Join our Mailing List

"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 Annual Tibetan Ritual: Are these enough?

March 5, 2010

Bhuchung K. Tsering
International Campaign for Tibet (ITC Blog)
March 4, 2010

Every year this time, when the annual sessions of the Chinese
People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National
People's Congress (NPC) are held, we can see some activities in
Beijing relating to Tibet.

This time one such event is the "approval" of the membership of the
boy (now man), Gyaltsen Norbu la, that the Chinese have selected as
the Panchen Lama. Ina terse report, Xinhua said on February 28, "The
11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu was among 13 people who
on Sunday became new members of the National Committee of the Chinese
People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top
advisory body.

"Their memberships were approved by a meeting of the Standing
Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, which closed on Sunday."

In order to really draw our attention to the significance of this
development there were subsequent reports with enticing headlines
like "Tibet official hails Panchen Lama's new position," "Foreign
media focus on 11th Panchen Lama's new position," and "Living Buddhas
confident of 11th Panchen's new position."

First of all, leaving aside the controversy over who the true Panchen
Lama is (Gedhun Choekyi Nyima will always be in our hearts), it is
good that another Tibetan gets a position, even if it is just a
nominal position in a nominal body like the CPPCC. This is because
even though the political problem of Tibet cannot be solved through
such cosmetic changes, if such individuals do seize the opportunity
then there is space for them to really do something useful for the
Tibetan people through such appointments. This is clearly shown by
the previous Panchen Lama's life.

This brings me to another aspect of the issue. Gyaltsen Norbu la has
grown physically over the years, bespectacled with a tinge of
mustache (I thought). I am not a reader of faces nor even a
psychologist, but the photos that I see of him appear to me as if he
is aware of (may be even burdened by) the heavy responsibility thrust
on him, like he is constantly under guard. I am not talking about
religious responsibilities, but since he is now being thrust forward
as a "Tibetan leader" he has very big shoes to fill: those of the
much beloved previous Panchen Lama. The spirit of the previous
Panchen Lama as an individual who gained the respect of the Tibetan
people will always be there. It is only through concrete action (and
not through politicized praises by stooges of Beijing) that Gyaltsen
Norbu la can show he is a Tibetan who has the real interests of the
Tibetan people in his heart, and that he is not a puppet of a political system.

Truth be told, as of now he does not enjoy the confidence nor the
reverence of the Tibetan people (the Chinese government knows this
and so is constantly trying to find ways to impress the Tibetan
people, including highlighting his tri-lingual capabilities) no
matter how many photos and videos that the authorities may show of
Tibetan people revering him. Spiritual faith comes from the heart and
not through arranged photo ops. Therefore, the jury is out on which
direction he is heading. This is also a challenge to Beijing.

Another development around this time is the statements by CPPCC and
NPC officials relating to Tibet. Just as one favorite dish in Chinese
cuisine is "sweet and sour" soup, I can identify both traits in the
statements. The sour part is the need for some of the officials to
launch vitriolic attacks against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which
only reflects their lack of self-confidence. Actually the term
"political monk" that one Chinese official used this time to refer to
His Holiness can be applied 100 percent to Gyaltsen Norbu la, since
even his religious duties are now politicized.

In any case, if the Tibetan issue could be done away with hateful
words the Chinese government itself would have succeeded in doing so
in the early 1960s.

The somewhat sweet part that I tried to discern from the statements
includes the reference to "developing Tibetan medicine and
pharmacology, and developing water conservancy and hydroelectricity
in Tibet, with the goal of doing something substantive to improve the
working and living conditions of ethnic minorities" in the report by
CPPCC Chairman Jia Qinglin. Jia also talked about "strive to achieve
leapfrog development and lasting stability in Tibet and Tibetan
ethnic areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces."

I hope when these annual rituals are completed the Chinese officials
will sit down, and think seriously about how their policies are
hurting the national sentiments of the Tibetan people. I hope they
can size up the situation, forego their illusions and understand that
the true meaning of "leapfrog development" for the Tibetan people is
not jumping across (and ignoring the reality of the situation), but
taking leaps with an understanding of the basic needs of the Tibetan people.

The CPPCC session has just started while the NPC session is yet to
begin and we are already seeing quite a few references to Tibet from
Beijing. Dare I say, methinks the lady doth protest too much!
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank