Alternative Thinking on the Tibet Problem

An anonymous translator highlights a recent article of Southern Weekend which takes a different approach to the Tibetan question.

Since mid-March, the violent incidents in Lhasa, Gansu, Sichuan and other Tibetan areas has attracted the attention of the whole world and the political impact is still being felt. These events have also stirred up the feelings of Chinese overseas more than any event before.

On March 28, the Dalai Lama disseminated through Western media his “Public Letter to My Chinese Brothers and Sisters.” In this message he pronounced that he does not support splitting the motherland and that he supports the Beijing Olympics.
Two days later, while on a visit to Laos, Premier Wen Jiaobao said: “Provided that the Dalai Lama renounces claims of independence, and in particular exerts his influence to stop the present violent activities in Tibet, and acknowledges that Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China, we can resume discussions with him.”

Prior to March 27, China’s President Hu Jintao in a telephone call with President Bush also said, “If the Dalai Lama genuinely relinquishes ‘Independent Tibet’ claims, and stops splitting the motherland, especially stops inciting and planning the violent and illegal actions in Tibet and thereby harming the Beijing Olympics, and acknowledges that Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China, we agree to continue discussions with him.”

The responses of China’s two leaders reflects this reality: the powerful influence of Tibetan Buddhism among the Tibetan people is a reality; and the Dalai Lama’s influence on the Tibetan people as the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism is also a reality.
On the basis of the above-mentioned realities, some pragmatic policy changes should be considered.

First we should distinguish between the majority of Tibetan religious believers and the government-labeled “Dalai Lama clique.” Because the Dalai Lama is the only religious leader Tibetan devotees recognize, this cannot be handled as a typical political issue and should not be labeled as splitting the Motherland. This is in accordance with the policy of regional autonomy and must be upheld.

Second, we should also clearly distinguish between average exiled Tibetans and the upper strata of the “Dalai Lama clique.” The Tibetans who followed their leader into exile in 1959 are a complex mixture, and half a century has gone by. We should adopt the policy of “smiling when meeting a stranger” and extend a hand of welcome to them as long as they commit to not splitting the motherland.

Even in the “Dalai clique” we should distinguish between those who advocate non-violence and the extremists who ardently advocate violent methods. No matter who it is, the central government should clearly distinguish between those who do not advocate independence for Tibet and the extremists who advocate independence.

Guo Jinlong, the Beijing mayor who was formerly Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, implemented the following policy: Communist Party members should not be permitted to practice religion or have religious beliefs, but non-Party members should be free to practice religion; clearly distinguish between normal religious and ethnic activities and splittist activities in the guise of religious and ethnic activities; regarding violations of the law, regardless of ethnicity, violations must without exception be handled according to the law. According to many who have worked in Tibet, this policy achieved great success.

In fact, many Chinese experts believe that Tibetan Buddhism is different from other extremist religious groups, its appeals are moderate. It accords with the spirit of China’s efforts to build a harmonious society. It has reasonable elements and extremist elements.

For this reason, the Tibet situation and experience is different from that of other ethnic minority autonomous regions, and must be treated differently in order to resolve the above-mentioned problems.

An attache in a major European embassy recently expressed to this reporter: the Dalai Lama’s wish of a “Greater Tibet” is an unrealistic expectation at present, but the EU supports dialogue, seeing it as good and positive.

A good starting point for dialogue between the two sides is to not split China and support the Beijing Olympics.