CHINA / National

What is Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way'
Updated: 2006-07-26 08:47

The Dalai Lama has, in recent years, been telling the world he has stopped seeking "Tibetan independence" and turned towards a "middle way".

By this, he says, he means "high-level autonomy" or "real autonomy" in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas within the framework of the Chinese Constitution. Only by doing so, he has argued, can Tibet best protect its unique traditional culture, religion and eco-environment, and can the unification and unity of China be maintained. (On March 10, 1959, the reactionary upper class in Tibet staged a counter-revolutionary armed rebellion. When it was suppressed, the Dalai Lama and his men fled to India, where he made March 10 as a remembrance "Resurrection Day".)

On March 10, 2006, he followed his usual practice of delivering a speech, in which he said: "Making the Tibetan race become the real masters of their own fate and enjoy real autonomy constitutes my only wish. And this wish could be materialized as the PRC Constitution contains special stipulations for this."

What the Dalai Lama says sounds reasonable at first glance; and he has given up the "independence of Tibet" and turns to work for the interest of the Tibetans. However, if one takes a closer look at the background of what the Dalai Lama has put forth regarding this "middle way", its major contents and the Dalai Lama's explanation, and then compares this with the PRC Constitution, one will instantly find nothing new, only old wine in a new bottle.

People who know Tibetan history well know that the Dalai Lama stands for the "independence of Tibet" when he has fled to India in 1959. On June 20, 1960, he held his first press conference in India, and vowed to "restore freedom and the special status Tibet enjoyed before the Chinese invasion in 1950". Thereafter, he made speeches on March 10 each year, vowing to win the "independence of Tibet".

Moreover, the Dalai Lama set up his "government in exile" overseas and worked out a "Tibetan constitution" (later renamed the "constitution for Tibetans in exile"). He built up a rebel army in Nepal for border harassments in the ensuing years. In the name of "organizing armed troops to fight their way back into Tibet", he collaborated with the Indian military and American CIA to organize the "Indian Tibetan special border troops", set up "representative offices" in some countries, and organized the "Tibet youth congress", "Tibet national democratic party" and "Tibet women's federation." All these organizations have engaged in separatist activities overseas.

From the 1970s to the mid-1980s, the international situation underwent changes with India and the United States all working to improve ties with China. As a result, the Dalai clique got less public support internationally. It faced economic difficulties and was riddled with internal feuds. It was against this background that the Dalai clique told the Central Government it could "give up efforts seeking Tibetan independence and return to China".

In 1987, the Dalai Lama delivered a speech to the US Congressional Human Rights Committee, putting forth his "five-point scheme for Tibetan peace"; in 1988 he tried but failed to address the European Parliament in Strasburg, and instead spoke in the hall of the parliament, where he declared his "seven-point new schemes" (hereinafter referred to as the "five points" and "seven points"). In the two speeches the Dalai Lama made his statement with regard to the "middle way", and the two speeches served as the most authoritative explanation of this approach.

It is the "five points" and "seven points", as well as other explanations made by the Dalai Lama and his like that show the world the "middle way" goes against the Chinese Constitution and law. Here are four aspects related to this conclusion:

The first is that the Dalai Lama still refuses to recognize the fact that Tibet is part of China. The PRC Constitution stipulates in its preface that the PRC is a multi-national country founded by peoples of various ethnic groups in the country. Article 4 of the Constitution goes further to say that various regions exercising national regional autonomy in China are an inalienable part of the country. However, the Dalai Lama said in his "five points" that "Tibet was a completely independent state in 1949 when the PLA entered". In his "March 10" statement of 1995, he said: "The reality of today is that Tibet is an occupied country under colonial rule". At an Indian seminar called "support for Tibet", he declared: "Buddhism entered Tibet from India, and so did many other aspects of Indian culture. From this point of view, I hold that it is more reasonable for India to own sovereignty over Tibet than China." In recent years, the Dalai Lama has changed his tune by saying that the issue can be turned over to historians for discussion; we should refrain from talking about the past, and instead focus on the future.

It is an historic fact that Tibet has since the ancient times been an inalienable part of the Chinese territory, and the Central Government of China has exercised indisputable and effective rule over Tibet. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Central Government set up the Xuanzhen Yuan to take in charge of the Buddhist affairs in the whole country and the military and administrative affairs of the Tibetan region. It exercised effective rule over Tibet by conducting census, setting up post stations, collecting taxes, stationing troops, appointing officials, and introducing the Yuan Dynasty criminal law, astronomy and calendaring to Tibet. During the Qing Dynasty (644-1911), the 5th Dalai Lama and the 5th Panchen Erdeni of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism all received honorific titles from Emperor Shunzhi and Emperor Kangxi. From then on, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni of the future generations all got the honorific titles and established their political and religious leadership in Tibet. And it becomes a historical precedence for the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni to receive honorific titles during the Republic of China (1912-1949). The 14th Dalai Lama himself was confirmed and enthroned with the approval of the Central Government of the Republic of China. Governments of various countries in the world declare that "Tibet is part of China". This constitutes the common knowledge of the international community and the political basis for China to develop bilateral ties with other countries. We see that the Dalai Lama publically refuses the fact that Tibet has since the ancient times been a part of China, and then says that he does not have to talk about this issue. He does all these to impress the others he has made concession. As a matter of fact, however, he is turning a known-to-all historical fact and a political principle related to state sovereignty into a historical and academic question that exists and does not have to be discussed. Admitting what the Dalai Lama has said means acknowledgement regarding his statement that Tibet has been an occupied country after 1949. Legally speaking, the so-called "Tibetan issue" will not then be an internal issue of China; it will then be related to "colonial issues" whereby the Tibetans could enjoy the right to independence through "national self-determination" according to international convention. This, of course, goes against the historical fact that China enjoys sovereignty over Tibet and the principle set forth in the PRC Constitution that areas exercising national regional autonomy are inalienable parts of China. The Central Government naturally is staunch in attitude and all people with a sober mind can see that what the Dalai Lama does is his plan to dish out his "Tibetan independence" when conditions ripen again according to his own standards.

