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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Struggle for a Free Tibet- Independence or Autonomy?

March 12, 2011

Friday, 25 February 2011 10:23 Tsoltim N Shakabpa,
The Tibet Post International

Indiana, US: - The death of Tibet freedom fighter Jigme Norbu once more
raises the question "Independence or Autonomy?" Jigme Norbu aspired and
fought for independence, as did his honorable father, Taktser Rinpoche,
the older brother of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

The issue of Tibet's future appears to be a topic the world would rather
not deal with. But like the San Andreas Fault, it is a phenomenon that
exists and no ostrich formula can avoid the worldwide impact its
eruption will produce. Prior to 1950, Tibet was a free and independent
nation. In October 1950, Chinese troops under Communist rule marched
through the unprotected borders of Tibet and forced the Tibetans to sign
the so-called 17-Point Agreement, subjugating Tibet into an autonomous
region of the People's Republic of China. This "treaty" promised
self-rule, freedom of religion and protection of Tibetan traditions and
culture, while China would remain guardian of Tibet's defense and
foreign affairs. By 1956, the Chinese had violated every promise they
made in that agreement; in 1959, the Tibetans revolted. This revolt was
followed by the flight of the Dalai Lama and 80,000 Tibetans from their
homeland to India and elsewhere.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama struggled for more than 25 years to regain
Tibet's independence through nonviolent means. Then in 1988, believing
that the political leadership in China was in a state of flux and
worried that his country and his people would eventually become extinct,
His Holinesss the Dalai Lama proposed a "Middle Path" to reach a
solution with the Chinese. This proposal essentially involved
acquiescence to Chinese rule, while preserving Tibetan lives and
identity. Although many Tibetans urged His Holiness to withdraw from
this approach, His Holiness continues to believe his formula will
eventually save his people.

Tibetans believe His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the reincarnation of
Chenrezig--the Lord of Love and Compassion. Every Tibetan, no matter
what his background, believes in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his
teachings. But while there is no wavering of faith in the Dalai Lama,
there are differing views on what to do for the future.

Many Chinese and Western observers mistake this difference in view to
mean that Tibetans no longer support the Dalai Lama. But faith in His
Holiness the Dalai Lama means belief in his spiritual teachings, not
necessarily in his political analyses or his political leanings.

The divergent views among the first family in Tibetan society should not
be mistaken or maliciously misconstrued as disunity within the family.
Rather, the family's courage in openly differing on political issues
should uphold the strength of the Tibetan democratic spirit and the
fearless willingness of the first family to set an example to all people
constrained by religious or political dogmas.

The views of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's brother, who is also a
recognized, high-ranking incarnate teacher, differ from his brother's.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama wishes to nonviolently preserve the basic
human rights and identity of his people, though reluctantly under
Chinese rule, because he feels independence may be too long in coming
and that the Chinese may wipe out the Tibetan race before then. His
elder brother, the late Taktser Rinpoche, wished to nonviolently regain
Tibet's independence along with all the basic rights of the Tibetan
people. He felt that this is the only way Tibetan life and liberty can
truly be saved and preserved.

While in both instances, there is not only compassion but virtue, the
tricky question is: Would Tibetans be selling themselves forever to the
Chinese or would they be fighting a losing battle? Who is right? No
Tibetan should feel he is sacrificing his religious belief and faith in
His Holiness the Dalai Lama if he chooses the "path of independence."
That choice is a democratic choice and a constitutional right, which the
Dalai Lama himself so wisely promulgated in the new Tibetan
constitution. Neither should any Tibetan speak ill of His Holiness the
Dalai Lama's "independent-minded" brethren, as that critic himself would
be breaking a cardinal rule of nationalism and patriotism. China was
never invited to come and rule Tibet. Tibet was made a part of China but
China, as in the case of Hong Kong, promised a different system of rule.
Slowly but surely, the Chinese reneged on the agreement. The freedoms
promised were unashamedly withdrawn and the noose around the neck
tightened with each move made by the Tibetans in protest.

The stories that have since trickled through the closed borders of Tibet
have been sad and gruesome: 1.2 million Tibetans killed and thousands
brutally tortured and imprisoned; nuclear waste dumped into sacred
rivers and lakes. Also, the Chinese government kidnapped a 6-year-old
boy regarded by the Tibetans as their highest-ranking reincarnate lama,
second only to the Dalai Lama.

Tibetans are a peaceful, patient and religious people, carefree in
appearance but determined in spirit. Therein lies their strength. My
late beloved father, Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa, the historian,
author and former Finance Minister of Tibet, chose the "path of
independence" because he firmly believed in the principles and values
upon which his nation was built and because he did not want his people
or his children to suffer in Chinese hands. I, too, have chosen the
"path of independence" because I believe in the sanctity of freedom. My
father lived and died for an independent Tibet, as did Jigme Norbu, his
father, the eminent Taktser Rinpoche, and thousands of other Tibetans.

Author of this article, Tsoltim N. Shakabpa is executive director of the
Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa Memorial Foundation.
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