New challenges to Tibet policy from inside China

Proposals to display portraits of the Dalai Lama, end denunciation of the Tibetan leader, and lessen police presence in monasteries have been discussed at a series of meetings in Qinghai, according to several unofficial Tibetan sources. The news emerged following the publication of bold new suggestions of engagement with the Dalai Lama and critique of policy on Tibet by Professor Jin Wei from the Central Party School.

Professor Jin Wei’s comments, published in Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly), a Chinese magazine in Hong Kong on June 9, and the reported proposals for a new approach in Qinghai indicate that the current hardline policy on Tibet is being questioned and discussed within the PRC. Since the 2008 protests and crackdown, Chinese and Tibetan officials and intellectuals are known to have expressed concern about the increasingly aggressive rhetoric against the Dalai Lama and its detrimental impact. Professor Jin Wei’s analysis, which is unlikely to have been made without any official backing, reflects that among some policy advisors, scholars and officials, there is a view that the critical situation in Tibet merits an evaluation of the central issue of the Dalai Lama’s engagement. Discussion on Tibet policy was silenced under the leadership of Hu Jintao.

Tibetan lamas, officials, discuss new approach on Dalai Lama

News of discussions on a softer approach to the Dalai Lama in Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai (the Tibetan area of Amdo) emerged on a Chinese website and from Tibetan sources in the area following three meetings held in a monastery in Chabcha (Chinese: Gonghe) and the provincial capital of Xining.

A draft document presented at the meeting at Xining has been circulated and discussed on Chinese social media networks, including Weibo. A Tibetan in exile who has monitored the online debate said: “The level and depth of discussion at the meetings, which seem to have involved officials, is extremely unusual. Both Tibetans and Chinese have made favorable comments about the proposals on Weibo, with one Chinese commentator saying that a new approach would be a good thing if it encourages genuine peace and harmony.”

Concerns were expressed by participants at the meeting about the “ultra-leftist” religious policy imposed since 2008, which has led to “Lamas, masters, monks and nuns having to make unimaginable derogatory statements against the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, including calling him a wolf wearing religious garments, and so on.” (The Dalai Lama is often described as a ‘wolf in lama’s robes’ in official Chinese media). This led to one of the main proposals of the reported draft document, which is that such denunciation would need to stop. A report about the meeting, written in Tibetan, stated: “Henceforth, if one is a believer, there is no need to make derogatory statements against the 14th Dalai Lama; similarly there is no order from the authorities to denounce or criticize him.”

Another proposal followed a discussion about police presence and strong security at monasteries, linked to patriotic education campaigns. Tibetans a the meeting suggested that monasteries should be allowed to operate without so much scrutiny and management from outside, except in cases of politically ‘unstable’ monasteries, and that internal mediation should be attempted first following disputes.

According to the sources, it was suggested that the new experimental approach should be implemented from August in three counties in Tsolho – Tsigorthang county (Chinese: Xinghai), Gepasumdo county (Chinese: Tongde), and Mangra county (Chinese: Guinan).[1] It is not known whether the Qinghai Party chief Luo Huining attended any of the meetings.[2]

According to the unofficial sources on the June meetings, a distinction was made at the meeting that would be difficult to implement in practice as follows: “In terms of religion, the 14th Dalai Lama can be revered, respected and followed. However, in terms of politics, he cannot be followed; religion and politics need to be separated.” This included the proposal that monks and laypeople would be allowed to display Dalai Lama pictures.

The latter would be a less controversial element, particularly in Tibetan areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region, where images of the Dalai Lama are often seen. The 1994 Third Tibet Work Forum, a major policy meeting, led to prohibitions on the possession of Dalai Lama photographs and other religious symbols by Party members. The extent of the ban and whom it should be applied to was ambiguous; partially in order to increase its intimidating effect, and implementation was erratic. But in principle Dalai Lama pictures cannot be displayed in any government office or accommodation and today, virtually no images of the Dalai Lama are on public display in the TAR, although they are still kept in private homes. Photographs can still occasionally be found in monasteries and nunneries, although they are hidden when patriotic education work teams arrive.

In different Tibetan areas there have been various cycles of repression, crackdown and relaxation with respect to anti-Dalai Lama policy. For instance in late 2000, religious restrictions among lay Tibetans, particularly in and around Lhasa, were intensified and homes of government officials were checked for photos of the Dalai Lama. It appears that Chinese officials at the national and provincial levels may make a theoretical distinction between political and religious application of images of the Dalai Lama, by maintaining that an individual possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama for the purpose of worshipping him as a religious figure is acceptable. If his photo is used to advocate separatism, then it is not acceptable. However, this distinction is not clear and remains open to the interpretation of the authorities.

ICT is unable to confirm reports circulating on social media that monks in Ganden monastery, Lhasa, and in areas of Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi), Sichuan, may have been told that they are allowed to display images of the Dalai Lama.

The new approach in Qinghai may have been advised as an ‘experiment’, and justified as an attempt or tactic to prevent further Tibetan self-immolations. There is a direct correlation between the self-immolations and an intensified campaign against the Dalai Lama in Tibet together with the aggressive expansion of legal measures tightening state control over Tibetan religion and culture. This has been particularly evident following the imposition of increasingly restrictive measures in the eastern Tibetan areas of Amdo and Kham, where most of the self-immolations have occurred. Virtually all the 120 Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009 have called for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return home.

Although the discussions indicate there is more space for raising suggestions that challenge existing policy, it is not known whether the proposals will be implemented and so far there is no evidence of relaxation of Beijing’s current tough policies on Tibet.

There has been no official announcement, both at the provincial and central level in China, about this reported new approach. The meetings in Qinghai are not mentioned on any official websites or in key state media and the hardline position of the United Front Work Department – the Party department involved in dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives until talks stalled in January 2010 – is unchanged, with the mission on its website reading that one of its key priorities is ‘struggle’ against the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese authorities are known for practising alternate waves of concession and hardline policies, called fang-shou’, meaning ‘soft-hard’. This sometimes takes the form of backing off from stronger language after a propaganda offensive.

In an earlier precedent to what has been discussed in Qinghai, in July 2009 the Chinese authorities allowed Tibetans in Drango (Chinese: Luohuo) county in Kardze, eastern Tibet (Sichuan) to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday with a prayer ceremony and to display his images. Any attempt to publicly mark the Dalai Lama’s July 6 birthday is generally banned in Tibet in the past several years. According to several Tibetan sources, one ‘work team’ of a handful of officials who visited the area eve brought pictures of the Dalai Lama for local people. Some Tibetans described it as a “temporary tactic” as part of an attempt to prevent unrest to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 2009. (ICT report, Move to allow Dalai Lama pictures prompts speculation: no policy change evident). But this was an isolated incident in a climate of intense repression, and there was minimal or no debate evident.

There has been a further recent instance of a Tibetan from the religious establishment expressing deep concern over some of the policies. Senior Kirti monk Go Sherab Gyatso wrote an eloquent and detailed blog focusing on a recent new regulation enforced in his monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Amdo) that requires any writings and publications to e pre-approved by the ‘Education Department’ of the monastery before distribution. Although the original blogpost at the Sangdhor website is currently offline, as is the whole site: http://sangdhor.com/blog_c.asp?id=11738&a=jiayang, a translation into English has been posted by the literary website High Peaks Pure Earth at: “I have to speak out” by Go Sherab Gyatso. In the blog, written on June 4 and entitled “I have to speak out”, Go Sherab Gyatso writes: “The red wind from outside is so strong and its orders so stict that we have barely space to breathe in and breathe out. On top of this if one witnesses act such as this [new regulation], the sadness is overwhelming.”

Chinese professor calls for dialogue with Dalai Lama in rare critique of policy

Professor Jin Wei from the Central Party School also referred to the need not to politicize religion in her interview with Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) on June 9 (Shuo Jiming, “Beijing Expert: Resume Negotiations to Resolve the Tibet Issue”, Asia Weekly, Vol. 27, Issue 22, June 9, 2013.) A full English translation of her comments is included below. Saying that it is a mistake to treat religious and nationalities issues as “political” ones, Jin Wei implied that due care has not been taken by Beijing when she advised that the new leadership “must exercise caution in dealing with Tibet-related work”.

In a rare assertion, Jin Wei acknowledged that the Dalai Lama is a “key figure in Tibet-related issues”, saying: “The Dalai Lama is viewed as a “Living Buddha” by six million Tibetan people and that how China deals with him “affects the feelings of thousands and thousands of Tibetans[.] We cannot simply treat him as an enemy”.

Professor Jin Wei called for restarting talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, and even gives a framework for this dialogue, suggesting a discussion on allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong or Macau purely in his capacity as a religious leader. Jin Wei also indicated that a visit to Tibet at a later stage should not be ruled out.

Professor Jin Wei’s comments deserve close attention, even though it is notable that the comments were published in Hong Kong, rather than in Beijing, where she specializes in ethnic and religious affairs at the Central Party School. Jin Wei is unlikely to have expressed these views without backing, even though she refers twice to the need for talks between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese side as a ‘personal view’. The Central Party School, which specifically trains officials for future leadership posts in the Communist Party, is headed by Liu Yunshan, one of the seven-member Politburo and head of the propaganda department. China’s top leader Xi Jinping was president of the school from 2007 to 2013.

Jin Wei’s earlier study of development aid in Tibet attracted attention outside China, as she argued that that government funding to the area had ailed to make a contribution to genuine economic growth, saying that many of the programs failed to factor in cultural contexts and relied on government-oriented measures (http://english.caixin.com/2012-12-18/100473750.html).[3]

Following her close study of Tibet, Jin Wei acknowledges the importance of both Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people and refers to the need for the Chinese leadership to: “Untangle religion and politics; carefully judge the psychological needs of the Tibetan people. Tibetan people have been influenced by religion for thousands of years, forming a ‘heavily spiritual and light on materialism, heavy on the next life and light on this life’ national identity. This is a huge difference with the main nationality of China, the Han. As the ruling Communist Party of China, it is necessary to understand this clearly.” In referring to ‘unfavorable mistakes’ by the leadership, Jin Wei singles out “several Party secretaries of the Tibet Autonomous Region” who have been “biased against the practice of religious affairs, which foreshadowed the accumulation of grievances today”.

Her critique of the way that religious and other issues has been handled is made in a much more direct manner than has previously been expressed by scholars in Party organizations, and indicates that even while there may be a hardline backlash against her comments, a level of moderate debate on Tibet policy exists even if only among scholars and those close to the leadership rather than the Politburo itself. A group of scholars from different Party organizations who convened for a symposium on ethnic policies in Beijing last year had raised strong concern about the need for protection of “cultural diversity” in ethnic policy and raised the “deficiency in trust in minority people in mainstream society” but they did not specifically refer to Tibet policy and the Dalai Lama.[4]

Indicating that China’s policies on Tibet are not working, Jin Wei made a case for the genuine grievances of Tibetans to be taken into account by the leadership. Referring to the importance of Chinese leaders paying attention to the specific conditions on the ground in Tibet, Jin Wei cites the visit to Tibetan areas earlier this year of Yu Zhengsheng. Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Politburo, was recently made head of the party’s central leading small groups on Xinjiang and Tibet affairs (SCMP citing Caixin, June 4, 2013, http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1252832/cppcc-chair-heads-xinjiang-tibet-affairs-groups).

While Jin Wei’s article promotes a softer approach, she also acknowledges the intractability of the struggle and a core concern to the CCP when stating that on the level of the Dalai Lama’s ‘challenge’ to ‘China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’ since leaving Tibet in 1959, “The contradiction between us and the Dalai Lama Clique is antagonistic and irreconcilable.”

Professor Jin Wei discusses the possibility of violence erupting in Tibet after the Dalai Lama dies, but the solution she suggests is for the Party to work to ensure that the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is born in the PRC: “If the ‘Dalai Lama impasse’ can be broken, we should fight to have the Dalai Lama reincarnation arise within the country.” Although Jin Wei acknowledges there is a “historical precedent for Living Buddhas designating their own successors”, she also speaks about the Party preventing his reincarnation from being born overseas.

Jin Wei refers to the “embarrassment” to the Party of the “Twin Panchen Lama” event, which is a rare public admission that the authorities have faced difficulties in handling the situation after the Dalai Lama recognized Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995. Gendun Choekyi Nyima was taken into custody and has not been seen since. His disappearance has caused great distress among Tibetans who recognize him as the legitimate Panchen Lama, characterizing Gyaltsen Norbu, the young man installed by China, as the ‘fake Panchen’ or ‘Chinese Panchen’.

