Thursday, March 10, 2005

Giving Up Dreams - Tibet, China & The Dalai Lama

Dreams can last a long time, but often enough give way to pragmatic reality. A dream that lasted 46 years ended today, when the Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people, in a statement on the 46th anniversary of the annexation of Tibet by China, asked Tibetans to give up their dream of an independent country, saying he believed that "China is the best for Tibetans' progress and future"

This year the Chinese government will mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region. There will be much fanfare and many commemorative events to celebrate the occasion but these will be meaningless when they do not reflect the ground realities. For example, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were celebrated with great pomp as real achievements at the time they took place.

The Dalai Lama

China has made tremendous economic progress during the past more than two decades. China today is not what it was twenty or thirty years ago. Much has changed in China. As a result she has become a major player in the world and China rightly deserves this position. It is a big nation with a huge population and a rich and ancient civilization. However, China's image is tarnished by her human rights records, undemocratic actions, the lack of the rule of law and the unequal implementation of autonomy rights regarding minorities, including the Tibetans. All these are a cause for more suspicion and distrust from the outside world. Internally, they are an obstacle to unity and stability that are of utmost importance to the leaders of the People's Republic of China. In my view, it is important that as China becomes a powerful and respectable nation she should be able to adopt a reasonable policy with confidence.

The world in general, of which China is a part, is changing for the better. In recent times there is definitely a greater awareness and appreciation for peace, non-violence, democracy, justice and environmental protection. The recent unprecedented response from governments and individuals across the world to the tsunami disaster victims reaffirms that the world is truly interdependent and the importance of universal responsibility.

My involvement in the affairs of Tibet is not for the purpose of claiming certain personal rights or political position for myself nor attempting to stake claims for the Tibetan administration in exile. In 1992 in a formal announcement I stated clearly that when we return to Tibet with a certain degree of freedom I will not hold any office in the Tibetan government or any other political position and that the present Tibetan administration in exile will be dissolved. Moreover, the Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the main responsibility of administering Tibet.

I once again want to reassure the Chinese authorities that as long as I am responsible for the affairs of Tibet we remain fully committed to the Middle Way Approach of not seeking independence for Tibet and are willing to remain within the People's Republic of China. I am convinced that in the long run such an approach is of benefit to the Tibetan people for their material progress. It is encouraging that there is support from various parts of the world for this approach as being reasonable, realistic and of mutual benefit to the Chinese and Tibetans. I am particularly encouraged by the recognition and support that has come from certain quarters of the intellectual circle from within China.

His government-in-exile has had its seat in Dharamsala in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India, nestled among the foothills of the Himalayas. I visited here a few years ago and found it to be a quaint, small village, with narrow streets, smiling little Tibetan children and monks scooping up bowls of tsampa, and the constant chanting of lamas in the Dalai Lama's temple.

The erstwhile Indian government had recognized China's claims to Tibet last year, in part as rapprochment between the Elephant and the Dragon, and in part to maintain a power balance. Perhaps, access to Chinese markets was also part of the equation.

The Dalai Lama has no such interests. He has indicated earlier that he is open to warm ties with China and would not press for a free Tibet. He seems driven more by a desire for making it easier for Tibetans still in Tibet, and those wishing to return.

It is not clear what impact this statement will have on the worldwide Free Tibet movement. Human rights violations are allegedly rampant in Tibet. The recent US State Department "Country Reports on Human Rights", released last month mentions in the section on Tibet that "(Chinese) authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killing, torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetans for peacefully expressing their political or religious views." The United States recognizes the Tibetan Autonomous Region to be a part of China

My Tibet/Galen Rowell Lonely Planet Tibet (Lonely Planet Tibet)/Tony Wheeler Tintin in Tibet (The Adventures of Tintin)/Herge Seven Years in Tibet An End to Suffering : The Buddha in the World/Pankaj Mishra My Land and My People : The Original Autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet/The Dalai Lama

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