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WOESER: What Do They Mean When They Say “We Must Strive to See That the Reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is Produced Only Within the Country”?

Friday, Jun 7, 2013
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Note: Several hours ago Phayul reported that the Dalai Lama has no plans to visit Hong Kong. That report seems very much to be in response to the blog post translated below which Woeser first posted at RFA and then put on her own website a few days ago. If one of the points raised in the post has thus been answered, there are others that also deserve consideration, particularly the point that China is very much concerned that a situation similar to what they now have with the Panchen Lama (i.e., two individuals designated as such, the official Chinese choice being largely rejected by the Tibetan population) not happen with regard to the Dalai Lama’s next incarnation. To that end, Woeser notes, China seems to be trying to manipulate the Dalai Lama and the exile authorities to accept that the next Dalai Lama will be born and recognized within China, in part by holding out hope for movement in negotiations and even a resolution of Tibetan issues. With that in mind, one may rightly wonder if the anti-democratic moves by the exile authorities, including the rejection of democracy as a Tibetan goal, interference from Tibetan exile leaders in the management of RFA’s Tibetan service, and, most recently, the effective castration of a cravenly apologetic TYC are supposed to be part of a reorientation meant to align the exile community with signals coming from China.

What Do They Mean When They Say “We Must Strive to See That the Reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is Produced Only Within the Country”?

By Tsering Woeser

An article that merits very close reading was published in the Hong Kong Asia Weekly (vol. 27, no. 22) under the title “Exclusive Interview with Professor Jin Wei of the Social Science Teaching and Research Section of the Central Communist Party School: Reopen Talks and Resolve Tibetan Issues.”

In this article the Party School professor’s crucial sentence reads: “We must strive to see that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is produced only within the country.”

There’s also one sentence that is absolutely revelatory: “Although we could use ‘The Golden Urn’ to restrict an incarnate child from being born outside the country, history also offers the precedent of an incarnate lama designating his successor. We must do everything possible to avoid the embarrassing situation of ‘twin Panchen Lamas.’” The Party School professor is too incautious: how could she have revealed the secret that it was Communist Party yahoos managing the “Golden Urn” ceremony who officially designated a “Fake Panchen Lama”?

This Party School professor, someone who recommends “that the Chinese Communist Party must remain highly self-confident,” is quite callous about what she’s found to be the nature of Tibetan self-immolations: “Self-immolations are continuing and expanding at a fast pace. It’s effectively become a ‘collective plague;’ it’s become a contagion; a movement.”

But the last sentence in her article seems calculated to kill two birds with one stone: “Tibetan issues are exceedingly important to China today. If it is possible to forge a new way of thinking and to break through the deadlock, it will not only advance social stability and allow us to avoid forming nationality wounds that are hard to heal, but also have a positive effect on other minority nationalities. At the same time it will aid in unification with Taiwan, and can also elevate China’s international image.”

The problem is that by some extraordinary coincidence, no sooner had the Party School professor made the suggestion to “let the Dalai Lama visit Hong Kong or Macao purely in the capacity of a religious leader; later on we can consider allowing him to reside in Hong Kong,” than on that same day, June 3, the Voice of Tibet reported that “A Hong Kong organization has invited the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong to preside over religious activities.” It further states that “The Hong Kong Tibetan and Han-Chinese Friendship Association recently made it known that it had already invited the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong and to preside over a ‘World Peace—Universal Harmony’ religious gathering and had forwarded an application for the purpose to the immigration office.”

How could there be such a coincidence?! This is far too bizarre! Could it be that some sort of scam is being played? And what’s the background of this Hong Kong organization?

According to reports, the person who invited His Holiness to visit Hong Kong is a certain someone who’s the founder of the “Hong Kong Tibetan and Han-Chinese Friendship Association.” On Twitter an internet friend from Hong Kong wrote “It’s said that he’s a swindler. Some people say his background includes close ties to the Communist Party. The day before yesterday a friend already came to ask me about his background, saying he was going to hold a press conference tomorrow.”

Even though—contrary to what one might think—being a swindler and having a background of close ties to the Communist Party are very compatible, the question is: how could this sort of person have been allowed to extend an invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to come to Hong Kong? How is this not extremely sinister?

And this “Tibetan-Han Chinese Friendship Association” seems very much like the Confucius Institutes that are blossoming all over the world: complicated backgrounds and a flicker of spy shadows…

And that certain someone who is its founder? According to information supplied by an internet friend on Twitter he was the convener of the 2009 “Right to Inherent Dignity Movement Association” which at that time seriously disrupted the July 1st [pro-democracy] demonstration. The Apple Daily reported that “it had fought over who had rented the Victoria Park site; and similarly along the march route, the same weird group was suspected of seriously disrupting the July 1st demonstration.” At the time the Voice of America also reported that he had wanted to go to Victoria Park to fight over control of the demonstration’s base area.

And now this person has become the founder of the “Hong Kong Tibetan-Han Chinese Friendship Association.” At the beginning of last year he travelled to Dharamsala and saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Afterwards he had a photo of himself with the Dalai Lama enlarged and showed it off all over the place. And most recently he declared that he had invited His Holiness to visit Hong Kong to preside over Buddhist teaching activities. He even claimed that he’d already received written approval for this from the government. But, as an internet friend said on Twitter, in previous years the Hong Kong Government had refused entry to Wang Dan; if it were now to allow the Dalai Lama to enter that would be really strange.

So in the end, what is this all about?

The heart of the heart of the whole thing lies in the wondrous nature of this Party School professor. Her first suggestion has already met with a fortuitous coincidence (whether His Holiness actually goes to Hong Kong is another matter; the coincidence has already happened). And as for her second suggestion—“We must strive to see that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is produced only within the country.”—does one dare say that it too will meet with a fortuitous coincidence?

How is it that one feels that there’s a chess game in play, move by move? Ultimately, how should one “strive”? Who is the “we” of whom the Central Party School professor speaks?

Is the Communist Party carefully laying out its opening gambit? Is it setting up moves for a very long-term game? Many people of various identities and statuses are popping up. White faces, red faces; sweet talk, honeyed words. They even play the pity card. And they use “restarting talks” as bait; they use a visit to Hong Kong as bait. This includes the 2,500,000 yuan that Xinhua reports as having been spent by the Communist Party to renovate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s former residence (which is [in China’s geographical delineation of the area] in Hongya village, located in Shihuiyao Township in Ping’an County, within Qinghai Province’s Haidong Prefecture). As a goal, do they imagine that they can ultimately have His Holiness promise to reincarnate “within the country”? Well, just as the Party School professor said: “We must strive to see that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is produced only within the country.”

But also, as an internet friend said on Twitter, “To make concessions and pay such a high price simply to visit Hong Kong is clearly unreasonable. Connecting this to the Tibetan Government-in-Exile’s impatience to return to Tibet and its resultant promise to renounce the status of political independence and democracy, a visit to Hong Kong at this time may be a pivotal link in negotiations.” Of course, His Holiness cannot commit himself so easily, but the “we” that the Central Party School professor needed to mention certainly can “strive,” because as far as Beijing is concerned just having the Dalai Lama abroad, whether it’s this incarnation or the next one, is a “special” dilemma. And yet the simple “resolution of ‘the Dalai Lama dilemma’ would lend itself to larger uses in the sense of a small investment bringing a large return.”

The Chinese language is just too rich. “Vis-à-vis His Holiness, who is already ‘advanced in years’ and who is facing an imminent reincarnation problem,” there must be “striving,” there must be “a resolution.” What do such verbal formulations signify?

An independent Chinese intellectual sent me an e-mail. Worried and anxious, he said “There is obviously a back story to the two articles in Asia Weekly. The first speaks of the internal divisions among Tibetans and the Government-in-Exile’s inability to stabilize the situation. The article that follows has several keywords that I really don’t like: reincarnation, inviting His Holiness to visit Hong Kong, etc. And an invitation to His Holiness to visit Hong Kong is surely on His Holiness’s mind: he has many times evinced warm feelings when speaking about Xi Zhongxun and is reposing great hopes in Xi Jinping. If moved by rhetoric, His Holiness could gladly go. But think about the affair of the 10th Panchen Lama’s passing away in Shigatse. I think of the old adage, ‘Don’t walk into danger!’”

Indeed, don’t walk into danger! When there’s someone saying “We must strive to see that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is produced only within the country,” my hope is just for His Holiness to be in sound health; for His Holiness to be free of any malady!

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