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Communist Tibet and the Death of Hope

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The recent Chinese military incursion into Ladakh was a painful reminder of the cost of losing Tibet. And this week Chinese officials announced plans to demolish what remains of Lhasa, Tibet’s ancient capital. Despite its inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Lhasa is a symbol of Tibetan nationalism, and China’s Politburo has determined that Tibetan culture, religion and identity must be exterminated to ensure “stability.”

On May 8th, the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington hosted an evening with Lobsang Sangay, the head of the Tibetan government in exile. Sangay addressed a gathering of journalists, academics and lawyers, eager to discuss the escalating crisis in Tibet. (The proceedings were recorded and the video is available online). Most in the audience anticipated a repudiation of Chinese Communist rule from the Harvard Law student, but what Sangay had to say sent shock waves through the room, and later, the blogosphere.

When asked if he hoped to see free elections in a genuinely autonomous Tibet in the near future, Sangay replied; “We don’t challenge, or ask for, an overthrow of the Communist Party. We don’t question or challenge the present structure of the ruling party.” Jerome Cohen, the renown legal scholar from New York University, asked Sangay for clarification, stating; “It’s very interesting to see what this would amount to if there’s no freedom of speech for the people in Tibet.” Sangay provided clarification; “We are not asking for democracy for Tibetans in Tibet… we want rights as per the Chinese constitution.”

The internet swelled with questions about Sangay’s remarks, in particular, his flouting of democracy for the people of Tibet and China, and his disregard for the Chinese intellectuals who bravely signed Charter 08, which calls for the rule of law, democratic reforms in China and criticized the Communist Party for “clinging to authoritarian politics, it has caused an unbroken chain of human rights disasters and social crises, held back the development of the Chinese people, and hindered the progress of human civilization.”

To embrace Chinese Communist rule is to abandon the people inside Tibet who have waged a desperate battle of survival and resistance for over 60 years. Every man and woman who made the ultimate sacrifice of self immolation did so for independence, as their moving final testaments confirm. And it is in direct opposition to the stated goals of the Dalai Lama, who purposefully modeled his exile government on India’s democracy, not Mao’s one party dictatorship. When the Dalai Lama proposed the Middle Way Policy in 1988, he conceived of preserving Tibet as a buffer state and a de-militarized “zone of peace.” Sangay’s stated position eviscerates the relevance of the Tibet movement, and depreciates India’s burden of a long, tense border with an increasingly bellicose China.

There were Indian journalists present at the Council on Foreign Relations that evening, but none asked Sangay any tough or serious questions. When the matter of the recent Ladakh incursion was raised, Sangay blithely said that China’s military positions at the Indian border should be at “China’s discretion.” Excuse me, but Sangay resides in Dharamshala, and has recently been provided with a special vehicle with a red light on top, to indicate his VIP status in Himachal Pradesh. One would assume that these privileges come at South Block’s discretion.

There are some features of pre-communist Tibetan political culture that Sangay is actively deploying to build his myth; his official Facebook page declares that he is a “secular emanation” of the Dalai Lama and Guru Rinpoche. And at the Council in Washington he said; “Many artists inside Tibet have composed songs in honor of the election and my victory and they have put it on YouTube with English translation. Some have sent me scrolls where normally we put deities and gods and goddesses, only they have put a picture of me and that’s being distributed.” This would be risible if not for the mounting death toll in Tibet, and that Tibet’s ancient civilization is being destroyed by the day, as bulldozers tear into the holy Jokhang temple in Lhasa.

Beijing’s cadres are unwilling, or unable, to relinquish one party rule, as they cling to an obsolete Maoist world view that demonizes the Dalai Lama and calls the Buddhist faith “a disease to be eradicated.” That Tibetan culture is a force that so petrifies the great People’s Republic of China exposes the xenophobia, intolerance, and violence that infects the Maoist creed. Sangay’s categorical rejection of democracy in favor of Communist rule in Tibet could be a cynical power play, or maybe he thinks might makes right, and that power does come from the barrel of a gun, but then, how can he proclaim himself a secular emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, protector of Tibet?

