Dharmasala, November 17. This morning, Tibetan government ministers, parliamentarians, activists, representatives of Tibetan non-governmental and community organizations and independent intellectuals met in Dharamsala, India, in the opening session of a Special Meeting convened by the Dalai Lama to discuss Tibet’s future. It is a historic juncture for the Tibetan people at a moment of crisis in Tibet, after a wave of protests against Chinese rule swept across the plateau from March 10 for several months.
Opening the meeting, the Tibetan exile Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche, the Kalon Tripa, said: “We believe this meeting will be considered an important event in our history.” He stated that the main objectives of the Special Meeting are as follows: (i) to have open and frank discussions on the issue of Tibet at a critical time (ii) to invite views and comments on the Tibetan government in exile’s policies and strategies (iii) and to ensure that whatever position is taken on Tibet, it has the clear mandate of the people and is communicated internationally. The full text of the opening statement is online at www.tibet.net.
Woeser, Tibet’s best-known writer, described the meeting in her blog as follows: “There may never in history have been another gathering that so stirred the hearts of Tibetans at home and abroad. This is primarily because Tibetans have never before been separated for so long. To the more than one hundred thousand Tibetans in exile, the Tibet on this side of the Himalayas is their homeland. To the almost six million Tibetans within the borders, on the far side of the Himalayas lies another Tibet which, though very small, contains Tibet’s soul.”
In the opening address today, the Kalon Tripa made it clear that the views of Tibetans inside Tibet would be taken into account during the meeting, saying: “Many Tibetans from Tibet have sent in their opinions for this Special Meeting for which the Kashag [Tibetan Cabinet] expresses its heartfelt gratitude.” The Dalai Lama has stated that these views are vitally important and matter most at this time. Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, Karma Choephel, revealed today that the views of roughly 17,000 Tibetans in Tibet had been presented to the government as follows: more than 8,000 said they would follow the Dalai Lama’s policies whatever he decided; more than 5,000 said the present Middle Way policy (seeking genuine autonomy under the People’s Republic of China) should change to one of independence, and some 2,000 Tibetans said the government in exile should continue the Middle Way approach. No information was given as to the methodology of the poll, which was conducted clandestinely in Tibet.
In a statement on November 14, the Tibetan leader said: “Taking into account the inspiring courage being shown by people all over Tibet this year, the current world situation, and the present intransigent stance of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), all the participants, as Tibetan citizens should discuss in a spirit of equality, cooperation and collective responsibility the best possible future course of action to advance the Tibetan cause. This meeting should take place in an atmosphere of openness, putting aside partisan debate. Rather, it should focus on the aspirations and views of the Tibetan people.”
To mark the Special Meeting, every day this week the International Campaign for Tibet will publish translations in English of articles and perspectives by Tibetans in Tibet, allowing views that would otherwise be hidden or inaccessible to reach an international audience.
Tibet’s future: the need to be resolute
In an authoritative article about the issues under discussion at the Special Meeting, published by the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and also on a Chinese-language blog, Tibet’s famous contemporary writer Woeser presents the differing strategies that face the Tibetan people in confronting an increasingly intransigent Chinese leadership.
She writes: “If I may offer a composite of the opinions of several contemporary intellectuals who live within the PRC, they think that the decision of His Holiness was exactly right (even though it seems to have been forced on him by events), because it will lead to better preparations for the future. Whatever path is chosen in the future will not be immutable.” Woeser writes about monks tortured after the demonstrations in March, some still scarred after their wrists were tied by police with steel wire, who still believe in the Dalai Lama’s policy of the ‘Middle Way’ of genuine autonomy, and others who feel that independence is the only way forward. Commenting on the view of some that the situation in Tibet is too bleak and desperate to hope for change, Woeser says: “But young Tibetans retort that this view overlooks the numerous crises that lie hidden behind Communist China’s facade of power and greatness, and it also overlooks the vitality and creativity of Tibetans and Tibetan culture.”
