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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 09:22, July 26, 2006
On the 'Middle Way' of the Dalai Lama
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The Dalai Lama has, in recent years, been telling the world he has stopped seeking "Tibetan independence" and turned towards a "middle way".

By this, he says, he means "high-level autonomy" or "real autonomy" in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas within the framework of the Chinese Constitution. Only by doing so, he has argued, can Tibet best protect its unique traditional culture, religion and eco-environment, and can the unification and unity of China be maintained. (On March 10, 1959, the reactionary upper class in Tibet staged a counter-revolutionary armed rebellion. When it was suppressed, the Dalai Lama and his men fled to India, where he made March 10 as a remembrance "Resurrection Day".) On March 10, 2006, he followed his usual practice of delivering a speech, in which he said: "Making the Tibetan race become the real masters of their own fate and enjoy real autonomy constitutes my only wish. And this wish could be materialized as the PRC Constitution contains special stipulations for this."

What the Dalai Lama says sounds reasonable at first glance; and he has given up the "independence of Tibet" and turns to work for the interest of the Tibetans. However, if one takes a closer look at the background of what the Dalai Lama has put forth regarding this "middle way", its major contents and the Dalai Lama's explanation, and then compares this with the PRC Constitution, one will instantly find nothing new, only old wine in a new bottle.

People who know Tibetan history well know that the Dalai Lama stands for the "independence of Tibet" when he has fled to India in 1959. On June 20, 1960, he held his first press conference in India, and vowed to "restore freedom and the special status Tibet enjoyed before the Chinese invasion in 1950". Thereafter, he made speeches on March 10 each year, vowing to win the "independence of Tibet". Moreover, the Dalai Lama set up his "government in exile" overseas and worked out a "Tibetan constitution" (later renamed the "constitution for Tibetans in exile"). He built up a rebel army in Nepal for border harassments in the ensuing years. In the name of "organizing armed troops to fight their way back into Tibet", he collaborated with the Indian military and American CIA to organize the "Indian Tibetan special border troops", set up "representative offices" in some countries, and organized the "Tibet youth congress", "Tibet national democratic party" and "Tibet women's federation." All these organizations have engaged in separatist activities overseas.

From the 1970s to the mid-1980s, the international situation underwent changes with India and the United States all working to improve ties with China. As a result, the Dalai clique got less public support internationally. It faced economic difficulties and was riddled with internal feuds. It was against this background that the Dalai clique told the Central Government it could "give up efforts seeking Tibetan independence and return to China". In 1987, the Dalai Lama delivered a speech to the US Congressional Human Rights Committee, putting forth his "five-point scheme for Tibetan peace"; in 1988 he tried but failed to address the European Parliament in Strasburg, and instead spoke in the hall of the parliament, where he declared his "seven-point new schemes" (hereinafter referred to as the "five points" and "seven points"). In the two speeches the Dalai Lama made his statement with regard to the "middle way", and the two speeches served as the most authoritative explanation of this approach.

It is the "five points" and "seven points", as well as other explanations made by the Dalai Lama and his like that show the world the "middle way" goes against the Chinese Constitution and law. Here are four aspects related to this conclusion:

The first is that the Dalai Lama still refuses to recognize the fact that Tibet is part of China. The PRC Constitution stipulates in its preface that the PRC is a multi-national country founded by peoples of various ethnic groups in the country. Article 4 of the Constitution goes further to say that various regions exercising national regional autonomy in China are an alienable part of the country. However, the Dalai Lama said in his "five points" that "Tibet was a completely independent state in 1949 when the PLA entered". In his "March 10" statement of 1995, he said: "The reality of today is that Tibet is an occupied country under colonial rule". At an Indian seminar called "support for Tibet", he declared: "Buddhism entered Tibet from India, and so did many other aspects of Indian culture. From this point of view, I hold that it is more reasonable for India to own sovereignty over Tibet than China." In recent years, the Dalai Lama has changed his tune by saying that the issue can be turned over to historians for discussion; we should refrain from talking about the past, and instead focus on the future.

