Following the resignation of the two envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama earlier this month, Phayul questions Tsewang Rigzin, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Women’s Association, and Beijing based award-winning Tibetan writer Woeser on the future prospects of the Sino-Tibet dialogue process.
1. What do you make of the resignation of our envoys. What legacy have they left behind for the future of Sino-Tibet dialogue process?
Tsewang Rigzin, Tibetan Youth Congress: We have to believe that the envoys did what they could behind closed doors with their Chinese counterparts and from the statements and press releases after these dialogues by the envoys, it is crystal clear that the Chinese side clearly lacks the political will to resolve the issue of Tibet. Having said that, I strongly believe that from the beginning, the Chinese government was only using these dialogues to deflect international criticism on the issue of Tibet and to shun critics on their appalling human rights record in Tibet.
Tibetan Women’s Association: The resignation of the two envoys is a pointer to the first signs of frustration over China’s apathy towards the middle way policy.
The former envoys have done a commendable job with spearheading the dialogue for the last one decade with the very obstinate Chinese leadership and they symbolize the significance of ‘renewed talks’ with China since the foundation for dialogue was laid in 1978 and since the ‘stalled face to face meeting’ since 1993.
Woeser: The resignation of the two envoys has not come as a surprise. It may be considered that they have fulfilled their work. Their episode of patience, in their act, while being humiliated and looking down upon has now come to an end.
Yet, talking about their legacy for the future, to be honest, the dialogue process has not achieved even a single result. The dialogues have yielded no results.
2. China has already rejected our Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy. What in your view should be our basic proposal for the resumption of the dialogue process?
Tsewang Rigzin, TYC: We very well know that Deng Xioping said: “anything except Independence could be discussed”. The stand of Independence forced Deng to open his mouth. So, if we really want the Chinese talking, then I believe it is high time we go back to the drawing board and to sustain and strengthen our freedom struggle, TGIE should revert its political stand to Independence. This will no doubt force the Chinese side to the table and truly rekindle our freedom struggle.
TWA: The 7-point memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for Tibetan People serves as the best reference guide for the Chinese leadership and the international to understand the basic ‘asks’ of the central Tibetan administration pursuing the middle way policy.
The memorandum is an opportunity for China to gauge their road map to settle for a win-win proposition, which contributes to PRC’s unity, stability, harmony and its peaceful rise in the world.
As much as the Kashag is hopeful of continuing dialogue with the new Chinese Leadership which will take over the reigns following the much touted ‘18th National People’s congress meeting’ scheduled for autumn this year’, TWA is optimistic and remain expectant and we will also urge the new leadership to make use of this momentous opportunity to peacefully resolve the Tibet issue.
TWA believes that the Tibetan side has offered as much as we could to ensure a successful resolution to the Tibet issue and therefore at the moment, a lot is resting on the Chinese leadership to stop the spreading of the first signs of frustration from the Tibetan side lest things might get beyond comprehension and control. It’s China who should come to the middle ground.
Woeser: Firstly, is there any possibility for the resumption of the dialogue process?
China will not begin the dialogue process with Tibet unless and until there is pressure from the international community.
Then, how much pressure is the international community actually exerting on China? There is non visible at least as of now.
Such a large number of Tibetans, one after the other, have burned themselves. Since 2009, 44 Tibetans have set themselves on fire (41 inside Tibet and 3 outside Tibet.)
Amidst such a humanitarian crisis, how much pressure the international community has put on the Chinese government?
Many say it would be better to resume the dialogue than not, and that the resumption of dialogue will build bridge between the two. But even if the process gets resumed, what is the use of dialogue if there is no sincerity and no equality, which are the foundations for dialogue.
3. If and when the time comes to appoint new envoys, who do you think is most eligible to represent Tibet?
Tsewang Rigzin, TYC: I will not pretend to have the authority to appoint envoys, so throwing names is not my cup of tea. But I believe a shrewd diplomat with experience and the tenacity to handle the Chinese counterparts will represent Tibet well. And, we have to find a way to talk to equivalent Chinese counterparts during the dialogues rather than low-level officials from United Front Work Department.
TWA: The decision best lies in the vision and calibre of the Kashag and we look forward to a very successful ‘task force meeting’ in December this year.
Woeser: If the time comes for the Tibet-China dialogue to begin, the Tibetan envoys should be able to speak Mandarin and should be an exile Tibetan originally from Tibet.
There is a proverb in China, which says: “If one knows the situation on both the sides, then one won’t be defeated even after a hundred battles.” At least, that way one will learn the tactics of the war.
However, I have a small request. If the dialogue gets resumed; the Tibetan representatives must not visit the birthplace of Mao Zedong again.
Phayul invites its readers to send us your own answers to the questions at email@example.com.