Join our Mailing List

"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."

Engaging in selective hearing

July 5, 2010

By Christophe Besuchet
The Rangzen Alliance ( )
July 3, 2010

With Dharamshala's foreign policy being shaped
almost exclusively by Beijing's hide-and-seek
strategy, anticipating its next move can be
safely done through a simple reading of China's
public statements. One of these was made in early
June in Oslo and most likely will be regarded as
a "key" announcement by the Tibetan
government-in-exile. It came from the new Chinese
Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, who declared
during a lecture on China's development at the
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs that
the door for Tibet talks always was open and that
there was sincerity from the Chinese side to continue the dialogue.

What is doubly interesting about Fu's statement
-- or troubling, depending on your perspective --
is the coincidence: not only did it happen on the
exact day the Task Force was meeting in
Dharamshala for the twenty-second time,[1] but
also during a three-day visit to Norway by Penpa
Tsering, the Speaker of the Tibetan
Parliament-in-exile, who attended Fu Ying's lecture.

Considering how enthusiastic Dharamshala is about
any "positive" signs sent by the Chinese regime,
the Vice Foreign Minister's declaration must come
as a relief. This at least is what came out from
Penpa Tsering, who met Fu Ying after the lecture.
According to him, she seemed to be "sincere" and
her move "could be a possible positive shift" to continue the dialogue.[2]

Personally, I find it tragic that after
twenty-two years of fiasco, there still could be
some Tibetan leaders and officials who believe in
Beijing's "sincerity" and desire for talks. After
all, everything has proved them wrong. What
frightens me the most is that these advocates of
a dialogue gradually have become completely
hermetic to alternate advice, no matter where it
comes from. Their stubbornness now is
proportional to their failures; the more Beijing
shatters their hope, the more they are convinced of its values.

Indeed, for some time, the Tibetan
government-in-exile seems to have chosen to
disregard advice and opinions that it itself had
asked for. As a reminder, in November 2008, the
Dalai Lama called for a special meeting "to
understand the real opinions and views of the
Tibetan people."[3] Although the vast majority of
opinions gathered from Tibetan communities abroad
were in favor of following the Dalai Lama's
guidance, the final recommendations presented by
the delegates insisted on a specific validity
point: to "stop sending envoys and to pursue
complete independence or self-determination if no
result comes out in the near future."[4] Now, I
don't want to sound sarcastic, but I've heard
this "near future" stuff just too many times in
my twenty-five year involvement with Tibet's
struggle for independence; I tend to find it rather nauseating.

Then, nine months after this special meeting, a
Sino-Tibetan Conference was held in Geneva under
the auspices of the International Fellowship of
Reconciliation. This time, the Tibetan
government-in-exile wanted to get the opinion of
the Chinese intelligentsia. Though the conference
echoed discordant opinions and included some
pro-independence Chinese intellectuals such as
Cao Changqing, author of "Tibetan People's Right
to Independence,"[5] only one Chinese speech was
made available on the conference's web site. This
was a lecture from Yan Jiaqi, probably the Dalai
Lama's best Chinese friend. Yan Jiaqi was the
former political advisor of Zhao Ziyang during
the 1980s and was one of the leading
intellectuals supporting the student movement in
1989. Now, guess what Yan Jiaqi had to advise?
That "representatives and delegations should no
longer be dispatched for further negotiations."[6]

So, what are we supposed to make of Dharamshala's
deaf ear? In terms of political choices, it is
most disturbing that "positive signs" from a
brutal regime that never bothered to keep its
word are given more considerations than the true
aspirations of the Tibetan people or, for that
matter, the advice of a high-ranking Chinese
advisor with a solid insider's experience. Why
the hell did Dharamshala call these people if their opinions have no value?

But, beyond delegates' recommendations and
intellectuals' advice, in fact beyond anything
else, the Tibetan government-in-exile should
seriously reconsider the true aspirations of the
Tibetan people. Despite the fact that much has
been undertaken to tailor and manipulate public
opinion and give a semblance of support for the
Dalai Lama's policy, the picture is pretty clear:
for most Tibetans, in occupied Tibet or in exile,
the Middle Way is a dead end that benefits only Beijing.

For many years now, in addition to being forced
to witness the disgraceful surrender and
dismantling of their nation, the Tibetan people
also have been sternly instructed to strive
toward a "conductive atmosphere for negotiations"
and to refrain from any anti-Chinese activities,
with the declared intention of showing "the world
that all Tibetans can stand united when it comes to our fundamental cause."[7]

Naturally, these measures have infuriated many
people, especially when the Prime Minister made
an appeal in October 2002 urging Tibetans and
Tibet supporters not to demonstrate during Jiang
Zemin's visit to the United States,[8] a call
reiterated in April 2006 for Hu Jintao's
visit.[9] Other attempts were made by the Dalai
Lama to tame public opinion, such as appeals not
to demonstrate against the Olympic Games and the
Torch Relay, or not to proceed with the March to
Tibet, but to no avail; much to the chagrin of
the Tibetan leadership, ordinary Tibetans refused
to pay attention to these pleas and demonstrated
by thousands all over the world.

