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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."

Different views of the way ahead for Tibet

November 19, 2008

by Woeser
November 4, 2008

Woeser wrote this article for the Tibetan-language service of Radio Free Asia.

There may never in history have been another gathering that so
stirred the hearts of Tibetans at home and abroad. This is primarily
because Tibetans have never before been separated for so long. To the
more than 100,000 Tibetans in exile, the Tibet on this side of the
Himalayas is their homeland. To the almost 6 million Tibetans within
the borders, on the far side of the Himalayas lies another Tibet
which, though very small, contains Tibet's soul. In the middle of
this month, on that side of the mountains in Dharamsala (the seat of
the Tibetan exile government) there will convene a representative
assembly of Tibetans from all over the world to discuss Tibet's
future direction - obviously, an epochal event. At the beginning of
March, His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared that the problems of
Tibet were for the Tibetan people to solve, and the future of Tibet
was for the Tibetan people to decide.

We who are Tibetans within the borders, even though under the
repression of a great power and so unable to express ourselves freely
like Tibetans outside, still want to express our aspirations without
being held back by fear. If I may offer a composite of the opinions
of several contemporary intellectuals who live within the PRC, they
think that the decision of His Holiness was exactly right (even
though it seems to have been forced on him by events), because it
will lead to better preparations for the future. Whatever path is
chosen in the future will not be immutable. It won't be a rigid
either/or; there will be elements of this and elements of that, or
either one, or neither: different paths will cross or overlap, so
that opportunities will recur. But at present, just as His Holiness
said, the conciliatory accommodations of the past have been proven to
be a failure. Consequently, whether Tibetans like it or not, there
can be no continuing on the previous path.

There are more than ten monks in their twenties and thirties at a
certain monastery in Amdo who were all arrested and beaten at the
outbreak of protests against violence in March. Some of the monks
bear on their wrists to this day the scars of the iron wire with
which the Armed Police bound them. They say: though Tibetans are
enduring adversity and suffering the lack of freedom, nevertheless,
as disciples of Buddhism, they still want to follow the Middle Way
advocated by His Holiness and strive non-violently for Tibetans'
rights. No matter how hard the future, it will still be their duty to
walk the Middle Way of peaceful reason.

There is also a more intense point of view which holds that in the
beginning His Holiness followed the path of Rangzen [independence]
but later gradually changed, especially after Deng Xiaoping promised,
"Except for independence, everything can be discussed." What he
sought then was a high degree of autonomy within the framework of
China's constitution. However, after almost 30 years, there has been
no progress at all. Therefore, at this juncture of history, the right
course is to turn back to the path of Rangzen. Although the world's
support is still necessary, the important thing is for Tibetans
themselves to shoulder this duty. Any people that has sought
independence has had to pay for it with blood and lives. Though we
don't want to shed our blood, it can't be helped, there's no way
around it; and so Tibetans both inside and out must join together and
be prepared to sacrifice for this goal.

Some Western scholars who study China say Tibet has a wretched future
no matter how you look at it. But young Tibetans retort that this
view overlooks the numerous crises that lie hidden behind communist
China's facade of power and greatness, and it also overlooks the
vitality and creativity of Tibetans and Tibetan culture. The problem
of Tibet is not the problem of His Holiness alone and it shall not be
the case that with the passing of His Holiness, Tibetans and their
culture will be bereft of vitality and creativity. His Holiness will
return, borne on hope, and Tibetans will continue their struggle,
upheld by a Tibetan culture that distills the essence of the Buddhist
spirit. Although it will be a path filled with hardship, for Tibetans
to seek their freedom does not mean a wretched future; or even if
life does grow more bleak, we Tibetans will find courage that is a
match for our oppression.

The most passive school of thought holds that no matter what path is
chosen, whether Middle Way or Rangzen, while they both seem to put a
choice before us, they are both empty choices, because neither will
go far since we are under China's thumb. We just have to let events
take their course.

November 4, 2008
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