It is an historic fact that Tibet has since the ancient times been an inalienable part of the Chinese territory, and the Central Government of China has exercised indisputable and effective rule over Tibet. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Central Government set up the Xuanzhen Yuan to take in charge of the Buddhist affairs in the whole country and the military and administrative affairs of the Tibetan region. It exercised effective rule over Tibet by conducting census, setting up post stations, collecting taxes, stationing troops, appointing officials, and introducing the Yuan Dynasty criminal law, astronomy and calendaring to Tibet. During the Qing Dynasty (644-1911), the 5th Dalai Lama and the 5th Panchen Erdeni of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism all received honorific titles from Emperor Shunzhi and Emperor Kangxi. From then on, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni of the future generations all got the honorific titles and established their political and religious leadership in Tibet. And it becomes a historical precedence for the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni to receive honorific titles during the Republic of China (1912-1949). The 14th Dalai Lama himself was confirmed and enthroned with the approval of the Central Government of the Republic of China. Governments of various countries in the world declare that "Tibet is part of China". This constitutes the common knowledge of the international community and the political basis for China to develop bilateral ties with other countries. We see that the Dalai Lama publically refuses the fact that Tibet has since the ancient times been a part of China, and then says that he does not have to talk about this issue. He does all these to impress the others he has made concession. As a matter of fact, however, he is turning a known-to-all historical fact and a political principle related to state sovereignty into a historical and academic question that exists and does not have to be discussed. Admitting what the Dalai Lama has said means acknowledgement regarding his statement that Tibet has been an occupied country after 1949. Legally speaking, the so-called "Tibetan issue" will not then be an internal issue of China; it will then be related to "colonial issues" whereby the Tibetans could enjoy the right to independence through "national self-determination" according to international convention. This, of course, goes against the historical fact that China enjoys sovereignty over Tibet and the principle set forth in the PRC Constitution that areas exercising national regional autonomy are inalienable parts of China. The Central Government naturally is staunch in attitude and all people with a sober mind can see that what the Dalai Lama does is his plan to dish out his "Tibetan independence" when conditions ripen again according to his own standards.

The second point is that the Dalai Lama attempts to refute the current political system followed in Tibet according to the Constitution which states that the socialist system is the fundamental system of the PRC; no organization or individual is allowed to undermine the socialist system; in the PRC, all power belongs to the people, and the NPC and the People's Congresses at various levels are the organs of power through which the people exercise State power. And the PRC Law on National Regional Autonomy stipulates that national regional autonomy is the basic political system of the CPC to solve China's ethnic issues using Marxism-Leninism. The above legal stipulations undoubtedly apply to Tibet. However, the Dalai Lama declared that "the autonomy China follows is not real autonomy". According to what he has said, Tibet should achieve "high-level autonomy" or "real autonomy" according to the "one country, two systems" principle, and the scope of "autonomy" should be larger than that for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. In his "seven points", meanwhile, he argues that "a Tibetan government should be set up in Lhasa and should have an elected administrative chief and possess a bicameral legislative organ and an independent judicial system". In November 2005, the Dalai Lama said in the United States: "The Central Government should take care of defense and foreign affairs, because the Tibetans have no experience in this regard, but the Tibetans should have full responsibility for education, economic development, environmental protection and religion". In a nutshell, the CPC leadership, the socialist system, the people's congress system and the national regional autonomy in Tibet, which have been in place in Tibet for decades in accordance with the PRC Constitution, should all be refuted, and a whole new system introduced according to what he says "real autonomy". This is obviously different from what he claims for Tibet to work "within the framework of the Chinese Constitution." The PRC government white paper entitled National Regional Autonomy in Tibet issued in 2004 made it clear that, unlike Hong Kong and Macao, Tibet is not faced with question related to the exercise of sovereignty and the possibility of re-introducing another social system. Any endeavor to destroy and change the current political system in Tibet runs counter to the PRC Constitution and law.

