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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Suitability of Middle Way Path: A Brief Analysis

November 18, 2008

A Brief Analysis of the Tibetan Struggle
Khyunglho Tsetan Dolkar
November 17, 2008

First I would like to offer my heartiest greetings and Tashi Delek to
all our brothers and sisters - those who could participate in the
Special Meeting and those who wish to participate but cannot. In this
short paper I want to address three issues: factors that led to the
recent March uprisings in Tibet, the present situation of Tibetan
struggle on the international stage, and the suitability of the
Middle Way Policy.

Factors of the March Uprising

Even though I am tempted to say that there is one and only one factor
that led to the widespread uprising in Tibet, namely the Tibetan
people's aspiration for independence, it would be rather simplistic
on my part to do so. The situation is highly complex and so many
factors were in play.

However, I would like to identify three main causes which underlie
not only the recent deluge of demonstrations that gripped the whole
of Chol-kha-sum, but also every major uprising that has ever taken
place in Tibet on significant dates. The first main cause, of course,
is the concrete and immutable 'collective national consciousness'
shared by every Tibetan that the Chinese and the Tibetans are two
distinct nations with distinct peoples. Neither harsh policies and
intense repressions of the sixties and seventies, nor reforms and
changes of the eighties and nineties have succeeded in eroding this
national sense of the Tibetan people. This has remained the bedrock
of all the Tibetan movements, be it for independence, freedom or
equality. The second cause can be attributed to the Chinese
government's repressive, harmful and discriminatory policies,
particularly concerning religious freedom, freedom of expression and
freedom of faith. Exacerbating this dismal situation is the lack of
rule of law, which I want to identify as the third cause, that could
guarantee Tibetan people their basic rights. These conditions have
fostered and deepened frustrations, resentments and a sense of
futility in the hearts of Tibetan people against their occupier,
which had frequently erupted as demonstrations, riots and uprisings.

Although the three factors are quite obvious to anyone who is
familiar with the Tibetan situation, I would like to comment some
more on the second and the third factors. Maugre the Chinese
government's claims that it has provided Regional Ethnic Autonomy to
major ethnic minorities, the Tibetans have suffered inimical policies
that aimed at undermining their unique ethnic characteristics such as
language, religious belief, economy and so on. Instituting and
implementation of such policies run totally counter to the Chinese
government's claims that the ethnic minority groups enjoy special
Autonomous status for the preservation of their national and cultural
identities. Lack of judicial independence, weak judicial authority,
judicial corruption (ii) and party chauvinism all ensure that the
rule of law is hardly practiced not just in Tibet but throughout China.

In a country that observes the rule of law, citizens can enjoy basic
rights and if, because of corrupted government or bad leaders, the
citizens were denied their fundamental rights, they still have legal
means to fight for their rights. However, if the judiciary system
lacks the appropriate authority, as in the case of the PRC, to
rectify such problems, then the people will suffer worst kinds of
oppression. The history of the world has shown that at such times
people resort to radical measures including violent demonstrations.
The March-and-subsequent months' uprising, which spread right across
the windswept mountains of languishing Tibet, was yet another
instance of people taking to the streets to demand their basic rights.

Situation of Tibetan Struggle and the Suitability of the Middle Way

Study of the history of national struggles will reveal that three
major factors -- two positive and one negative – were usually
responsible for successful resolution of ethnic and national
problems. The two positive factors are: concrete and continuous
struggle by the nation until its dream is realized, and support from
the superpower nations. At present the Tibetan struggle lacks both of
them. A continuous and interminable struggle becomes quite impossible
for the Tibetans living inside Tibet because of the absolute
suppression by the Chinese government and the widespread PLA presence
that constantly monitors people's movement. As for the Tibetan
expatriates, their persistent efforts at organizing demonstrations
are often enervated by small number of participants and restrained by
regulations of the host nations. Thus, the history of Tibetan
struggle has been spells of bursting activities followed by long
spells of silence. The second factor is also absent from the Tibetan
struggle as no superpower nation has been willing to bear the brunt
of Beijing's fury and support Tibet on political grounds. Besides,
the present reality is that all the superpowers unanimously agree
that Tibet is an integral part of the People's Republic of China.

In the cutthroat world of politics, the key question revolves not
around the principles of morality and truth but rather around selfish
gains and self-interest; the superpowers are neither driven by
principles of truth nor swayed by appeal to its sense of fairness.
The negative factor is the weakening of the occupying nation's power,
either due to external conflicts or internal strife, to the point
where it cannot rule the minority nationalities. In such a situation
the minority nationality could find opportunities to wrestle its
freedom from the occupying force. Unfortunately, that is not the case
with China. What happens in a situation where not only are the three
factors missing but the adversary happens to be extremely powerful is
that the minority nationality is compelled to make compromises and
accept preconditions in order to achieve their maximum demands. This
becomes apparent when we look at various nationalities who have
achieved different degrees of autonomy or self-governance. Thus, in
the circumstances where all the three factors are lacking, the
suitable course Tibetans can take in resolving their problems is to
have direct negotiations with the Chinese government and seek an
amicable solution. That, I think, is what the Middle Way Policy has
been trying to achieve.

Opinions exist in our community that the Middle Way Policy has failed
to produce any concrete results, in the thirty something years since
its inception, and therefore must be abandoned (iii) in favor of
something else. Even though the Middle Way Policy has yet to achieve
its ultimate goal, it is not entirely without results. Since 2002, in
a span of six years, eight rounds of talks have been held between the
representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese
government. Through these talks the two sides have succeeded in
fathoming each other's demands, aspirations and thoughts, which could
be considered as important steps leading up to negotiation. We should
realize that holding eight rounds of talks in six years indicate the
existence of some pressure, regardless of its degree, on the Chinese
government from the international community. Moreover, nations are
getting more involved and paying closer attention to the Tibetan
issues and this we could consider as an achievement of some sort,
since the intervention of international community is a basic
necessity in conflict resolutions.

Recently, Zhu Weiqun, the vice-minister of the Communist Party's
United Front Work Department (UFWD), refuted the Middle Way Policy
and attacked every major features of it, calling that these cannot be
fulfilled. Many Tibetans responded to the attacks by stating that the
Middle Way Policy has failed and therefore has to be abandoned.
Before responding to these allegations I want to briefly lay down the
charges for you. First, the Middle Way Policy still maintains that
Tibet was not an integral part of China "since ancient times"; hence
it disguised independence as a final goal. Second, the Middle Way
Policy aspires to achieve "Greater Tibet" which has never existed
historically. Third, its aspiration for higher degree of autonomy
aims to revive the feudal serfdom. Fourth, its demand for withdrawal
of Chinese military from Greater Tibet will compromise the region's
social stability and China's national security. And the fifth, the
Middle Way's call for cessation of migration of other ethnic groups
to Tibet and the withdrawal of Han migrants from Tibet.

I want to remind that the important features of the Middle Way Policy
are not newly established and these attacks are also not new and
fresh. For instance, in the Five Point Peace Plan of 1987 His
Holiness the Dalai Lama has clearly stated that Tibet was
historically not a part of China but rather was "a fully independent
state when the People's Liberation Army invaded the country in
1949/50." The UFWD's Yang Ming Fu responded by issuing warning that
if the Dalai Lama continued pursuing independence the Chinese
government would implement harsher policies in Tibet. Likewise, the
demand for Greater Tibet was not a novel phenomenon. It was conveyed
to the Chinese authorities as early as the beginning of eighties when
the special delegations visited Tibet. Jiang Ping of UFWD is said to
have warned that there won't be any opportunity for negotiations
unless the demand for Greater Tibet is relinquished. The remaining
features have been laid down clearly in the Strasbourg Proposal,
which the Chinese said could never form the basis of negotiations.
Therefore, the Tibetans should neither be shocked and consternated,
nor be confused and disheartened at China's virulent attack of the
Middle Way Policy. Some people feel that since China will never be
sincere and honest in resolving the Tibet issue, no efforts should be
wasted pursuing peaceful talks. Isn't it a fact that in the histories
of national struggles no nationality has ever won their struggle
hoping that the occupier would display honesty? So despite the
Chinese insincerity, our struggle must go on. That should be the
essence of our struggle.

