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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."

Why does China Fear the Dalai Lama?

October 24, 2007
By Rahul K Bhonsle

The picture of a stooping Dalai Lama, firmly holding the hand of the
world's most powerful man, George W Bush was a contrast of sorts. The
irony was not lost on many. However, both men have one thing in
common, a tremendous will power to withstand the rigors of dissenting
voices from far and around.

For the Chinese the meeting was a symbol of non-cooperation by the US
President, for George Bush a part of his efforts to contribute to
contrarian history of international relations. The reaction from
Beijing was quite prompt but could be foreseen as China had been
asking the US not to entertain the Dalai Lama officially, much less
bestow on him America's greatest civilian honor, US Congressional Gold

This event was also happening when the 17th People's Congress, a once
in five year political jamboree of communist delegates from all over
China including Tibet had assembled in Beijing. As Hu Jintao and Wen
Jiabao would have liked to portray their infallible image to thousands
of delegates from across the country, the gesture by President Bush
would have certainly been embarrassing. Though how many would have
heard of this event in far away Washington while in session is not

Chinese control over Tibet has been varying over the centuries. Like
all powers with large territorial expanse, China has been able to
influence Lhasa when Beijing was strong but has had limited controls
when it was weak. This is a simple yet stark lesson of history. Sino
Tibetan relations have proceeded along this balance over the years and
this would be evident by the present state when Beijing's growing
power has seen it assimilate Tibet into its fold over the past 60

>From 1949 when the Communist party came to power in China to 1959 when
Tibetan revolt failed, to this day when Tibet is increasingly being
projected by the Chinese as a symbol of peace, prosperity and
modernization, China has been consistently attempting to carry out
what many call as, "Hanisation" of Lhasa.

This process of assimilation has been carefully calibrated.
Geographically Kham and Amdo provinces, which were a part of Tibet,
have been carved off and are now a part of the Sichuan and Qinghai
provinces respectively. China is undertaking a major project for
diversion of waters from these areas in the South-North Water transfer
scheme. Thus establishing irretrievable physical linkages.

On the other hand, the most symbolic Chinese project in Tibet is the
Qinghai-Lhasa railway, which was opened in 2006. Apart from being an
engineering marvel, the railway establishes permanent linkages between
Tibet and mainland China.

In this larger scheme of things for control over Lhasa managed by the
Communist satraps in Beijing, the Dalai Lama and his ilk firmly placed
in Dharamshala in India has been more than a fly in the ointment.

For the Tibetan people in particular as also to a large comity of
Buddhists, the Dalai Lama is a source of great spiritual inspiration.
By the dignity of his conduct, the present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
who is 14th in the lineage has enamoured hundreds and thousands of
people across the World. The long line of visitors to Dharamshala is a
witness to his following from diverse parts of the world.

Moreover, as he recently stated, "I have no intention of using any
agreement on autonomy as a stepping stone for Tibet's independence. I
have no hidden agenda." As an honorable man, none would doubt his
integrity. Apart from the US Congressional Gold Medal, he is also a
recipient of the Nobel Peace award in 1989.

So why would the Chinese object to the Dalai Lama.

Traditionally the Dalai Lamas in Tibet exercise combined spiritual and
executive powers. Thus, he is also a head of the state. Presently the
Tibetan Government in Exile functions in Dharamshala. The Dalai Lama
also holds meetings of the Tibetan Cabinet or Kashag. To Beijing,
these acts question its sovereignty over Tibet. Moreover the Dalai
Lama has consistently refused to accept that Beijing nominate his

These politically "blasphemous" acts would not be acceptable to
Beijing, thus one of the holiest men of our times; the Dalai Lama is
exiled from home, with not much hope of reconciliation in the years

Rahul K Bhonsle is a veteran soldier and security analyst based in
South Asia, specializing in strategic risk prediction, future warfare
and human security. His web site is and can be
contacted at

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