It is known to all that the "one country, two systems" refers to the fact that the mainland follows the socialist system while Hong Kong and Macao continue to follow the capitalist system they had followed before. However, no capitalist system existed in Tibetan history; what was followed in the region was a feudal serfdom featuring temporal religious administration. In its own "constitution of Tibet in exile", the Dalai Lama advocates the reintroduction of the old system featuring "temporal religious administration". According to the system, the Dalai Lama is the government and religious leader enjoying the final say on major matters. In old Tibet, the Gashag set up by the Qing Dynasty in region, or the local government of Tibet, was composed of four Galoons. When the Dalai Lama had fled overseas, his government in exile continued to follow the system, with the role of chief Galoon of the government in exile continueing to be assumed by a high-ranking lama. These are the people who are advocating the "one country, two systems" approach for Tibet. What they can do? Only restore the feudal serfdom, and nothing else!

The third point is that the Dalai Lama sticks to "Large Tibetan Areas"that, however, does not exist in history. Articles 14 of the white paper on national regional autonomy says that matters concerning areas following the regional national autonomy, such as the title and regional border line, should be determined through full consultations among the State organs and local relative power organs and representatives of ethnic groups concerned in accordance with the law, and result of the consultations be submitted to departments concerned according to procedures set forth in the law; the areas following the system should not be disbanded or annexed without going through proper legal procedures. The Dalai Lama, however, persists in bringing together the areas where people of the Tibetan ethnic group live to form an "enlarged Tibet autonomous region" which would cover one-fourth of Chinese territory. People with knowledge of Chinese history know that, during the Yuan Dynasty, the three areas where the Tibetans lived saw the establishment of three pacification commissioner's offices for governance. The three areas refer to U-Tsang-Ngari (the bulk of the Tibet Autonomous Region today), Amdo (mainly southern Gansu, Aba of Sichuan Province and the bulk of the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai Province), and Kham (largely Yushu of Qinghai Province, Garze of Sichuan Provinice, Deqen of Yunnan Province and Qamdo of Tibet). The three areas became the basis for the division between Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas in China. The ensuing Ming Dynasty followed the Yuan approach in ruling Tibet. During the Qing Dynasty that followed, the Central Government supported the 5th Dalai Lama, leader of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, to build up a regime in Tibet. Thereafter, further efforts were made to delineate the border between Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan. From this we see the Tibetan-inhabited areas outside Tibet had never been put under the rule of the local government of Tibet. So, there is no ground for the establishment of an "enlarged Tibet".

Recent years have seen the Dalai Lama admit the fact that the former government of Tibet had never ruled the Tibetan-inhabited areas outside today's Tibet Autonomous Region. However, he argued that "it is hard to retain the features of the Tibetan race if there are people of the Tibetan ethnic group living outside Tibet". He then declared the need to establish "a Tibetan entity where all people of the Tibetan ethnic group live". However, it is the fact that one ethnic group in China may be found in different administrative regions and one administrative region may be home to several ethnic groups. This is the result of historical changes and constitutes a salient feature of the relations between different ethnic groups in China. While people of the Tibetan ethnic group living in various Tibetan-inhabited areas in China retain the same Tibetan characteristics and maintain close ties especially in religion and culture, they speak different languages and have different habits. In the meantime, they maintain close ties politically, economically and culturally, especially economically. Following the founding of the PRC in 1949, eight Tibetan autonomous prefectures, one Tibetan-Qiang autonomous prefecture, one Mongolian-Tibetan autonomous prefecture, and two Tibetan autonomous counties were established. Such administrative division is made in accordance with the features of various ethnic groups and with the aim of seeking future development; it embodies factors related to ethnic groups and regions as well, the integration of political and economic factors; hence it is good for the ethnic groups concerned to seek common development within the big Chinese family.

From this we see the so-called "enlarged Tibet autonomous region" runs counter to the law that governs the development of various ethnic groups in China. If all of the 55 ethnic minorities founded their own unified autonomous areas, there would conflicts between various ethnic groups and social disorder in China. all these would be a bane for the economic and cultural development of these ethnic groups. One can not see much relations between the "enlarged Tibet autonomous region" and efforts to protect the Tibetan features. However, it is easy for one to see the Dalai Lama's ulterior motive: eventually seeking Tibetan independence.

