Friday, April 11, 2008

Tibetan separatists demand Dalai “step out of the way!”

Whilst they may be gloating over their disruption to the Olympic torch relay, the very success of the Lhasa riots and subsequent relay sabotage have exacerbated contradictions within the Dalai Lama’s clique.

Reference has been made in previous posts to the violent Tibetan Youth Congress and its creation, the Tibetan Peoples Uprising Movement.

Now, one of this faction’s main spokesmen, the writer Jamyang Norbu[1] (right) has openly called for the Dalai Lama and his senior advisors to “Step out of the way”.

What is the basis of these contradictions and why are they being played out now?

The Dalai Lama is spiritual leader of the Yellow Hat Sect (Gelugpa) of Tibetan Buddhism. After he absconded from Tibet, he also assumed temporal leadership as head of the so-called Tibetan “government-in-exile”.

Prior to his leaving Tibet, the CIA (formerly the Office of State Security) made overtures to some of the upper strata Tibetans who feared loss of privilege under Communist Party leadership, and began a program of providing finance to them and to the Dalai Lama.

Armed groups of Tibetan reactionaries dropped by the US into Tibet were quickly dealt with by the local people. Particularly after the smashing of feudalism and the liberation of the serfs after 1959, there were few takers for a restoration of the old system.

After initially approving of, and working with, the CIA and its trained thugs, the Dalai Lama’s evaluation of the situation led him to believe that a violent restoration of the old system was not achievable under the new conditions, and he embarked on a world-wide crusade to garner support for a non-violent movement for Tibetan “independence”.

This was the first crack in the unity within the émigré community.

By the 1970s, the Dalai had accumulated some strength in his position as a “simple monk” espousing a pacifist solution to the problems besetting the exiled upper stratum of Tibet. His cause had a certain appeal to Westerners who rejected their own governments’ violent actions throughout the world and who similarly rejected the consumer society and its values of accumulation and greed. Even certain celebrities began to attach themselves to the Dalai Lama, mirroring the attachment of four young Liverpudlians to an Indian yogi who had taught them to meditate.

Meanwhile, rudimentary services were bringing an elementary level of schooling and health services to the Tibetan former serfs. Agricultural practices were changing following the breakup of the holdings of the landlords and monasteries (see figure below).

The Dalai Lama was still revered by many Tibetans, particularly those of his own Yellow Hat Sect, but there was a shared apprehension of what sacrifices would be required to establish an “independent” Tibet, and what advantages, if any, would flow from such a Tibet, separated from the socialist motherland and placed at the mercy of the capitalist and imperialist powers.

Again, an evaluation of these factors led to a change in tactics on the part of the Dalai Lama, and thus a further estrangement from the violent factions of the upper strata exile community.

The Dalai Lama decided to drop his demands for an “independent’ Tibet, and opted for his Middle Way of “autonomy” within China.

This enraged the Tibetan Youth Congress and people like prominent Tibetan author Jamyang Norbu, who was one of those who had been trained by the CIA. According to Norbu, “not all Tibetans are the Dalai Lama…I’ve met lamas who tell their followers that killing one Chinese is the karmic equivalent of building a thousand stupas”[2].

So a second grand fissure developed within the Dalai Lama-led clique of exiles.

There have been other developments over the years, such as efforts by the Dalai to ban the worship of Tibetan deities of which he disapproves. These have led to demonstrations against the Dalai by Tibetan exiles and to accusations that he has suppressed freedom of worship – hardly the image that he projects of himself and closer to the situation of the pot that calls others black!

The decision to award Beijing the 2008 Olympic Games has now pushed contradictions in the Dalai Lama’s camp to the point where his temporal leadership is being openly rejected.

Leading the way is the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Women’s Association and three other right-wing groups that together created the Tibetan Peoples Uprising Movement at the beginning of this year.

It is these groups that have masterminded the riots in Lhasa and some other Tibetan communities in China, inciting small mobs of reactionaries to bash and kill ethnic Han and Hui (Muslim) Chinese.

Seeing his leadership being swept aside, the Dalai has urged these mobs to stop their violence, threatening to resign from his position as head of the “government-in-exile”, thereby removing the prestige of his position from their cause.

