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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."

Spring Revolt of Tibet – beyond the clichés

November 5, 2008

Phayul [Tuesday, November 04, 2008 16:42]

By Tenam


Paris, France, November 4 - The Centre for Studies on modern and 
contemporary China and the Research Center on Chinese, Japanese and 
Tibetan civilizations, Paris, France, organised a one-day conference 
on the recent events in Tibet at the School for Advanced Studies in 
the Social Sciences (EHESS) yesterday, attended by Tibet-watchers like 
Robbie Barnett, Andrew Fisher, Elliot Sperling and Dr. Lobsang Sangay.


The topic for discussion ranged from the scale or protest, the violent 
and non-violent aspects and the message that the protesters were 
trying to communicate.


"In the narrative of the recent protest, unfortunately the voice of 
the Tibetans inside Tibet was rarely heard,” opined Robbie Barnett 
from Columbia University.


Pointing at the ever present photos of His Holiness amongst the 
protesters he said a conclusion that they supported the Middle Way 
policy of the Dalai Lama can be made.


Dr. Lobsang Sangay talked about the history of negotiations between 
China and the Tibetans and presented a legal case for the Tibetans. He 
said that what the exile administration is asking for the moment is 
something that is clearly mentioned in the constitution of China.


Calling himself a minority amongst the Tibetans, he said that he still 
has not lost hope in a negotiated settlement provided Tibetans can be 
more flexible and the Chinese side less suspicious.


Elliot Sperling from Indiana University presented a brief look at the 
Chinese presentation of the history of China-Tibet relations and the 
problematic issue for the PRC historians to set an exact date when 
Tibet became a part of China. He concluded that there is no real 
historical basis for this claim.


Morning session also saw a cartographic presentation by Heather 
Stoddard and how the Tibetans, Mongolians, Manchus and Chinese 
presented their empires in the past and the change in maps printed by 
the PRC, especially with regard to the inclusion of Tibet into the 
Chinese empire.


"The maps become less subtle as we come to the twentieth century,” 
concluded Stoddard.


Michel Bonin, a China expert from the School for Advanced Studies in 
the Social Sciences, Paris talked about the reaction of Chinese 
authorities to the protest in Tibet.


Andrew Fischer, economist from Netherlands, gave a talk on the 
economic aspect of the Tibetan issue and outlined the differences in 
the economic realities of Tibet Autonomous Region and rest of China. 
One of the biggest differences seemed to be the level of subsidies 
pumped into TAR and the rise of public sector spendings inside TAR.


"Yet the government is just giving money to themselves and there is no 
real growth in Tibet which is sustainable,” opined Andrew Fisher.


Françoise Robin talked on "The 'new socialist villages' in Tibet: 
settlement and relocation" and dwelled on the controversial subject of 
resettlement of nomads in TAR and other Tibetan areas.


In the afternoon session, Lara Macon talked on the reactions of 
Chinese and Tibetans to the recent protest and the emergence of a new 
breed of confident, nationalistic and technologically savvy Chinese.


Marie Holzmann, independent researcher, and Sinologist presented a 
brief look at the "discordant voices in the PRC - Support for Tibetans 
amongst Chinese." She talked about the change in many Chinese 
democracy activist and the growing support for the Dalai Lama amongst 
them. She concluded with a quote from one Chinese writer - “only when 
Tibetans enjoy autonomy, will China then have freedom.”


During the question answer period Dr. Sangay stressed that when 
looking at the protest in Tibet one cannot “cherry pick” meanings to 
fit into one's personal ideology.


“The Tibet issue has attained international stature whenever Tibetans 
inside Tibet rise up. It is not an issue created by Tibetans in 
exile,” said Dr. Sangay. He concluded that Tibetans in exile are “side-
actors”.


The evening concluded with a heart-wrenching documentary called 
“Kokonor, un lac en sursis” by Tsering Dorje Chenaktsang. The film is 
about China's primary nuclear weapons research and design facility 
that was constructed on the Tibetan Plateau in the early 1960s, near 
the shores of Lake Kokonor. It was known as the Northwest Nuclear 
Weapons Research and Design Academy, or the Ninth Academy. The Tibetan 
nomads from this area lost everything and have now become tourist 
curiosity where many parents' only source of income is their children 
posing for tourist cameras.
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