I want to recommend few points to refute the above Chinese attacks.
So long as Tibet's historical status remained controversial, China
will find in it an excuse to delay the process of negotiation. One
way to handle this issue is to present an unbiased historical study
of the status of Tibet, to international community in general and the
Chinese people in particular, by compiling treaties, agreements and
other documents that Tibetan government had signed with other nations
such as Mongolia, Nepal and Great Britain. For instance, the recently
discovered text of the Tibet-Mongol Treaty of 1913 testifies to
Tibet's independent status and her right to enter into treaties with
other nations as recent as 1913. Likewise, we could use the recent
parliamentary statement issued, on 29 October 2008, by the UK Foreign
Secretary David Miliband stating that Tibet had never been fully part
of China even when China was enjoying a "special position" at the
beginning of the 20th century. Such documents could show the true
status of Tibet before the Chinese invasion and fend off China's
single-minded demand of validation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Changing Tibet's historical status necessitates the changing of other
nations' history and their treaties with Tibet. Such right is not in
the hands of either the Chinese or the Tibetans.

The issue of Greater Tibet as a historical fact cannot be disproved
by the Chinese government. Moreover, one of the main purposes for
demanding Greater Tibet is to facilitate the complete preservation of
culture and national identity of the Tibetan people. The Chinese
constitution asserts that Autonomous Regions will be formed wherever
minority nationalities reside in compact forms and the Autonomous
status provided in that locality. Since all the three provinces of
Tibet lie adjacent to each other and each share common national
identity, it makes perfect sense to group them together into one
unit. This should be made known to the Chinese people. The allegation
that the Tibetan government will reestablish feudal-serfdom once a
high degree of autonomous status has been achieved is totally
baseless. Democracy has taken firm root in the Tibetan exile
community and over the course of forty nine years the process of
democratization has gained more and more momentum. Thus, there is not
even a slight chance for feudal system's resurrection. Lastly, the
allegation that the Middle Way Policy calls for the withdrawal of the
non-Tibetan nationalities from Tibet is baseless as no such clause
exist in the policy.

Finally, I would like to point out two things that we must be
circumspect of when resolving the Tibetan issue.

1. In the process of negotiation we must never accept any conditions
that could have negative consequences to the preservation of our
national and cultural identity.

2. The Tibetan government should ensure that the final decision
making power is in the hands of the six million Tibetans as stated in
the Middle Way Policy.
If necessary steps are not taken to guarantee these two elements,
then real dangers of losing the national and cultural identity of the
Tibetan people could arise and also risks of fostering dissensions
amongst the Tibetan people of the three provinces may arise.
Moreover, since establishing a democratic form of government in Tibet
has been one of the highest aspirations of the Middle Way Policy,
allowing the Tibetan people to choose their final destiny has the
added advantage of promoting open competition, facilitating
participation of maximum numbers of people in the process of
political decision-making, and ensuring basic civil liberties. These
characteristics constitute the three dimensions of the "root concept"
of democracy,(iv) and following this path could ensure the
fulfillment of our aspiration to have democratic government,
formation of a stable community and a government that is by the
people and for the people.

Khyunglho Tsetan Dolkar got her PhD. Degree in the field of political
science from Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. Her
dissertation was on the Sino-Tibetan relations and the
internationalization of the Tibetan issue. She is currently living in
Atlanta, Georgia, and is continuing her research in this field. She
can be contacted at


ii. Dr. Minxin Pei, 'Statement to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee', read at a hearing titled, 'The Emergence of China
Throughout Asia: Security and Economic Consequences for the U.S.', 7
June 2005. Accessible here.

iii. All of us must pause and ponder very carefully before making any
judgments, especially by listening to a mouthpiece of the Chinese
Communist Party. Consider these facts: 1) The refutations by Zhu
Weiqun came after the Special Envoys announced that they are
forbidden by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile to divulge the content
of the talks until after the Special Meeting, 2) The always
tight-lipped Party officials became loquacious about the talks at
this specific time. I think the recent attack on the Middle Way
Policy is a very clever ruse by the Chinese government to derail the
Middle Way Approach. Why else would the Chinese government openly
claim that the Middle Way Approach has failed to make progress and
criticize it, when in the past the CPC government has maintained a
very tight lip regarding the talks? Here are few possible reasons for
the Chinese government to issue those statements: 1. Create disunity
in the exile community concerning the Middle Way Policy, 2. Discredit
His Holiness the Dalai Lama by discrediting his policy, 3. Create
disorientation in the Tibetan struggle.

iv. Dirk Berg-Schlosser, 'Concept, Measurements and Sub-Types in
Democratization Research', Dirk Berg-Schlosser (ed.),
Democratisation: The State of the Art, Wiesbaden, Germany, 2004, p. 52.
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