Jin Wei frames the self-immolations in Tibet as “an agitated emotional act that is performed after being instigated” and a “virtual hysteria”. But she acknowledges that “the measures taken to stop them have not yet been significantly effective” and also warns that they may “trigger more serious conflict” if there is not a change in approach.

Professor Jin Wei concludes that the Tibet issue is of critical, rather than of marginal importance to China, and that resolving it could benefit China’s international image, prospects of reunification with Taiwan, and relationships with other ethnic minority areas such as Xinjiang. This counters the argument that is frequently voiced by some Chinese officials that making concessions on Tibet could have a detrimental impact on ‘stability’ elsewhere, and would not have an adverse impact on the core values of “territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

When Professor Jin Wei refers to the need for the leadership to be “confident” on Tibet policy, she could be reflecting a new confidence among scholars including herself in presenting a new approach.

Zhu Weiqun, who was the principal interlocutor in talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives until 2010, reflected the harder line of the authorities when he indicated last week that the talks are redundant saying: “The future of Tibet, since 1951 with the peaceful liberation to 1959 with democratic reforms, has been decided by the Tibetan people themselves. The Dalai Lama cannot change this situation.” (Interview with China News Weekly, June 16).

Countering the aggressive policy against the Dalai Lama

Educated Tibetans who seek to protect their language and cultural and religious identity often base their proposals on an understanding of the Chinese policy framework. In the case of the reported new approach in Qinghai described in this report, the rationale was characterized as the promotion of patriotic education and enhancement of ‘stability’ in Tibetan areas. In Chinese political language, ‘stability’ is a coded reference to the need to prevent any form of ‘social disorder’. In Tibetan areas of the PRC, ‘stability maintenance’ has effectively been carried out on a war footing with de facto martial law imposed in many areas.[5]

From 1994 onwards, the Chinese authorities launched a particularly aggressive campaign against the Dalai Lama, including prohibitions on the display of Dalai Lama photographs and requirements for monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama. While the policies were first implemented in the Tibet Autonomous Region, they have gradually been imposed in the eastern Tibetan areas, where previously there was more space and scope for Tibetans to express themselves and practice their religion in comparison with the TAR.

Many Tibetans who have self-immolated have sought to underline the religious context of their acts. Some have died with their hands clasped in prayer, while many of those who have self-immolated have done so beside a stupa (reliquary building), monastery or nunnery. Majority of the Tibetans who have self-immolated have called for freedom, and – overwhelmingly – for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. To the authorities’ alarm, some self-immolations have been followed by gatherings of thousands of Tibetans to pray, chant mantras dedicated to the Dalai Lama, or to make peaceful and moderate calls for change in policy. (ICT report, ‘Storm in the Grasslands‘, December 2012).

Aggressive new measures introduced in December, 2012, to criminalize the self-immolators and their families and friends have failed to prevent Tibetans from setting themselves on fire. In the first six months of 2013, 22 Tibetans have self-immolated, most recently the nun Wangchen Dolma on June 11 near Nyatso monastery in Tawu during a gathering of thousands of monks.

Tibetans defy Lhasa lockdown to welcome Panchen Lama’s daughter

In a further indication of the strength of Tibetan feeling about their cultural and religious identity, a large crowd of Tibetans gathered at the Jokhang Temple on June 20 despite stringent security measures to welcome the late Panchen Lama’s daughter Rigzin Wangmo (who lives in Beijing) to Lhasa. According to Voice of America’s Tibetan service and images posted on Tibetan exile websites, despite the Chinese authorities’ attempts to keep the visit low-profile, Tibetans defied stringent security measures to catch a glimpse of the daughter of the 10th Panchen Lama, who until his death in 1989 was the most senior religious leader in Tibet following the escape of the Dalai Lama into exile.

Lhasa has been under tight lockdown since major protests erupted in March, 2008, and the authorities have dramatically intensified surveillance and deepened patriotic education campaigns in Tibet’s historic and cultural capital. There is strict control of people’s movement as the city is under de facto military rule. Images were published by the exile newspaper Tibet Post at: The Tibet Post, Crowds greet 10th Panchen Lama’s daughter in Lhasa, Tibet.