In fact, right from the beginning, the Tibetan
people showed little support -- and even less
enthusiasm -- for the Dalai ai Lama's efforts
toward a reconciliation with China. In the late
1970s, long before the disastrous Strasbourg
Proposal was issued, long before this
surrendering policy was referred to as the
"Middle Way Approach," the rapprochement aimed by
Dharamshala already had been heavily condemned by
Tibetan intellectuals and activists.

By 2005, however, grassroots discontent became so
widespread and embarrassing that the Tibetan
government decided to launch a "massive public
awareness campaign on the Middle-Way Approach of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama". Not surprisingly
and to avoid any form of real debate, Prime
Minister Prof. Samdhong insisted on reminding
everyone at the campaign launch that as long as
the leadership of the Dalai Lama remains "there
may not be any change in the policy of the
Middle-Way Approach," and that the exiled Tibetan
community "must demonstrate a conspicuous
majority support for the Middle-Way policy."[10]

But imposing capitulation and submission is not
without consequences. One cannot ban nationalist
slogans from public events, stop hunger
strikes,[11] prevent demonstrations against
Chinese leaders,[12] outlaw actions against
Beijing's propaganda machine, attempt to enforce
political orthodoxy in literature,[13] and expect
a genuine desire of reconciliation[14] without
facing the risk of being accused of treason.

Dharamshala is about to face a major crisis if
nothing is done to change the course of events.
At present, the legitimacy of the government's
policies relies almost exclusively on the faith
and loyalty shown by the vast majority of
Tibetans toward the Dalai Lama. Without him, the
Tibetan government will be in no position to
defend the actual policy of appeasement and
surrender. The inevitable passing away of the
Dalai Lama won't bring an end to the Tibetan
struggle, as many believe, but it definitely will
bring serious damage to Tibet's governmental
institutions if the status quo is sustained.

Forget about the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister's
declaration; her words are worth nothing but
disillusion. Forget also about foreign
governments' support for dialogue; their
relations with China are far too beneficial to
hope for any kind of objectivity. Let's look
ahead. It's time for a major shift in
Dharamshala's foreign policies, a rebranding of
the Tibet issue and a call for a nationwide civil
disobedience campaign. It's high time to put independence back on the agenda.

. . .
The author is an art director and a long-time
activist in Tibet's independence movement. He is
the former publisher of Lungta magazine,
cofounder of the Swiss TSG, and the author of
several maps of Tibet and Lhasa. From 1994 to
1999, he served as graphic designer for the Amnye
Machen Institute in Dharamshala, India. He is
currently the Vice President of the Rangzen Alliance in Switzerland.
. . .

[1] "Two-day meeting of Task Force begins." CTA,
8 June 2010,
[2] Tenzin Tsering, "Chinese Vice FM says door
for Tibet talks open, meets Tibetan Parliament
Speaker." Phayul, 8 June 2010,
[3] "Special General Meeting on Tibet to be
Convened in November." CTA, 15 September 2008,
[4] "Recommendations of the First Special General
Meeting Convened Under Article 59 of the
Charter." CTA, 22 November 2008,
[5] Cao Changqing, "Tibetan People's Right to
Independence." Rangzen Alliance, 10 March 2009,
[6] "Address by Mr. Yan Jiaqi," International
Sino-Tibetan Conference, 6-8 August 2009, Geneva,
[7] "Strong Peaceful Activism Needed for the
Resolution of Tibet Issue, Says Kalon Tripa."
CTA, 1 June 2005,
[8] "Message from the Kalon Tripa's Desk." CTA, 1
October 2002,
[9] "Kashag: No Protests During Hu's America
Visit." CTA, 4 April 2006,
[10] "Massive Awareness Campaign on Middle-Way
Approach Kicks-Off." CTA, 17 August 2005,
[11] "Letter from the Kashag to the three Hunger
Strikers." CTA, 1 May 2004,
[12] "Kashag: No Protests During Hu's America
Visit." CTA, 4 April 2006,
[13] "Tibetan PM advises "middle way" in
literature too." Phayul, 31 August 2009,
[14] "I can't wait to be a Chinese citizen, says
the Dalai Lama." The Sunday Times, 18 May 2008,
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank