandum and the related Note, presented in
January this year, we have stated in clear and
definitive terms that we seek only genuine
autonomy within the framework of the People's
Republic of China, its constitution and its laws.

We have made it abundantly clear that we will
respect the People's Republic of China's core
interest of sovereignty and territorial
integrity, including respecting the authority of
the central government and adhering to the regional, national autonomy system.

But the central government must also fully
respect the legitimate rights of the Tibetan
people to maintain our distinctive and unique
identity, as this is our core interest.

The Chinese leadership needs to take
responsibility and make a serious commitment to
finding a real solution to the issue of Tibet.
The urgency of that responsibility is all the
more palpable because of the uniqueness of this
current window of time. Never before has there
been a Tibetan leader like His Holiness, who has
so firmly and persistently pursued such a
challenging and treacherous path to achieve
visionary change for the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

The PRC proclaimed itself a multi-ethnic state
with all nationalities having equal power and
rights, rather than a state where a majority has
political dominance over the minority.

China's leaders have a historic choice to make:
will they steward China towards a peaceful future
in which Tibetans finally find a sustainable home
within such a modern Chinese state? Or will they
look the other way as the seeds of alienation are
sown, with negative consequences for the distant future?

I know His Holiness the Dalai Lama has chosen the
right side of history. I can only hope China's
leaders will see fit to do the same.

-Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari is the Special Envoy of the
Dalai Lama and head of the Tibetan negotiations
team in the talks with the Chinese leadership
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