The 10th Panchen Lama spent 14 years in prison or under house arrest after he documented the repression of religion, mass arrests, punishment and executions of Tibetans that followed the 1959 Uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule in his 1962 ’70,000-character petition’ to Mao Zedong.

Interview with Jin Wei

Beijing Expert: Resume Negotiations to Resolve the Tibet Issue

The full text of the interview with Professor Jin Wei, translated from Chinese by ICT, follows below.
Shuo Jiming: 6/9/2013
Asia Weekly
Vol. 27 Issue 22

Interview with Professor Jin Wei

Q: Is the Tibet issue a nationality issue, a religious culture issue, or a political issue?

A: It’s difficult to give a simple definition of the Tibet issue, you can say that it’s hard to describe. In 1952 Mao Zedong pointed out: “We must take an extremely cautious approach towards politics in Tibet. We must recognize the extreme seriousness of the Tibetan nationality question, we must deal with it appropriately, this case cannot be handled as a regular case.”

Q: How does Beijing define it now?

A: Since the 1980s there has been marked tendency to treat the Tibet-related issues as a political issue. For example, it has been put forth that Tibet development issues are political issues, strategic issues, and an issue of territorial integrity for the nation. In recent years the leadership of the relevant government departments has made it clear that there is no ‘Tibet issue’, there’s only an issue of the Dalai Lama Clique engaging in separatism. Currently the domestic description of the relevant question is: The “Tibet-related issue” refers to issues related to the social management and social development of the six million Tibetan people living in the five provinces of the TAR, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan.

Q: From the results of your research, how do you see it?

A: My personal opinion is that you cannot make generalizations about Tibet-related issues. For example, the domestic and overseas Tibetan independence extremists incessantly pursuing the ‘Tibetan independence’ issue, the issue of sabotage and separatism by infiltrators, the issue of the Dalai Lama’s proposal for a high degree of autonomy, the Greater Tibet issue, there is no doubt that these are political issues. However some of the domestic contradictions and conflicts that occur are mostly due to nationality and religious issues. If the incidents are related to harming the lives, property, and safety of the people then this is a criminal offense issue. We need to analyze specific issues.

Q: The Fifth Tibet Work Forum characterized the Dalai Clique contradiction as a special contradiction, what are the special properties?

A: This characterization from the Fifth Tibet Work Forum is comparatively scientific and accurate. The 14th Dalai Lama was once the ruler of Tibet’s local theocratic government. After leaving in 1959, he has had a long-term dedication to separatist activities for Tibetan independence, directly challenging China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. On this level, the contradiction between us and the Dalai Lama Clique is antagonistic and irreconcilable. But we must also see that the Dalai Lama is believed to be a “living god” by six million Tibetan people, and is the object of their spiritual worship, and has considerable appeal. Our attitude towards him and the way we deal with related issues affects the feelings of thousands and thousands of Tibetans, and therefore we cannot simply treat him as an enemy.

Q: Precisely because of these particulars, the Tibet issue and the Dalai Lama issue have been handled by the United Front Work Department all along. Based on what you said, besides hostility, is there any better way to manage these issues?

A: Last November, during the 18th Central Party Congress, Comrade Hu Jintao made a report to the assembly. You may notice that, in the report, in continuation of the policy principles which the Communist Party has always held, nationality issues and religious issues are part of the work of the United Front Work Department. In managing national affairs, responsibility for managing ethnic and religious affairs belongs to the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the State Council, and also to the United Work Front of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. Because of the current situation in China, the United Front Work Department of the Party system plays a more important leadership role. In the current allocation of management responsibilities, the central United Front has been made responsible for Tibet-related issues, while the Central Politics and Law Commission is responsible for the Xinjiang issue. Out of the 31 provinces and autonomous regions in China this is the most exceptional, which can also be seen in the attention paid to these two regions by the Communist Party Central Committee and the central government.

In addition to dealing with the Dalai Lama question in a hostile way, there are certainly other methods. By 2010 representatives of the central government and of the Dalai Lama had already had nine rounds of talks. The best way to solve the Dalai Lama issue and the Tibet-related issues would be for the two sides to have serious, sincere, and constructive talks together with an eye towards the future.

