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Commentary: 'Middle Way' Does not Hold Water
2004/10/26
On September 21, 1987, the 14th Dalai Lama delivered a speech to the Human Rights Committee of the US Congress House of Representatives, putting forth the so-called "five-point plan for peace'' for solving the Tibetan question.

He asserted that historically Tibet was a state , and laid out a proposal "for the whole of Tibet to become a `peace zone' and `buffer zone' between China and India.''

As a matter of fact, it was the British after WWII who first proposed turning Tibet into such a buffer zone. Their underlying purpose was to turn Tibet into a British colony.

During those post-war upheavals anti-China forces in India also tried to swallow Chinese territory south of the McMahon line. Also at that time, the 14th Dalai Lama worked out a plan for Tibet to be semi-independent during the transitional period, on the condition that the central government was allowed to retain defensive forces in Tibet, but eventually pull its troops and military out of "this country,'' "take Chinese who have settled in the Tibetan areas back to China,'' and, when all this was completed, sit down together with Tibet to negotiate on the status of its future.

On June 15, 1988, the 14th Dalai Lama held a press conference in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, during which he presented "a new seven-point proposal.'' Under this proposal, before Tibet becomes a buffer zone as described above, it should be a political entity dictating its "own democratic autonomy'' and capable of forging an alliance with the People's Republic of China. Under it the central government could continue to be responsible for Tibet's diplomatic affairs, and retain a limited defensive military presence in Tibet until such time as a regional peace conference could be held for Tibet to become a neutral, demilitarized state.

From this, we can see the 14th Dalai Lama's "middle way'' has become mature in terms of content.

Right after 1989 when China had experienced political upheaval, however, a third nationalist trend had become evident. Considering the time ripe, the 14th Dalai Lama refrained from talking about "the middle way.'' His attitude became tough on issues concerning negotiations with the central government. He even went so far as to suspend contact with the central government on the grounds that he would not negotiate with a "destabilized'' Chinese Government.

In October 1991, when the 14th Dalai Lama visited Yale University in the United States, he delivered a speech in which he said, among other things: China is the last dictator and the only communist imperialist power still alive; the Soviet event shows it will not live long; freedom and democracy will come to China.

Holding that Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union changed under pressure from the international community, he called on international anti-China forces to exert pressure on China so that it would effect similar change as early as possible, smoothly and non-violently.

Meanwhile, speaking in Paris, he predicted Tibet would be independent within three years.

In 1995, he again predicted that the day for Tibet to be independent was close and he would soon declare to the whole world that Tibet had separated from China totally and become an independent entity.

Recent years have seen the 14th Dalai Lama's assertions and ambitions frustrated time and again. As a result he began to change tack telling Western politicians he would not seek the independence of Tibet. Instead, he was working for the materialization of high-level autonomy. To this end he tried to hold negotiations, free of any pre-conditions, with the central government, with a view to establishing a larger Tibet autonomous region. Here lies his "middle way,'' lying between his clique's former demands for Tibetan independence and the central government's efforts to defeat those seeking an independent Tibet.

In November 1999, the "Tibet parliament and policy research centre'' conspired with so-called experts in the field of international conventions to produce evidence in support of Tibetan autonomy, and, under the title the US "International Tibet Lawyers Committee'' it made public its "legal report on the issue of the autonomy of Tibet.''

As a result, the "middle way'' becomes systematized in content. The report divides power between the central government taking charge of autonomous Tibet in this way: The autonomous government takes charge of cultural and educational undertakings, with Tibetan as the official language; the autonomous government controls independently or substantially the economic life of Tibet, while the central government provides it with allowances; the autonomous government enjoys full power to collect taxes and control the environment; the State (?) participates in the construction of roads and eventually controls transportation and communications; the autonomous government enjoys the power to formulate policies.

It has been the practice for the 14th Dalai Lama to speak each year on March 10 in recent years. In his most recent annual address he spoke glibly of the "middle way'' and argued that he was not seeking "independence,'' but instead "real autonomy won through negotiations free from any attachments.'' He declared that he was ready to come to Beijing for negotiations so long as the negotiations would produce a result.

For his part, the 14th Dalai Lama attaches conditions to any such negotiations.

First of which is that Tibet is recognized as an historically independent state and not part of China, although the history may be shelved during the negotiations so that the focus can be on the future, namely turning Tibet into a non-militarized area and buffer zone between China and India.

Second, the 14th Dalai Lama called for negotiations on high-level real autonomy of the Tibetan area which, according to him, would cover Tibetan-inhabited areas in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan Provinces.

Third, he demanded a policy on Tibet which he said should be more preferential than the central government policy on Taiwan.

Fourth, he said Tibet would take control of national defence and foreign affairs, while central overnment could send representatives and some of their people to Tibet, but that Tibetans alone would handle Tibetan affairs.

As a matter of fact, his "middle way'' is a sidetrack to independence.

Tibet is part of China and this is an historical fact. The 14th Dalai Lama's refusal to recognize this is actually a humiliation of Tsongkapa, founder of the Gelug Sect. During the Ming Dynasty, Tsongkapa sent his disciple, Sagya Yeshi, to visit the central government court where he was named Grand State Tutor and Dharma Prince of Mercy. If Tibet was not part of China, could this have occurred? It is an historic fact that the honorific title of the Dalai Lama was bestowed by the central government.

The 14th Dalai Lama's "middle way'' aims for his "government-in-exile'' to make a comeback to rule over Tibet. Once this goal is attained, his government would take control of power in the fields of culture, education, economic development, taxation, prospecting for natural resources, transportation and communications and formulation of policies. Central government would then be left in the position of providing Tibet with financial assistance and participation in the construction of roads in the region. Both the central government and the regional government of Tibet would handle foreign affairs, judicial matters, customs management and border administration, and be jointly responsible for medical care, environmental protection and immigration, and the Tibet region would be designated a non-militarized area.

The 14th Dalai Lama does not mention anything about observing China's Constitution and the fact that national regional autonomy has been followed in Tibet for more than 40 years. His proposals would effectively turn the relationship between central government and the regional government into one somewhere between a suzerainty and dependency, and a protectorate and its protector. From this we see the core of his "middle way.''

The 14th Dalai Lama is seeking so-called high-level autonomy not only of Tibet, but also for the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the aforementioned four provinces, with a view to organizing a "Greater Tibet'' of which he still dreams.

According to his blueprint, "the map of Tibet'' should cover the whole of Tibet and Qinghai,to form what he called Inner Tibet, one-fifth of present Xinjiang, two-thirds of Gansu and half of Yunnan,to form what he describes as Outer Tibet. This would occupy an area of 2.40 million square kilometres or one-fourth of China's territory.

Historically, the Tibet-inhabited areas in the above regions have never formed a unified administrative and economic region, and the former government of Tibet has never exercised jurisdiction over them.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, autonomous counties or prefectures were established there to allow local people to handle their own affairs. This won the respect and support of the people of the Tibetan ethnic group.

Tibet is part of China and the 14th Dalai Lama cannot eradicate that historic fact.

The 14th Dalai Lama expresses an interest in the "one country, two systems'' policy the central government follows in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and declares a wish to follow such a system as a "middle way.''

However, the history behind those territories is very different. In the past century Hong Kong and Macao were under the administration of Britain and Portugal, while Japan occupied Taiwan during the late 19th and early 20th century. The central government pursued the "one country, two systems'' policy to reunite Hong Kong and Macao with Chinese mainland, and is using a similar policy to encourage Taiwan's return. From this we see the policy embodies a respect for what has occurred historically.

Tibet is wholly different from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. It was peacefully liberated from Kuomintang rule in 1951; in 1959, it underwent Democratic Reforms; and in 1965, the Tibet Autonomous Region was founded to enjoy autonomous rights according to the Chinese Constitution and the nation's laws. Tibet has long been a part of China and it is apparent that Dalai is seeking a back door route to independence by its pursuit of the "one country, two systems'' policy.

In pressing ahead with his "middle way'' programme, the 14th Dalai Lama is behaving disingenuously. On some occasions, he advocates the "middle way,'' on others he speaks frankly of gaining independence for Tibet.

In 1991, he made predictions about what he would achieve in the next three years.

In 1995, he predicted that the day when independence for Tibet would be won was coming soon.

These facts demonstrate the 14th Dalai Lama's determination to seek the independence of Tibet in two stages. First, by achieving high-level autonomy and then archiving independence.

His so-called "middle way'' equates with the "high-level autonomy'' -- the first stage of his seeking the independence of Tibet, a circumstance the central government will never accept.

This piece was originally carried by the magazine China's Tibet.

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