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Dalai Lama's Surrender? The Next Tibetan Uprising?

October 31, 2008

Pomfret's China
The Washington Post
October 30, 2008

So when will the next major anti-Chinese uprising happen in Tibet?

Wang Lixiong says expect the next big one -- at the latest -- when
the Dalai Lama dies. He made his prediction in a Chinese blog post on
his wife's web site responding to the news that the Dalai Lama was
losing hope in a dialogue with China. I've included a translation below.

Wang is a writer and probably the deepest thinking Chinese scholar on
Tibetan issues. For years, he's contended that the only longterm
solution for China would involve direct negotiations with the Dalai
Lama. Ultimately, he's said China should allow the Dalai Lama to
return to Tibet and that the Communist Party should seriously
consider the Dalai Lama's "middle way" solution for Tibet that would
allow the territory some autonomy but also still place it firmly
within the Chinese state. For his troubles, and for those of his
wife, the Tibetan writer Oser, who is also an advocate for Tibetan
issues, Wang is currently under a form of house arrest in Beijing.
Here's the piece:

The Fire Next Time in Tibet
by Wang Lixiong

In the May 2008 issue of the New York Review of Books, Columbia
University contemporary Tibet expert Robert Barnett wrote--in
response to the widespread belief that no one foresaw March's Lhasa
riot and subsequent region-wide unrest--that Chinese intellectual
Wang Lixiong had predicted the uprising. According to Barnett: "In
1998 Wang wrote that Tibet is materially better-off than at anytime
in its history. But this has not bought the Communist Party Tibetans'
good faith. On the contrary more and more people are turning toward
the Dalai Lama.... The present stability is superficial. There will
come a day when people will participate in insurrections larger than
those of 1987 and 1989."

I came to understand that Chinese police shared my conviction at that
time. They were in fact more accurate than Robert, because I had
written that essay in 2000--not 1998. It was entitled: "The Dalai
Lama is the Key to Resolving the Tibet Problem." But the Chinese
police did not discuss this with me at the time. Their responsibility
is to suppress unrest, not analyze its cause. But I again predict:
The next time there is unrest in Tibet, it will be larger than that
of the spring of 2008.

I can even predict the timing of the next uprising in Tibet: If the
Dalai Lama dies without returning to Tibet or without there being
significant progress in the situation in Tibet, his death will be
like a clear signal to the people of Tibet to rise up en masse. And
China's massive repression apparatus has no means of stopping this.

It requires no formal organization or planning on the part of
Tibetans, this sense of solidarity cannot be expunged through
punitive measures.

All those who understand Tibet know that the Dalai Lama's fate is
like a wound in every Tibetan's heart. As Tibetan Buddhism's
spiritual leader, this bodhisattva has made tremendous sacrifices. He
has relinquished the demand for independence, and just desires a high
degree of autonomy to preserve Tibet's unique culture and religion.

But to these modest conditions the Chinese government has responded
with unceasing humiliation. They have not permitted the Dalai Lama to
return to his birthplace, not permitted him to meet his people who
have waited a whole lifetime to see him. In this way they will be
parted forever by death. This kind of pain is incomparable. While the
Dalai Lama is still alive, no matter how many obstacles are
encountered, Tibetans harbor hope. But once the Dalai Lama dies, this
hope will be replaced by despair, anger will outweigh fear, grief
will give rise to frenzy. For these reasons the next uprising will be
extremely fierce. The scope will be broader, the affected area
greater, and the number of participants larger than those of spring
2008. And it will not be possible to pacify it in a short period of time.

Masses rising up at the death of a leader is a known phenomenon in
China. The protests and subsequent crackdown in Tiananmen Square on
April 5, 1976 followed the death of Premier Zhou Enlai. The April
1989 death of Hu Yaobang led to the bloody events in Tiananmen Square
on June 4. If the Chinese government wants to avoid another
insurrection in Tibet, the only solution is to make progress, and
ideally have a breakthrough, on the Tibet problem before the Dalai Lama dies.
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