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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."

Bao Tong: Talk to the Dalai Lama

April 12, 2008

Washington, DC 20036
Radio Free Asia
April 10 2008

2008.03.26

A former top official in China’s ruling Communist Party has called on
the Chinese government to open talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual
leader, the Dalai Lama, as a matter of urgency. Bao Tong, former aide to
ousted late premier Zhao Ziyang, says both Tibetans and Han Chinese have
suffered at the hands of a Maoist political philosophy. He wrote this
essay, broadcast by RFA’s Mandarin service, from his Beijing home, where
he has lived under house arrest since his release from jail in the wake
of the 1989 student movement:

Take harmony seriously; talk to the Dalai Lama

by Bao Tong

The Lhasa incident has caused massive grief for all the Tibetan people
and all of China. Anyone who has ever been through a great historical
tragedy will understand its significance. The Chinese government
spokesman said the whole thing was orchestrated by the Dalai Lama — a
winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — from behind the scenes. However, as a
reader from Europe put it: “Nobody here believes what the Chinese
government says.”

That one phrase is more eloquent that 10,000 words. It renders the
spokesman’s words meaningless. Because it shows how ordinary readers are
quite capable of making their own considered and independent decision
not to believe what the Chinese government says, but instead use their
own experience as a basis for deciding what to think.

This has happened because the Chinese government already has a track
record of denying responsibility for major historical events. In the
first Tiananmen incident [of April 5, 1976], Deng Xiaoping was judged to
be the villain responsible for the disaster. In the second Tiananmen
incident [of June 4, 1989], Zhao Ziyang was the fall guy. Now, the Dalai
Lama is to take the rap for the Lhasa incident. It is very hard for
people not to make the linkage in their minds with this practice of
upholding wrongdoing.

The Chinese government is very closed, which is another reason for
people to mistrust it. Of course there are reasons why they react in
this way, shutting off the flow of information, monopolizing news,
always behaving as if they are fighting a formidable enemy. Why have
they prevented foreign journalists from carrying out interviews freely?
Why was it necessary to force all the journalists to stop gathering
information and opinion and to leave immediately?

Dialogue should be Plan A

Only recently, the government issued a statement saying that the
exercise of political power should take place in daylight. No sooner
than it was uttered, the authorities once more withdrew from this line,
somehow compelled to bring newsgathering back into the shadows again,
and to stuff the whole affair into a big black box.

Harmony means that you have to beat swords into ploughshares. It cannot
flourish in a closed society, and it cannot be built by force. It should
be an urgent priority to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This
should be Plan A. With his commitment to pacifism, the Dalai Lama is the
only Tibetan leader with the ability to bring about a conciliatory
agreement between the Tibetan and the Han Chinese peoples.

In the 1950s, the Communist Party secretary of the northwest China
bureau, Xi Zhongxun, focused all of his experience gained from rallying
various ethnic groups in Qinghai into a stinging criticism — delivered
by Xinjiang branch bureau secretary Wang Zhen — of Han chauvinism. This
had a big impact on a lot of people’s thinking.

The villain of the piece this time was Mao Zedong and his philosophy of
political struggle. That was an evil thing, which brought disaster upon
the heads of the Tibetan people, as well as destroying normal life for
the Han Chinese themselves. From this point of view, the Tibetans and
the Han are relatives by marriage who have been injured by a common
enemy: this lethal Maoist philosophy of political struggle.

I do not want to see a Chechnya-style tragedy re-enacted in Tibet in
pursuit of a Stalinist obsession with unity. The central Party
leadership in Beijing has made “harmony” their mission. I believe that
the philosopher’s stone will be revealed to those who are sincere.

All the central government has to do is sit down with the Dalai Lama and
talk to him; to show a little wisdom, and with vision and determination,
the Lhasa incident can be resolved in an appropriate manner. A little
hard work now could win us a peaceful future, heralding a new era of
cooperation between the Tibetan and Han Chinese peoples.

Written by Bao Tong for RFA's Mandarin service. Service director:
Jennifer Chou. Translation by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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