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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."

No good options for Tibet and China

November 24, 2008

Talks have failed. And violence is not a solution.
Frank Ching is a freelance writer based in Hong Kong
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 23, 2008

The latest round of talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama
and the Chinese government predictably failed to make progress, and
now hundreds of Tibetans are gathering in India to discuss the way forward.

Since the two sides had a totally different understanding of the
nature of the talks, it was not surprising that they could not reach
agreement. The Dalai Lama's representatives wanted to discuss the
situation in Tibet, where there were riots in March, and genuine
autonomy for the region.

However, the Chinese government insists there is no Tibet problem and
says it represents the interests of all ethnic minorities, including
Tibetans. The Tibetan government-in-exile is only "a product created
by a small group of separatists who launched an armed rebellion in 1959."

However, Beijing's position is ambiguous. It says that talks with the
Dalai Lama's representatives can be only about his own future role.
But in July, Chinese officials actually invited views on the degree
or form of autonomy the Dalai Lama is seeking.

Hence, his representatives this time around presented a "Memorandum
on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People," which called for, among
other things, a single administrative entity governing all areas
inhabited by Tibetans - an area that's roughly a fourth of China's territory.

The memorandum also called for Tibetans to create their own regional
government, with the central government in Beijing powerless to
abrogate or change Tibetan decisions.

These proposals were rejected out of hand by Beijing, with Chinese
officials seeing such ideas as but thinly disguised attempts at independence.

At a news conference announcing the failure of the talks, Chinese
officials said the Tibetan leader should "completely give up his
ideas and actions to split China."

It appears that China, which sent additional troops into Tibet after
the disturbances, believes that it has the situation under control.
It sees the Dalai Lama himself as the root of the problem, and now
that he is 73 and ailing, Beijing thinks it is just a matter of time
before he dies and the problem is solved.

The latest meeting was the third such round this year. In May, China
agreed to resume talks, which had not been held since 2006, after
calls from U.S. and European leaders in the wake of disturbances in
Tibetan areas and a Chinese military crackdown.

Renewal of the dialogue was sufficient to keep Western leaders quiet.
Now, with the Olympics over, Beijing evidently sees little need to
keep talking, although officials insist that the door is always open
if the Dalai Lama wishes to "return to a patriotic stance."

With China taking such a hard line, it is little wonder that Tibetans
in exile are meeting to reexamine their options. But they don't have
many options.

For years, there has been discussion as to whether they should opt
for independence or for true autonomy within China. Similarly, there
were arguments over whether they should resort to violence.

Independence is unrealistic, because no nation recognizes Tibet as a
separate country. And violence would have to be disavowed by the
Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Moreover, the Indian
government no doubt would withdraw its hospitality to exiled
Tibetans, which has been extended for 50 years.

Besides, because China indicates its willingness to continue the
dialogue, a decision by Tibetan exiles to stop talking will send a
negative signal to the international community, where many hope for a

The Dalai Lama sounds like a man at the end of his rope. "Tibetans
are being handed down a death sentence," he said recently. "This
ancient nation, with an ancient cultural heritage, is dying."

And yet, even before the convening of the "crisis meeting," his aides
announced that he continued to believe that dialogue was the only way
to resolve the deadlock.

The plight of China's Mongols offers an object lesson for Tibetans.
Mongols now account for only 20 percent of the population of Inner
Mongolia, and Mongol identity is under threat.

Migration of Han Chinese into Tibet will lead to a similar result.
Tibet may lose not only its autonomy, but its distinct culture and
religion. And there is a danger that the threat of extinction may
lead to violence.

If Tibet explodes after the Dalai Lama's death, China may well regret
its decision not to take him seriously. Then, there will be no one
who can help to pacify angry Tibetans.

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