And despite the success of the right-wing and US-financed “Reporters Without Borders” and the TPUM in sabotaging the Olympic torch run, the Dalai Lama has stated that the Olympics should not be boycotted.

In fact, the Dalai Lama has even gone so far as to establish a Solidarity Committee under his “prime minister” Samdhong Rimpoche which has ordered Tibetans in exile to stop using the term “Free Tibet” or slogans like “China out of Tibet”.

It is for this reason that Jamyang Norbu on April 5, 2008 issued the demand that the “leaders in the exile government…Step out of the way” (Jamyang Norbu’s emphasis).

With the split in the exile community reaching these proportions, why has Beijing not accepted the (“I’m not a devil”) Dalai Lama’s offer to negotiate?

Well, the Chinese have not ruled it out, but there are a couple of little matters of principle that need to be sorted out first.

One is the Dalai Lama’s definition of Tibet as that part of China in which Tibetans live. It seems a reasonable matter for discussion on the surface, but China is a multinational country with more than 50 nationalities, and there has been migration and resettlement of many of these nationalities over the centuries. Consequently there are Tibetans now living in parts of present-day Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu Provinces. If a Tibetan Anschluss occurred, and these regions were incorporated into “Tibet”, then its size would easily be doubled. This is not a matter for the Dalai Lama to establish by proclamation.

Another is the Dalai Lama’s reckless approval of independence for Taiwan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. The Central Government will certainly reject calls for talks with the Dalai Lama (Kevin Rudd, please note!) while he has an agenda that encompasses such a grand destruction of Chinese territorial integrity.

Thirdly, there is the Dalai Lama’s position as head of the “government-in-exile”. Beijing cannot be expected to deal with the Dalai Lama whilst he occupies such a position. As head of the “government-in-exile” the Dalai Lama is responsible for the actions of such groups as the Tibetan Youth Congress even as they wriggle out from under his control. That is why Beijing still refers to their violent actions as the actions of the” Dalai clique”.

Fourthly, the Dalai Lama still espouses the view that “ours struggle is very much related to dharma. It is not purely a political freedom struggle.” He adds, “the lamas still have control over the people.”[3] The Dalai Lama is still clinging to a concept that most bourgeois states long ago rejected, namely the unity of church and state. He sometimes talks of a democratic future for an “autonomous” Tibet, but his real vision is based on the necessity for theocracy based on the supremacy of the divine laws of Buddhism (dharma).

Lastly, his closest associates have made it perfectly clear that “autonomy” is just a tactic, a means to an end, and that end is still the separation of “Greater Tibet” from China. The TYC and TPUM share this goal but are impatient for its realization and disagree with their spiritual leader over how it should be achieved.
The Chinese Communist Party has a principled stand on the question of Tibet.

The Dalai clique, on the other hand, is rent with division over how best to pursue the separatist agenda.

A formal split in their ranks is only a matter of time, and this – despite their apparent strength in disrupting the Olympic torch run –will weaken their cause irreversibly.

[1] See also his “Non-violence and Non-action” (Dec 27, 2007) at
[2] See Asiaweek magazine, Sept 11, 1988 ‘Fires of Frustration’

1 comment:

MatthewTan said...

Excellent article. However, I place my bet that the Dalai Lama himself was the mastermind of the Lhasa riots. (1) He inflamed the emotions by accusing China of "cultural genocide" and "demographic aggression", just before the riots. (2) The RFA broadcast it just before the riots. (3) He failed to condemn the riots. He refused to stop the March protests. He accused the PLA for staging the riots. (4) Nancy Pelosi came to Dharamsala to give the movement support, adding fuel to to fire by calling for worldwide condemnation of China's "crackdown" on Tibet protestors. (5) In late February-March 2009 (Tibetan New Year), he again tried to inflame another series of riots, saying things like "Tibet is a living hell", "Tibet is given a death sentence", "(ordinary) Chinese are in possession of guns", "the armed police have their fingers on the trigger", etc,
All kinds of inflammatory words. When the Chinese armed police turned up in full force everywhere, he became nervous and sent his brother Gyalo Thondup to China to make peace.

Visit Chinadaily Forum - I post regularly there on Tibet using the handle matthew5_3.