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The China-Tibet Conflict: Need for Historic Decisions

October 10, 2008

By Tsering Passang
October 9, 2008

Both Beijing and Dharamsala frequently reiterate their 'sincerity' in
the search for a resolution of the China-Tibet conflict. As an
ordinary Tibetan I welcome any positive moves from either side.

Since the Chinese and Tibetan officials in Beijing, Lhasa and
Dharamsala all claim to work in the interests of all ordinary
Tibetans, both those residing inside Tibet and in exile, it should be
possible for leaders of both parties to show real courage and make
bold political decisions to resolve the Tibet problem once and for all.

Following the Dalai Lama's recent official delegation, led by Kasur
Lodi Gyari, to meet with Du Qinglin, Head of the United Front Work
Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee,
the Special Envoy for the Tibetan Leader described the latest round
of dialogue as "one of the most difficult sessions." In his press
statement he went on and said, "In the course of our discussions we
were compelled to candidly convey to our counterparts that in the
absence of serious and sincere commitment on their part, the
continuation of the present dialogue would serve no purpose."

Recent international pressure on the authorities in Beijing had given
some hope to Tibetans around the world that the latest round of
dialogue might have a more positive outcome. The press statement by
the Dalai Lama's Special Envoy was an unusually forthright admission
of the delegation's failure and reflected the growing frustration in
Dharamsala at the lack of sincerity in Beijing. Chinese officials
have in the past been quick to accuse the Tibetan side of a lack of
"sincerity" but the entire world can now see that the truth is the
opposite: it is China which lacks sincerity and shows no desire for
settlement. It should also be noted that over the years the Tibetan
side has made many compromises and concessions from its original
demand for independence but this is not enough. China wants complete

As a concerned Tibetan I would like to present my thoughts to both
parties for some possible "tangible" results. The leadership in
Dharamsala now has to consider seriously the strong message from the
Chinese side and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGiE) must be bold
in its decision-making.

Proposed agenda for meaningful results

If we are ever to have tangible results from meetings to resolve the
China-Tibet conflict then the next agenda should – in my view –
include the following points:

1. Dharamsala should note China's real concern that the Tibetan issue
remain as an "internal affair" of the PRC and should not
internationalise it. This could mean His Holiness the Dalai Lama
stops travelling overseas whilst serving as the political leader of
the Tibetan people as such trips attract international media
attention. Beijing sees this as overtly political even though
Dharamsala may view this differently.

2. The Tibet Support Groups (TSG) Desk based at the TGiE's Department
of Information and International Relations (DIIR) which maintains
close links with Tibet Support Groups around the world should be
closed down. His Holiness and the TGiE should detach themselves from
political links with all International Tibet Support Groups and from
World Parliamentarians Groups for Tibet whilst Dharamsala engages in
direct dialogue with the Central Leadership in Beijing.

3. The political interest and quasi-diplomatic roles, which are
currently being carried out by the various Offices of Tibet around
the world, should have its "mission review" thoroughly whilst
Dharamsala engages in direct dialogue with Beijing. Such Offices are
currently in Australia, Belgium, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa,
Switzerland, U.K. and U.S.A.

Whilst the above steps are being taken, the Central Leadership in
Beijing, in agreement with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the TGiE,
should work to establish:

1. An Intermediary Agency in Beijing, representing His Holiness the
Dalai Lama and the TGiE.

2. An Intermediary Agency in Dharamsala, representing the Central
Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

3. Joint-Intermediary Agencies in Lhasa, representing both the PRC,
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the TGiE.

4. Through the Intermediary Agencies, both sides should make joint
contributions towards aid, education, social and economic development
both inside Tibet and amongst Tibetans living in the Diaspora.

5. Formal exchange schemes between Dharamsala and Beijing should be
developed, including conferences on research and scholastic work
amongst the Tibetan Buddhist and Bon religious masters, scholars of
history and medical practitioners. Both sides should give serious
thought towards facilitating the learning and sharing of the valuable
and masterly works of the rich cultural history of Tibet.

