The conflict between China and Tibet is centuries old. Time and again there were many debates about China trying to dominate and Tibet feeling oppressed under Chinese supremacy. The question of autonomy and independence for Tibetans still remains unresolved.
For Tibet the struggle doesn’t end there.
The Dalai Lama has sought a departure from his earlier demand for independence from the PRC, People’s Republic of China to a Third Way approach. This attempt which is aimed towards mutual understanding between the two countries, seeks to achieve an amicable solution to the problem. The demand is now for genuine autonomy (division of authority) between Beijing and Lhasa, says Thubten Samphael, the Information Secretary of Department of Information and International Relation, Tibetan Government in exile. “Dalai Lama wants enough political space for the productivity and happiness of our culture. But Chinese on the other hand likes to play the role of an estranged father”.
The story about Tibetan movement has grabbed coverage only on a timely basis. In March this year the whole world witnessed this voice in the form of an uprising. Thubten Samphel adds, “Peaceful protest carried out by the monks of Sera monastery, Lhasa, was simply blown out of proportion. The Chinese planted agents amongst the monks and participated in looting and violence all throughout in March.”
The Tibetans under the leadership of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, have been led spiritually and politically by him after the infamous exile of 1959 from their homeland. The process of talks started in the late 1970s between his holiness and the then Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping.
“The fact finding mission which was sent in 1979 fell flat, as Chinese had to face severe embarrassment,” opines Thubten Samphael. He further adds that in the 80s there were some power shifts happening in the form of Soviet Union disintegration and embarrassing events like Tiananmen Square. The period between 1987-1993 saw Tibetan protests and Chinese crack down.
However, not all Tibetans have one opinion regarding a possible solution for the issue. For some one like Lhasang Tsering, a poet activist, the “Third Way Approach” of Dalai Lama is sheer abdication from their stand and responsibility towards independence. “We can’t simply give up our claim for free Tibet. It is our homeland and Tibetans aspire for it. The leadership of Dalai Lama is essential for sustaining the Tibetan cause. But at the same time we simply can’t compromise on the issue of independence”, he adds.
Similar views are held by Tenzin Tsundue, the famous Tibetan writer who unfurled Tibetan flag during Chinese premier’s visit. He says, “Tibet is for Tibetans. And we must strive for our independence. China by bringing in outside population into the mainland Tibet (Kham, Amdo, and U-tsang) is violating all norms under the guise of development.”
For Tenzin Lekshey, coordinator of India-Tibet coordination office, China is the biggest human rights violator. He is one of the many émigrés who has grown up in his parents’ adopted homeland in India. “The Chinese system is based on hypocrisy and dishonesty. Tibetans don’t respect the Chinese communist party,” he says.
The future of Tibetan movement raises several questions, especially about the impending scenario in the absence of his holiness. According to Thubten Samphael the movement might get more vocal in future. “The Tibetans will then have a critical responsibility to handle the period of gap after his death and pass over the level of maturity to the 15th Dalai Lama.”
Another development which has been brewing up in the form of an undercurrent is a section in Chinese society which doesn’t identify with Chinese nationalism. They are seeking solace in the spiritual heritage of Tibetan Buddhism.
From a central Asian institution, the office of the Dalai Lama has become a global one. As Tenzin Lekshey puts it, Tibetans need semshook (courage and determination) to reach a possible solution to the problem. However the cquestion remains whether they can rely on sustained global support.