Comments on Woeser’s article and the Special Meeting are translated from Chinese into English below. One anonymous Tibetan comments that the meeting is not likely to result in establishing a ‘path’ for the future of Tibet but rather marks a new sense of responsibility and maturity of the Tibetan people and government in exile. The commentator writes: “I don’t think this meeting will decide upon a clear path, but the significance of this meeting does not lie in choosing a path. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made it clear recently that no matter what path Tibetans take China will put an “independence” hat on it! The CCP has absolutely no intention of discussing the Tibetan people’s suffering. And seeing as this is so, there’s no need for us to decide upon a path. The true significance of this meeting lies in the Tibetan people starting to unravel the ties that bind politics to religion. Tibetans have taken the first step of responsibility for their people and country. If the past 50 years has been about Tibetans being like children and passing on their responsibilities onto His Holiness, then this meeting today is the ceremony for this child becoming an adult!”
(Translation copyright Ragged Banner Press, used by permission)
Different views of the way ahead for Tibet
There may never in history have been another gathering that so stirred the hearts of Tibetans at home and abroad. This is primarily because Tibetans have never before been separated for so long. To the more than 100,000 Tibetans in exile, the Tibet on this side of the Himalayas is their homeland. To the almost 6 million Tibetans within the borders, on the far side of the Himalayas lies another Tibet which, though very small, contains Tibet’s soul. In the middle of this month, on that side of the mountains in Dharamsala (the seat of the Tibetan exile government) there will convene a representative assembly of Tibetans from all over the world to discuss Tibet’s future direction – obviously, an epochal event. At the beginning of March, His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared that the problems of Tibet were for the Tibetan people to solve, and the future of Tibet was for the Tibetan people to decide.
We who are Tibetans within the borders, even though under the repression of a great power and so unable to express ourselves freely like Tibetans outside, still want to express our aspirations without being held back by fear. If I may offer a composite of the opinions of several contemporary intellectuals who live within the PRC, they think that the decision of His Holiness was exactly right (even though it seems to have been forced on him by events), because it will lead to better preparations for the future. Whatever path is chosen in the future will not be immutable. It won’t be a rigid either/or; there will be elements of this and elements of that, or either one, or neither: different paths will cross or overlap, so that opportunities will recur. But at present, just as His Holiness said, the conciliatory accommodations of the past have been proven to be a failure. Consequently, whether Tibetans like it or not, there can be no continuing on the previous path.
There are more than ten monks in their twenties and thirties at a certain monastery in Amdo who were all arrested and beaten at the outbreak of protests against violence in March. Some of the monks bear on their wrists to this day the scars of the iron wire with which the Armed Police bound them. They say: though Tibetans are enduring adversity and suffering the lack of freedom, nevertheless, as disciples of Buddhism, they still want to follow the Middle Way advocated by His Holiness and strive non-violently for Tibetans’ rights. No matter how hard the future, it will still be their duty to walk the Middle Way of peaceful reason.
There is also a more intense point of view which holds that in the beginning His Holiness followed the path of Rangzen [independence] but later gradually changed, especially after Deng Xiaoping promised, “Except for independence, everything can be discussed.” What he sought then was a high degree of autonomy within the framework of China’s constitution. However, after almost 30 years, there has been no progress at all. Therefore, at this juncture of history, the right course is to turn back to the path of Rangzen. Although the world’s support is still necessary, the important thing is for Tibetans themselves to shoulder this duty. Any people that has sought independence has had to pay for it with blood and lives. Though we don’t want to shed our blood, it can’t be helped, there’s no way around it; and so Tibetans both inside and out must join together and be prepared to sacrifice for this goal.
Some Western scholars who study China say Tibet has a wretched future no matter how you look at it. But young Tibetans retort that this view overlooks the numerous crises that lie hidden behind communist China’s facade of power and greatness, and it also overlooks the vitality and creativity of Tibetans and Tibetan culture. The problem of Tibet is not the problem of His Holiness alone and it shall not be the case that with the passing of His Holiness, Tibetans and their culture will be bereft of vitality and creativity. His Holiness will return, borne on hope, and Tibetans will continue their struggle, upheld by a Tibetan culture that distills the essence of the Buddhist spirit. Although it will be a path filled with hardship, for Tibetans to seek their freedom does not mean a wretched future; or even if life does grow more bleak, we Tibetans will find courage that is a match for our oppression.
The most passive school of thought holds that no matter what path is chosen, whether Middle Way or Rangzen, while they both seem to put a choice before us, they are both empty choices, because neither will go far since we are under China’s thumb. We just have to let events take their course.
November 4, 2008
Woeser wrote this article for the Tibetan-language service of Radio Free Asia.
Tibetans have taken the first step of responsibility for their people and country
by anonymous blogger, Woeser’s website
Comments on Woeser’s article by anonymous bloggers are included below.
我是一名境内藏人。我认为抗争目标定为争取”民族自决”的权利 (Self-determination) 是目前走出困境的出路。基于以下四个基本理由：
I am a Tibetan on the inside. I think that setting the target of the struggle as getting the right to “national self determination” is a path out of our difficulties. This is based on the following four reasons:
1. “National self-determination” bestows equal rights and responsibilities upon Tibetans inside and out of Tibet. The greatest shortcoming of this special meeting is that the broad masses of Tibetans on the inside do not have the opportunity to have their opinions represented. Striving for “national self-determination” puts the future fate of Tibet into the hands of Tibetans inside and out of Tibet.
2. “National self-determination” includes the “Middle Way” and the possibility of independence, but the final decision rests on the will of all Tibetans inside and out of Tibet.
3. “National self-determination” is an internationally recognized fundamental human right bestowed by international human rights law, which would get international sympathy and support.
4. 所有藏人一旦有了”民族自决”的概念，解决西藏问题的决心会永远铭刻在每一个藏人的心里，直至其得到解决， 而不用担心年轻一代藏人对其的淡漠。
4. Once Tibetans have “national self-determination”, the determination to resolve the Tibet question would be etched in the hearts of all Tibetans until the question was resolved, and there would be no need to worry about indifference among the young generation of Tibetans.
Resistance should always be by “peaceful means”. Everyone already knows this; there is no need to explain this further.
* * *
I would like to add a few words. “Peaceful” protest does not amount to passively pleading for rights from the Chinese Communist Party. It is struggle by peaceful means. Demonstrations are demonstrations and protestors are protestors. They are not refusing to struggle in order “to create a conducive atmosphere for discussions”!
* * *
I don’t think this meeting will decide upon a clear path, but the significance of this meeting does not lie in choosing a path. The CCP has made it clear recently that no matter what path Tibetans take China will put an “independence” hat on it! The CCP has absolutely no intention of discussing the Tibetan people’s suffering. And seeing as this is so, there’s no need for us to decide upon a path. The true significance of this meeting lies in the Tibetan people starting to unravel the ties that bind politics to religion. Tibetans have taken the first step of responsibility for their people and country. If the past 50 years has been about Tibetans being like children and passing on their responsibilities onto His Holiness, then this meeting today is the ceremony for this child becoming an adult! Transform the strength of the past ties to religion to strong national ties, and transform the former effects of religious power to exiled political power. Promote a step further the democratization of the government in exile, and make the people truly carry responsibility for the Tibet question.
* * *
Lose a dream, prepare for battle.
We are not helpless, it is that His Holiness has not let us retort;
We are not scared, it is that His Holiness makes us patient;
It is not that we do not think, it is that we revere His Holiness;
It is not that we do not retort, it is that His Holiness is a tender envoy of peace;
It is not that we are incapable, it is that everything we do is at His Holiness’ call;
But our patience has limits…