a discussion in session, photo : tibet-china-conference.org
August 7, 2009 - Yesterday, the Tibetans explained. The Chinese listened. Today, the Chinese talked. The Tibetans listened.
In a session crafted to both soul-search and brainstorm and rich with symbolism and resonant with historic potency, the more than 100 Chinese and Tibetans attending the Finding the Common Ground conference were divided into four groups to grapple with the challenge of moving the Sino-Tibetan dialogue process forward and reaching out to the Chinese people.
One Chinese participant said that one major stumbling block in this challenge is the network of organs in the party, government and army that constitute China’s vast anti-splittism bureaucracy. He said China’s current “anti-splittism rampage gives career and livelihood to at least about 400,000 cadres involved in the campaign. If the dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing succeeds, these people will be out of jobs the next day. The speaker said that this bureaucratic grip on policy-makers in Beijing is the real reason why there is no positive response from Beijing to Dharamsala overtures and fresh ideas. Vested interests formulate policy and their interests outweigh China’s national interests.
One participant said, “I am not for Tibetan independence but I support the right of the Tibetan people to their culture and religion. I’ve been to Tibet. Chinese condescension of Tibetans is obvious.” The speaker said that this was not helped by the distorted Chinese government propaganda. The speaker said, “We need to discuss how we can expose and discredit government propaganda. We can do this by writing on the issue of Tibet extensively and non-stop. We need to destroy big Han chauvinism.”
During the workshop session, two groups were assigned to discuss and come up with fresh ideas on how the Sino-Tibetan dialogue process can be advanced. The other two were assigned to come up with new ideas on how to strengthen the ongoing outreach to the Chinese people. The common theme for the four groups is Tibet-China interface: the Chinese perspective.
Given the range of issues that are being discussed and the vigour with which ideas are expressed and exchanged make this conference go beyond the past Sino-Tibetan dialogue conferences that constituted Tibetans-have-suffered-and-Chinese-apologize type. Both His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s encouragement yesterday to never give up and Kalon Tripa, Samdhong Rinpoche’s responses to the wide-ranging questions seem to have given a new lease of life to the interface between Tibetan exiles and the Chinese interested in the issue of Tibet.
One Chinese participant said, “If we want to decide the issue of Tibet, we first must decide on the issue of the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. If we manage to decide on this issue, everything about Tibet can be easily decided.” The speaker said, “This is because the Dalai Lama is not only the leader of the Tibetan people but has become the leader of the Chinese. Because of this, his return should take place without any pre-condition, His wish to go on a pilgrimage to Wutai Shan is his right.”
Another participant responded to this suggestion by saying, “The authorities fear that even a visit by the Dalai Lama to Tibet or China will unleash strong latent forces which the authorities would not be able to control and hence no positive response from the authorities for permission for a simple pilgrimage to Wutai-shan.” Wutai Shan is considered by Tibetan and Chinese Buddhists alike as the abode of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom.
Another speaker said, “I have work with the People’s Daily for more than 20 years. Then I had no knowledge of Tibetan culture. Only thing I knew was something vague about Shambala. Now it is our collective responsibility to understand and dessiminate the values of Tibetan culture to people in China.”