DALAI LAMA, CHINA, AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE
Tablet with golden letters
in four langauges given to the
7th Dalai Lama from
the Chinese Emperor Beijing says the Dalai Lama is a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating independence or violence.
The Chinese want to retain territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Dalai Lama and Tibetans want meaningful autonomy. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that all he and Tibetans want are things already promised them in the Chinese constitution. After the riots in March 2008 the Dalai Lama said, ‘since our utmost concern is to safeguard Tibetan Buddhist culture as well as the Tibetan language and the unique Tibetan identity, we have worked whole heartedly towards achieving meaningful self-rule for all Tibetans. The PRC’s Constitution provides the right for nationalities such as Tibetans to do this.”
In the early years of his political activism, the Dalai Lama sometimes demanded Tibetan independence. He abandoned this demand in 1988 when, he said he was prepared to discuss a version of autonomy for Tibet in which Tibet would be part of a Chinese confederation and China would have control over foreign affairs and defense policy in Tibet as long as Tibet’s religion and culture are respected. The Dalai Lama has endorsed the "one country, two systems" arrangement that China and with Hong Kong and proposed a five-point plan to set up a similar arrangement in Tibet. this. For the most part the Dalai Lama’s proposals have been ignored by Beijing.
The Dalai Lama has said on many occasions he is willing to accept a degree of autonomy for Tibet under Chinese control. He uses the term “genuine Tibetan autonomy within a benevolent China” and has repeatedly told the Chinese leaders in Beijing that he wants to sit down with them without any preconditions and hammer out a workable solution for the Tibet problem. In the late 1990s, he said, "My position is clear. I am not seeking independence although Tibet is historically a separate country. My main concern is not just the political status’self rule, autonomy, or independence...The most important thing is the preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture."
During the acceptance ceremony for the Nobel Prize, the Dalai Lama quoted Gandhi as a way of expressing his feelings towards the Chinese: "I speak without a feeling of anger or hatred towards those who are responsible of the immense suffering of our people and the destruction of our land, home and culture. They too are human beings who struggle to find happiness and search for our compassion." The Dalai Lama has said that he wants t make a pilgrimage to Mount Wutai, a group of sacred peaks in China, and meet with China’s leaders there.
The Dalai Lama has accused China of promoting "cultural genocide." "A kind of cultural genocide is taking place in Tibet," he told the French daily Le Monde. "Losing one's independence is acceptable, but losing one's culture, accepting the destruction of our spiritualism, of Tibetan Buddhism, is unthinkable.” In Taiwan the Dalai Lama said, "Until some degree of freedom or autonomy materializes, sooner or later Tibetan Buddhist culture will die. This is not party politics or power politics.
The Dalai Lama has called on Tibetans to make a “concerted effort” to reach out to Chinese and win their sympathy to the Tibetan cause. He rejects even modest attempts to influence the Chinese government such as hunger strikes and economic boycotts. He has said, “I don’t dislike the Chinese, only their actions.”
The Dalai Lama has been accused by some Tibetans of being too conciliatory with the Chinese leadership while the Chinese leadership has been accused of being too soft on Tibetans by many Chinese nationalist and ordinary Chinese.
Chinese History and the Dalai Lama
According to the regulations stipulated by the Qing government (1644-1911), the final step of confirmation of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama was the "drawing of lots from a golden urn" ceremony in the presence of the Resident Official of the Qing government in Tibet.
The Chinese also claim that the Dalai Lama has traditionally regarded the Chinese emperor as the Son of Heaven and they assert that visits by the 5th Dalai Lama and the 13th Dalai Lama to the Forbidden Palace to visit the Chinese emperors as "proof" as Tibetan recognition of Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama has been officially recognized by the Chinese government since 1653, when Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing Dynasty officially gave the Fifth Dalai Lama his title. The present Dalai Lama voted on the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and was elected a vice-chairman in the First National People's Congress in 1954, when his picture was taken with Chairman Mao.
In 1959, Chinese authorities tore down the Dalai Lama's family home in Taktser and then had it rebuilt during negotiations for his return in 1986. The home is currently cared for by the Dalai Lama's cousin and around 4,000 pilgrims visit it each year.
The Communist Chinese have not responded to the Dalai Lama’s non-violent methods as the arguably more conscious-driven colonial British responded to Gandhi’s non-violent methods.
Chinese Take on the Dalai Lama
According to the Chinese government: “Dalai Lama is one of the titles for the highest leader and Living Buddha of the Gelu Denomination of Tibetan Buddhism, and he is regarded as incarnation of the Bodhisattva Guanyin. "Dalai" is transliterated from Mongolian, which means "sea". "Lama" is translation of Tibetan, which means "great master". "Dalai Lama" means "a great master who transcends worldliness and attains holiness, and has broad and profound sea of knowledge". [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]
“This title started in the sixth year of the Wanli period in the Ming dynasty (1587), and it originated from the honorific title "Dalai Lama Wachi'edala with broad and profound knowledge" to the leader Suonanjiacuo of the Gelu Denomination by leader Anda Khan of the Tumote Mongolian. Suonanjiacuo was the Third Dalai Lama (the two before him were admitted posthumously by later generations). In the tenth year of the Shunzhi period in the Qing dynasty (1653), the Qing government conferred officially a title upon the Fifth Dalai Lama Awangluosangjiacuo, which is "His holiness the Dalai Lama Wachiladala who leads Buddhist people all over the land". ~
“The title and Dalai Lama's leading position in Tibetan Buddhism were fixed since then, and it became world-famous. Since then, it became an established rule that the incarnation of every generation of Living Buddha should be conferred by the central government. In the 16th year of the Qianlong period (1751), the Qing government authorized the Seventh Dalai to administer the local Tibet political power, and Dalai Lama became the most powerful political and religious leader of Tibet. In 1959, after the democratic reform, bound of politics and religion was strictly distinguished, and Dalai Lama's feudal privilege in politics was abolished. The Dalai Lama now is the 14th.” ~
Chinese Take on the Incarnations of Lamas
According to the Chinese government: “Incarnation of Living Buddha is a system set up by the Tibetan Buddhism temple groups to solve the problem of succession of leader and to keep their vested interest. It stems from the statement of soul reincarnation and transmigration of life and death in Buddhism. "Living Buddha" is called "Zhugu" in Tibetan, which means "god and Buddha transform into mortal body". [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]
“The incarnation system of Living Buddha started from the Gamagaju Denomination of the Tibetan Buddhism. After the rising of the Gelu Denomination, monks were not allowed to get married, so they also adopted the incarnation system to solve the problem of inheritance of religious leader, which started from the Third Dalai Suonanjiacuo. Details are: after the passing away of the Living Buddha, according to indication of the Living Buddha before his death, clues provided in the will, and rites such as divination, vanquishing gods and observing holy lakes, members of the upper level of the temple find a number of babies who was born at the time when the Living Buddha died (called "incarnated boy"), and select one from them as the "incarnation". Because the person selected was always manipulated by the upper level groups, in the 57th year of the Qianlong period of the Qing Dynasty (1792), they stipulated that the method of "drawing lot from gold urn" was used to decide on the incarnation of the Living Buddha who was registered by the Court of Colonial Affairs, so as to prevent cheating. Lama in other middle-sized or small temple who enjoys prestige can find the child as incarnation by himself. ~
“For example, the Tenth Panchen E'erdeni Quejijianzan passed away in Rikeze in 1989, and they started the work of looking for the incarnation child at the same year. The State Council decided that the inquiring team was assumed by the democratic managing meeting of Zhashilunbu temple. The work was done strictly according to religious rites and procedure. The procedure includes such activities as chanting sutra and praying, observing reflections on lake, visiting clever and spiritual children secretly, and identifying things left behind by the Tenth Panchen. ~
“After careful selection by the inquiring team, three boys became candidates to take part in the lot drawing in gold urn, and the team earnestly required the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region to verity it and submitted a report asking for the ratification of the Stage Council. In 1995, the lot drawing from the gold urn decided that the six-year-old incarnated living Buddha Jianzannuobu in the Jiali County in the northern Tibet was the incarnation of the Tenth Panchen, and he was ratified by the Central People's Government as the Eleventh Panchen E'erdeni.” ~
Chinese Position on the Dalai Lama
The Chinese have not negotiated with Tibetan exiles since 1993. Beijing refers to the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" and "barbaric" dictator and has accused him of keeping 9 out 10 Tibetans in slavery and "drinking “wine from human skulls." The Chinese have even referred to the Dalai Lama as the “enemy of the Tibetan people.” In June 1998, a Communist official called the Dalai Lama a relic of the dark Ages who wound "send Tibet back into original serfdom, so dark, so savage, so cruel. The same year, according to Indian authorities, a Tibetan Chinese spy entered the Dalai Lama's palace during a monthly prayer hosted by the Dalai Lama at his palace, to scope out security for a possible future attack on his holiness.