The fourth point is the Dalai Lama's distortion of the meaning of the autonomous region. At the end of last year, when the Dalai Lama was interviewed by reporters, he said: "Tibet enjoys the right to special treatment in accordance with the Law on National Regional Autonomy", but "this right has not been really enjoyed." Sangdong, the chief Galoon of the Tibetan government-in-exile recently said that "the policy of the national regional autonomy is very important, but the Chinese Government lacks fairness in following the policy, which does not conform to the Law on National Regional Autonomy". They impress people that the Dalai Lama favors the national regional autonomy but wishes to see the fulfillment of various rights specified in the law.

What is the Dalai Lama up to? Here are two examples: In the "five points", he said: "The course of real peace can only begin when the Communist troops have all pulled out". In his "seven points", he said: "A regional peace conference should be convened to guarantee demilitarization in Tibet". Recently, the Dalai Lama entrusted a professor in Hong Kong to draft a document called "limitations and possibilities of achieving 'high-level autonomy' within the framework of the Chinese Constitution and the Law on National Regional Autonomy", which outlines a Tibetan "peace zone" where "no troops should be deployed". But it is well known in the world that deploying troops in its own territories is a requirement of national defense and also a symbol of sovereignty. Withdrawing its troops from its own territory so as to turn that part of its territory into a "peace zone" will not be approved by any country upholding its sovereignty and dignity in the world. Neither will China. From this, we see the "high-level autonomy" the Dalai Lama pursues is empty-worded.

The other example is one related to the relations between various ethnic groups in areas following the national regional autonomy system. Article 4 of the PRC Constitution says all ethnic groups in the PRC are equal, and no one is allowed to discriminate against and suppress any ethnic group, sabotage national unity, and engage in national separation. Article 48 of the Law on National Regional Autonomy also stipulates that the organ responsible for autonomy in areas exercising national regional autonomy shall work to guarantee all local ethnic groups enjoy equal rights. However, the Dalai Lama said in his "five points" that the Central Government "must stop moving people into Tibet and Han people already in Tibet must return to China". Sangdong also said last year that, "the areas where the Tibetans reside should have Tibetans exercising regional national autonomy, and the Han and other ethnic groups should act like guests and Tibetans' rights should not be restricted in any form". All people with knowledge of Chinese history know the areas at the rim of the so-called "enlarged Tibetan area", especially the rim of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, formed a region witnessing considering movement of peoples and where Tibetans, Han, Hui, and Mongolians eventually came to live together and rely on each other. They are all masters of the areas where they live. Making non-Tibetans move away from where they have been lived for many centuries so as to satisfy the Dalai Lama goes against the PRC Constitution and the Law on National Regional Autonomy, and shows that, once the Dalai Lama becomes leader of Tibet again, he will follow policies featuring national discrimination and national purge. Such a policy caused heavy deaths in the mid-20th centuries in some countries and the Dalai Lama should know this.

From the above analysis, we see the Dalai Lama is talking about seeking a way out "within the framework of the Chinese Constitution" but, at the same time, he sticks to his principles that run counter to the PRC Constitution. This shows that what he pursues is a swindle and nothing stands between his "high-level autonomy" and "Tibetan independence". When the Dalai Lama made public his "five points" and "seven points", the Central Government immediately made it clear that this showed he had not given up his stand for "independence of Tibet". Any form of "independence of Tibet" won't do. In 1987, a US congressional source declared: "The United States has not shown any support for the Dalai's five points geared to turn Tibet into a peace zone, as behind them is the obvious intention to promote Tibetan independence". The Tibetan Bulletin operated by the Dalai clique carried a signed story in 2004 saying: 'Elements who stand for independence think the five-point peace proposal and the Strasbourg proposal are a kind of betrayal, because they have failed to read between lines. So long as conditions are ripe, they will play a role geared to gaining real independence.'

