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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Opinion: Seven Deadly Misrepresentations

July 27, 2010

By Tenpa Dhargyal Gapshi
July 26, 2010

Well, lets get down to it, shall we?

1) Rangzen advocates and the rangzen movement is
the cause of the division within the Tibetan society:
That is a huge misconception and unfortunately a
common mistake. First of all, I don't really see
a divide in our community as the word might
usually insinuate and as one would expect from
two fundamentally divergent points of views. And
the reason why there isn't much animosity other
than the usual deprecation of each other's
position is the exalted position of Kundun who
not only commands the love and respect of all
people concerned but also the unquestioning trust
that he is doing it with the purest intention.
Yet another factor is the general consensus that
most people still support the Rangzen movement
but owing to their reverence for Kundun, and more
importantly, out of faith in Kundun, they dare
not disagree publicly. Now coming back to the
question of the cause for this 'divide' within
our movement, one only needs to go back to
declaration of Independence on June 20th, 1959 at
the border by the then Kashag overseen by H.H the
14th Dalai lama and the subsequent 30 years of
Tibetan government's official stance to throw
some light on this dubious claim. Rangzen had
been, and rightfully so, the official position of
TGIE from the very beginning and there was no
'division' within the Tibetan people at that
time, at least not on that front. It was only in
1987 with the introduction of the five-point
peace proposal and the subsequent Strasbourg
Proposal when the Tibetan movement started having
two very divergent approaches. Of course,
five-point peace proposal was followed by a slew
of equally bizarre sounding terms such as 'Zone
of Ahimsa', 'Genuine Autonomy', 'Meaningful
Autonomy' and so and so forth as if changing the
words around would make the difference. Be that
as it may, coming back to the assertion at hand,
in a logical sequence of things, Middle-path
philosophy is the one which created the
'division' in the Tibetan movement and thereby
Rangzen proponents, having never strayed from the
original path cannot be guilty of the charge.

2) Rangzen is a fool's dream and Middle-path at least has a shot:
In all honesty, more than anything, I would say
Middle-path approach created confusion and total
lack of direction, in fact creating total apathy
for the movement itself. Its main focus seem to
be to appease china at any cost without regard
for historical facts, logic, or current reality
and instead end up muzzling our own movement,
disorienting our youth, blacklisting our
intellectuals, and blaming the failure of their
policies on Rangzen advocates. If only we hadn't
insulted this and that Chinese dignitary and if
only we hadn't demonstrated during the Olympics,
we would have found a much more receptive
audience in China which will somehow translate
into more meaningful dialogue and better
understanding between the parties. Eight
fruitless talks, needless felicitations,
embarrassing pronouncements from our exalted
offices and we are still in the quagmire that we
started from and China has barely moved an inch
or rather they have regressed now that TGIE has
legitimized their claim over Tibet. It should be
quite evident now that they have no reason or the
intention to resolve anything in Tibet and they
would be just happy to keep up the charade while
bidding their sweet time until H.H passes away
and then as far as they are concerned, the issue
of Tibet is effectively nullified. No amount of
obsequiousness and kowtowing will result in them
granting us any special status within China
because they know as long as the people of Tibet
exist as a separate race and entity, the Tibet
issue will never be resolved and China will never
have legitimacy over Tibet. They will only be
satisfied when Tibet becomes like Manchuria,
fully occupied by Han nationals and totally
dominated in every aspect of life and identity.
This dream of having an autonomous Tibetan area
with Tibetan majority is just a dream, much like
Rangzen might appear to Middle-Pathers. So, if
both paths are dreams, why not dream bigger where
you wouldn't have to lie, wouldn't have to cringe
every time our Prime Minister mentions Tibet as
an internal matter of China, and we would at
least have dignity and the unity of Tibetan people.