Chester Bowles, the venerable United States Ambassador to India, published a memoir in 1969 entitled “A View from New Delhi.” Here is an excerpt: “Whereas India tried to dignify the individual as part of the process of development, China regarded him as an instrument of the state…whereas India sought to preserve and enrich her ancient culture and to modernize her society within the context of her traditions, Communist China attempted to replace the traditional Chinese culture and institutions with a completely new and alien social system. While India tried to minimize the amount of social dislocation caused by the development process, China sought to maximize it…While the Chinese were sure they could interpret the future, the Indian government has remained sensibly agnostic. Where the Chinese system has cracked under adversity, the Indian has simply bent…the long-suffering, exploited Chinese peasants and workers must be wondering how long the horror can go on, while they hope for the day when at long last they can be free of the shifting whims of a communist dictatorship.”

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  • avatar Carlo Buldrini says:

    While the last words of Phangmo Dhondup, who self immolated in Tibet last February, were: “Without independence Tibet will be annihilated”; while the Chinese bulldozers are razing to the ground the entire area of the Barkhor in Lhasa; the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay continues in his delirium in favour of Chinese Communism.
    I hope that TNC will identify soon a candidate pro-Rangzen for the next general elections that are going to see a crucial battle between the “Two Lines” now irreconciliable.

  • avatar Roscoe Brooks says:

    A quarter century of rigid and increasingly desperate attachment to the categorically failed “Middle Way” policy has led to this absurd but ultimately predictable dead end. As the function of a policy that was the ever more fevered symptom of a government in negotiation against itself, it was almost inevitable that the rhetoric of the CTA would increasingly ratchet toward the extreme position of the CCP, the constant in this dismal equation. When the Sikyong publicized “We are not asking that democracy be implemented or be allowed inside Tibet” it hardly need be said that this was neither the “Middle” nor the “Way”. Rather, it was the death throes of a policy that could no longer even lay claim to its own name.

  • avatar khamba2013 says:

    At the ‘COUNCIL on FOREIGN RELATIONS’, the ‘Obvious’ setting & statement made by Mr. Sangay is no mistake, but an agenda unfolding it’s self. Y’all please watch this short video for an insight.

    • avatar khamba2013 says:

      FYI; “Quigley reveals that these men aim “to create a world system of financial control, in private hands, able to dominate the political system of each country, and the economy of the world as a whole.” In short, they seek total and quiet control of the entire world and the CFR is the most visible conduit for carrying out that agenda. (Excerpt from the film).”

  • avatar ajo Che says:

    Well, our Sikyong has said what he had said in line with the CTA’s objective which is to always leave the possibility of fluid dialogue with Uncle Chin open and receptive. That’s why I also say MWA is the best proposal in the long run because it is mutually beneficial to both entities.

    What’s the point of making a lot of noise against an entity who holds the STICK. We want chopsticks instead. Today the world’s sole-superpower has its hands full with the bellicose Kim Jong Un, let alone Iran. So, what’s the point of Dharamshala making making some temerarious noise against Uncle Chin who has lifted over 680 million Chinese from depths of poverty in the last three decades, according to statistics compiled by some US firms as reported by Fareed Zakaria on CNN. That’s a fact.

    As far as I am concerned, Sikyong couldn’t have said it any better in light of the current political status quo we are in; sounding like a seasoned diplomat rather beating a drum without much gumption, to say the least. To me his words resonate with a high degree of acumen and sagacity in pledging for leniency consistent with per Chinese constitution. As for demolition of Bhakor area, I believe, it is our own making in a way, with self-immolations, etc. Some of the twenty thousand Uyghurs (10k in Sinkiang and 10k in exile)made a lot of noise and the result was similar to the Bhakor demolition a few years back in the capital of Xinjiang. Baba Phuntsog Namgyal learned the hard way as to how vocal he should have been in the past. When Hu Yao Bing had approached him during their three hour discussion in his kitchen over tea to be the man in charge of the TAR, he deftly but politely declined the invitation, cause age and intuition had taught him to tread very carefully. My guesstimate is that the 10th Panchen Lama wasn’t careful enough buoyed by his intense love of his land and people and the Dharma.

