By Tenzing Dhamdul
The People’s Republic of China formed as a nation on 1949. Under the helm of the Communist party, they have brought out reports in the form of White paper with the sole aim to propagate and let the people know of their achievement and policies. These reports set the template and act as a guide for future policies. Many famous rhetoric’s and polemics of the Communist party of China have come out from these reports and have stood the test of time. The four liberalization, seeking truth from facts and the current president go to word “Thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics” being some of them.
Tibet an occupied nation by Beijing has been a subject to these reports. The White Paper became an official document/report that showcases to the world as to what has been occurring in Tibet. Almost all government documents are devoid of any form any criticisms towards themselves but what the White Paper reports of China does is that it goes to the extreme end of the spectrum and conjures lies and false narratives. Aligning with the current “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy” it pursues. With a major purpose of these reports also being to give some form of government information on Tibet, especially to those researchers and scholars who seek facts and information on Tibet.
The Great development, the veil that hides colonialism and exploitation in Tibet:
A large portion of this paper highlights how Beijing has achieved a great deal of development within Tibet especially in terms of infrastructure and how they have uplifted the Tibetan from poverty. It is true that Beijing has brought many changes in Tibet relating to infrastructure as there has been an abundance of airports, radio access and optical cables (99% coverage almost 100% mentioned in the paper), dams and railways. However, one must try to understand as to how these developmental projects has benefited Tibetans and were they even intended to benefit Tibet?
The stark reality here is that more than uplifting the Tibetans these projects in Tibet has become a means through which the population transfer of Han Chinese to Tibet occurs under the ploy of employment, gave Beijing easier access to Tibet, and also a security net to impose surveillance to the Tibetans (99% optical cable and mobile access/coverage within Tibet as mentioned by the paper). From this we can understand how development and the high numbers they shower throughout this document has been a boon to Beijing while in turn a dagger to the heart of Tibet and Tibetans. Here I remember from the book “Tibet: Reports from Exile” by Thupten Samphel, where the writer mentions that during the fact-finding mission as representatives of the Dalai Lama in the late 1980’s in Tibet how he as a member of this party came across a hydropower project construction site and instead of seeing a large number of Tibetans taking part in this activity, they came across many Han Chinese workers and was only greeted by a solitary Tibetan worker there. This not only shows the reality of what was happening in Tibet then but what will and continues to happen now under the guise of development.
Many buy these arguments which I find highly amusing and made mobius by the fact that even many non-Chinese scholars tend to push these narratives of China. The reality is that neo-colonialism and exploitation is occurring in Tibet since the Chinese occupation began from 1951. The nation of China who was exploited in many ways by imperialist forces are now using the very same force and tactics in Tibet, even though this document vehemently points out how imperialist forces are trying to split Tibet.
My question to them is who are these imperialist forces that they mention here in the paper? because if we were to go by their own definition of imperialism, Beijing itself fit the bill perfectly as they commit the very imperialist activities in Tibet which they condemn and is clearly shown by these infrastructural projects where there is an unequal exchange, drain of wealth and exploitation occurring.
They not only dismantle the physical aspect of Tibet but also target the cultural, traditional and humane aspect of Tibet where the imposition of Chinese language is bringing a cultural shock to Tibet. It is clearly connoted by the fact that nearly a million Tibetans are enrolled to educational institutions (where Mandarin is a compulsory course in school) according to the paper.
False Narration of History, forcefully shoving false history down our throats:
Chinese history is one of inspiring stories/tales. I highly value, appreciate and envy them for its rich culture and tradition here. Yet how the current communist government acts is very different and does not fall in line with their own history. The destruction caused during the cultural revolution throughout China and even in Tibet, where not only the physical edicts of culture were destroyed but enforced people to be mentally uprooted from their culture is truly hard to fathom. Many speak and highlight these dark tales including the book by Tsering Woeser “Forbidden Memory. Tibet during the Cultural Revolution”.
Instead of being sorry and repenting for the chaos, harm and genocide created then and ushering a new era, Beijing currently pursues the policy of “False narration of history”. Fortunately, we currently live in the advent of technology and the narration of history which is chequered in every sense, everywhere cannot be shown as monochrome because people will definitely catch up to truth. Here I would like to illustrate some points mentioned in the document which is simply blatant lie and false history.
Firstly, in the document it claims how the title of the Dalai Lama was conferred by the Qing emperor to the 5th Dalai Lama. This is completely false as the title of the Dalai Lama was conferred to the 3rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso by the Mongol ruler Altan Khan. This Mongol term meaning the “Ocean of Wisdom” and is the synonymous meaning of the Dalai Lama throughout the world.
Secondly, they never mention how the Dalai Lama, his government and many Tibetans fled Tibet due to the violence and repression brought by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces in Tibet. Instead in the paper it simply mentions how ‘after a rebellion broke out in March 1959, the state council issued an order to dissolve the Tibetan local government’ the fact that the Tibetan government was forced to escape and seek exile is well-known to the world yet they fail to acknowledge this and instead state how they ordered to dissolve the Tibetan local government. What form of government was there to dissolve in the first place if the whole government had in fact fled to India and sought refuge?
Seeking truth from false facts:
A very popular rhetoric of the current communist party that governs China is “Seeking Truth from Facts”. This phrase was a driving force when China was undergoing liberalization during the late 1970’s and is still prevalent today. Unfortunately, it is tangential and opposite to the dictum when applied. What we are seeing is how they are using false facts and letting one seek truth from it.
This is highlighted by the fact that this paper blatantly blames the Dalai Lama in instigating riots and even preparing a “Self-Immolation Kit” to propagate self-immolation in Tibet. The latter of which has taken the lives of more than 150 Tibetans till now. The Dalai Lama never encourages these acts but is the first one to condemn it and even exclaimed how the act of self-immolation goes against Buddhism itself. How are we as readers to seek truth from fact here if the very fact (Dalai Lama preparing self-immolation kit) mentioned here is false. They further throw oil to the flame here by cunningly professing as to how the Chinese government and its religious offices are the sole body for authenticating the reincarnation of living Buddhas. They state how they have the final say in deciding the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, the irony here being how this is the very lama that they simultaneously criticise here with a “no stones left unturned” approached used. A government who does not revere and instead shamelessly calls out the Dalai Lama in every bad light possible does not have an iota of authority to decide the reincarnation of it. If they seek authority then seek dialogue directly with the currently Dalai Lama and make steps of progress through it. Otherwise, it is just noise and no music to the ears of all when Beijing shamelessly says they have authority over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
I hope my sincere views have brought some understanding as to what the White Paper brought forth by “The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China” on May of 2021 titled as Tibet since 1951: Liberation, Development and Prosperity is thought and understood by a Tibetan whom due to repression and occupation had to flee its own land but is fortunate enough to reside and enjoy privileges of this free world though hindered as a refugee. I mean even the title seems superficial as we Tibetans were never liberated but rather annexed and occupied. Do they think their acts of civilising mission and colonialism (neo-colonialism) can be passed on as Liberation in modern times?
In a nutshell the White Paper shares similarities to an arrogant person who only chides with their achievement and doesn’t reflect upon their mistakes. There are many more things to say but I personally would not like to go further as we ourselves can see to what is currently being done in Tibet and other regions under the said governance of the communist party of China.
(Views expressed are his own)
The author has studied at Hindu College, Delhi University and School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was a recipient of the Sikyong Scholarship in the year 2015.