Tough times for Tibet after the Dalai Lama


It is ironic that at a time of democratic malaise in the West, a “simple Buddhist monk,” from a remote non-Western civilization has emerged as a fervent defender of democratic values and arguably the world’s leading exponent of nonviolence and religious freedom, notes Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Since his flight from Tibet to India in 1959, the Dalai Lama has built religious, educational and political institutions to serve and unite the Tibetan community in exile, he writes for The Washington Post:

He has travelled the world to promote the Tibetan cause and expound the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. And he has formulated a conciliatory “Middle Way Approach” to resolving the Sino-Tibetan conflict that respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity even as it seeks to preserve Tibet’s culture, religion and identity. ….

As joyful as the occasion of his 80th birthday is, however, it comes at a grim time for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan freedom movement. The Chinese government has broken off negotiations on Tibet’s status, accusing the Dalai Lama of deceitfully trying to split China and of inciting the 2008 Lhasa uprising, charges that are offensive in addition to being entirely untrue. In April, it issued a white paper saying that talks would not be reopened until the Dalai Lama acknowledged that “Tibet has been an integral part of China since antiquity,” something he cannot agree to since it is contradicted by the historical record and overlooks the fact that Communist China invaded Tibet and illegally annexed it in 1959.

tibet rfaOver the last 60 years, Tibetans have pursued a model resistance movement, untainted by any links with terrorism, notes Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research.

“Even as China’s repression of Tibet’s religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage becomes increasingly severe, Tibetans have not taken up arms. …But, once the current Dalai Lama is gone, this approach may not continue,” he writes for Project Syndicate:

Younger Tibetans already feel exasperated by China’s brutal methods – not to mention its sharp rebuff, including in a recent white paper, of the Dalai Lama’s overtures. Against this background, a Chinese-appointed “imposter” Dalai Lama could end up transforming a peaceful movement seeking autonomy into a violent underground struggle for independence. After the 13th Dalai Lama died in 1933, a leaderless Tibet was plagued by political intrigue, until the present Dalai Lama was formally enthroned in 1950.

“The next power vacuum in the Tibetan hierarchy could seal the fate of the Dalai Lama lineage and propel Tibet toward a violent future, with consequences that extend far beyond that vast plateau,” Chellaney fears.

carlportrait1Having rejected compromise and dialogue as the way to end Tibetan resistance to its rule, the Chinese government has opted for what the Dalai Lama has called “cultural genocide,” notes the NED’s Gershman (left):

Tibet has been flooded with Han Chinese settlers; monasteries have been placed under direct government controlwriters have been arrested and tortured; and more than 2 million nomads have been forcibly resettled in urban areas, destroying their traditional way of life and disrupting the fragile ecosystem of the Tibet Plateau.

In response to these and other harsh measures, … more than 140 Tibetans have immolated themselves in desperate protest against Chinese oppression. This further enraged the regime, which called upon local security forces to “smash disorder, in order to maintain general harmony and stability.” But as 29 dissident Chinese intellectuals said in a call for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, “A country that wishes to avoid the partition of its territory must first avoid divisions among its nationalities.”

The Dalai Lama has said that he will consult with the high Lamas of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as with the Tibetan public and other concerned people, before taking a decision on “whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not,” Gershman adds:

These words reflect a spirit of democratic inclusiveness that has characterized his leadership, including his decision to devolve political authority to a democratically elected exile government. RTWT

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, renowned spiritual leader of Tibet and Nobel laureate, participated in a moderated discussion July 1 at SMU’s Moody Coliseum with ABC News Political Correspondent, Cokie Roberts. His Holiness engaged in an inspiring conversation about religious harmony, compassion and love for all.

“We must promote compassion, love and forgiveness,” said His Holiness. “Therefore we must extend love to all of creation.”

The sold out event, which was open to the public, was hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center and SMU in conjunction with the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The Dalai Lama’s visit to Dallas is just days before his 80th birthday on July 6 – a birthdate that he shares with former President George W. Bush.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email