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

China-Tibet conflict — II

December 15, 2008

Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
The Post - Lahore, Punjab  OPINION
Monday, December 15, 2008
 
Tibet is a plateau region in Central Asia and the home to the indigenous Tibetan people. With an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft), it is the highest region on Earth and is commonly referred to as the “Roof of the World.” The general history of Tibet begins with the rule of Songtsän Gampo (604–50 CE) who united parts of the Yarlung River Valley and ruled Tibet as a kingdom. Under the next few kings who followed Songsten Gampo, Buddhism became established as the state religion and Tibetan power increased even further over large areas of Central Asia while major inroads were made into Chinese territory, even reaching the Chinese capital Chang’an (modern Xian) in late 763.
 
Tibet was once an independent kingdom, but today is part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) while a small part, according to the government of the People’s Republic of China, the government of the Republic of China, some of their diplomatic allies, as well as sympathetic scholarly and non-governmental bodies, is controlled by India. Currently, the PRC government and the Government of Tibet in Exile still disagree over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether the incorporation into China of Tibet is legitimate according to international law. Since what constitutes Tibet is a matter of much debate (see map, right) neither its size nor population are simple matters of fact, due to various entities claiming differing parts of the area as a Tibetan region.
 
A unified Tibet first came into being under Songtsän Gampo in the seventh century. The government of the Dalai Lamas, a line of Tibetan spiritual leaders, nominally ruled a large portion of the Tibetan region at various times from the 1640s until its incorporation into the PRC in the 1950s. During most of this period, the Tibetan administration was subordinate to the Chinese empire of the Qing Dynasty. As a measure of the power that regents must have wielded it is important to note that only three of the fourteen Dalai Lamas have actually ruled Tibet. The PRC government equates Tibet with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). As such, the name “X?zàng” is equated with the TAR.
 
At the end of the 1230s, the Mongols turned their attention to Tibet. At that time, Mongol armies had already conquered Northern China, much of Central Asia, and as far as Russia and modern Ukraine. A second invasion led to the submission of almost all Tibetan states. In 1244, Göden summoned the Sakya Pandita to his court, and in 1247 appointed Sakya the Mongolian viceroy for Central Tibet, though the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo remained “under direct Mongol rule”. When Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, Tibet became a part of the Yuan Dynasty. In 1578, Altan Khan of the Tümed Mongols invited Sonam Gyatso, a high lama of the Gelugpa school. They met near Khökh Nuur, where Altan Khan first referred to Sönam Gyatso as the Dalai Lama; Dalai being the Mongolian translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso, or “Ocean”.
 
The first Europeans to arrive in Tibet were Portugese missionaries in 1624 and were welcomed by the Tibetans who allowed them to build a church. However, by the 19th century the situation of foreigners in Tibet grew more tenuous. The British Empire was encroaching from northern India into the Himalayas and Afghanistan and the Russian Empire of the tsars was expanding south into Central Asia and each power became suspicious of intent in Tibet. By the 1850s Tibet had banned all foreigners from Tibet and shut its borders to all outsiders. In 1904 a British mission under the command of Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by a large military escort, invaded Tibet and reached Lhasa. The principal reason for the British invasion was a fear, which proved to be unfounded, that Russia was extending its power into Tibet and possibly even giving military aid to the local Tibetan government. In order to offset the damage done to their interests by the 1906 treaty between England and Tibet, the Chinese set up about extending westwards the sphere of their direct control and began to colonize the country round Batang. The Tibetans reacted vigorously.
 
In 1995 the Dalai Lama named 6 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama without Chinese approval, while the PRC named another child, Gyancain Norbu in conflict. Gyancain Norbu was raised in Beijing and has appeared occasionally on state media. The PRC-selected Panchen Lama is rejected by exiled Tibetans and anti-China groups who commonly refer to him as the “Panchen Zuma” (literally “fake Panchen Lama”). Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have gone missing — believed by some to be imprisoned by China.
 
Foreign governments continue to make occasional protests about aspects of CCP rule in Tibet because of frequent reports of human rights violation in Tibet by groups such as Human Rights Watch. The government of the PRC maintains that the Tibetan Government did almost nothing to improve the Tibetans’ material and political standard of life during its rule from 1913–59, and that they opposed any reforms proposed by the Chinese government.
 
In 2001 representatives of Tibet succeeded in gaining accreditation at a United Nations-sponsored meeting of non-governmental organizations. On 29 August Jampal Chosang, the head of the Tibetan coalition, stated that China had introduced “a new form of apartheid” in Tibet because “Tibetan culture, religion, and national identity are considered a threat” to China.
 
In 2005, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he dropped the demand for independence. The Dalai Lama said in an interview with the South China Morning Post “We are willing to be part of the People’s Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment.” This statement was seen as a renewed diplomatic initiative by the Tibetan government-in-exile.
 
Of late, knowing the power game in which the major powers like UNSC-5, including China, are involved, Lama seems to have tactical adjustments in demands with China and, therefore, has been soft over the independence and soverigntyislsue. The Dalai Lama has stated his willingness to negotiate with the PRC government for genuine autonomy, but according to the government in exile and Tibetan independence groups, most Tibetans still call for full Tibetan independence.
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