The second point is that the Dalai Lama attempts to refute the current political system followed in Tibet according to the Constitution which states that the socialist system is the fundamental system of the PRC; no organization or individual is allowed to undermine the socialist system; in the PRC, all power belongs to the people, and the NPC and the People's Congresses at various levels are the organs of power through which the people exercise State power. And the PRC Law on National Regional Autonomy stipulates that national regional autonomy is the basic political system of the CPC to solve China's ethnic issues using Marxism-Leninism. The above legal stipulations undoubtedly apply to Tibet. However, the Dalai Lama declared that "the autonomy China follows is not real autonomy". According to what he has said, Tibet should achieve "high-level autonomy" or "real autonomy" according to the "one country, two systems" principle, and the scope of "autonomy" should be larger than that for Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. In his "seven points", meanwhile, he argues that "a Tibetan government should be set up in Lhasa and should have an elected administrative chief and possess a bicameral legislative organ and an independent judicial system". In November 2005, the Dalai Lama said in the United States: "The Central Government should take care of defense and foreign affairs, because the Tibetans have no experience in this regard, but the Tibetans should have full responsibility for education, economic development, environmental protection and religion". In a nutshell, the CPC leadership, the socialist system, the people's congress system and the national regional autonomy in Tibet, which have been in place in Tibet for decades in accordance with the PRC Constitution, should all be refuted, and a whole new system introduced according to what he says "real autonomy". This is obviously different from what he claims for Tibet to work "within the framework of the Chinese Constitution." The PRC government white paper entitled National Regional Autonomy in Tibet issued in 2004 made it clear that, unlike Hong Kong and Macao, Tibet is not faced with question related to the exercise of sovereignty and the possibility of re-introducing another social system. Any endeavor to destroy and change the current political system in Tibet runs counter to the PRC Constitution and law.

It is known to all that the "one country, two systems" refers to the fact that the mainland follows the socialist system while Hong Kong and Macao continue to follow the capitalist system they had followed before. However, no capitalist system existed in Tibetan history; what was followed in the region was a feudal serfdom featuring temporal religious administration. In its own "constitution of Tibet in exile", the Dalai Lama advocates the reintroduction of the old system featuring "temporal religious administration". According to the system, the Dalai Lama is the government and religious leader enjoying the final say on major matters. In old Tibet, the Gashag set up by the Qing Dynasty in region, or the local government of Tibet, was composed of four Galoons. When the Dalai Lama had fled overseas, his government in exile continued to follow the system, with the role of chief Galoon of the government in exile continueing to be assumed by a high-ranking lama. These are the people who are advocating the "one country, two systems" approach for Tibet. What they can do? Only restore the feudal serfdom, and nothing else!

The third point is that the Dalai Lama sticks to "Large Tibetan Areas"that, however, does not exist in history. Articles 14 of the white paper on national regional autonomy says that matters concerning areas following the regional national autonomy, such as the title and regional border line, should be determined through full consultations among the State organs and local relative power organs and representatives of ethnic groups concerned in accordance with the law, and result of the consultations be submitted to departments concerned according to procedures set forth in the law; the areas following the system should not be disbanded or annexed without going through proper legal procedures. The Dalai Lama, however, persists in bringing together the areas where people of the Tibetan ethnic group live to form an "enlarged Tibet autonomous region" which would cover one-fourth of Chinese territory. People with knowledge of Chinese history know that, during the Yuan Dynasty, the three areas where the Tibetans lived saw the establishment of three pacification commissioner's offices for governance. The three areas refer to U-Tsang-Ngari (the bulk of the Tibet Autonomous Region today), Amdo (mainly southern Gansu, Aba of Sichuan Province and the bulk of the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai Province), and Kham (largely Yushu of Qinghai Province, Garze of Sichuan Provinice, Deqen of Yunnan Province and Qamdo of Tibet). The three areas became the basis for the division between Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas in China. The ensuing Ming Dynasty followed the Yuan approach in ruling Tibet. During the Qing Dynasty that followed, the Central Government supported the 5th Dalai Lama, leader of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, to build up a regime in Tibet. Thereafter, further efforts were made to delineate the border between Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan. From this we see the Tibetan-inhabited areas outside Tibet had never been put under the rule of the local government of Tibet. So, there is no ground for the establishment of an "enlarged Tibet".

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