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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Opinion: China's Tibet Tactics

February 23, 2010

Verbal attacks underline Beijing's insecurities, not its strength.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
February 22, 2010

Much ado has been made about President Obama's
chat with the Dalai Lama last week and the
predictable response from Beijing. "The U.S. act
grossly interfered in China's internal affairs,
gravely hurt the Chinese people's national
sentiments and seriously damaged the Sino-U.S.
ties," said a government spokesman with the usual
understatement. But the verbal barrage reveals
more about China than it does about U.S. policy toward Tibet.

Beijing believes it can browbeat other nations
into ignoring its human-rights violations in
Tibet. In 2008, China canceled a trade summit
with the European Union because of a planned
meeting between the Dalai Lama and Nicolas
Sarkozy. In 2007, shortly after the Dalai Lama
received the Congressional gold medal, U.S.
warships were turned away from Hong Kong. Similar
petty retaliations have followed the Dalai Lama's
meetings with leaders in European countries in recent years.

The fist-shaking has yielded short-term benefits
for Beijing. President Obama postponed his
meeting with the Tibetan leader until after his
November trip to China, and his Administration
has dealt with Chinese human-rights abuses in
whispers. Leaders in Australia, New Zealand and
other democratic nations have also declined to
meet the Dalai Lama in recent years.

All this has given China a freer hand with which
to pursue its crackdown on dissent in Tibet,
which started in earnest after the March 2008
riots in Lhasa. The China-Tibet dialogue has
stalled. Beijing is also pushing ahead with plans
to develop the territory with little regard for
Tibetan concerns over the influx of Chinese
immigrants that will further stamp out the Tibetan way of life.

Yet for all that, China's tough stance will only
draw more attention to the Tibetan cause. "Free
Tibet" groups abound in France, Britain and other
free nations. In the U.S. last week, the Dalai
Lama was awarded a medal from the National
Endowment for Democracy. He will spend the rest
of the week touring California and Florida and
addressing audiences at sold-out talks.

China's verbal barrages also sustain a vibrant
and ever-more-angry Tibetan youth movement
abroad. In the nearly two years since the Lhasa
riots, Tibetan groups that support independence
(which the Dalai Lama does not) have grown more vocal.

Much of the reason Tibet touches such a raw nerve
in Beijing is that the unrest there goes to the
heart of the Communist Party's lack of democratic
legitimacy. The more the Party attempts to impose
its will—on Lhasa and on those who dare to meet
with its most famous son -- the less legitimate
its rule will seem, and the more support the
Dalai Lama will receive around the world.
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