3) Living under China is actually beneficial to us
Now this is a spurious claim which seem to be a
natural offshoot of the Middle Path stance where
you have already decided Middle-way is the
correct course and now are simply engaged in
superfluous attempts at trying to spruce up
poetic reasons for the merits of the
predetermined position and thereby end up making
bizarre and illogical claims almost to the point
of absurdity. Living under China is beneficial to
us? How is that working for us so far? Is this
part of the same myth some clever pundits once
espoused that once we increase trade relations
with China, and the living standards of the
Chinese people improve, they will have no choice
but to open up the country to democratic ideals.
Now, instead of a contained China, we have a more
organized dragon with the proverbial tight
financial hold on the world's economic balls.
Most people who hold this view seems to think it
is a revolutionary idea and we would be somehow
hoodwinking China into elevating our nation too.
Wait, that would not be our nation anymore, it
would be the Chinese nation. We would share in
the natural might of a world power, have a
permanent seat in the exclusive security council,
and be a nation to be reckoned with. Not only
that, we would be also affixing our chupa sashes
on this financial windfall and catapulting
ourselves in their meteorite ascent, all the
while trying to hold on to our braided hair. They
will also point that the world is getting smaller
and smaller and it is an interdependent world and
no nation is free to make independent decisions
without adversely affecting itself. Europe has
formed its own union to compete in the world
economy and it only makes sense that such
amalgamation would be the norm rather than the
exception in the future and we would be simply
evolving in that direction in a sense. From a
distance, it sounds almost inviting, doesn't it?
Almost like a Utopian concoction where the benign
and brotherly assistance from China would
catapult Tibet from the feudalistic nightmare
into an egalitarian society of mutual respect and
cooperation. Where did I hear this before? Oh,
that's right, isn't this what China has been
saying for the last 50 years and we are still
oppressed in our own nation and slowly edged out
to the fringes of the great egalitarian Chinese
society, to the quaint corner of our own cities
by Chinese migrants fully backed the Chinese
government, relocated to bunkers from the our
beloved green pastures and open fields. What most
of these geniuses fail to observe is the first
clause of that argument which is that it is not
one of free will but rather of one nation
forceful and brutal occupation of another and the
continued oppression of the indigenous people
with the ruthless abandon of the Nazi. This
particular argument is akin to saying as long as
you are getting raped why not at least try to
enjoy it. Sometimes, we tend to get too carried
away in our earnestness to please, to be the best
noblest harmless race on the planet, which we
unintentionally end up exhibiting Stockholm syndrome of the acute kind.

4) Tibetans can't compete in the global economy
This is yet another tickle-down logic which
directly stems from the belief that we would be
much better off under China due to its economic
might and moreover Tibetans are not educated
enough, not savvy enough, and not mature enough
to handle trade and commerce. If you wait long
enough, you will come to realize this is the same
arguments used for not granting full democracy to
the exile populace. Interesting, isn't it? First
question is why? Why do we have to compete at
all? And even if we did compete, why do we have
to measure ourselves with mighty nations like
China, US, Europe and India? Why can't we
consider ourselves successful for at least having
a nation to live in freely, practice whatever
religion one desires, pray to any god or gods you
wish, and not have to languish in prisons for
having the audacity to ask for one's basic
fundamental rights as a people and as a nation.
Bhutan is enjoying its gross domestic happiness.
Small Tiny nations all enjoy corresponding and
resplendent economy based on its natural
resources. Tibet has a vast amount of natural
resources that is much more than a little country
like us needs; we have a huge tourism capacity
that alone could more than fill the national
coffers. Now add to that, if we declare our
country as a zone of peace, conservation, and
harmony, we not only have created a sustainable
future for our people but for all of humanity.
And that is not too hard to do because we have
been doing that well way before it became trendy
in the 20th century. But the main issue isn't
really that, now, is it? The issue is that we
don't have any confidence or faith in our own
abilities and in that of our own people. We are
so battered down, been harangued all our lives
about what we cannot achieve, been told that we
do not deserve the same rights as other people
due to the famous and invisible red R in the
middle of our foreheads, that we naturally assume
it must be true for all Tibetans. Tibetans are
natural businessmen and we have a pretty good
record of trading with our neighbors like India,
Nepal, Bhutan, and China and in any case we
wouldn't have survived without trade. What I am
saying is this, we will learn what needs to be
learnt and we will become successful in business
and trade too. We don't have to be the best, we
just need to hold our own and of that I am very confident of our people.