The Chinese like to use transcripts of the Dalai Lama’s speeches to attack him or his positions. In many cases they use mistranslations of passages or words from the speeches to undermine his position. In one case the word for “freedom” was mistranslated as “independence” so the Dalai Lama’s call for “more freedom” for the Tibetan people was mistranslated as a call for “more independence.”
In the past the Dalai Lama has said that he will not return to Tibet until the Chinese have left but over the years has softened his position. The Chinese have invited the Dalai Lama back to Tibet on the condition he makes certain concessions---namely recognizing China's claim to Tibet. The Chinese are aware of what happens when exiles---like the Ayatollah Khomeini returning to Iran---return to their homelands.
More recently The Chinese government has said that it is open to the idea of the Dalai Lama returning to China and living in Beijing. Beijing secretly floated the idea having the Dalai Lama visit China to participate in a memorial service for victims of the Sichuan earthquake but no definite action was taken. It would have been the first time the Dalai Lama set foot in China in 50 years but was not acted on,
The Chinese have invited the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet In 1983, the Chinese government announced that if the Dalai Lama returned he world be given a "desk job in Beijing." In 1988, China offered to let the Dalai Lama come to China to attend the funeral of the Panchan Lama. The Dalai Lama declined and the offer has since been withdrawn. The Dalai Lama is also concerned that he returns it will legitimatizes Chinese rule over Tibet.
Sometimes it seems that Beijing is simply trying to outlast the Dalai Lama and wait for him to die. It hopes that after he dies, disputes and quarreling sects will divide Tibetans and weaken their threat to the Communist party. The Dalai Lama told Newsweek, "I feel so healthy, I think I'm going to live to be 100. And if I do, then I'll die in a Free Tibet." One of Beijing’s worries is that if more autonomy is given to Tibet then other regions in China might want more autonomy too and China as it exists today might collapse like the former Soviet Union.
In November 2009, a relative of the Dalai Lama---Deying Drolma, whose grandmother was a cousin of the Dalai Lama---joined China’s Communist Party. The 36-year-old female soldier said that when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1950 he asked her grandmother and her family to accompany him “but she refused. She told us we shall never betray our motherland.
Many ordinary Chinese have little affection for the Dalai Lama. “When the Dalai Lama dies,” a half-Han, half-Tibetan official told Time, “all of China’s problems with the Tibetans will go away. Younger Tibetans are being educated in the proper way, so they won’t cause much trouble.”
Dalai Lama’s Lost Opportunities to Negotiate with China
In 1989, the year he won the Nobel Peace Prize and hundreds were killed around Tiananmen Square, Beijing authorities invited the Dalai Lama to make his first trip China in decades, to attend the funeral of a high-ranking lama. But his advisers worried that accepting the trip could weaken his bargaining position and he declined, a decision that senior aides now regret.
Some scholars have said this episode demonstrated the Dalai Lama's unwillingness to make the compromises needed to reach a resolution with Beijing. Melvyn Goldstein, a Tibet scholar at Case Western Reserve University, told The New Yorker the Dalai Lama's ostensible successes at building support in the West "look more and more like Pyrrhic victories." Of the decision to appoint a Panchen Lama, Goldstein writes, "From China's perspective, once again, at a critical time, the Dalai Lama had thumbed his nose at Beijing." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
China hold most of the cards and has never planned to make many concessions of compromises. “The dialogue between Dalai and the central government is not a dialogue between two political entities,” Lian Xiangmin, a researcher at the government-supported China Tibetology Research Center, in Beijing, told the The New Yorker “What is it? It came about because Dalai---as a Chinese citizen--- has the right to inform the government of his pursuits. This is the way we look at it.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
Chinese leaders say they don’t believe the Dalai Lama is sincere when he says he has renounced his calls for Tibetan independence. They say that he harbors a covert intention to split Tibet from the rest of China, as evidenced by his willingness to allow others in the exile community to call for independence.
The Dalai Lama worries that Tibet will end up like Inner Mongolia, where there are more Han Chinese residents than Mongolians. “According to some Mongolian friends,” he told The New Yorker, “now in Inner Mongolia the Mongol population is around three or four million, whereas Han immigrant population is nearly twenty million.”
Dalai Lama and the 2008 Riots in Tibet
The Dalai Lama disavows even nonviolent marches and hunger strikes, in the belief that they lead to confrontation. A few months after the 2008 riots he shocked his supporters when he said, "As far as I'm concerned, I have given up."
The Dalai Lam’s “middle way” was condemned ny many in the Tibetan exile community. "It's time for His Holiness to recognize the reality that China has no need to talk to us. They are playing for time," Lhasang Tsering, an outspoken Tibetan exile who fought as a guerrilla against China in the early seventies, told the The New Yorker. "Soon, Tibet will be filled with Chinese. We will be wiped out." To invoke patience and virtue in the face of "genocidal and colonial rule," Tsering says, is akin to "national suicide, and that, to me, is the ultimate violence." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
Rebuilt Village of the Dalai Lama
“Beijing has recently rebuilt the Dalai Lama's birth village’ Takster in Qinghai Province--- with modern houses. All 54 houses in Taktser have been rebuilt at state cost, and in an attempt to win the hearts of the Dalai Lama's followers, the new homes have been designed with traditional Tibetan flourishes. Every Tibetan household was consulted for its requirements before the overhaul, said Dong Jie, head of the Civil Affairs Bureau of Ping'An County, who oversaw the project.”[Source: Saransh Sehgal, Asia Times, October 5, 2010]
“Chinese officials boast of how the place has improved since the time the Dalai Lama lived there. The old Tibetan homes have been replaced with modern structures of brick and strong timber, says Xing Fuhua, chief official of Shihuiyao township, which administers Hong'Ai. The village now has roads and a stable power and water supply, although it is still not connected to the world via the Internet.”
“One of the rebuilt homes is that of Gongpo Tashi, a Tibetan whose main job is to maintain the birthplace of his uncle, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. A state media report quoted Gongpo, who still awaits the Dalai Lama to return Tibet, as saying, “If I call him some day, I will definitely tell him of the changes at home.” Gongpo has visited the Dalai Lama twice in India, but says he has not contacted his uncle for a while. He is not sure the Dalai Lama will ever see the changes. “Am I waiting for his return? Well, if he is back, all problems will be solved,” Gongpo said.
Recent Statements by the Dalai Lama and China
The Dalai Lama has acknowledges that “our nation’s problems can no longer be satisfactorily solved by itself alone and says he wants a Hong-Kong-like “one country, two systems” model.
He the Dalai Lama said in 2008, “The main thing is to preserve our culture, to preserve the character of the Tibetans. This is the most important thing not politics.”
The Dalai Lama has said that if a settlement between China and Tibetans is reached he would abandon his role as a political figure and would coordinate his movements and activities in Tibet with the Chinese government to ensure there are no problems.
In a speech in Dharmasala to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising in March 2009 the Dalai Lama blasted Chinese rule and said that Tibet under the Chinese “thrusts Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship they literally experienced hell on earth” and said the Cultural revolution and other Chinese-led campaigns resulted in “the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.” He also said Tibetan culture and identity are “near extinction” but at the same time reiterated his commitment to the peaceful “Middle Way” to resolve the conflict with China. Afterwards thousands of young Tibetans in Dharmasala took the streets shouting “China Out!” and “Tibet belongs to Tibetans!”
In Taiwan in September 2009, the Dalai Lama said the he was ready to negotiate with China but wanted to see a “green light.”
In November 2009, the Dalai Lama angered Beijing when he held a mass audience that attracted 30,000 people at Tawang monastery in Arunchal Pradesh, India, a territory claimed by China.
The Dalai Lama has accused the Chinese government of encouraging the worship of Shugden, a Tibetan deity he believes is harmful and fosters divisions in the Tibetan Buddhist community.
Easing of Tensions Between Tibet and the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama has showed his willingness to accept three of China’s demands: 1) abandon requests for independence; 2) halt separatist movements; and 3) and accept the legitimacy of the Chinese government. On a forth demand, that Tibetans concede that Taiwan is an integral part of China, the Dalai Lama said the Taiwanese should decide that issue.
There is reportedly a debate within the Chinese leadership on how to respond to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama told Time: "We know there are two groups [in the Politburo], one moderate and one more hardline." Some support making a deal with the Tibetan leader. Most though feel the best move is to continue with the current policies and make the next moves after the Dalai Lama dies.
Some Communist officials have hinted that Tibet could be an autonomous status like Hong Kong. Beijing’s biggest objects is proposed regional elections. In recent years the Dalai Lama has said that when he returned to Tibet he would resign as a political leader but insists "the head of the local government should be an elected official.”
Meetings Involving the Dalai Lama
The Communist Party government held nine rounds of dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s envoys from 2002 to 2010 but the process produced no visible results. Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari is the Dalai Lama’s top envoy in Washington. He and fellow Tibetan Kelsang Gyaltsen have served as the Dalai Lama’s envoys to Beijing.
In the early 2000s, the Dalai Lama’s elder brother visited Beijing for secret talks after being invited by the Chinese government. He was allowed to visit Tibet. Beijing also hosted personal envoys of the Dalai Lama, described by the Tibet government in exile as “bridge building agents,” in September 2002 and May 2003. Before these meeting representatives of China and Tibet had not met since 1993.
In the mid 2000s, the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese government to boost Tibet’s economy and said it was in Tibet would accept “meaningful autonomy” and expanded religious and cultural freedoms “within the People’s Republic of China.” In 2005, he said: “Tibet is economically backward although spiritually high advanced. But spiritual [strength] alone cannot fill our stomach. So we need economic development.”
In March 2006, said he wanted to travel to China on a “pilgrimage.” to see followers and address his followers. In April 2006, Beijing said that it may approve a vised to China by the Dalai Lama. The announce came a couple of weeks before a summit between U.S. President George Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
In January 2007, Beijing banned Communist Party members, government workers and students in Tibet from participating in a Buddhist festival there, citing a need to “tighten up education.”
In July 2007, envoys of the Dalai Lama held talks with Chinese officials. The talks failed to produce a breakthrough but the officials siad the door was open for talks with the Dalai Lama but he had tp abandon his “splittist” activities first.