Q: The Dalai Lama has also proposed resuming the dialogue, what are the chances of this happening?

A: The Dalai Lama is a key figure in Tibet-related issues, personally I believe that frank, truthful, and constructive dialogue is very essential. In 2010, after the representatives of the central government and of the Dalai Lama conducted the ninth round of talks, both sides agreed that there had been no real progress. But for Tibet-related work planning, I personally recommend restarting the talks.

Q: What can be discussed?

A: There are several areas to think about:

First, put aside the disputes and break the impasse, advancing the talks. In accordance with the “easy things first” approach, put aside the “Middle Way” and other political issues, discuss allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong or Macau purely in his capacity as a religious leader. In the future allowing the Dalai Lama to reside in Hong Kong should be considered. The Dalai Lama retired from politics in 2011, now his capacity is solely that of a religious leader, completely reducing his political role in order to act as a religious identity. If this progresses smoothly, allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Tibet in the future may be considered. Second, work to ensure that there is only a domestic reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama has reached an advanced age, accordingly the Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation issues are around the corner. Under the current circumstances, there will be “Twin Dalai Lamas,” with one reincarnation recognized abroad and one domestically, leading to more complicated issues, having great impacts on the stability and security of the Tibetan region. If the “Dalai Lama impasse” can be broken, we should fight to have the Dalai Lama reincarnation arise within the country. Although we can use “Drawing Lots from the Golden Urn” to prevent the reincarnation from arising overseas, there is a historical precedent for Living Buddhas designating their own successors. We must use every effort to avoid the embarrassment of the “Twin Panchen Lama” event.

Q: What is the significance of that?

A: After the Dalai Lama, the concept of universal values and the “obsession with the Dalai Lama” by people in Western countries will gradually fade, and international pressure on Tibet-related issues will slowly be reduced. Meanwhile the anxiety and violent sentiments of Tibetan groups on the mainland will be calmed if there is a believable Dalai Lama produced by religious rituals inside China. The Tibetan exile government will likely follow the route of extreme violence after the Dalai Lama, joining with other extremist organizations. But if we can resolve the “Dalai Lama Dilemma,” then we can play the role of “skillfully dodging the problem,” disintegrating the overseas Tibetan independence forces.

Q: Is there the possibility of allowing the Dalai Lama to return to China?

A: Talking about the issue of the Dalai Lama returning to the country, I think such a thing must be preceded by two assessments. First, there must be a careful assessment of the trust and feelings of the six million Tibetan people towards the Communist Party; second, we must correctly assess how the Tibetan people worship the Dalai Lama and how they feel about him. How can this be objectively evaluated? “In this life I depend on the Communist Party, in the next life I depend on the Dalai Lama” is the most straightforward and frequent saying I heard from ordinary people during my successive trips to Tibet. You could say that a few words provided the key to this evaluation.

In assessing this issue, the Chinese Communist Party must be highly confident! Since the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet in the fifties, the Communist Party has devoted a great deal of care and love to Tibet and the general population of Tibetans, and has given great support and assistance in matters of economic development. Great progress has been achieved in Tibetan areas’ economic and social development over the last 50 years, and very big improvements in material life, health, education, and transportation. Therefore, the Tibetan people are profoundly grateful for the Communist Party, and fully recognize the People’s Republic of China which is under the leadership of the Chinese Communist [Party].

But at the same time, while the Communist Party has done yet more work on economic and material development, giving yet more wealth and help, it is impossible to deny the Dalai Lama’s status in the eyes of the general public, and it is impossible to change the way the Tibetan people worship the Dalai Lama and are dependent on him. It can be said that for Tibetan people, this worship has no political significance or plans, “Tibetan independence” is just an empty phrase for most people, and they have no interest in it and don’t understand what it means. Tibetan people are full of gratitude for the Communist Party, it’s highly recognized, and Tibetans have a kind of religious worship for the Dalai Lama without any political purpose. Our leaders at all levels and in all relevant departments must be full self-confident in this regard, and on the basis of this assessment they can discuss the issue of allowing the Dalai Lama to return to the country.

Q: Recently so many people have self-immolated, and not just a few were young people, why has this been focused on young people recently?