6. Formal and informal relationships between ordinary Tibetans from
inside and outside Tibet need to be fostered and should include
cultural exchanges such as exhibitions, the visits of traditional and
modern performing artists, and traditional and modern artists,
including thangka painters.

Through the above steps some "tangible" and practical progress may be
achieved in areas in which both Chinese and Tibetans have concerns.
Political solutions may take longer. Such steps would also lead to
the building of confidence and trust whilst fully engaging in
creating a genuine and conducive environment for progress which
Dharamsala has been calling for some time. Proper negotiations need
to be based on "Ume Lam" (Middle-Way approach), which means not
splitting Tibet (all the three traditional provinces i.e. Amdo, Kham
and U-Tsang must be under one political entity) from the Great
Motherland, the People's Republic of China.

Whilst the political negotiations continue, leaders on both sides
should give sincere thoughts to establishing the Intermediary
Agencies to serve all Tibetans. If the above or similar suggestions
are not agreeable to both sides then I seriously wonder whether there
is any point in Dharamsala or Beijing "talking the talks" on the
China-Tibet conflict.

Convincing the Chinese authorities while not alienating Tibetans and
Tibet supporters

Merely voicing occasional appeals and sending out circulars urging
Tibetans and Tibet support groups not to engage in public protests
during the visit overseas of Chinese dignitaries, or slamming the
recent activities of the Tibetan Youth Congress has failed to
convince officials in Beijing. Moreover it sends mixed messages to
Tibetans and their supporters throughout the world which can alienate
those who are most actively committed to and participating in the
freedom struggle for Tibet. Instead, show concrete actions and not
just written circulars or appeals.

Time for a New Direction and Making Hard Decisions

In the event of a stalemate and failure to progress then I think
Dharamsala has to remodel its existing political structures and
perhaps adopt a new direction, whereby people can freely share their
strongly-held views. This means that they should not be required to
accept uncritically every statement by His Holiness. Such passivity
adversely hinders the democratisation of Tibetan society by rendering
it politically immature. People who genuinely hold alternative views
from those of the Dalai Lama should not be slammed or denounced as
unpatriotic. Tibetans need to grow up politically. We need to revise
the "Charter" and separate Chos-Sid, religion and politics.

Tibetans cannot forever live sustained by 'hope' alone. As we
approach fifty years in exile we have to make the most difficult
decision, not only for the present generation of Tibetans but for
future generations. Even so, we may not find a lasting political
solution to the issue of Tibet for another fifty years.

During a Tibetan gathering in London in 2005, when a delegation of
Tibetan Parliamentarians from Dharamsala was visiting the UK, I
called for a policy review on 'Ume Lam' (Middle-Way approach), as
adopted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile towards a resolution of
the China-Tibet conflict. Once again, I wish to reiterate my previous
call as there is no sign of progress between Dharamsala and Beijing.

Complete retirement for the Dalai Lama

Whilst presently enjoying "semi-retirement", His Holiness recently
declared that he is much looking forward to "complete retirement"
from the Tibetan political scene. We should seriously note this,
while celebrating his massive achievements in many walks of life. The
achievement that eludes him is a political solution to the
China-Tibet conflict. His Holiness has led the Tibetan nation since
the age of 16 and the failure in this area cannot be put down to any
lack of effort or goodwill. But His Holiness deserves a rest and it
is time for other leaders to emerge and put forward alternative proposals.

Tibetan people's interest comes first

In short, I urge the Tibetan and Chinese leaders in Lhasa, Beijing
and Dharamsala to put the interests of Tibet's people first in
keeping with their claims to 'serve' our interests and welfare. If
you have courage, show it now. Let there be no more lingering.

The writer was an independent candidate for Europe seats in the 2005
General Election for the 14th Session of the Tibetan
Parliament-in-Exile, graduated from a British University in
Information Technology. Tsering served on the Council of Tibetan
Community in Britain as its Culture Secretary from 2002 to 2006. He
worked for London-based Tibet Foundation from 2001 to 2007, which
supports Tibetans inside Tibet, India and Nepal. Currently, Tsering
is working for Tibet Relief Fund (UK).
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