The recent white paper on Tibet issued by the Chinese government highlights developments in Tibet while denouncing Tibet’s Middle Way Policy. To this writer, China’s latest white paper seems to be a desperate reaction to the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet and an attempt to divert international attention from the real problems the Tibetan people face in Tibet. However, it cannot be denied that China has brought much-needed infrastructure development in Tibet. But the most pressing needs are not just the material development of Tibet but also improvement in the overall wellbeing of the Tibetan people.
None of the self-immolators called for development in Tibet. All of them have called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet. They have also called for the right to preserve and promote Tibetan language, culture and religion – as opposed to just material development.
The latest white paper repeats Chinese government’s accusation that His Holiness the Dalai Lama instigates violence in Tibet and encourages Tibetans to self-immolate and split the motherland. In fact, it is His Holiness the Dalai Lama who works unceasingly for a single Tibetan administration that enjoys genuine autonomy within the scope of the Chinese constitution. It is also His Holiness the Dalai Lama who works to create a proper balance between material and spiritual development in Tibet. On this score, China could follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice by leading the rest of the world in striking a correct balance between material and spiritual development. This would give China the global respect it craves.
The white paper repeats the usual Chinese claim that Tibet had been a part of China since ancient times. The truth is that recorded history is history, and the past cannot be changed by rewriting history. But in the meantime, nothing can be gained from dwelling on the past. What really matters is the present and the future.
The well-outlined Middle Way Policy benefits and upholds the interests of both China and Tibet. The Middle Way Policy respects the territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China and preserves the cultural identity of the Tibetan people. I believe that in their best conscience, Chinese leaders know that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is genuine about the Middle Way Policy. They also know well that His Holiness the Dalai Lama in no way instigates violence. The Chinese leadership needs to face the grim situation in Tibet. Delaying tactics will not help China to resolve its Tibet headache.
The Central Tibetan Administration’s demand for genuine autonomy under a single administration is in fact very much enshrined in the Chinese constitution in articles 2 and 4. These articles specifically refer to National Regional Autonomy. The CTA’s memorandum seeks autonomy for the three provinces of Tibet, nothing more, nothing less. The three traditional provinces of Tibet – Central Tibet, Kham and Amdo – are like body, speech and mind of a person. They are indispensible parts.
The purpose of any government is to serve the people. Governments around the world may differ in the form of governing but the ultimate purpose should be to serve the people. In this context, the government of the People’s Republic of China should seriously consider inviting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to China, for the sake of the Tibetan people and the Chinese people who in their millions long to receive His teachings.
China has an estimated 500 million Buddhists. Now that His Holiness the Dalai Lama no longer exercises any political responsibility, there is actually no need for the Chinese leadership to fear any political consequences of his visit. His visit to Beijing and pilgrimage to Wutai Shan would indeed fulfill the dreams of China’s 500 million Buddhists.
*Tsering Yangkey is the deputy director of the Tibet Policy Institute, a research centre of the Central Tibetan Administration. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.