“Here is a community, which is trying very hard to preserve its culture, its traditions, and its language in the hope that one day when it gets free from the most tyrannous regime of the world, it will take it all back to its homeland where it all belongs. This community has immense faith in its leader His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, that he will bring them home one day, who sometimes himself faces moral conflicts as a political and a spiritual leader but still manages to bind them so well. They know that they are just 6 million in front of China’s population of 1.3 billion, but they hold on to hope and faith that someday they will go back and will live freely, will breathe freely, will smile freely. Till then they are in the country of their refuge, carving an identity for themselves, fighting each day to mingle with the people here who sometimes don’t welcome them , doing their best to evolve their community as a whole in the land of their exile where they came with nothing; but at the same time working towards their freedom, slowly and steadily.”
— From the website of Students For A Free Tibet
The global attention today is not on the Tibetan areas of China or on Xinjiang, the homeland of the Uighurs. It is on Beijing.
The world needs Chinese co-operation for dealing with the current global economic decline. It needs Chinese co-operation for ensuring peace in the Pacific and the South China Sea.
The global attention is presently more on Beijing than on the Tibetan areas and Xinjiang because a new Party and government leadership is to take over in China in the coming months. At the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) expected in October, a new party leadership headed by Xi Jinping is to take over from the present team headed by Hu Jintao. At the session of the National People’s Congress scheduled to be held next March, a new government headed by Xi as the President in place of Hu and Li Keqiang as the new Prime Minister in place of Wen Jiabao is expected to take over.
China analysts will know that changes in party and government leadership in China do not necessarily lead to major policy changes—domestic and foreign. There may be changes in style due to new incumbents coming to office and new nuances depending on the inner-party and inner-government equations. If at all there are any changes, it will be changement dans la continuite— change in continuity.
And the world is curious to find out what shape Chinese policies could take under the new leadership. What impact that will have on the Chinese and global economy and on regional peace and harmony?
As a result of the increasing global focus on the coming party and government changes in Beijing, there is diminishing attention to the Tibetan issue. Continuing violations of the human rights of the Tibetans and the stepped-up Chinese efforts to impart legitimacy to the so-called Panchen Lama selected by the party in place of the Panchen Lama chosen by the Tibetans under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has been in jail for many years now, are no longer receiving the global attention they deserve.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile headed by Harvard-educated Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, who completed one year in office on August 8, 2012, realise that there will be no forward movement on the Tibetan issue till the new party and government leadership assumes office in Beijing and comes to grips with issues of governance. That is why talks between the CPC and the representatives of His Holiness, which were going on intermittently, are in a state of suspension. The special negotiators of His Holiness have resigned due to their disenchantment with the continued rigidity in the CPC’s policy on Tibet and their successors have not yet been named by the government-in-exile.
The policies of the CPC and the Chinese government are based on the following conditions:
- Any talks will be on the future of His Holiness and not on the future of the Tibetans which has already been decided. His Holiness has no locus standi to talk on the future of the Tibetans.
- There is no question of granting autonomy to the Tibetan areas of China and re-merging them into one entity as they were before the Chinese occupied Tibet.
- The legitimacy of the Panchen Lama designated by the CPC has to be accepted.
- The religious process for the selection of the next Dalai Lama after the death of His Holiness will be co-ordinated by the CPC-designated Panchen Lama under the guidance of the CPC. The next Dalai Lama has to have the approval of the CPC.
These conditions cannot be acceptable to any self-respecting Tibetan. His Holiness has toned down his original demand by agreeing to accept autonomy for Tibet without insisting on independence. The Chinese are not prepared to make any concessions and are waiting for the day when His Holiness will be no more and they can proclaim the installation of the CPC-designated Dalai Lama and the end of the Tibetan problem
But, the problem is showing no signs of ending and it is unlike to end even if the Chinese succeed in their machinations. Despite undoubted economic progress in Tibet, the Tibetans’ devotion to His Holiness and their attachment to their culture, religion and self-respect remain as strong as ever. It is so among the Tibetans living in exile as well as among those living in China under severe Chinese repression. It is so among the older generation of Tibetans as among the GenNext.
The new generation of Tibetans growing to adulthood in exile as well as in the Tibetan areas of China, many of whom in China have never even met His Holiness, is determined to see that the Tibetan cause will not perish and that the Tibetans will once again be masters of their culture, religion and destiny. There is a rare unity among the Tibetan monks and the lay people in keeping the cause alive.
This is not an externally-motivated and orchestrated movement. It is a spontaneous, self-motivated and self-generated movement. The continuing reports of self-immolation by monks and lay people—many of them from the new generation— speak of the high level of self-motivation of young individuals. There have been 46 instances of self-immolation since March last year—most of them from Sichuan where the Kirti monastery, the epicentre of the neo-Tibetan resistance movement started— and some from the Gansu province and the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. The latest to self-immolate on August 7 was a 26-year-old Tibetan mother of two children in the Gansu province. These are the young heroes of the neo-Tibetan resistance movement who have been bravely keeping the movement alive by sacrificing their lives.
For the Tibetan cause to prevail, it is important for it to have global support—moral and material. In a world increasingly dependent on China for economic prosperity and peace and harmony, this global support has been increasingly tentative and hesitant. The older generation, which used to support His Holiness and the Tibetan cause, remains steadfast in its support.
The older generation of supporters like me and countless others in India and other countries will soon be passing away. The new generation has to come forward to express its solidarity with the GenNext of Tibetans and encourage them in their attempts to keep their cause alive. In the Western countries, particularly in the US, many young people have been expressing their moral support to the Tibetan cause. But, unfortunately in India, the younger generation is showing dwindling interest in the Tibetan cause. This has to be reversed.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies