Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 21, 2008

Next Steps on Tibet

There is currently a meeting of Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, India, to discuss the future of their movement.

In March several Han Chinese were killed by violent Tibetan protesters in Lhasa. As the 'western' media misrepresented the issue, I wrote a small piece on the history of the Tibet conflict:

After he won control over most of China Mao Tse Tung in 1950 reasserted Chinese rule over Tibet, but allowed the local religious aristocracy and government to carry on.

Then most of the Tibetan people were still working as serfs for the big land owners. These were the thousands of monasteries controlled by various lama lineages, feudal religious ruler clans. Despite the peaceful image of Buddhism the various lamas and monasteries regularly fought over territory and economic benefits.
During the 1950s the Chinese implemented land reform and secular schooling in Tibet. The lamas fought against the loss of their economic, social and political power by sending their monks into the streets. With the active help of the CIA the lamas had some success against the communists, but the movement was crushed when in 1959 the Chinese again occupied the capital and the seat of the Dalai Lama, Lhasa. Financed by the CIA, the Dalai Lama fled to India to set up an exile government.

The people behind the uprising in March were trained in 'color revolution' techniques and are financed with million dollar grands from the U.S. government.

Under international public relation pressure due to the Olympics and to avoid further strife, the Chinese government agreed to more negotiation with the Tibetan exiles. It asked them to write down their demands.

The exiles did so and a memorandum was presented to the Chinese officials. The demands therein were rejected as going much too far. The public relation fight about these demands and their rejection is now made in English language.

The exiles' MEMORANDUM ON GENUINE AUTONOMY FOR THE TIBETAN PEOPLE is quite expansive. It assures that the demands therein can be fulfilled within the current Chinese laws and constitution - if those are bend and some changes are applied (emph. added):

To a very considerable extent Tibetan needs can be met within the constitutional principles on autonomy, as we understand them. On several points, the Constitution gives significant discretionary powers to state organs in the decision-making and on the operation of the system of autonomy. These discretionary powers can be exercised to facilitate genuine autonomy for Tibetans in ways that would respond to the uniqueness of the Tibetan situation. In implementing these principles, legislation relevant to autonomy may consequently need to be reviewed or amended to respond to the specific characteristics and needs of the Tibetan nationality.

The Chinese will not change their constitution and laws to appease the Tibetan elite that fled in the 1960s. It would open a can of worms for them as other minorities would come up with similar demands.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua's Tibet writer is one Yi Duo. He today published a 'signed article', which can be read as the official Chinese refutation of the Dalai Lama's memorandum.

Yi Duo writes that the demands in the memorandum are not, as claimed, supported by the Chinese constitution, but are contrary to it as the Dalai Lama demands the 'genuine autonomy' of a lose federal state while China has a non-federal, unitary constitutional system.

There are already many provisions for autonomous regions within China's laws, Yi Duo says, and many such regions are already established, including an autonomous Tibet region. There is no need to expand the system.

In his (official Chinese) reading these are the issues the exiles' memorandum includes:

  • Demand for an independent, uncontrolled "right of legislation"
  • Seeking for a "Greater Tibet" Without any Historic, Realistic and Legal Basis
  • Trying to create isolation among ethnic groups
  • Trying to stop promotion and use of Putonghua [the unified Mandarin language]
  • Strongly opposing government's management of religious affairs in line with laws
  • Completely ignoring fact that Tibet is always part of China
  • Claiming "Tibet government-in-exile" as representative of Tibetan people

Yi Duo ends:

The door of the central government for the Dalai Lama to return to the patriotic stance has always been open and will remain open in the future. However, the door for "Tibet independence," "half independence" or "covert independence" has never been open, nor will it be open in the future.

After the rejection of his demands, the Dalai Lama called for a meeting of all exile groups in Dharamsala in India and, as McClatchy reports, it's debate by day, party by night.

The meeting is supposed to debate how to go on with the struggle. The Dalai Lama so far represented a peaceful political struggle. He still has support but there are some harsh voices that call for terrorism against China:

[Lhasang Tsering, a former head of the Tibetan Youth Congress,] said he hoped that Tibetan exiles would return to a policy of demanding independence and using, if necessary, a campaign "to target their industries, their power supply and communications inside China through acts of sabotage."

The Tibetan Youth Congress was one of the U.S trained groups behind the violence in Lhasa in March.

The exile meeting may decide to reduce the demands and find a compromise to return to their homeland or it may decide to struggle on peacefully. But some of the groups involved are likely to part way with that and will create more bloody riots or other violent acts as soon as the recent meeting is over.

