Join our Mailing List

"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."

Thirty odd years for nothing?

November 14, 2008

Claude Arpi (India)
November 13, 2008

Sometime in November 1978, Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's elder
brother arrived without warning in Kanpur where his brother was
giving a religious teaching. The Dalai Lama remembered: "To my
surprise, he announced that he had heard through some old and trusted
friends of his in Hong Kong that Xinhua [New Agency] wanted to make
contact with him." Thondup wanted the permission to go ahead. The
Dalai Lama was thoughtful. As he wrote later: "The developments of
the past two years all looked very promising [after Mao's demise];
however, as the ancient Indian saying goes, when you have once been
bitten by a snake, you become cautious even of rope."

Nevertheless Thondup got the green light. During the following five
or six weeks, he met several times with Li Ju-sheng, who, although
certainly not a journalist, was designated as 'Xinhua Director No. 2'
in the then British colony.

At the beginning, Gyalo Thondup did not know that Li was a close
associate of Deng Xiao-ping (who had closely watched his intelligence
work in Indonesia in the 1960's). After a few meetings, Li
recommended to his boss to invite Thondup to Beijing to discuss the
situation in Tibet.

China: What after the Games?

The meeting between the new supreme leader of the People's Republic
of China and the Dalai Lama's brother took place in Beijing in
February 1979 (around the time the Indian Foreign Minister Vajpayee
was visiting China). Immediately, Deng told Thondup that he would
like to invite the refugees in India to return to Tibet: "It is
better to see once than to hear a hundred times".

It is during this encounter with Gyalo Thondup that Deng Xiaoping
said: "The door is opened for negotiations as long as we don't speak
about independence. Everything else is negotiable."

Hence, 20 years after they had fled their native land in the most
dramatic conditions, three fact-finding delegations were sent by the
Dalai Lama in 1979 and 1980 to visit Tibet.

Let us not forget the Dalai Lama's situation who, followed by 85,000
of his countrymen, had taken refuge in India. As he reached the
Indian border near Tawang in March 1959, he was given asylum by the
Nehru government with the condition that he would not indulge 'in
politics' on the Indian soil. From then on, his hands were tightly bound.

Tibet keeps alive true spirit of the Games

  On March 10 1973, in an annual Statement, the Tibetan leader
clearly outlined his main concern, the happiness of 6 million
Tibetans: "If the Tibetans in Tibet are truly happy under Chinese
rule then there is no reason for us here in exile to argue
otherwise." This would remain the guiding principle of his policy
during the following decades.

After having written a long personnel letter to Deng Xiaoping in
1981, in-depth discussions were held in 1982 and 1984 in Beijing
between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Chinese officials.
Unfortunately with no tangible progress! The Chinese only wanted to
discuss the status of the Dalai Lama and his future role, in case he
came back to the 'motherland'. This was not acceptable to the Dalai
Lama who wanted to 'negotiate' the fate of his countrymen, not his
own future. For Beijing, the status of Tibet has been fixed once and
for all in 1951, when a Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful
Liberation of Tibet was signed (under duress, say the Tibetans).

Earlier this month, when the Dalai Lama's Envoys met Du Qinglin, the
vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference, the latter said that the Dalai
Lama "should respect history, face reality and conform to the times,
as well as fundamentally change his political propositions."

It is not really clear what is meant by 'change his political
propositions', but 'face reality' probably signifies that regarding
Tibet's status even a small degree of autonomy (guaranteed in the
Chinese Constitution but never implemented) is not negotiable.
According to Xinhua, Du made clear: "Concerning the fundamental issue
of safeguarding national unification and territorial integrity, not
the slightest wavering or departure would be allowed, noting that no
'Tibet independence', 'half independence' or 'covert independence'
would be tolerated." In other words, no discussion on 'a meaningful
or genuine' autonomy!

Strangely, the same words were used by the Chinese when the Dalai
Lama presented his Strasbourg Proposal in June 1988. To the
consternation of many, the Tibetan leader decided to surrender the
independence of his country and resign himself to obtaining a genuine autonomy.

On that day of June 1988, in front of the European Parliament in
Strasbourg, he made a huge compromise by renouncing 'independence', a
dream cherished by millions of his countrymen, and accepted to settle
for 'autonomy' within the People's Republic of China.

Confronted with 'vast seas' of Chinese migrants who "threaten the
very existence of the Tibetans as a distinct people," the Tibetan
leader had crossed the Rubicon and formalized his 'Middle-Path' approach.

India to mark entry on moon on Friday

For the past 20 years, the Tibetans, especially the younger
generation, are torn between their aspiration for freedom and their
love for their leader.

Many young Tibetans think like Tsoltim N. Shakabpa, the son of a
former Finance Minister who traveled abroad on a Tibetan passport in
the 40's: "Why does the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGIE) ask for
autonomy for Tibet from Communist China that would give Tibetans
considerably less freedom than those of us in exile currently enjoy?
Presently, we are free to worship, voice our opinion on political and
national issues, travel, practice and promote our religion, culture
and traditions, and free to even vote for our Parliament-in-Exile.
Why would the TGIE seek an agreement that denies such rights to us?"

A few weeks before the visit of his Tibetan Envoys to China,
addressing a large audience at the annual Foundation Day of the
Tibetan Children Village in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama surprised many
when he declared that he had 'given up' on China: "It's difficult to
talk to those who don't believe in truth [the Chinese]. I have
clearly mentioned that I still have faith in the Chinese people, but
my faith in the Chinese government is thinning." He added that
despite sincerely pursuing the mutually beneficial Middle-Way policy
in dealing with China, there was no positive response from Beijing.

Like thirty years ago, the Tibetan leader asserted: "The issue at
hand is the welfare of the Tibetan people and is not about my
personal status and affairs."

Probably sensing the tensions within the Tibetan community between
the pros and cons 'Middle Path' and considering the 'serious
situation inside Tibet', the Dalai Lama called for a 'Special
Meeting' with old and present Cabinet Ministers, current and former
members of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, government officials,
Tibetan NGOs, and intellectuals to deliberate between November 17 to
22 in Dharamsala on Tibet's future and its relation with China.

There is of course the danger of Tibetans tearing themselves apart;
many want 'independence' while others feel that to go against the
Middle Path is to go against the Dalai Lama. At the same time, the
Tibetan leader has asked his people to come out with their own
solution to the cul-de-sac.

For Beijing also the situation is not that simple. Paradoxically, the
Chinese leadership needs to hold the 'talks' to show the world that
they are serious about sorting out the issue. The dissident Wang
Lixiong analyzed: "Beijing sees the talks as an end in themselves.
They do not need any resolution, and do not want any resolution, just
the process is enough. From the start, their objective was to prolong
the process as long as possible."

A catch 22 situation for everybody!
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank