A Sino-Tibetan conference “Finding Common Ground” was held in Geneva from August 6-8, 2009, attended by Chinese and Tibetan scholars, educators, writers and human rights advocates, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibet Government in Exile, and renowned political scholar Mr Yan Jiaqi.
Through the concerted efforts of all participants, a consensus on the Tibet issue was forged before the curtain of the meeting fell. Just as a Chinese proverb says: “It takes more than a cold day to freeze a river of three feet deep”, so it is with this consensus. It is the result of the decades-long political evolvement in China and the development of Sino-Tibetan relations.
The consensus is in line with the spirit of the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Road” notion he has vigorously advocated since 1974. While the meeting served as a kind of form, the substance of the consensus is yet to fully develop long after the conference is over.
It is important to realise that this consensus has not, by any means, been reached between the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, or Tibetans in exile outside Tibet, and the CCP-controlled Chinese Government. Nor is there common ground between the exiled Tibetans, who have been living under the political oppression of the CCP for 60 years, and the Chinese people who are under the enchantment (or scam) of the CCP for 60 years. It has been reached between exiled Tibetans and a small number of Chinese people with a special appreciation of Tibetan history, culture, religion and way of life. For this consensus to gain wider recognition and acceptance there is obviously a long and arduous journey ahead.
A meaningful and highly autonomous state of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, are key conditions for a sensible solution to the Tibet issue. Notwithstanding relentless efforts and concessions made by the Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetans, the CCP, headed by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, has been resolute in maintaining the status quo of Tibet against the will of the Dalai Lama. There have already been eight rounds of talks and there could be another 16, but nothing would be achieved provided the one-party dictatorship stays on. That is the CCP’s strategy in Tibet.
Even if the Dalai Lama is let back into Tibet, while the much-desired autonomy for Tibet remains rejected, how can the CCP tackle the ensuing chain reaction? How can the CCP deal with the political impact caused by the Dalai Lama’s presence in Tibet? Keeping His Holiness out of Tibet is surely the CCP’s best political option.
The Dalai Lama comments that, while his confidence in the credibility of the Chinese Government is fading, his faith in the Chinese people has never wavered. The recent Geneva International Sino-Tibet Conference is a token, signaling the beginning of a significant process in which the Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetans seek non-official dialogue and exchange with ordinary Chinese people. This is a new direction for the Dalia Lama,, based on Han-Tibetan relations, which were formed by the Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetans as early as February 2007.
On June 14, 2007, and June 15, 2008, the Dalai Lama twice addressed the Chinese Community in Sydney. Then in November 2008, May and June 2009, His Holiness held discussions with the Chinese community in Tokyo, New York and Amsterdam respectively. The initiative to engage in direct talks with overseas Chinese ushered in a new phase communication as a solution to Han-Tibetan relations. This is undoubtedly a wise political move and is bound to have a far-reaching influence on the evolvement of Han-Tibetan relations. It is a sensible insight into the dynamics of Chinese politics.
Tibet’s own history contrasts sharply with the bleak reality. Tibet once controlled its own territory and had a distinctive culture, religion, language and life style completely separate from that of mainland China. Now the People’s Republic of China claims full sovereignty of Tibet, as an integral part of its territory, secured by the presence of People’s Liberation Army and with diplomatic recognition from countries around the world.
The People’s Republic of China inherited the territory of the Republic of China, apart from the territory claimed by Taiwan, including the Penghu Islands and Mongolia, over which the Republic of China claimed sovereignty. In turn the Republic of China inherited its territory from the Qing Dynasty. In 1913, the 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet declared its independence. Even though it did not seek diplomatic recognition from the world and the declaration was objected to by the Chinese government at the time, the insulated Tibet enjoyed a factual independence, benefiting from the warlords’ preoccupation with turbulent civil wars in the heart of mainland China.
Two of Tibet’s giant neighbours, China and India, differ from Tibet considerably, in terms of ethnicity, linguistics and life style. But the geographic location of Tibet dictates a comparatively better affinity with China. With Tibet now being under the effective jurisdiction of China, the best way for China to permanently retain Tibet within its family is win over the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people through acts of benevolence and accommodation. But the Chinese leaders are living under the illusion that the Tibet issue will disappear once the Dalai Lama is no more: rather than solving the Tibet problem for good while the Dalai Lama is alive. Needless to say, it is an ostrich’s foolishness.
China is badly in need of political democracy and the re-building of ethical and moral values, whereas Tibet needs a meaningful high degree of autonomy and the conservation of its culture and customs. These political goals can never be achieved until and unless both have made concerted efforts to co-operate. Using political wisdom to tackle problems and create a harmonious relation between the two will set up an example for the Han-Uigur, Han-Mongolian and other Han race and ethnic minorities.
If the Dalai Lama could return to Tibet, then a key to the locked door of closed Chinese politics is put in and turned to trigger the first chain of reactions towards China’s democratisation. Maybe this is a vista Chinese leaders have been dreading so that they resorted desperately to various excuses to prevent the return of the Dalai Lama and have employed every means to demonise him.
The Chinese leaders need the correct perspective which can be provided by history. Learn from history to see the instant collapse of the former Soviet Union and the East Union block. With the Chinese Communist Party’s doom sealed, let’s try to find a way out, for the sake of China, the Chinese people, the human race and democracy.