June 29, 2004

Tibet: Comment on white paper published by Chinese Government

Tibet Society of South Africa comments on the Chinese White Paper in wich the Dalai Lamas non-violent Middle-Way Approach is rejected

By Renato Palmi (Tibet Society of South Africa)

“The Dalai Lama and his clique can no longer decide the destiny and future of Tibet.” This was the ominous warning issued by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in a White Paper released during May this year.

The PRC has clearly rejected the Dalai Lama’s non-violent “Middle-Way Approach”, saying that the future of Tibet lies in the hands of China. The release of the 30-page policy document is a “Rubicon crossing” for the international Tibet freedom movement, which up to now has framed and applied its activist policies in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s principles and wishes, these being premised on resolute non-violence and stalwart telling of the truth. Larry Gerstein, President of the International Tibet Independence Movement, has said: “By strongly rejecting the Middle-Way solution of the Tibet Government in-exile and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the PRC has provided an excellent opportunity for the Tibetans and Tibet supporters to re-examine their strategies and aspirations with respect to the future of Tibet.”

The exiled Tibetan community has responded to the release of the White Paper with concern and anger. Karma Choephel, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, echoes Gerstein’s words: “If we have to learn one thing from this Paper, it is that our long hoped-for Middle-Way Approach is not working.”

The President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Kalsang Phuntsok, interpreted the release of the document as a way for China to, “kill two birds with one stone”, as it promotes the view that China has brought progress and development to Tibet and in so doing has uplifted ethnic Tibetans.

At the same time, the PRC has placed the Dalai Lama and the Tibet Government in-exile in a difficult position with regard to any future talks or negotiations on the future of Tibet. The White Paper states that the Dalai Lama’s call for total independence cannot be accepted and is not even logical, as Tibet has always been a part of China. History reflects differently. As far back as 1988, the Dalai Lama made a gesture of compromise when he called for “genuine autonomy for Tibet”, which falls some steps short of full independence. However, the PRC government has chosen to ignore this, claiming to the international community that the Dalai Lama only wants independence in order to “split the Motherland”. China does not regard its 1949 invasion and occupation of independent Tibet as illegal or as “colonisation” of any form. If, as China claims, Tibet has always been part of China, why then would it have been necessary to invade her own country?

The PRC’s White paper declares: “The Tibetan people enjoy, according to law, the equal right of participation in the administration of state affairs” and that “… traditional Tibetan customs and habits are respected and protected.” If this were true, how would the PRC explain the fact that over 2000 Tibetans annually continually flee from Tibet with stories of imprisonment and torture? How would the PRC account for the cultural genocide being perpetrated inside Chinese-occupied Tibet? The Paper also claims: “Tibetans fully enjoy the freedom of religious belief”. If this were so, why are Tibetan citizens forbidden to possess any images of the Dalai Lama, who is their spiritual leader? Why are monasteries still being destroyed, Tibetan monks and nuns subjected to intense scrutiny and summary detention by Chinese police, and religious events banned (or when permitted, heavily monitored by the Chinese military)?

If, as the White Paper claims, “Tibetans have won the right to jointly manage State affairs on an equal footing with other ethnic groups … and be masters of their own affairs”, why are such repressive measures being implemented by the Chinese authorities in Tibet?

Tibetans living in exile and Tibet supporters now await a formal response to the PRC White Paper from the Tibet Government in-exile and the Dalai Lama. They will be hoping for some indication of how they might take the collective Tibetan Freedom Movement to a new level. During his visit to South Africa in 1999, the Dalai Lama addressed the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town with the words “Change only takes place through action … not through prayer or meditation …”.

The world is witnessing how violent action is effecting change through wreaking havoc on many continents, and is weary of, indeed thoroughly despondent about, the visible destruction and degradation of human values and life. We long for peaceful, negotiated solutions - yet there is no change for Tibetans, either inside or exiled from Tibet, and the world remains silent …


Renato Palmi
Founder Member: Tibet Society of South Africa
The Tibet Society of South Africa (TSSA) is a registered Non-Profit Organisation that advocates for the freedom of all Tibetans and promotes Tibetan culture, history and religion.

Additional comment

As Tibet’s is the only non-violent freedom struggle in the world, it is indescribably sad that such a movement is being spurned by China and ignored by the international community. I believe that the PRC has, in publishing its May 2004 White Paper on Tibet, taken an unequivocal stand in rejecting any notion of compromise with Dalai Lama, because it is assured, through its burgeoning trading status with the international community, that it would never be compelled to engage in formal negotiations with the Dalai Lama or with his government in-exile.

The international Free Tibet Movement, in alliance with the Tibet government in-exile, should consider with great seriousness a reformulation of its non-violent strategic policy. The Tibetan people can no longer rely on prayers or supportive words, and so far, the Freedom Movement has been regarded by the PRC government merely as a manageable irritant. It may well be that the time has come to make our concerns globally unmanageable for them. We must move with deliberate speed towards concrete action rather than sympathetic speeches and memorial events. The oppression and slaughter of Tibetans must end.

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