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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."

Why Tibetans Must Opt for Rangzen

November 21, 2008

Tenzin Nyinjey
Phayul
November 19, 2008

My father spent his entire life, serving the Tibetan nation, first as
a common soldier guarding the borders of eastern Tibet, and then
later in exile as a soldier of the Tibetan regiment in Chakrata. His
dream was to see a free and independent Tibet, so that his children
could live with honor and dignity. His only regret when he was in the
last days of his life was that Tibet would not be his burying place.

I am not an activist representing any particular organization. I am a
common Tibetan, who is simply concerned about the crisis in Tibet.
Any action taken by the Chinese government in Beijing, and the
response that our government in exile gives to it invariable affects me.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's recent statements that he lost trust in
the Chinese government and that his hope for genuine autonomy for
Tibet is thinning is a matter of grave concern for me. His Holiness
has invoked the Tibetan charter to convene a special meeting of
Tibetan exiles so as to discuss on what kind of strategies we must
pursue in future to advance the just cause of Tibet. As a citizen of
Tibet, I feel it is my solemn duty to express openly and honestly
what I feel about the future course of our struggle.

We spent almost thirty years trying to unravel the mysteries of Deng
Xiaoping's assertion that "except for independence, all issues
concerning Tibet can be resolved through negotiations". At the time,
there were huge expectations that Deng might grant Tibet real
autonomy, but the fact of the matter was that Deng Xioaping was not
at all interested in resolving the real issue of Tibet. He was simply
talking about the personal status of His Holiness and the exile
Tibetans living outside of Tibet.

For Deng and his successors, Tibetans inside Tibet were living
happily and peacefully and that there was no such a thing called
Tibet issue. This was made clear when the Chinese government
constantly rejected the Strasbourg proposal as nothing but disguised
independence. We spent another decade trying to convince the Chinese
that we are very sincere when it comes to securing autonomy for Tibet
and that not even in the wildest of our imagination do we consider
the Middle-Way approach as a stepping stone to achieve independence
for Tibet. In retrospect, we failed to grasp the simple truth that
words and phrases such as "disguised independence",
"semi-independence", "separatists", "splittists" "what the Dalai Lama
speaks is not important, what he does is more important" uttered by
the Chinese state is nothing but mere excuses to avoid resolving
Tibet's problem. They are all empty words, devoid of any meaning, all
polite way of saying, "NO" to our aspiration for a negotiated
settlement to the Tibet issue.

The recent press conference organized by the Chinese Communist
Party's United Front Work Department in Beijing, during which the
Chinese government categorically rejected the autonomy proposals of
His Holiness, even denying that Deng ever made a promise to discuss
Tibetan issue short of independence has proved beyond doubt that
China will never grant autonomy for Tibet. We must realize that
China's ultimate aim in Tibet is to fully assimilate it into the
larger Chinese state.

Under such circumstances, I feel we have no choice but to change our
course and once again revive the struggle for a free and independent
Tibet. Tibetans inside Tibet showed us in this year's mega-protests
that they have not given up their struggle. It gives us a new hope
and confidence that Tibet's freedom can be realized provided we
believe in it and work to achieve it.

I believe only a free and independent Tibet can genuinely secure and
preserve the distinct identity of Tibet. Freedom and independence of
Tibet are non-negotiable; they can not be compromised. Freedom is
like the air that we breathe everyday, without which we can not
survive. I believe Freedom and independence is the soul of Tibet,
which must be nurtured and secured at all cost. Now I would like to
present in detail why we must change the course of our struggle from
autonomy to outright independence:

1. Rangzen is the existential or fundamental birth right of every Tibetan

Every Tibetan's fundamental wish is for Rangzen, for independence
from China. This is their genuine wish, their existential right. This
is also in accordance with the essence of Buddhism, which says dag
nyig dag gi gon (You are the master of your own self). Also according
to the rules and regulations of the United Nations charter, every
individual has the right to decide on its own affairs and matters
without any pressure from outside. Therefore fighting for one's
individual right is the basis for creating a truly free and open
society. This exactly is the wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
when he gifted democracy to the Tibetans, so that Tibetans can
express their fundamental wish, desire without any influence from above.