5) We have a democratic Government
No, we don't. We have something that resembles a
democracy but is not really one in actuality. We
cannot have a democracy without a party system.
This partyless democracy is really a guise of one
party controlling the major decisions and letting
people fetter around in a pretend democracy. In
such a system, there is nobody to take the
initiative on major issues nor another to keep it
honest. That would explain why there is such
disconnect with the leadership and the populace
and most of time all we can do is just throw our
hands in the air in bewilderment. We still have
some people with two votes and that in itself is
a mockery of democratic ideals. It is very basic.
That is probably the reason why I can't seem to
be able to make up my mind about the Kalon Tripa
election. I don't deny that what we have right
now is much better than what we used to have and
is a major step up. But Jamyang Norbu has already
written an extensive piece on exile democracy and
I don't have anything extra to add onto that and
direct people to peruse his excellent articles on
his blog. Although, I must say that on this
front, most do agree that we do not have a full
functioning democracy at this stage, BUT, here
comes caveat, we are not ready for it. It would
create discord and disunity in exile that is not
going to help our cause. I don't see how that
would be any more damaging than giving up our
rightful case for an independent country. There
is nothing we can do at this point that is going
to screw it up any worse. And who decides when we
are ready for democracy? If history has taught us
anything, it is that once an institution or a
group is in power, they are very, very reluctant
to let it go. Moreover, wouldn't the exile
society be the perfect place to really experiment
with real democracy? We don't have to worry about
a real state with its various headaches such as
military, public safety, national economy,
infrastructures etc. and can safely experiment
with this 'new' system in incubation? This would
actually be a perfect place to test it out while
Kundun is still alive and he will be there to do
a reset if need be. Moreover, I believe, with
respect to provincial representation, party
system will systematically allow people to group
according to ideas rather their locality and
although that won't guarantee an amicable
relationship, it would at least take us away from
our age-old rivalry and that would be an improvement.

6) Religion and politic mixture is unique and good
If it was so unique and good, what are we doing
in exile? Nobody wants to ask this question. It
is the confluence of religion and politics that
naturally made us vulnerable in the first place.
It resulted in closing our society to the outside
world and putting it in suspended growth and then
having to wake up to the rude realities of the
modern world. There is a reason why all
democracies are adamantly against the involvement
of the church in the political arena. Look at the
history of Europe and the involvement of the
church in the Middle Ages if you desire to get a
glimpse of it and look at the current states with
religious heads in power like Iran to understand
what it does to a society. Our own history with
Buddhism, although not as gory and tyrannical as
was practiced in some other faith, hasn't been
pretty either, with suppression of Bon,
inter-faith scuffles settled with the use of
foreign powers, effete governments which rely on
the God to make the decisions, opportunistic
regents and the political stagnation resulting
from the demise of one head to the discovery of
the next reincarnation and the subsequent
grooming needed to be deemed ready to head the
nation. Many unfortunate accidents have happened
even to Dalai lamas who drew the ire of incumbent
warlords or who just happened to put a damper on
the ambitions of power to be. The wheels of
monastic power were so absolute even the great
13th couldn't do much to improve it during his
time and as soon as he passed away, everything
reverted to the same old ways. We already have
two Panchen Lamas and we are heading toward a
future with two Dalai Lamas. With the Chinese
propaganda machinery at work and the willingness
of the western nations to suspend their beliefs
for trade and our own inherent weakness for not
making a scene, that future is almost a foregone
conclusion. The only way to effectively nullify
the two prong Chinese attack is to remove the
target altogether. If Kundun completely separates
the Church from the secular activities while he
is alive and effectively passes the torch to the
secular government, China would no longer have
the political punch behind the appointment of the
next Dalai Lama. That is not to say Kundun would
not be a mainstay in Tibetan way of life as that
would be impossible and ultimately I believe it
would prove to be spiritually beneficial too as
it would no longer have to be dragged into the
dirty streets of politics. I am not saying the
introduction of Buddhism was bad or that it
didn't do anything useful for our nation. Nothing
of the kind. I honestly think Tibet provided the
perfect place for the complete teaching of lord
Buddha to be preserved and the natural harshness
and desolateness of the plateau provided the
cocoon that it desperately needed. But the degree
to which it consumed the whole nation and the
resultant shunning of the material world, be it
in scientific endeavors, research and keeping
abreast of the political development, scientific
breakthroughs, military strategy, etc, led the
Tibetan nation to the state that it is in today.
Religion must be separated from politics to save
both the nation and the peerless teachings of the Buddha.