    In the ’60s a leader of a superpower made a lot of raucous noise in the UN’s General Assembly. Taking off his shoe and banking it at the podium Nikita Khrushchev roared of the West, “We will bury you!” The point I’m trying to make here is that making a lot of empty words can be toxically counter productive.

    Ajo Che

  • avatar khamba2013 says:

    @ajo che: Ah! The Sikyong & Uncle Chin, now it makes sense. In our previous history we had Ngawang Jigme, & the history repeats again. Yo, CTA might as well reveal it’s true intention as the Chinese Tibetan Association or the Communist Tibetan Association = C.T.A.
    I don’t see how the MWA is any beneficial to Tibetans since the current “peaceful 17 point agreements” is a complete hoax, in real time & real life. “6 million” Tibetan Bosses want to be ‘Independent’ of draconian communist rule, yet exiled CTA promote & propagate WMA. Who’s the real Boss?! Y’all are all fired! Lol! We(?) all know who the ‘real boss’ is by now don’t we? It should be very obvious to everyone. Read the symbols & signs behind Mr.Sangay, in plain sight & most are clueless. Do your re-search & homework because this is much, much bigger than Tibet & Tibetans, it impact everyone Globally. We’re part in this agenda. To me MWA has two covert purposes. 1. To harvest all Tibetans under the guise of freedom via MWA. 2. To pacify or shut-up Tibetans to appease the communist Chinese regime as not to damage their image Globally. It’ll greatly impact all concerned people like the Democratic minded Chinese citizens,Uyghurs, Inner-Mongolians, etc… MWA is a very dangerous propaganda in the bigger picture but nevertheless very cleaver & this Tibetan ain’t buying it. Know that, we too are very precious Souls & re-incarnates, not anyone’s doormat or commodity. Gandhi said:

    “You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.”

  • avatar JRinaldi says:

    No Maura,

    The Sikyong does not so much “embrace Communist rule” in China as he feels compelled to acknowledge its existence as a currently unalterable reality. He knows that to stand in direct opposition to a bully of China’s stature invites deeper persecution on Tibetans. He also knows that China can’t wait for such opposition.

    While saying that “Beijing’s cadres are unwilling, or unable, to relinquish one party rule” is certainly true, it misses the deeper point. It’s not about relinquishing anything, its about enhancing one party rule. This is done most effectively every time any pontificating Westerner or activist,or Sikyong for that matter, makes any attempt at a “repudiation of Chinese Communist rule.”

    Put simply, every time any authority figure outside of China tells China what it MUST do on anything, the Chinese Communist Party smiles with glee and issues it’s usual shrill rebuttal. When it comes to Tibetans, this rebuttal is generally followed by increased repression on the ground. China is looking for every opportunity to tell the world that it’s a new day and that they are fully prepared to follow no advice but their own. Our direct challenges repeatedly give them the platform they need to re-affirm their beliefs to the world through their rebuttals.

    We saw this in Nepal. The ill-conceived attempt by the International Campaign for Tibet to draw attention to Nepal’s failure to live up to the “Gentleman’s agreement” which allegedly guaranteed Tibetan safe passage through Nepal and on to India, provoked China into pressuring Nepalese authorities to clamp down hard on the Tibetan community. Chinese ambassador Yang Houlan even went so far as to blame “outside, Free Tibet” groups for the brutal crackdown.

    Get it? Everything we say, can and will be used as a pretext for Chinese repression, so we must ask ourselves an important question:
    Do we want to trumpet our political ideology as being superior to that of the Chinese, or do we want to save Tibetans?

    We’ve been prioritizing the former for the last two decades and it hasn’t been working.

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