By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, April 15: China’s controversial “patriotic education” drive in Tibet, under the so called "Strike Hard” campaign launched since 1996, requiring Tibetans to renounce their exiled leader the Dalai Lama seems to be bearing a different effect of actually strengthening and bulding up Tibetan nationalism inside Tibet, according to an Australian Tibet scholar.
Tibet Scholar Dr. John Powers from Australian National University said China’s “patriotic re-education” campaign; mainly targeting Tibetan monks and nuns, to weaken the Dalai Lama’s influence, among other purposes, has “produced spectacular effect of building a unified Tibetan nationalism”.
Dr John said the Dalai Lama is a very important and revered figure who represent Tibetan "identity".
“For Tibetans, renouncing the Dalai Lama is almost denying their own identity” and China has been forcing Tibetans to do the same, he said.
Even as the Dalai Lama had openly called on Tibetans to renounce him by not risking their own lives, “renouncing Dalai Lama is almost not possible” for Tibetans, Dr John told a gathering attended largely by visiting foreigners.
According to him, Tibetans usually associate themselves to one of the three traditional provinces (U-Tsang, Amdo or Kham) where they belong to, rather than calling themselves as being Tibetans.
However, the recent protest that broke out across Tibet, according to Dr John’s observation, showed for the first time a unified and a parallel Tibetan campaign against China’s rule.
The recent unrest in Tibet, which first broke out in Lhasa on March 10, subsequently spread to other Tibetan areas outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), which was created by China in 1965.
China has, on the other hand, swiftly responded to recent protests with intensified “patriotic education” sessions after fresh protests, both in and outside the "TAR", showed a huge security crackdown had failed to extinguish nearly one month of unrest. Tibetan Buddhist monks, civil servants and public school students have been instructed to attend special classes in the virtues of Chinese rule and that denounce the Dalai Lama as a "political reactionary" and "betrayer of the motherland."
However, "Patriotic education" appeared to be one of the Tibetan people’s major grievances against Chinese rule in recent fresh protests in Tibet.
"Getting people to denounce the Dalai Lama or to recite ideological statements shows a lack of imagination on the part of the Communist Party. There is no way they can force people into what they say is the correct way of thinking," a recent media report quoted Ronald Schwartz, a Canadian scholar, as saying.
He and more than 200 other Tibet scholars have recently signed an online petition calling on the Chinese government to negotiate over Tibetans' grievances.
During the recent anti-China demonstrations in Tibet, protesters have demanded the return of the Dalai Lama and echoed their call for independence.
Dr John was speaking at Yongling School this evening on “Tibet through Chinese Eyes” where he delved mainly into Tibet’s historical case through Chinese perspectives. The talk was organized by Active Nonviolence Education Center (ANEC) based in Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
Dr John is the author of the HISTORY AS PROPAGANDA: Tibetan Exiles Versus the People's Republic of China and several other books.