Paris, France, November 4 - The Centre for Studies on modern and contemporary China and the Research Center on Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan civilizations, Paris, France, organised a one-day conference on the recent events in Tibet at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) yesterday, attended by Tibet-watchers like Robbie Barnett, Andrew Fisher, Elliot Sperling and Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
The topic for discussion ranged from the scale or protest, the violent and non-violent aspects and the message that the protesters were trying to communicate.
"In the narrative of the recent protest, unfortunately the voice of the Tibetans inside Tibet was rarely heard,” opined Robbie Barnett from Columbia University.
Pointing at the ever present photos of His Holiness amongst the protesters he said a conclusion that they supported the Middle Way policy of the Dalai Lama can be made.
Dr. Lobsang Sangay talked about the history of negotiations between China and the Tibetans and presented a legal case for the Tibetans. He said that what the exile administration is asking for the moment is something that is clearly mentioned in the constitution of China.
Calling himself a minority amongst the Tibetans, he said that he still has not lost hope in a negotiated settlement provided Tibetans can be more flexible and the Chinese side less suspicious.
Elliot Sperling from Indiana University presented a brief look at the Chinese presentation of the history of China-Tibet relations and the problematic issue for the PRC historians to set an exact date when Tibet became a part of China. He concluded that there is no real historical basis for this claim.
Morning session also saw a cartographic presentation by Heather Stoddard and how the Tibetans, Mongolians, Manchus and Chinese presented their empires in the past and the change in maps printed by the PRC, especially with regard to the inclusion of Tibet into the Chinese empire.
"The maps become less subtle as we come to the twentieth century,” concluded Stoddard.
Michel Bonin, a China expert from the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris talked about the reaction of Chinese authorities to the protest in Tibet.
Andrew Fischer, economist from Netherlands, gave a talk on the economic aspect of the Tibetan issue and outlined the differences in the economic realities of Tibet Autonomous Region and rest of China. One of the biggest differences seemed to be the level of subsidies pumped into TAR and the rise of public sector spendings inside TAR.
"Yet the government is just giving money to themselves and there is no real growth in Tibet which is sustainable,” opined Andrew Fisher.
Françoise Robin talked on "The 'new socialist villages' in Tibet: settlement and relocation" and dwelled on the controversial subject of resettlement of nomads in TAR and other Tibetan areas.
In the afternoon session, Lara Macon talked on the reactions of Chinese and Tibetans to the recent protest and the emergence of a new breed of confident, nationalistic and technologically savvy Chinese.
Marie Holzmann, independent researcher, and Sinologist presented a brief look at the "discordant voices in the PRC - Support for Tibetans amongst Chinese." She talked about the change in many Chinese democracy activist and the growing support for the Dalai Lama amongst them. She concluded with a quote from one Chinese writer - “only when Tibetans enjoy autonomy, will China then have freedom.”
During the question answer period Dr. Sangay stressed that when looking at the protest in Tibet one cannot “cherry pick” meanings to fit into one's personal ideology.
“The Tibet issue has attained international stature whenever Tibetans inside Tibet rise up. It is not an issue created by Tibetans in exile,” said Dr. Sangay. He concluded that Tibetans in exile are “side-actors”.
The evening concluded with a heart-wrenching documentary called “Kokonor, un lac en sursis” by Tsering Dorje Chenaktsang. The film is about China's primary nuclear weapons research and design facility that was constructed on the Tibetan Plateau in the early 1960s, near the shores of Lake Kokonor. It was known as the Northwest Nuclear Weapons Research and Design Academy, or the Ninth Academy. The Tibetan nomads from this area lost everything and have now become tourist curiosity where many parents' only source of income is their children posing for tourist cameras.