7) Ngabo is a patriot
If Ngabo is a patriot, then Hitler is a
misunderstood bully. I know this topic has been
beaten to death, resurrected, and then beaten to
death again, but I needed one more point to make
it seven and in any case, I just can't let this
go. I know most people, across the board,
whatever their political affiliation, don't
really believe that he is a patriot. Although,
some of the creative ones once again try to muddy
the water by appealing to the sensible side of
you and wonder if we really know everything about
Ngabo. There might be some things he might have
secretly done which only the highest of the
highest officials in TGIE are privy to and we
shouldn't rush to label somebody this or that. In
any case, he is shoved aside as a pathetic person
of no importance and we are better of not talking
about him. I would be fine to do just that if not
for the proclamation from the highest office of
TGIE that he is a bona fide patriot. That
rightfully drew scorns from many intellectuals,
both Tibetan and long time non-Tibetan Tibet
advocates, that it wasn't a pretty picture on the
blogs and Internet. What education is supposed to
do at first is teach you how to think, analyze
the evidence, and come to an informed position.
Most of the time, you do not have all the facts
nor do you need it as it would be just redundant.
Some people seem to be struck playing the devil's
advocate in perpetuity and although it is useful
in the beginning, it becomes a vicious logical
loop in itself and does not lead to independent
thinking and the objective ends up not about
determining the truth anymore but to create an
alternate position to everything. And moreover,
having formed an opinion, you should be willing
to consider other pertinent facts and evidence
that haven't been divulged yet. I don't need to
go into details as to why I think he is a traitor
as there have been extensive write-up on this
subject and as of now, there have been no
official explanations as to why he is considered
a patriot against such overwhelming evidence to
the contrary. That should be a big tell tale
sign. It is clear to everyone, such bizarre
declaration from TGIE, is yet another obsequious
gesture, yet another medieval tongue-out
head-scratching routine, which as usual, gets no
acknowledgment or kudos from the Chinese government.

These are some of the thoughts running through my
head and are deliberately brief and by no means
attempt to suggest a scholarly presentation. Any
criticisms, affirmations, or other overlooked
ideas will be most welcomed and appreciated. I
also wanted to squash two other ancillary
misrepresentations that couldn't fit with the
other Seven. One is that Chinese media will use
such essays (I highly doubt mine will fit the
bill but they have been using Jamyang Norbu quite
a bit) and point out that Exile community is
fractured and not democratic. I say their
communist thuggery type of governance is a total
joke and is similar to a blind criticizing
someone who only has nearsightedness. Besides,
the very fact that we can openly write about our
disagreements show that we are far more
progressed than they can ever dream of. Another
one is the annoying proclamation that if you are
against Middle Way then you are automatically
against Kundun. That is a vicious statement and a
hurtful one. Just because we disagree on some of
the points doesn't make Rangzen supporters
against Kundun. There are many bright and
energetic young Tibetans, especially in various
NGOs, who love and respect his holiness but still
support the Rangzen movement. I would like to
think of it more like a disagreement between
parents and offspring where love, respect, and
gratitude for Kundun shall never diminish. Bod Gyalo!

The writer is a Tibetan resident of Toronto,
Canada. He can be reached at

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