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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China and Tibet

October 28, 2008

By Nicholas Kristof
The New York Times
October 27, 2008

China's top leader, Hu Jintao, appears to be blowing a historic
opportunity to resolve Tibet's problems. Because of Chinese
intransigence, the Dalai Lama has said that he has pretty much given
up on conciliation with China: "As far as I'm concerned, I've given
up," he said.

I don't take that with the tone of finality that some do, but still
it's a sad indication of China's failure to negotiate seriously. Over
at The Washington Post, veteran China watcher John Pomfret is bleak
about the future.

The Dalai Lama had gone out on a limb, offending many of his
supporters with his conciliatory positions, and most notably this
summer he told me on the record that he could accept Communist Party
rule and socialism in Tibet. That created an opening for China to
reach out. Instead, Hu Jintao seems to have plugged his ears.

The basic problem is that Hu Jintao seems to have decided to wait for
the Dalai Lama to die, on the assumption that the problems can be
handled better when Tibetans no longer have an
internationally-recognized charismatic leader. That's a historic
error of judgment. After the Dalai Lama dies we're likely to see a
drift toward violence by frustrated Tibetans who have been held back
only by the Dalai Lama's insistence on peaceful methods. And who
knows? The Panchen Lama, whom the Chinese kidnapped years ago as a
small child, may escape and emerge as a leader. Or the fake Panchen
Lama, anointed after the real one was kidnapped, may find the
gumption to stand up for his people. Or other leaders will emerge —
but they won't necessarily be committed to peaceful protest, as the
Dalai Lama has been.

The differences between China and Tibetans are bridgeable, and we
know what a deal would look like. But if Hu Jintao lets the problem
drift on, he will create a legacy of violence and illegitimacy that
will harm China's development for many years to come. And don't think
the bombs will go off only in Lhasa; they will also go off in Lanzhou
and Shanghai. It's in China's own interest to resolve this crisis and
focus on economic development. That's why Deng Xiaoping had pushed in
the early 1980's for conciliation and a deal.

The Dalai Lama has summoned a meeting of Tibetan representatives to
discuss the future, and it will take place next month. Originally, I
had thought that one purpose of the meeting was to convince Tibetans
to be more conciliatory so that a deal with China could be worked
out. But in the absence of any Chinese olive branches, I'm afraid it
may signal a tougher line and a hardening of positions.
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