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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

US embassy cables: Tibetan frustration with the 'Middle Way'

December 19, 2010

www.guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 December 2010 21.30 GMT

Thursday, 11 February 2010, 15:57

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 000290

SIPDIS

EO 12958 DECL: 09/05/2016

TAGS PGOV, KDEM, PREF, PHUM, CH, IN, PINR, PREL

SUBJECT: TIBET: GROWING FRUSTRATION AFTER LATEST ROUND OF

TALKS BETWEEN BEIJING AND THE DALAI LAMA'S ENVOYS

Classified By: MIN/COUNS ZEYA for reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: PolOff visited Dharamsala February 3-7 to meet a cross
section of the Tibetan community upon the conclusion of the ninth round
of dialogue in Beijing between the Tibetan government-in-exile, known as
the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), and Chinese officials. During
meetings with members of CTA's Parliament, the NGO community,
journalists and activists, Poloff detected growing Tibetan frustrations
over the lack of progress through the dialogue and with the Middle Way
approach. Many interlocutors pointed to the widely-anticipated meeting
between the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama with excitement but
also expected few, if any, tangible outcomes. They argued that the
international community, particularly the United States and India, needs
to engage more on the Tibetan movement to curb rising frustration after
over 50 years in exile. END SUMMARY.

TIBET TALKS: POSITIVE SIGNS, OR EXERCISES IN FUTILITY?

-----

2. (SBU) PolOff visited Dharamsala to gauge the Tibetan community's
reaction to outcomes from the ninth round of dialogue between the Dalai
Lama's special emissaries and the Chinese government, held Jan 26-31 in
Beijing. Interlocutors expressed mild hope mixed with intense concern
for the future of the Tibetan movement. The emergence of this dialogue
in 2002 was taken as a positive sign by NGOs, such as the Tibetan
Women,s Association (TWA), which works with the CTA government. Most
interlocutors argued that the talks, though producing no substantive
change in relations between Chinese and Tibetan officials, convey to
those residing in Tibet that ''something is happening.''

3. (SBU) Tibetan envoy Lodi Gyari's February 2 statement pointed out
that the Chinese delegation provided a detailed briefing on results of
the January 18-20 Fifth Tibet Work Forum, an internal Chinese
government-run discussion ofChina,s Tibet policy. Gyari noted that many
of the issues the Forum prioritized (such as the focus on rural
livelihood development projects and China,s shift in verbiage from the
''Tibet Autonomous Region'' to the geographically-larger ''greater
Tibet'') are also mentioned in the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for
All Tibetans, a document submitted by the envoys during the eighth round
of the dialogue in 2008 and resubmitted during the latest round.

4. (SBU) Yet prominent members of the CTA, including Speaker of
Parliament Penpa Tsering and Minister of the Department of Information
and International Relations Kesang Takla, expressed frustration to
PolOff with what they termed as the ''arrogant'' display by the Chinese
officials who listed the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet as the sole issue
on the dialogue's agenda. Tibetan envoys attempted, but were
unsuccessful, in pushing substantive discussion on guidelines within
Tibet that would precipitate the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet, namely a
guarantee of the autonomy of the rights and welfare needs of the Tibetan
people, as stated in the Memorandum. Takla argued that China's recent
economic boom has negatively impacted the international community's
ability to pressure the regime on its human rights record.

5. (SBU) Deputy Speaker of Parliament Gyari Dolma highlighted to PolOff
four key human rights issues that CTA would like resolved in Tibet.
First, Chinese accusations that the Dalai Lama is engaging in separatism
must stop. Dolma contended such accusations cause Tibetans to lose
confidence in the Chinese delegation, which ought to bring ''real''
issues to the talk. Second, China must allow Tibetans living in China to
freely meet the Dalai Lama, so that he understands their thinking (NOTE:
Dolma mentioned that CTA currently has little access to the opinions of
those living in Tibet due to Chinese controls on telecommunications and
the media censorship; most of their information comes from refugees. END
NOTE); China should also allow a delegation from Parliament to visit
Tibet with neutral observers (i.e., from the UN, US Embassy in Beijing,
the media, or other impartial organizations) and guarantee the safety of
those who speak with observers as

NEW DELHI 00000290 002 OF 004

they examine the internal situation and make recommendations for solving
the Tibetan issue. Third, China should allow Amnesty International or
another credible human rights organization access to the
Tibetan-recognized Panchen Lama, who has been missing from the public
eye since shortly after being named the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama
in 1995. Finally, on the issue of both political prisoners and prisoners
in general, China should allow greater transparency of its judicial
processes (NOTE: Dolma contends that Tibetans receive no legal
representation and have no clear trial dates, making it very difficult
to monitor trial outcomes. She noted a recent positive change on this
issue stemming from international pressure on China's ''punishment to
death'' sentence, stating that now the Chinese government follows clear
procedures to officially record trials in the law book, with only the
High Court, upon review of the Supreme Court, holding the power to
deliver a death sentence, which has reduced the number of executions
imposed. END NOTE).

6. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested to PolOff that Tibetans have little hope
for the dialogue as it currently exists, stating that talks are ''still
at the zero point.'' He suggested two reforms to the dialogue process.
First, Tibetans with Mandarin language skills should be included in the
delegation along with neutral observers to record the discussion between
both sides. Second, the location for talks should alternate within and
outside China (NOTE: Even when discussions were held in Geneva, both
sides met at the Chinese Embassy. END NOTE). Both XXXXXXXXXXXX and
XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that ''hope is always there'' amongst the Tibetan
exile community. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that as Tibetans become more adept
in using the Internet, they must use their own hopes to inspire activism
over the Tibetan movement within Tibet and the international community
at large.

A MILITANT SHANGRILA?

-----

7. (C) Although Western journalists often ask who the face of the
Tibetan movement would be after the Dalai Lama passes away, Tibetans
seemed remarkably unconcerned because they see a clear succession path.
Speaker Tsering noted to PolOff that the democratically-elected Kalon
Tripa (Prime Minister) of CTA's Parliament would serve as a figurehead
for the movement while officials search for the reincarnated 15th Dalai
Lama. CTA,s Charter also provides for the election of a three-person
regency to be chosen by members of Parliament in the event of the Dalai
Lama's death or inability to take political charge of Parliament. (Note:
The Dalai Lama continues to sit in Parliament meetings, despite
statements that he is a spiritual, not political, leader of the
Tibetans. END NOTE). Tsering contends that, depending on the strength of
the three members of the regency, this body could also serve as the
voice of the Tibetan movement. The issue that interlocutors disagreed on
was the future actions of Tibetans when faced with a movement no longer
headed by the Dalai Lama.

8. (SBU) PolOff's discussions with most interlocutors gravitated towards
mention of the March 2008 uprising in Tibet, noting, as representatives
from TWA did, that it projected a united Tibetan front against Chinese
rule to the world. All remarked that conditions inside Tibet have gone
from bad to worse in recent years. Deputy Speaker Dolma noted that faith
in the Dalai Lama's leadership had led many Tibetans to believe in the
Middle Way, yet there is a growing skepticism of this approach. Dolma
said that many view the Dalai Lama's and CTA,s demand for autonomy
within, and not total independence from, China as too great a compromise.

9. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX pointed out that protestors in both the 1997 and
2008 uprisings within Tibet were typically young, had never lived in
exile, and - most importantly - had never met the Dalai Lama. (NOTE:
Interestingly, according to statistics obtained from the Dharamsala
Refugee Reception Center, of the 87,096 refugees that were taken in by
Center from 1980 to November 2009, over half -

NEW DELHI 00000290 003 OF 004

46,620 people - returned to Tibet after a short pilgrimage in India and
audience with the Dalai Lama. END NOTE). XXXXXXXXXXXX affirmed to PolOff
that the presence of the Dalai Lama has provided the Tibetan community
at large with peace while soothing unrest among the Tibetan youth. TYC
is the Tibetan community-in-exile's largest NGO, comprising members
whose primary aim is achieving an independent, not merely an autonomous,
Tibet. ''Tibetans would rise up if the time comes,'' stated
XXXXXXXXXXXX, while noting that the large assemblies of Tibetan youth,
outside of audiences with the Dalai Lama, gather together when the TYC
discusses independence. Minister Takla also bluntly informed PolOff that
if the international community fails to adequately support the Tibetan
people in their struggle against China, people residing inside Tibet
could become desperate enough to desert the Tibetan movement,s
historically non-violent path. Takia said that ''we in the free world
would be responsible for the resulting violence'' and all would fail as
human rights authorities should Tibetans become militant.

10. (C) In this context, XXXXXXXXXXXX noted approximately 6,000 Tibetans
now serve, and over 30,000 Tibetans have been trained, in Establishment
22, a joint Tibetan-Nepali border force within the Indian Army that
reportedly emerged in 1962 following a failed Tibetan uprising in China.
Membership in Establishment 22 was compulsory for Tibetan students
graduating from Tibetan Children,s Village (TCV) schools until the late
1980s, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that Tibetans have
never been given an opportunity to fight the Chinese, despite begging
for the opportunity; they fought in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 that
created Bangladesh and in Operation Meghdoot during the 1999
Indo-Pakistan fighting in Kargil.

THE AUDACITY OF HOPE

-----

11. (C) The widely-anticipated meeting between the Dalai Lama and
President Obama in Washington was a frequent topic of conversation among
Dharamsala residents. There appeared to be reasonable consensus that the
Dalai Lama is not traveling to the US with a specific agenda for this
meeting. Dolma noted that this will be a meeting between fellow Nobel
Laureates who believe in non-violence, stating that the ''U.S.
government already knows our need,'' and the Dalai Lama understands that
there is no need to pressure or embarrass the President into action.
Minister Takla, noting President Obama's recent stronger statements
about China's trade practices, articulated that there is already
international awareness about Tibet - ''everyone knows that Tibetans and
the Dalai Lama want genuine autonomy for Tibetans in Tibet'' - but the
question now is how do we put this desire into action and pressure China
to act on the dialogue? Takla believed that failing to hold a meeting
between President Obama and the Dalai Lama would ''increase China,s
arrogance,'' while XXXXXXXXXXXX noted China's pressures on the United
States and the Dalai Lama, stressing that the latter faced possible
threats of executions of political prisoners in Tibet should the meeting
proceed.

12. (SBU) Dolma and Takla both argued that other members of the
international community, particularly India, must take a more proactive
role on the Tibet issue. Takla stated that Tibet has historically served
as a peaceful buffer zone between China and India, noting that India now
has to spend large amount of money on defense and be wary of Chinese
activities that may adversely affect rivers flowing downstream into
India. Dolma commented that India and CTA are natural allies, noting
that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a clear understanding of the
Tibetan problem, and now appreciates the Middle Way approach, versus the
opinion intimated through many of the government's earlier statements to
''go back or get independence already.''

COMMENT: FRUSTRATION LIKELY TO GROW ABSENT ANY REAL PROGRESS IN DIALOGUE

-----

NEW DELHI 00000290 004 OF 004

13. (C) Growing frustration among Tibetans, displayed during the March
2008 uprising, is likely to lead to future outbursts so long as the
dialogue fails to progress. The Chinese government,s international
credibility on human rights will continue to decline as Tibetans gain
further access to media tools to disseminate this growing frustration.
Their frustration's effect on the Tibetan movement could be exacerbated
by the passage of time, as the Dalai Lama's increasing age inevitably
slows down his grueling travel schedule and his potential ability to
continue to capture the world's attention on his people's plight. END
COMMENT. ROEMER
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