Three Adherences by Tibetans in Connection with the Ongoing Special General Meeting in Dharamsala

by Bhuchung K. Tsering

“The time has come for the Tibetan struggle to show its maturity”

Bhuchung K. Tsering is a Vice President at the International Campaign for Tibet and a member of the Task Force set up by the Central Tibetan Administration to assist in the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership, and has been a regular member of the Tibetan delegation to meet with their Chinese interlocutors in the eight rounds of dialog since 2002. Here offers his thoughts on the ongoing Special Meeting in Dharamsala.

Yesterday (on November 19, 2008), Voice of America’s Tibetan Service invited me to participate in its weekly TV program, Kunleng, to discuss the ongoing Special General Meeting of Tibetans in Dharamsala.

This program is quite popular within the Tibetan community in exile. I understand that Tibetans in Tibet, too, are able to watch the program through different means.

VOA wanted me to share my thoughts on what issues the delegates to the meeting should be devoting their attention to and how I feel the move forward should be.

I basically outlined two broad objectives that the Dharamsala meeting should be fulfilling. First is the provision of a platform for the Tibetan people to air their feelings and views in light of the urgent situation in Tibet, developments in the international community and the attitude of the Chinese government. I would include in this framework the voices within our community calling for a change of course in the political direction, away from the Middle Way Approach towards independence. The public discussion in Dharamsala and in the media is being dominated by this topic. While such discussions are necessary and should be taking place, this is but one aspect of the Tibetan issue and not the end of the struggle. The time has come for the Tibetan struggle to show its maturity and go deeper into the issue. As it is, envoys of H.H. the Dalai Lama have made public the memorandum they have presented to the Chinese leadership suggesting the implementation of genuine autonomy for Tibetans based on the Chinese Constitution. All Tibetans should thoroughly study the content of the memorandum as they attempt to size up the status of the dialogue process. I feel this should be the second broad objective of the meeting.

To me, the second broad objective is comparatively the most important. The Dharamsala meeting should discuss the status of the Tibetan struggle and strategize how best to solidify the struggle, if there is to be no solution in sight in the near future. Towards this end, the delegates need to look at, what I call, the Tibetan people’s “Three Adherences,” and discuss how to achieve them to the best possible extent.

The first adherence is to see how the historical relationship and bond between H.H. the Dalai Lama (who symbolizes the Tibetan struggle) and the Tibetan people, particularly Tibetans inside Tibet, could be continued. I do not see this as being the Tibetan people’s dependence on the person of the Dalai Lama to shoulder the responsibilities of the struggle. Rather, given the political reality in Tibet, the nature of the Tibetan cultural environment and the history of Tibet, the Dalai Lama has served as the binding force for all Tibetans whether they reside in the Tibet Autonomous Region or outside of it. The Chinese authorities clearly understand this special bond and are currently attempting to do everything to break it. For example, the ban on the possession of photos of H.H. the Dalai Lama, imposed by the Chinese government in Tibet, is related to this and is more than mere denial of religious freedom to the Tibetan people. This is a challenge to the Tibetan people and has long-term implications for the Tibetan struggle. A silver lining here is that whatever strategy the Chinese side adopts, they cannot hope to alter the attitude and environment of Tibetans of this generation in their perception of H.H. the Dalai Lama. But we need to look beyond the present, and this is something the meeting participants need to consider. The meeting participants need to see how the Tibetan people, who recognize and acknowledge this special bond, can clearly comprehend its importance and implications.

The second adherence is the continuation of the Tibetan identity, within Tibet and outside. This has to be understood as the broader concept of the Tibetan struggle and not narrowed down merely to political identity. Tibetans in Tibet today, despite their limitations, are living in a society with economic, educational and other requirements. The meeting delegates need to see what steps can be taken to preserve and promote Tibetan identity. This means each and every Tibetan needs to have a better understanding of society inside Tibet and to act accordingly.

The third adherence is to the continuation of the commonality in the aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet and outside. I believe this commonality in the aspirations among Tibetans is the solid foundation of the Tibetan struggle. Tibetans in Dho, U and Kham, which incorporate the entire area of traditional Tibet, have time and again highlighted this commonality. How should this aspiration be strengthened and what roles can Tibetans in the free world play?

The Dharamsala meeting is taking place at a critical time in the history of Tibetan-Chinese relations. It comes at a time when the Chinese government has clearly chalked out a new strategy, at least on the publicity front. In addition to the unprecedented press conference in Beijing by senior Chinese government officials involved in talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama, as I write, some of them have also started travelling to different countries to propagate their point of view. There is unusual international media interest, with hordes of correspondents arriving in Dharamsala. I am told there are even three correspondents from the Chinese news agency Xinhua, who have come up to Dharamsala from Delhi. So the world is certainly watching. On November 22 the meeting concludes and the delegates will return to their respective places. But this will not and should not be the end of the present process. I see the Dharamsala meeting only as the beginning of the process. The discussions should filter further down to the Tibetan community, particularly to Tibetans inside Tibet. Through this process I hope a reinvigorated Tibetan struggle, in whatever hue and shade, can emerge. This is the challenge to the Dharamsala meeting.