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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

The Question of Autonomy for Tibet

October 27, 2008

by Tsoltim Ngima Shakabpa
October 25, 2008

Some Tibetans are asking for autonomy for Tibet from Communist China
while many Tibetans, especially the young who are the future of
Tibet, are struggling for total independence. Why would some Tibetans
ask for considerably less freedom than those of us in exile currently
enjoy? Why would some Tibetans seek an agreement that denies us the
right to manage our own foreign and military affairs, travel freely
anywhere in the world and freely voice our opinion of political
leaders? Under the sovereignty of an autocratic communist regime we
certainly wouldn't have those rights. What use is autonomy under
Communist China if it means denying the intrinsic values we cherish?

By asking the communists for an official agreement to have autonomous
status for Tibet, we will be surrendering to marxists and atheists
many of the rights we are now entitled to and locking ourselves into
a constricted and precarious situation from which we cannot withdraw.

If we enter into an official agreement on autonomy under the
sovereignty of a tyrannical communist regime some of the
restrictions, including firm restrictions on all foreign and military
affairs, we will face are:

1. Practice of Tibetan religion, culture and traditions within
"autonomous" Tibet will be under strict Chinese scrutiny.
2. Promotion of Tibetan culture, religion and traditions abroad will
either be prohibited or restricted as it concerns foreign affairs.
3. Restrictions on all foreign travel.
4. If ever the Dalai Lama is allowed to travel abroad, he will be
accompanied by Chinese agents, who will dictate what he may say or do.
5. Tibetans will have to carry Chinese passports when traveling abroad.
6. Tibet can never be represented in any international body or agency
as it concerns foreign affairs.
7. Foreign investments in Tibet will be controlled by China as it
concerns  foreign affairs.
8. China will have the authority to impound or export from Tibet any
valuable Tibetan resources as they can claim it affects Tibet's
foreign welfare and affairs.
9. China will have full control over the flow of the Drichu and Machu
Rivers in Tibet as China will claim they affect the Yangtse and Huang
Ho Rivers in China since the Drichu becomes the Yangtse in China and
the Machu becomes the Huang Ho in China. Any such activity will
gravely affect the Tibetan ecological and environmental system.
10. Tibetans, within Tibet, will never be permitted to record for
history all the misdeeds that China inflicted upon Tibet.
11. Tibetans will never be permitted to claim restitution from China
for all the misdeeds (killings and torture) inflicted upon them.
12. China will never agree to having the whole of ethnic Tibet under
one Tibetan administration. Thus autonomous Tibet will simply be a
miniscule semblance of what independent Tibet was.
13. The Chinese will always deceptively impose their own puppets on a
Tibetan administration under an agreement for autonomy.
14. Tibetans will never be allowed to raise their national flag.
15. China would be free to continue flooding autonomous Tibet with
Han Chinese as they would be the sovereign rulers.

The above are just a few of the restrictions Tibetans will face if an
agreement on autonomy is signed. Additionally, the Chinese will
insist that one of the pre-conditions to signing such an agreement be
that the Tibetans admit that Tibet has historically been a part of
China, which, has never been a fact. And, furthermore, who is to say
that the Communist Chinese will not tighten the noose around the
necks of the Tibetans as they did after the first signing of an
agreement on autonomy in 1951, which they themselves dictated?

Even if Tibet ever realizes autonomy under the sovereignty of
Communist China, Tibetans will never truly trust the situation.
Tibetans will set one foot outside Tibet and the other foot in Tibet.
And unlike Hong Kong, which is mostly made up of Chinese, Tibetans
will never completely assimilate with the Han race because of the
Han's superiority complex nor accept a communist regime as their
ideologies differ completely.

The Tibetan Government-in Exile's chief envoy in his negotiations
with China proclaims "we must not look at the past" in order to avoid
upsetting the Chinese with the touchy subject of our history of
independence. But the very intrinsic values of Buddhism teach us that
our future depends upon our past. The past is what makes us Tibetans
and the past is what will make the future. Even the Dalai Lama's own
elder brother, the honorable Taktser Rimpoche, despite his age and
physical disability, valiantly fought for independence, not for
autonomy. My own late father, the historian, statesman and former
Finance Minister of independent Tibet, Tsepon Wangchuk Deden
Shakabpa, steadfastly stood for an independent Tibet all his life.

With autonomy under the sovereignty of Communist China, Tibetans will
go the way of American Indians with even far less freedom. For real
freedom, the only option is to continue the struggle to regain
Tibet's independence or have an agreement for genuine autonomy with a
truly democratic state. The fall of empires through the ages, as well
as the fall of the Spanish and British Empires, the Nazi Rule and the
Soviet Union is proof that impermanence is the constant in nature.
Dictatorships in Burma, Kenya and Zimbabwe may yet fall. Therefore,
the Chinese tyranny and power over Tibet and its other colonies will
too one day soon come to an end. Just like India, the Philippines,
many African nations and eastern European countries, one day Tibet
too will be free and independent if Tibetans continue their struggle
for freedom no matter how long it takes.

I firmly oppose any gesture or effort to enter into an agreement with
communists for autonomy for Tibet, in this case with Communist China.

Communism is faltering and failing worldwide. Millions of Chinese who
have fled their own country are clamoring for democracy in China.
Chinese intellectuals and students within China are demanding
democracy. The silent majority in China is wishing for democracy.
There is a growing split between the hardliners and pragmatic
progressives within the Communist Party in China. The country is no
longer ruled by one man. She is ruled by consensus within the
Communist party and every day the liberals within the party are
gaining strength. Finally, China will have to embrace democracy if
she is to be accepted within the ranks of nations that uphold human
rights and if she is to compete fairly with its equally populous
neighbor, India, which is rapidly progressing economically within a
free and democratic environment.

Having said the above and as a Tibetan who longs to return to a free
Tibet, it is my secondary hope and prayer that our hardline position
to gain complete independence for Tibet will strengthen His Holiness
the Dalai Lama's hand to achieve "genuine" autonomy for Tibet under a
single, democratically-elected Tibetan administration over the whole
of ethnic Tibet "within the framework of a truly democratic China".
Treaded carefully and calculatingly, this may well be a stepping
stone to total independence.

We must ignite the flames of freedom and follow the star of Tibet to
seek the fountain of bliss.

Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama!
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