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

Editorial: Lowering Tibet's expectations

February 16, 2009

China Post, Taiwan
February 15, 2009

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet 50 years ago when he was 23, is now a
septuagenarian who may not be able to return to his native land alive.
His dream for a Greater Tibet may also never come true if he does not
lower his grand ambitions.

The spiritual leader of Tibet and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who
advocates non-violence in his struggle for “genuine autonomy” for
Tibetans has been a popular figure in the West. But as the years go by,
the 73-year-old monk seems to show mounting angst about the future of
his grandiose scheme for Tibet's de facto independence.

While in Germany this week to receive the 2008 Media Prize, he warned of
fresh uprisings in Tibet in the run-up to the 50 anniversary of the
failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule that prompted his exile to
India where he and his followers set up a government in exile at Dharamsala.

On March 14, 2008, just five months before the Beijing Olympics, violent
protests broke out in Lhasa when Tibetan monks and mobs beat, smashed,
looted, and torched Han Chinese stores in the city. The riots attracted
international attention and embarrassed Beijing, which was in the midst
of staging an elaborate international coming-out party. Beijing accused
the Dalai Lama of masterminding the bloody incident.

Now, with the anniversary looming, the Dalai Lama was sounding the siren
that the situation in Tibet was so “tense” as to make him “worried and sad.”

“Today, there is too much anger, the situation is very tense. It's so
tense that the Chinese military have their hands on the trigger,” he was
quoted by the AFP as saying in Baden Baden, Germany.

His warning was a message to the world to pay attention to Tibet, and at
the same time tell Beijing that he is still a man to be reckoned with in
defusing the tension there. He was saying, in fact, that he was still a
player on the world stage as well as in Chinese politics that had began
to ignore him, especially after the rousing success of the Beijing Olympics.

Last year, Beijing was under tremendous pressure from the West,
especially the United States and Europe, to open dialogues with the
Dalai Lama. Three rounds of talks took place between the Dalai Lama's
representatives and Beijing officials, but no progress had been made.
The outcome was no surprise because the two sides failed to share a
common ground to begin with.

On one side, the Dalai Lama put on the table a “Memorandum on Genuine
Autonomy for the Tibetan People,” calling for a single local
administration governing all areas inhabited by Tibetans, totaling 2.5
million square kilometers in area, about a quarter of China's territory.

The demand was rejected outright by Beijing, which sees it as an attempt
for de facto separation and independence. Not only was this not allowed
under China's constitution, the suggested territory would be the biggest
in Tibet history. As such, the Dalai Lama's “genuine autonomy” can be
seen as an insincere effort at best, bordering on unrealistic.

But Beijing is leaving the door open to future dialogue, ready to
discuss with the Dalai Lama realistic issues such as culture, religion,
and economic development. The issue of “Greater Tibet” and “Genuine
Autonomy” the Dalai Lama has in mind are surely out of the question.

Time is on Beijing's side, but time alone will not solve all problems
when the Dalai Lama leaves the scene. It is still in the best interest
of both sides to engage in meaningful, down-to-earth talks to seek
commonalities and compromises in good faith to find a solution, rather
than turning a blind eye to realities and demanding the impossible.

For the Dalai Lama, he should realize that his options are limited.
Neither seeking de facto independence nor resorting to violence is a
viable option. Few nations would recognize Tibet as a sovereign country,
as is the case with Taiwan. Terrorism would not be tolerated by his host
India, which was the latest victim of a terrorist attack. The avuncular
Buddhist monk would do well to lower his expectations in the pursuit for
perfection and tone down his rhetoric if he does not want to live the
rest of his life in Dharamsala.
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