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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Editorial Tibet's Only Hope

May 27, 2008

The Financial Times (UK)
May 25 2008

The Dalai Lama is the world’s most famous exile and has long been one of its most admired public figures. But while there is much sympathy across the globe for his campaign for greater autonomy for Tibet, his current tour of European capitals has not been easy. China, so long portrayed as the villain for crushing Tibetan independence, has been on the receiving end of a wave of international sympathy following the earthquake in Sichuan province.

Western leaders appear increasingly wary of courting the Dalai Lama too closely, for fear of angering the emerging Chinese superpower. In London last week, the British prime minister refused to meet the Dalai Lama at his official residence, Number 10 Downing Street, agreeing to see him only as part of an interfaith dialogue. In Berlin, most government officials refused to meet him at all.

Even so, China and the rest of the international community would be wrong to believe Tibet’s drive for self-determination is waning. Tensions between Chinese security forces and Tibetan dissident groups have been mounting for some time. Clashes last March were a sign of intense frustration inside Tibet at the lack of religious and political freedom for the territory’s 6m inhabitants. China’s harsh response to these demonstrations signalled its total hostility to such demands.

In recent weeks, the Chinese government has softened its approach a little. It has held meetings with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, which Tibetans hope will lead to a political settlement. But Beijing could be engaging in these talks merely to defuse tension over Tibet in the run-up to the summer Olympics. Once the Games are over, many suspect that China will revert to its hard-line stance.

This would be a mistake. The outlines of a political deal to settle the crisis in Tibet are conceivable. China would have to give Tibet enhanced autonomy, easing religious controls and allowing the Dalai Lama to return to Lhasa as a spiritual leader. In return, Tibet would have to accept a more limited degree of self-rule than its people desire; and the Dalai Lama would have to give up historic claims to vast areas of land outside the present “Tibet Autonomous Region”.

After the Olympics, both sides should work towards such a deal. There is no time to lose. The Dalai Lama is a restraining influence on the younger generation of Tibetans who angrily demand full-blown independence at any price. Those demands are likely to become considerably more violent after the Dalai Lama’s death.

China needs to stop playing games
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