A: Tibetan self-immolations began in 2009 in Ngaba prefecture, Sichuan province, and by January this year over a hundred Tibetans in wave after wave have burned themselves. I believe that the dilemma of the Tibet issue can be summed up as follows:

First, the rate of self-immolations has continued and increased, essentially becoming a kind of “virtual hysteria,” becoming an infectious disease, becoming a movement;

Second, the measures taken to stop them have not yet been significantly effective;

Third, the self-immolations may trigger more serious conflicts. Media reports, recordings, prayers for self-immolators, condolences and other acts have continued to expand their social impact. The agitated emotions of Tibetans and the actions of local governments to stop confrontations have created more contradictions, from a religious movement it has evolved into a political movement and a hatred movement. This contradiction has spread throughout the Tibetan ethnic group, evolving from a contradiction between the central government and the Dalai Lama separatist clique into an ethnic conflict between Chinese and Tibetans.

Fourth, self-immolation is an agitated emotional act that is performed after being instigated; self-immolations are concentrated among the youth, whose feelings towards the Communist Party are different due to generational differences. The Communist Party helped the older generation of Tibetans by emancipating them, and they have deep gratitude and thanksgiving for getting a share of the land and livestock. Young people aren’t able to compare the new and old governments, the improvement in material life. Where Tibetan people are concerned this is indisputably correct, but young people can be very impulsive, and express their emotions easily.

Q: The leaders after the 18th Party Congress are more enlightened and open, is a change to a more positive approach to the Tibet issue possible?

A: Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, visited the Tibetan region shortly after taking office, reflecting the attention that the new leaders are paying to Tibet-related issues. My personal advice is: they must exercise caution in dealing with Tibet-related work. It has been sixty years since the founding of the People’s Republic, but Mao Zedong’s perspective that “We must take an extremely cautious approach towards politics in Tibet. We must recognize the extreme seriously of the Tibetan nationality question, we must deal with it appropriately, this case cannot be handled as a regular case” is still valuable.

I believe that, in order to resolve Tibet-related issues, it is necessary to be cautious while working in the Tibetan region, and religious affairs must be handled with particular care.

First, take stock of the situation, and implement the scientific theory of development. Several Party secretaries of the Tibet Autonomous Region have been biased against the practice of religious affairs, which foreshadowed the accumulation of grievances today. Tibet-related issues require the assessment of the situation, otherwise unfavorable mistakes are made.

Second, untangle religion and politics; carefully judge of the psychological needs of the Tibetan people. Tibetan people have been influenced by religion for thousands of years, forming a “heavily spiritual and light on materialism, heavy on the next life and light on this life” national identity. This is a huge difference with the main nationality of China, the Han. As the ruling Communist Party of China, it is necessary to understand this clearly.

Tibet-related issues are crucial for contemporary China. If we can use creative ideas to break the impasse, not only would it promote social stability and prevent the creation of long-lasting nationality wounds, it would also have a positive effect on other minority nationalities in China. At the same time, it could be useful for reunification with Taiwan and improve China’s international image.


[1] The New York-based Chinese website Duowei (http://china.dwnews.com/news/2013-06-21/59238066.html) named these three counties as the focus of the experimental approach. Trika county (Chinese: Guide) and Chabcha county (Chinese: Gonghe) werenot mentioned although they are administered from within Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

[2] Luo Huining was appointed secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) of Qinghai Province in March (2013), replacing Qiang Wei, the CPC Central Committee said in a statement Tuesday.
Prior to the appointment, Luo had served as governor of Qinghai since January 2010. (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-03/19/c_132245620.htm).

[3] Lan Fang, “Aid Programs in Tibet Lack Efficiency, Says Scholar”, Caixin, December 18 2012 (http://english.caixin.com/2012-12-18/100473750.html).

[4] “Persist in the Basic Political System, Resolve Ethnic Issues Through Development – An Outline of the Chinese Ethnic Theory Association Symposium”, February 23, 2012, Liu Ling, ChineseAcademy of Social Sciences Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, see (in Chinese): http://iea.cass.cn/content-BA0810-2012031609383390681.htm

[5] The state media declared on February 10, 2012, that the situation in Tibet is so grave that officials must ready themselves for “a war against secessionist sabotage.” (Tibet Daily.)

 

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