I therefore expect and increase in terrorist incidents within China.

Official Chinese government Tibet site: China Tibet Information Center
The Tibetan exile page: Central Tibetan Administration

Posted by b on November 21, 2008 at 17:31 UTC | Permalink


It's not as if the Tibetans don't have a legitimate gripe. During the Cultural Revolution, religion was relentlessly persecuted and many historical sites and artifacts were completely obliterated.

Posted by: Obelix | Nov 21 2008 18:22 utc | 1

I at least didnt know this back-story. Among liberals, the Dalai Lhama is a holy icon, almost Christ-like. I was puzzled why Sarkozy was ambivalent about meeting him recently. Now I get it. Thanks for the comment.

Posted by: seneca | Nov 22 2008 17:03 utc | 2

@Obelix - It's not as if the Tibetans don't have a legitimate gripe. During the Cultural Revolution, religion was relentlessly persecuted and many historical sites and artifacts were completely obliterated.

Every Chinese has a legitimate gripe with that too. The culture revolution was not about race, but class.

@seneca - your welcome.

Posted by: b | Nov 22 2008 18:08 utc | 3

mao tse tung sd that revolutions were not dinner parties & the cultural revolution was & remains a very complex part of chinese history. b is correct in denoting that it was a class war but it also had precedents. it was also something very new in the history of people's movements & it is still quite clear that the communist party was following the lead of the people instead of the other way around, only gaining some control in the last months

there are aspects of modern china & i know it well, to which i am not very sympathetic but their demonisation is an element of the long war which a dying u s empire is trying to wage

the dalai lama like many asian monarchs is not to be put on the same page as a nelson mandela whose exemplariness lies in the fact that he participated in the history & struggle of his people

the dalai lama has said that he rejects feudalism but i am not convinced of that as it was very integral & always has been with theocrats

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Nov 22 2008 18:38 utc | 4

Tibetans Reaffirm a Conciliatory Path

After an intense debate on whether to begin a formal independence movement, the majority of delegates attending a conference of Tibetan exiles in northern India recommended Saturday that the Tibetan government in exile continue to adopt the Dalai Lama’s conciliatory approach to China, a Tibetan spokesman said.

But in a sign of mounting frustration with fruitless negotiations with China, most delegates also advised the Tibetan government to end the dialogue until China shows real willingness to negotiate, the spokesman, Thubten Samphel, said in a telephone interview from Dharamsala, India.

The question is if the hotheads from the Tibetan Youth Congress and other clubs will accept that. I have serious doubts on that.

Posted by: b | Nov 22 2008 20:26 utc | 5

I know your usual enthusiasm is to find the truth in an endlessly oppositional reading to a selective sampling of "the western press." And so Chinese colonialism is championed by you, vindicated by your interpretation of the invasion as a necessary means to modernize Tibet (even though many lamas were eager to modernize, but no matter).

Why not apply a similar condescension of history to the occupation of indigenous societies in North America, or the anglo-American occupation of Iraq for that matter?

Oh why not?

Posted by: slothrop | Nov 23 2008 0:47 utc | 6

Tibet is part of China. Read 1911 online Britannica Encyclopedia. Read 1912 online Catholic Encyclodedia. Check up on the title Tibet. These are works not tainted with present-day political propaganda. It had a substantial Chinese Han population in 1911, and again before September 1949. But the Tibetans employed ethnic cleansing in 1912 when the Qing Dynasty collapsed and the Chinese garrison in Tibet were confused. This is well-known historical fact. It employed ethnic cleansing AGAIN in August 1949 on the pretext that the Han Chinese were communist agents - just before the communists won the civil war against the KMT. For the 1949 ethnic cleansing, read first chapter,

The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947 - Shakya Tsering.
Though the whole of Tibet is under the suzerainty of China, the government of the country is divided into two distinct administrations, the one under the rule of the Dalai lama of Lhasa, the other under local kings or chiefs, and comprising a number of ecclesiastical fiefs. Both are directed and controlled by the high Chinese officials residing at Lhasa, Sining Fu; and the capital of the Chinese province of Szechuen.

[The encyclopedia traces Tibet history as part of China all the way back to the 13th century]

1912 online Catholic Encyclodedia

The Chinese administration of Tibet includes an imperial resident (chu tsang ta ch'ên) or amban (ngang pai) with an assistant resident (pang pan ta ch'ên); among their duties, they act as intermediary between China and Nepal (Ghorkhas Country); a secretary (yi ts'ing chang-king) has to deal with native affairs. Three Chinese commissioners (liang t'ai), of the class of sub-prefect, are stationed at Lhasa, Tashilumbo, and Ngari. The imperial resident is Chao Ehr-fung (appointed March, 1908), formerly Director-General of the Sze-ch'wan Hu-Pe Railway and acting viceroy of Szech'wan.

Posted by: Matthew | Nov 23 2008 18:45 utc | 7

I'm relieved to discover the 1911 Britannica confirms Tibet as an eternal Chinese possession.

I'm reading the same year's entry for Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Fascinating! Another confirmation of another magical kingdom.

Posted by: slothrop | Nov 24 2008 3:50 utc | 8

Tibet is part of China, even in the Ming Dynasty. Wake up and face the truth. Otherwise, you will have to fight for "freedom" for another 800 years. Then don't blame the Chinese people for preserving the territorial integrity and unity of the Chinese nation - together with patriotic Tibetan brothers and sisters loyal to the big Chinese family. The separatists (and whoever not loyal to the Chinese flag) will forever be deprived of freedom, because they are a threat to peace and stabilty. But these people can choose to build their "free Tibet" elsewhere. Maybe India will welcome you. You can have a "greater Tibet" including Sikkhim, and Lahdak, and Arundal Pradesh (these are all yours to take, you legitimate historical territory) and most of the Indian soil whereever you find Tibetans there. Or maybe in America...they love you too much.

Tibet is part of China even in the Ming Dynasty.


(1911 version of history from Encyclopedia Britannica is untainted by present-day propaganda)

Five years afterwards Kublai Khan conquered all the east of Tibet; and, after he had ascended the throne of China, the Mongol emperor invited to his court Phagspa Lodoi Gyaltshan….Kublai invested Phagspa with sovereign power over (1) Tibet proper, comprising the thirteen districts of U and Tsang, (2) Khalil and (3) Amdo.,,[Later] It was at this troubled epoch that Chyang Chub Gyaltshan…subdued Tibet proper and Kham…and with the approval of the court of Peking established a dynasty which furnished twelve rulers in succession. When the Mongol dynasty of China passed away, the Mings confirmed and enlarged the dominion of the Tibetan rulers, recognizing at the same time the chief lamas of the eight principal monasteries of the country… During the minority of the fifth (really the third) Dalai Lama, when the Mongol king Tengir To, under the pretext of supporting the religion, intervened in the affairs of the country, the Pan-ch'en Lo-sang Ch'o-kyi Gyal-ts'ang lama obtained the withdrawal of the [Mongol] invaders by the payment of a heavy war indemnity, and then applied for help to the first Manchu emperor of China, who had just ascended the throne. This step enraged the Mongols, and caused the advance of Gushri Khan, son and successor of Tengir To, who invaded Tibet, dethroned all the petty princes, including the king of Tsang, and, after having subjugated the whole of the country, made the fifth Dalai lama supreme monarch of all Tibet, in 1645. The Chinese government in 1653 confirmed the Dalai Lama in his authority, and he paid a visit to the emperor at Peking. The Mongol Khoshotes in 1706 and the Sungars in 1717 interfered again in the succession of the Dalai lama, but the Chinese army finally conquered the country in 1720, and the present system of government was established.

[System of Government from 1720 to 1911]

Though the whole of Tibet is under the suzerainty of China, the government of the country is divided into two distinct administrations, the one under the rule of the Dalai lama of Lhasa, the other under local kings or chiefs, and comprising a number of ecclesiastical fiefs. Both are directed and controlled by the high Chinese officials residing at Lhasa, Sining Fu; and the capital of the Chinese province of Szechuen. Northeastern Tibet or Amdo, and also a portion of Khamdo, are under the supervision of a high official (Manchu) residing at Sining Fu in Kansuh, whose title is Imperial Controller-General of Koko Nor.

Posted by: Matthew | Nov 25 2008 14:07 utc | 9

Explanation of

Tibet was part of China since the Mongol dynasty. The successors - Ming Dynasty and Manchu Dynasty - continued to rule Tibet as part of China. The capital during these times was Peking (i.e. Beijing). Note that it was the Ming emperors who “confirmed and enlarged the dominion of Tibetan rulers, recognizing at the same time the chief lamas”. Later in 1653 the Chinese government (the Manchus) “confirmed the Dalai Lama in his authority”, and expelled the Mongol (the Sungars) invaders from Tibet in 1720, and the “present system of government was established” in Tibet.

Posted by: Matthew | Nov 25 2008 14:11 utc | 10

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