See Talks After the Tibetan Uprising in 2008, Tibetan Uprising in 2008 No. 2, History, Tibet
In 2014, the Dalai Lama said he was in informal talks with the Chinese to return home on a pilgrimage. The Chinese quickly refuted those comments, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the Dalai Lama should give up “splitting China” before his future can be resolved, according to Agence France-Presse, the French news agency. [Source: Annie Gowen, Washington Post, October 19, 2014 ***]
Tibet Communist Party Founder: Let Dalai Lama Return
In March 2014, Bapa Phuntso Wangye (known as Phunwang), the founder of the Tibetan Communist Party, criticized China’s policy on ethnic minorities and called for Beijing to abandon its paranoia and reinstall the Dalai Lama in his homeland. The demand for rethinking on China’s ethnic policy appeared in a book titled “A Long Way to Equality and Unity” that Phunwang called his “political will and testament”. [Source:Leo Lewis, The Times, March 5, 2014]
Leo Lewis wrote in The Times, “The author describes misguided policies that have made ethnic minorities feel “expelled and eliminated”. Phunwang also said he had warned a succession of party leaders that ethnic policies must be based on protecting people’s interests and rights, because the alternative was “dispute and confrontation”. The former guerrilla fighter and diehard socialist, who merged his Tibetan Communist Party with the Chinese Communist Party of Mao Zedong at a pivotal moment in 1949, is a figure of towering importance in the anguished history of Sino-Tibetan relations. Now 92, Phunwang is understood to be in rapidly declining health. As one of the earliest Tibetans to collaborate with the Chinese Government, he witnessed the early stages of the Chinese takeover in Tibet and is said by friends to feel a deep sense of responsibility for the devastation that followed. The book is being published by New Century Press — a house based in Hong Kong and known for handling politically-sensitive works.
“The book warns China’s leaders against stumbling into a “Chinese Empire” mentality, and against becoming “intoxicated with self-publicity”. A failure to heed the warnings would create the ingredients for public uprisings. “We cannot be afraid of the small trouble that may come up today and leave the big trouble for tomorrow,” he writes. He says that a view among his Tibetan friends is that stability in regions such as Tibet cannot be maintained with “the gun and the renminbi [Chinese currency]”. The book condemns the political environment in China, where the emphasis on stability overwhelms everything and “even requests by Tibetans to learn their own language have become frightening words”.
If the Dalai Lama were to return, writes Phunwang, the homecoming would be peaceful and not chaotic. “If he returned to China the antagonistic Tibetan issue that has been internationalised would change into a non-antagonistic domestic issue,” he writes. He says that China should treat the Dalai Lama as it has the leaders of Taiwan — through reconciliation and abandonment of grudges. Simply marking time until the spiritual leader dies, adds Phunwang, will only worsen the threat of social unrest. He cites Tibetan scholars warning the leaders in Beijing that if Tibetan people are left able only “silently to swallow the resentment and anger in their hearts”, resistance will surely come. Phunwang’s comments are especially powerful because of his time spent at the centre of the Communist Party apparatus as policy towards Tibet and other ethnic regions was being forged.
Communist Officials in Tibet Punished for Helping Dalai Lama
In January 2015, in a highly unusual move, investigators announced that they had found 15 Communist Party officials in Tibet joined underground Tibetan independence organizations, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama and his supporters or participated in activities deemed harmful to China's security, a party agency said. [Source: Louise Watt, Associated Press, January 28, 2015] Louise Watt of Associated Press reported: “The involvement was uncovered in 2014 during an investigation of a small group of party officials, according to a statement from the Communist Party Disciplinary Commission of Tibet posted on its website. Fifteen officials received unspecified punishment for violating party and political discipline, the commission said. The commission's statement gave no details of the groups that the party members joined, the intelligence they provided or other activities that would have harmed national security. While details such as the name of the officials punished were not provided, it is likely they were ethnic Tibetans.
“A discipline investigator, Ye Dongsong, was quoted in the party-run Global Times newspaper as saying that the Tibetan regional government should focus on neutralizing separatists, maintaining social stability and more strictly monitoring projects in the region. The announcement follows warnings of stiff punishments for those who offer support to the Dalai Lama or Tibetan separatism, and shows that the government has failed to eradicate support for the spiritual leader, even among party officials, said Kate Saunders, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet. She said that failure has come despite efforts to guide people in the region into being more "patriotic and progressive.""The Chinese government is literally seeking to replace loyalty to the Dalai Lama in Tibetan hearts and minds with allegiance to the Chinese Party-state," she said.
Image Sources: White House, Dalai Lama com
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated July 2015