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Tibet, A Different View, a Different Way

Pema Tsering, qui connaît depuis longtemps la question tibétaine de l’intérieur, prend ici quelque distance avec l’analyse traditionnelle, plutôt manichéenne de la tragédie qui se déroule sur le plateau du Tibet depuis plus d’un demi siècle.

Elle n’édulcore rien des tyrannies, des souffrances et des erreurs, des malentendus, des jugements à l’emporte pièce et des violences ; mais, par un texte exprimant à la fois une immense émotion et la très grande lucidité que seule peut conférer l’expérience du terrain et des hommes, elle répond au profond malaise que chacun ressent à la terrifiante vision des immolations par le feu, dont la répétition obsédante précipite le Tibet dans une tragique spirale nihiliste.

Avec beaucoup de compassion et une extraordinaire force de conviction, elle nous alerte sur le risque posé par les activistes radicaux et la répétition sans fin des images systématiquement négatives diffusées partout. La stratégie jusqu’au-boutiste ne triomphera pas des résignations, du désespoir et des angoisses. Au contraire, elle les nourrit. Aujourd’hui, seule une « énergie positive » serait de nature à stopper l’enchaînement infernal et tragique des haine et des violences.

Mais, créer avec la Chine une dynamique constructive est bien plus difficile que d’encourager les actes de désespoir, seule alternative proposée par la frange des extrémistes. La diaspora tibétaine ne manque ni de ressources ni d’espoir. Beaucoup n’attendent qu’une opportunité. FD

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A Different View, a Different Way


By Pema Tsering

Bangkok, April 2013.

The subject of Tibet, no longer forgotten, is now part of media culture reaching everyone who reads a newspaper or watches television. Everyone, from a Paris hairdresser to a Phnom Phen taxi driver has heard that the Dalai Lama is in exile and that the Chinese are (in most opinions) illegally occupying Tibet.

Pro Tibet activists are becoming louder and more efficient at lobbying and spreading their message, even getting an occasional sympathetic message in some countries’ parliament. In spite of all this, nothing really happens and the situation in Tibet remains the same. China, after all, is the United State’s banker, it is the world’s factory. Everyone makes money on China.

Thirty years of increasingly loud clamoring from the Tibetan diaspora has not changed anything for Tibetans in Tibet. There have been low level talks with the Chinese government, adopting a Middle Way that accepts the concept of an autonomous Tibet and increasingly impatient and angry exile youth who shun concessions and want full independence.

This paper examines the views of each and how they deal with the Tibetan issue and outlines the differences between the claims made by the activists and the actual situation in Tibet. Finally, it raises awareness on alternative, additional means of avoiding the Tibet issue from becoming yet another slide into a cycle of negativity and violence.

The Three Approaches

The Tibet support groups or groups who support the Tibetan cause, all in exile, fall more or less into three groups ;

1)The official view of the Tibetan Government in Exile (CTA) , who advocates the Middle Way, giving up full Independence and seeking autonomy under Chinese rule, one country two systems. This position is stated in different ways, sometimes emphasizing the inclusion of the areas that are part of ‘Greater Tibet’ or simply respect for the rights granted to minorities under the Chinese Constitution.

Their vision for the future rests on hope that discussions with China and sympathy from Chinese people will be the catalyst for increasing self determination. It is a mixture of a call for the present Chinese system to give more autonomy and for life under a more democratic system where Tibetans would be part of a Federation, similar to Russia.

2) The Independentists, most strongly represented by the Students for Free Tibet (SFT) and the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), who want full Independence. They have recently pulled out the 13th Dalai Lama’s 1913 Declaration of Independence that followed several stints in exile and coincided with the toppling of the Manchu Dynasty as a model of what they say could be happening in the near future ; the toppling of the Communist Party of China.

SFT see the Middle Way as another form of subordination, something that will put the lid on problems that they say will continue to fester. They see any option of cohabitation, of mutual respect between different ethnicities as impossible. (the Tibetan province of Amdo, now mainly in Qinghai, but also in parts of Sichuan and Gansu, has a large population of Hui (Chinese Muslims) Mongolians and Han. Most have been there several centuries.)

Their solution to the problem is being so unruly that the Chinese will be unable to bear the economical and social cost and seek to negotiate with the Tibetan Government in exile. They also look to the disintegration of the Chinese empire arguing that dictatorship can only last so long, and that the Tibetan people only need to wait for that moment.

3) Finally, there are various Chinese dissident groups, carefully picked for their positive views on Tibet, which they express in the media. These are more in the context of what the Kuomintang professed ; Tibet as part of China, but with the rights that group 1, the Middle Way, is requesting. They generally see the Tibetans partitioning from China as a human catastrophe and prefer the concept of an autonomous, non-military zone with fuzzy borders.

Group 1, followers of the Middle Way, save for the Dalai Lama who put forward the concept in 1988, repeats it quietly along with other items, unchanged for the last twenty years ; six million Tibetans, 6000 monasteries destroyed, etc, etc. People are beginning to wonder how committed they are to the Middle Way.

This is important ; the Chinese government has a tendency to wrap everything into one. They ignore the Dalai Lama’s claim that he has retired from politics and continues to consider the CTA as his arm, calling the Middle Way Independence disguised. Though endorsing the Middle Way is the official line, Privately, the CTA seems very much behind the independentists, appearing at their functions and publicly seen with the ‘Rangtzen Heroes’. All this makes their claim to the Middle Way a little shaky in the eyes of the Chinese.

Group 2, the independentists are the loudest of all. The SFT are young, savvy and know how to use media, though their taste in heroes often borders on Bollywood/entertainment i.e ; Rangtzen Warriors and rappers. Besides that, their manners and command of English are excellent and they know how to pitch their arguments. They are very organized, have hundreds of chapters all over the Western world and are the ones everyone hears.

Groups 1 and 2 ‘s reason to be is the Tibetan tragedy.

Group 3 uses it to support the claim for democracy in China. The recent immolations have given all of them a very strong platform ; the perpetrators attract attention without committing a violent act towards others. With this, they convey a constant reminder to the general public that the situation in Tibet is desperate. Along with great detail of each immolation, SFT fills the media with negative reports on life in Tibet ; Tibetans in Tibet are not allowed to study Tibetan, nomads are all being forced off their land and parked in housing outside large cities, life is hell on earth, etc, etc.


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