2. Genuine Autonomy is Impossible in the Context of Leninist and
Police state, which is the People's Republic of China.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's proposal that the whole of Tibet should
enjoy genuine autonomy, with a democratic system of governance
featuring an elected legislature, an executive and independent
judiciary is impossible in a Leninist and authoritarian regime/system
like the People's Republic of China. Any one who has a slight doubt
on this should realize what happened to the Chinese students in
Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. These students were asking for
democracy, freedom of speech, transparency, elected leadership,
freedom of speech and association for which they were brutally
massacred. If the Chinese regime can massacre their own innocent
students for speaking out for democracy then imagine what would
happen to the Tibetans, who are ethnically and racially different
from the Chinese. In short, asking for genuine autonomy with
democratic governance for Tibet is akin to asking for the Communist
Party in China to renounce its sole power position. It is, in other
words, the biggest threat to the rule of the Communist Party in
China. No wonder they have called our autonomy efforts as nothing but
"disguised independence", "semi-independence", "separation",
"splittists", and so on.

3. Rangzen will bring unity for the whole Tibetan population

The most pressing need of the Tibetans at this crisis moment is
unity. Whether we agree or not, there is some sense of
disagreement/disunity between the advocates of Middle path and
Rangzen. A common goal therefore will ensure unity amongst the six
million Tibetans. History is witness to the truth that China has
always exploited the disunity amongst the Tibetans. They have been
using the tactics of divide and rule policy. A common goal will avoid
such evil designs of the Chinese and will further strengthen the
movement of the Tibetan people.

4. Living with the Chinese nation will never ensure the preservation
and protection of Tibetan culture and religion.

China has no genuine respect for Tibetan culture, language and
religion. For them Tibetan religion and culture is nothing but
superstition and backwardness. As such it is the sacred duty of every
Chinese to bring "civilization" to the Tibetans by bringing in
Chinese language, culture and "civilization". In a nutshell, Chinese
civilization and modernization in Tibet is nothing but to SINICIZE
the whole Tibetan population. Only when Tibetans can adopt Chinese
culture and mannerisms, can they be considered as enlightened, modern
and educated. Clinging to Tibetan culture, religion, language,
according to the Chinese state, is clinging to backwardness. This is
the attitude of not just the ruling Communist Party, but of the
Chinese people themselves. Of course there are Chinese who show some
interest in Tibetan Buddhism, but they are on the fringe, very
miniscule, like the proverbial drop in the ocean. Therefore, if Tibet
were to preserve and maintain its distinct identity it has to be
completely free and independent of China.

5. Genuine Autonomy for Tibet is not the ultimate and only wish of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Many Tibetans have a sort of misperception or misunderstanding that
genuine autonomy for Tibet through the Middle Way is the only and
ultimate wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is not true at
all. His Holiness the Dalai Lama's aspiration for autonomy for Tibet
occurred only after 1979, when Deng Xiaoping promised him that he
would discuss all issues of Tibet, except for independence. Before
1979, His Holiness was fighting for Tibet's independence. The only
thing His Holiness can't compromise on is the non-violent approach of
the Tibetan movement. As far as Tibet's goal is concerned, whether
the Tibetans want autonomy or independence, His Holiness has clearly
pointed out that ultimately the six million Tibetans will decide
this. Therefore asking for Tibet's independence doesn't means going
against the wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness wants
to seek the genuine wish of Tibetans through this conference. Ask
your self, what do you truly want: Rangzen or autonomy?

