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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."

Opinion: China's Tough Posture on Tibet

August 27, 2008

By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
August 25, 2008,  9:51 pm

In July, the Dalai Lama made an important concession to China,
explicitly accepting Communist Party rule in Tibet as part of a
future settlement. I wrote about that on the eve of the Olympics, and
followed up a week later.

The first reactions from China are rolling in, and they're not awful
but not very encouraging either. One was from Jin Canrong, a
long-time America-watcher who wrote in China Daily:

"Just on the former day of the opening ceremony of the Beijing
Olympic Games, "New York Times," an American newspaper, published an
article titled "An Olive Branch from the Dalai Lama" by Nicholas D.
Kristof, a journalist who once worked in China. The article
introduces the Dalai Lama's new opinions about Tibet….The Chinese
government always opens doors to the Dalai Lama for talks. As a
matter of fact, from 2002 to the beginning of this year, the
departments concerned have conducted six rounds of talk with the
Dalai Lama. In addition, after the March 14 Riots the United Front
Work Department (UFWD) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) had
dialogues with the Dalai Lama twice although local people in Tibet
Autonomous Region (TAR) were very angry with separatists due to great
damages caused by riots. If the Dalai Lama has any new ideas indeed,
he should communicate with the central government directly instead of
conveying his comments by western media. The proposition from a
western journalist not only makes people disbelieve its authenticity
but also doubts the Dalai Lama's sincerity. Does he wish to solve the
issue or just to strengthen public relations among the western world
for another time?"

Then came a couple of commentaries in rapid succession, including
this one by Hu Yan. Hu Yan objects in particular to the idea of
restricting Han migration to Tibet:

"A 'new olive branch' from the Dalai Lama has staggered to the public
by a western guy through a piece of western newspaper….Many countries
have experienced or are experiencing the nationalities flow. All the
ethnic people are equal in China and if we don't allow other ethnic
people to enter Tibet, will we allow Tibetans to go to the inland
cities? If the restriction is only effective to some ethnic people,
does it mean that there is one or some nationalities has or have
special rights? And how about the others? While if we set some
restriction to all the nationalities, will there be some so-called
'Human Rights Issue'?"

Then there was this blast, which denounced my suggestion for a
regional authority in Tibetan areas while leaving existing provincial
boundaries in place. I found it dispiriting because it not only
countered my arguments but went out of its way to suggest that this
was all a sly anti-Chinese plot:

"the olive branch is not fresh at all. The reason to write such
article is to sully China's international image at the time the
Olympic Games open and all the people from all over the world thank
to Chinese government and people who have made great contributions to
the Olympic big families and share the spirit of Olympics beyond
political differences under the Olympic Flag."

It's hard to know how to gauge this reaction. Some of it has been
substantive on the merits of what a final settlement would like, and
I think that's very useful. None of these responses have been from
some party officials or in the People's Daily or otherwise suggest
that they have a clear imprimateur from the top leadership, and that
makes me a bit hopeful that these may be the reaction of the United
Front Work Department, protecting its bureaucratic turf.

The existing talks between the Tibetan exiles and the Chinese
authorities are held through the United Front, but they have been
getting nowhere, and so I suggested that they should be bumped up to
include direct talks between the Dalai Lama and either Hu Jintao or
Wen Jiabao. No doubt that irritates the United Front, and several of
these responses seem particularly indignant at the idea of removing
it from the action — which is why I wonder if these commentaries come
more from the United Front than from top party leadership.

In any case, I think some Chinese are too complacent about the way
things are going, believing that after the Dalai Lama dies the issue
can be sorted out. Think again. East Timor festered for years and
years, and finally won its independence, precisely because Indonesia
never bothered to work out a modus vivendi. Indonesia had far more
military and economic power than East Timor, but that was not enough.
After the Dalai Lama dies, I expect that many Tibetans will turn to
violence, even terrorism, and the crackdowns that follow will further
erode Chinese legitimacy. What the Dalai Lama has to offer China is
precisely international legitimacy for its rule over Tibet and the
acquiescence of ordinary Tibetans to Chinese rule, so that the
country can get on with economic development.

In 1980, Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang and Wan Li agreed on precisely
such an outreach to the Dalai Lama, and that's the policy that China
should adopt again. The limits on Chinese migration to Tibet would
fit firmly within the existing Chinese hukou system, and a commission
to oversee life in Tibetan areas is similar to the system for
harmonizing Tibetan-language textbooks in different provinces. This
is just the kind of practical face-saving solution for all that Deng
Xiaoping was so good at seizing upon; let's hope that Hu Jintao shows
the same wisdom.

The fact that Hu Jintao was willing to contemplate a visit by the
Dalai Lama to help commemmorate the dead in the Sichuan earthquake is
a sign that he may be more flexible than lower leaders, especially in
the United Front. Let's hope that now that the Olympics are over, the
Chinese presses ahead with that idea of a Dalai Lama visit to China
(the first since 1955!), aiming for the six-month anniversary of the
quake in November.

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