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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."

Tibet's Generation Gap is no Gulf

November 26, 2008

Lhadon Tethong
Indian Express
November 25, 2008

The attention of the world turned to Dharamsala last week when nearly
600 Tibetan delegates, as representatives of the six million Tibetans
in Tibet and in exile, converged in this hill town to discuss the
future of our struggle. This meeting was called by the Dalai Lama,
and organised by the Tibetan Parliament. The Tibetan people were told
to take greater leadership in light of the failure of the dialogue
with China and the ongoing crisis inside Tibet. Excitement and
speculation began brewing in many corners of the world — will the
Tibetan people, frustrated by China's intransigence, decide to pursue

In an anticlimactic but somewhat predictable outcome, the delegates
at the meeting spoke in favour of continuing the Dalai Lama's
conciliatory Middle Way approach which seeks autonomy for Tibet
within the framework of the People's Republic of China. The option of
changing the goal of the Tibet movement to complete independence was
included in the final meeting statement as a possible alternative if
there is no progress in the near future.

Some observers have described this outcome as a blow to those of us
advocating independence, but we don't see it that way. As Tibetan
youth leaders who participated in this historic meeting, we see this
as a first step toward fundamental change. We understand, in spite of
our impatience, that it is going to take some time to move the
Tibetan establishment and public, long been committed to this
approach. We were encouraged to see senior ministers and employees of
the Tibetan Government in exile openly exchanging ideas with
delegates representing the grassroots from far-flung Tibetan
communities and NGOs. Many of us participated in passionate debates
with respect for each other's differing views. And in the end, we
felt refreshed by the openness of the discussions.

To anyone who knows the recent history of Tibetan exile society and
the often painful divisions that have occurred around the question of
independence versus autonomy, this meeting was a very positive sign.
The ultimate success of our movement depends on the creation of a
vibrant democratic society that brings out the best in every
individual — and that is exactly what we witnessed in Dharamsala last week.

Many who attended this meeting argued that Independence is the most
strategic goal for our movement. We believe that the Middle Way
approach is too heavily dependent on the cooperation of the Chinese
government to succeed. We don't believe the current Government in
China is capable of giving Tibetans any measure of freedom because
its sole interest is to maintain power and Tibetans have proven time
and time again that they challenge the authority of Beijing even at
the worst of times. While our analysis reflects a very obvious
political difference with the Dalai Lama's chosen path, we felt that
our voices were heard and our opinions respected. We were witnessing
the emergence of a democratic Tibetan society, and though it is not
perfect yet, it is certainly light years ahead of China's one party

Ultimately, two opinions gained unanimous support within the
meeting's subgroups: that the Tibetan government should adopt a more
aggressive, less conciliatory approach toward the Chinese government
and that our movement should remain nonviolent.

We have a vision of a Tibetan independence movement that is vibrant
and powerful, both in and outside Tibet: a movement that unifies the
Tibetan public and inspires the world while undermining Chinese
power. This movement will grab the attention of the Chinese people
whether they agree with us or not, simply by way of being visible and
honest. We will do our best to make allies and friends within Chinese
society but at the very least, the ones who don't agree with us
understand that stakes are high and a resolution is necessary.

As Tibetan youth, we have sincerely responded to the Dalai Lama's
calls for new ideas to help end the suffering of our brothers and
sisters across the Himalayas. We are ready to take responsibility for
our political destiny and commit ourselves to a political solution,
no matter how many years or decades it may take.

We believe that this meeting lays the foundation for realising this
vision. And though we have not yet reached the point of fundamental
change in the position or approach of the Tibetan government, this
was a major step in the right direction — one that signals the
beginning of a new era in our struggle.

Lhadon Tethong, a leading Tibetan activist was arrested in Beijing in
August for openly blogging about Tibetan freedom. Tenzin Choeying is
a Tibetan exile born and raised in Dharamsala....
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