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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."

China's best chance for peace in Tibet

March 31, 2009

Topden Tsering
San Francisco Chronicle
March 30, 2009
        
On March 28, a strange celebration was observed
in Tibet, one billed as "Serf Emancipation Day."
Coming a year after Chinese military forces
bloodily clamped down on an uprising that
engulfed the whole of Tibet, this
state-orchestrated revelry fronted an intense
propaganda campaign that many Tibet watchers call
China's final offensive against Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

On March 28, 1959, after the then-23-year-old
Dalai Lama escaped over the Himalayas to India,
China dissolved the Tibetan government and
established its direct rule. The Tibetan leader's
flight into exile was caused by a violent
crackdown by the Chinese army on a Tibetan
uprising that had erupted on March 10 of that
year. March this year marked the 50th anniversary
of the uprising. Fearing unrest similar to last
year's, China flooded the country with
paramilitary troops, kicked out foreign media and
temporarily shut down Internet and mobile phone services.

This first-ever "Serf Liberation Day" celebration
marks China's bid to counter last year's
widespread protests led by monks and lay people,
most of were not born when Tibet was overrun by
the Chinese army in 1950. China maintains that it
has not only helped liberate the Tibetan people
from feudalism perpetrated by the Dalai Lama and
other members of the ruling class, but also from
foreign imperialists vying to enslave the
Himalayan country, chief among them being the
United States, the United Kingdom and Russia.

As such, it suits China to blame any unrest
inside Tibet on the Dalai Lama and his clique,
and to interpret any international outcry over
its brutal handling of Tibetan discontent as
efforts by foreign countries to split the
motherland. In recent years, as China's brutality
intensifies, so has its intolerance toward
governments and leaders sympathetic to Tibet.

Just last week, the South Africa government,
under pressure from Beijing, refused a visa to
the Dalai Lama, barring him from a peace
conference in Johannesburg. In February, during
the Hillary Rodham Clinton's state visit to
China, the secretary of state expressed no
outrage over Beijing's violent clampdown on
Tibetan protesters the previous year. In 2008,
after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with
the Dalai Lama in Poland, China responded by
canceling an important economic summit with
European leaders. Closer to home, earlier this
month, the Chinese government pressured the
California Assembly to kill a Tibet resolution.

Tibet today is at a dangerous threshold. As shown
by the growing number of protests reported from
inside the country, Tibetans have had enough, and
their message is clear: The problem is one of
colonialism; the tension being between an
occupier state and an oppressed people, the
former having no other agenda than to thwart
threats to its own existence, which essentially
is the survival of the latter, and the latter
having no other desire than to remain its own free self.

Given the situation, one can understand why China
continues to spurn efforts by the Dalai Lama for
substantive dialogues toward resolving the
Tibetan issue - despite the Tibetan leader's
assurance time and again that he is not pursuing
independence. This also explains why the very
thought of the Dalai Lama returning to Tibet
drives Beijing's leadership to fear the worst.

Paradoxically, in the Dalai Lama lies China's
best chance to stop the country from spiraling
out of control. To do that, the Chinese
government needs to learn to make peace with its fears.

Topden Tsering is the former editor of the
Tibetan Bulletin, official journal of the Dalai
Lama's exile Tibetan government. He was also the
president of the San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress.

This article appeared on page A - 13 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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