Apr 04, 2008

Tibet: Now Is The Time For Policy Change

Sample ImageMr. Lodi Gyari writes of the need for Beijing to seize the moment and direct changes in policy which could deliver freedom to Tibetans and security to China

Below is an article written by Lodi Gyaltsen Ghari and published by the International Herald Tribune:

In the last few weeks, we have witnessed an uprising against the Chinese authorities' repressive policies on the Tibetan plateau the likes of which we have not seen in a generation.

Beijing has responded with a crackdown on a scale never seen before in Tibet, all just months before the Olympics are to open in Beijing.

As the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in talks with the Chinese leadership since 2002, I have been deeply fearful that such events would come to pass. But none of us imagined the scale of the protests, given China's tight control in Tibet.

On more than one occasion during our six rounds of discussion with representatives of the Chinese government, I emphasized that Beijing's policies were driving Tibetans into a corner.

We knew that the heavy-handed implementation of policies undermining Tibetans' distinct identity, combined with the influx of large numbers of Chinese migrants to the plateau, and in particular the virulent official denunciations of the Dalai Lama in recent times, meant that Tibetans were almost at breaking point.

We are deeply concerned with the selective way in which the Chinese authorities are representing the crisis. The rifts that are developing between Tibetans and Chinese could last for generations and they could cause irrevocable harm to the harmonious relations between the two communities.

The protests that we have seen among my Tibetan compatriots are not only a result of several years of hard-line policies by Beijing. They have deeper roots, arising from 50 years of Chinese misrule.

Their geographical spread, across the entire plateau - from the vast grasslands of Amdo and Kham, to the three major monasteries in Lhasa - underlines the importance of addressing the genuine grievances and aspirations of all Tibetans, both within the present-day Tibet autonomous region as well as in those Tibetan areas now under Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

Tibetan exiles were once the dominant voice calling for change, as repression forced many citizens in Tibet to remain silent. Now the opposite is happening: Our brethren in Tibet are inspiring the Tibetans in diaspora. I salute the courage of my compatriots, who, through risking their lives and their freedom, have exposed the bankruptcy of China's Tibet policy and the strength of Tibetan identity.

Even in such a tragic situation, His Holiness has not compromised his principled stand on nonviolence. He also believes that both the Tibetan and the Chinese sides should not give up hope, but rather take the crisis as a challenge to find a mutually beneficial solution to restore peace and stability in Tibet.

No one could pretend that if our next round of discussions with the Chinese leadership were to be held now, it would be business as usual given the scale of the crackdown and the fact that protests are continuing almost daily in Tibet.

I am sure even our Chinese counterparts would also agree that the present emergency situation in various parts of Tibet must be resolved before we can really talk about the future. It is imperative that those governments advising both sides to continue with the dialogue process ask the Chinese leadership to provide assurance of real and concrete progress in the dialogue process.

We are profoundly moved that several Chinese intellectuals have bravely raised their voices in China in response to the way Beijing is handling development in Tibet.

Far-sighted individuals within China recognize that Beijing's Tibet policy is at a turning point, and that the Dalai Lama has a critical and historic role to play.

President Hu Jintao now has an unprecedented opportunity to transform what will otherwise be a dark legacy on Tibet to one that is more appropriate for an emerging superpower that seeks the respect of the international community.

Rather than listening to vested interests whose actions have led to the downfall of quite a few leaders in the past, it will be beneficial to all concerned if he were to heed saner voices within China which are calling for a review of China's Tibet policy. The world is watching.