By Bhuchung D. Sonam
On 8 May, among many issues the Tibetan prime minister discussed at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, Dr Lobsang Sangay said: ‘We don't challenge, or ask for, an overthrow of the Communist Party. We don't question or challenge the present structure of the ruling party.’ The ruling party being the Communist Party of China (CCP).
This statement by the popularly-elected head of the exile Tibetan government contradicts two of the fundamental principles that his administration stands for – the Middle Way policy and democracy.
The basic premise of the Middle Way policy is neither to seek separation from China ‘nor accept the present conditions of Tibet under the People’s Republic of China’. Rather it is to seek ‘genuine autonomy’ under the PRC’s constitution. This hoped-for autonomy – according to the Middle Way Policy & All Recent Related Documents published by the information department of Sangay’s administration – ‘would include the right of Tibetans to create their own regional government and government institutions and processes that are best suited to their needs and characteristics.’
The Middle Way policy hence insists upon China practicing the rights enshrined in its own constitution and thus this policy is not only challenging but also insisting upon a fundamental shake-up in the way the party functions. Currently the CCP trumps over the rule of law and China’s constitution exists to serve the party. The Middle Way policy requires for the rule of law trumping over the party – consequently winning some goodies. It does not accept the over-lordship of the Chinese Communist Party as the prime minister seems to suggest.
Sangay’s remark also runs counter to His Holiness’ tireless efforts for more than half-a-century to democratize the exile community culminating in his election to the post of prime minster and the countless calls from inside Tibet for freedom. In exile, we are exercising our democratic rights and one of the prime objectives of the exile government is to fight for these same values on behalf of Tibetans in Tibet. In this sense, our resistance and struggle for freedom fundamentally questions and challenges the communist rule over the Tibetan Plateau.
Validating the ‘present structure of the party’ undermines the Tibetan people’s aspiration for freedom and democracy and at the same time it gives absolutely undeserving legitimacy to the murderous one party rule and its dictators. More than anyone else, such sweeping statements would fly in the face of over one hundred self-immolators, overwhelming majority of whom demanded freedom for Tibet and an end to China’s rule over their homeland.
In his last message in February this year, Phagmo Dhondup said: ‘Over one hundred Tibetans from all parts of Tibet set themselves on fire. They were true heroes of the Tibetan people. If Tibet does not win independence and freedom, it is certain that China will eliminate Tibet’s culture and traditional ways of life. This year the authorities have banned the teaching of Tibetan language in Bayan district. All the Tibetan teachers were expelled. It is out of sheer sadness that today, on the evening of the fifteenth day of the Tibetan New Year, I am setting myself on fire in front of the Jakhyung Monastery. Today is Tibetan Independence Day.’
Tibet has been gripped in crisis since Beijing’s occupation nearly sixty years ago which led to the systematic destruction of its culture and way of life. The situation has worsened since 2008 when the nationwide uprising against Chinese rule was brutally crushed. A solution needs to be found at the soonest and as the elected leader of exile Tibet, Sangay is under intense pressure. But statements such as this will produce no result.
Whatever reasoning compelled the prime minister to make this statement, it has stretched the Middle Way policy to an extent where it makes absolutely no sense. To begin with, the Middle Way strategy came out of great desperation and a necessity to have a plan that is more acceptable to China so that a possible solution to Tibet’s long-standing dilemma can be found. But, as the official Tibetan documents sums up, ‘nine rounds of talks with China … has not produced any meaningful outcome’ and that ‘the Tibetan people in Tibet and Tibetan communities in exile are growing more impatient with, and less hopeful of, the Middle Way policy. An increasing number of Tibetans who have doubts in their minds about the Middle Way policy suggest that it is better to explore alternative means to resolve the issue of Tibet.’
Living in our rented rooms, we have known over and again that we cannot trust the CCP. Meanwhile, Tibetans in Tibet have received enough clubs over their heads to know that they have no place in Xi Jinping’s ‘Chinese dream’. Furthermore, in spite of violent political campaigns and intense ideological indoctrination for over half-a-century, they have refused to ‘love the Communist Party’. We must build our strategies upon these fiercely courageous and never-give-up qualities to carry our struggle forward. Since the negotiations began decades ago, we have given up enough. Enough.
We have nothing more to give. As imprisoned author Theurang asks does a race that once conquered two-thirds of the world’s territory want to be turned into ‘a bunch of soul-less slaves’ serving others. ‘My dear fellow-countrymen,’ he further writes, ‘if we cannot paint the bones of our ancestors in gold, the least we could do is to not throw their gray hair to the wind.’
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