The five and seven points are what the Dalai Lama first proposed some 20 years ago. Some may say he did so at that time because he was under the strong influence of foreign anti-China forces; but what he proposes as the "middle way" is something different. This writer has been examining a "publicity pamphlet" on the middle way issued in June 2005 by the "foreign affairs and news relations department of the Tibet government-in-exile". Highlights of the "manual on the middle way" show it to be closely related to the five and seven points. The manual says the Strasbourg proposal was put forward by the Dalai Lama and determined in a democratic way and hence should not be altered. Sangdong told Tibetans who went to India from China for Buddhist rituals in 2005 that "all the work should be done on the basis of the 1987 five points and 1988 Strasbourg proposal of the Dalai Lama. They are our political program".

It is true that when the Dalai dished out his five and seven points, he was under foreign influence. In June 1987, US House of Representatives proposed a revision regarding human rights in Tibet, which was the first Western resolution against China related to Tibet in the 1980s. In September the same year, the Dalai Lama visited the United States ostensibly as a religious leader. He dished out his "five points" at a US human rights group meeting on September 21. Some reported that the "five-point" speech was drafted by people within the US group according to the US document entitled "Revised Scheme on Human Rights in Tibet". The American scholar Goldstein pointed out in his work Dragon and the Snow Lion that the new offensive launched by the Dalai government-in-exile and its friends in London, New York and Washington DC was meant for Western audiences, instead of the Chinese.

A few years ago, this writer met a former official with the Dalai side. He mentioned a discussion among them on the Dalai's speech to the US Congress in 1987. Some said then that turning Tibet into a peace zone was a strategy used by the British invaders in the past and the Qing emperor had rejected it; therefore, the Chinese Government would not agree. Obsessed with the support from the West, no one had a sober mind.

As a matter of fact, the Dalai himself changes his attitude with the changing tide in international affairs. In September 1990, the Dalai told a Dutch reporter: "Changes in the Soviet Union bring new hope for Tibetan independence and give us courage and force to continue seeking Tibetan independence". In April 1991, he attended a welcome party held by the US Congress, where he said that "if Beijing gives me a cold shoulder on this proposal" he would then return to seeking independence. In October 1991, the Dalai Lama gave a lecture at Yale University in which he stated that he believed the Tibetans would win independence soon just as the three Baltic states had done so [from the Soviet Union] and remained as determined as ever to attain the goal as throughout "42 years of occupation"; "the Strasburg statement obviously could no longer play its role, and this is why I had to declare recently that I have given up abiding by these terms". Misjudging the international situation, the Dalai Lama declared in 1993 that he would not make contacts with a "destabilizing Chinese government", and cut off all channels for arranging a meeting with the Central Government. Seeing China enjoys continued peace and stability, as well as sustained economic development, the Dalai Lama ventured to demand contacts with the Central Government again. In 2003, he told a French reporter: "If no results can be achieved in two or three years of negotiations, I would find it hard to explain to the young that the 'middle way' is more effective than seeking independence"; "if I fail, these young people would raise torches and cry for independence". Given the fact that the Dalai Lama gives out different signals at different times and even at the same time, one can hardly agree his "middle way" is different from "Tibetan independence."

As a matter of fact, the "middle way" is a philosophy, according to which one should not take extreme actions. But the Dalai's "middle way" has nothing to do with the "middle way" philosophy. The Central Government has made public its views on the Dalai's "middle way" over the past 20 years, but the Dalai Lama still hates to say bye to his proposals which are "independence of Tibet" in nature. It left no stone unturned to bargain with the Central Government by changing words. This writer holds that the Dalai Lama is in a blind alley. We Tibetans value highly the Sagya Sayings, which says: "One should refrain from thinking to do things one could not do; and eat food which can hardly be digested;" "a fool takes a wrong way, simply because he is a fool; when a wiseman takes a wrong way, he needs must find out the why." If the Dalai Lama is sincere in improving ties with the Central Government, he needs, first and foremost, to have an objective understanding of the political reality in Tibet and, on this basis, re-think his political propositions. Only by truly giving up his "Tibetan independence" policy, can the Dalai Lama win the confidence of others and create conditions for him to do something in the interest of Tibet.

Source: China Tibet Information Center


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