6. Seeking Rangzen will have more options for the Tibetans in their
fight against the Chinese.

When we seek autonomy, we have to accommodate China's "concerns and
demands", such as not organizing demonstrations against Chinese
leaders' visit abroad, such as not using words like independence,
colonialism, genocide in our literature and documents. Not using all
these words are in essence compromising on truth, in the name of
diplomacy and protocol. Seeking autonomy thus ties our hands and
restricts our options and strategies. When we say that we want to
resolve Tibet's issue within the framework of Chinese constitution,
then it becomes very difficult for us to stop the increasing Chinese
migration to the Tibetan plateau. Because the Chinese government
gives the argument that in accordance to the Chinese constitution
Chinese citizens can move freely to all areas of China, including
Tibet. Seeking Rangzen or independence will free our hands; give us
more options and strategies, to confront one of the biggest threats
to the survival of Tibet: migration of Chinese settlers to Tibet.
Regarding this issue, at least we can invoke the Geneva Convention,
which says an occupying country (China) has no rights to encourage
mass migration or colonialism to an occupied country (Tibet).

7. Seeking Rangzen will give us more allies in our fight against the Chinese.

If we seek complete independence from China, or in other words if we
clearly express our genuine desire that it is impossible for us to
live with the Chinese regime, we will get more allies in our fight
against the Chinese. These allies include people of East Turkistan,
Inner Monglia, and Taiwan. Seeking autonomy for Tibet or endorsing
the PRC constitution will alienate all of these allies, since the PRC
constitution recognizes all these countries as territorially an
integral part of China.

8. Rangzen and Autonomy both are not supported by any government, but
Rangzen has more chances of genuine support.

Again there is (mis)conception that autonomy for Tibet is supported
by the international community and not Rangzen. As one noted Tibetan
intellectual said, the only thing that the international community,
including the US leadership and Secretary of the UN, support or say
is that they call for dialogue and talks between China and His
Holiness' representatives. They have not come up with an open
statement that they support the unification of the three provinces of
Tibet having a genuine democratic autonomous system. As said before
they have simply urged for talks between Dharamsala and Beijing. Such
an urging is the norm in the global world politics, whenever there
are conflicts in any part of the region. The truth is that the only
support that we have for Tibet is popular support, whether it is in
the west or in India. Not a single government of any country has
publicly supported the autonomy proposals of the Tibetan government
in exile. In fact they don't even recognize the exile Tibetan
government, leave alone recognizing or supporting its efforts for
genuine autonomy in Tibet. The popular or mass support for Tibet will
continue no matter whether we fight for autonomy or Tibet's
independence. In fact from the strategic point of view, only an
independent Tibet has the chance to secure support from Tibet's
neighbouring countries like Russia, Nepal, Bhutan, and India. All
these countries are threatened by the Chinese hegemony. For them it
would be a great strategic asset if Tibet were to regain its
independence and once again serve as buffer state between themselves
and China, thus further strengthening and ensuring their territorial
integrity and sovereignty.

Conclusion:

We believe in democracy. So all Tibetans have full right to express
their opinions freely. They have every right to express what sort of
status they want to gain for Tibet, autonomy or independence. As far
as I am concerned, one thing is proven beyond doubt, that the
People's Republic of China, even if it has the desire, will never
ever grant the kind of autonomy we are demanding from them, for the
simple reason that it threatens the very "core" of the Leninist
state, which is "Democratic Centralism". I, therefore, believe this
special conference is a very good opportunity for every Tibetan to
realize, not just in words, but in deeds, that the genuine autonomy
as proposed by His Holiness in his Strasbourg proposal is impossible
in the context of the People's Republic of China. Hoping for such an
autonomous status for Tibet is a pipe dream. Not a decent Tibetan in
Tibet wants to live under/with the Chinese, as shown in this year's
protests. This is the truth we must live in.

* The writer is a former Tibetan government official. He worked in
the publication section of the Department of Information and
International Relations as a translator. He is currently the Managing
Editor of Tibet Journal, a publication of the Library of Tibetan
Works and Archives.
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