Two of the most common questions raised about Tibet, usually take the form, do you think Tibet will gain it’s freedom? Followed by, how will Tibetans achieve that? The latter raises a number of challenging issues, and is often asked, not in the context of an open minded enquiry, but to seek confirmation of a pre-determined conclusion. Which is that there is no way Tibetans can ever succeed against the military might of communist China. Apart from this convincing reality anyone daring to propose armed resistance will also meet a considerable challenge, from those within the Tibetan scene, who hold pacifist and Buddhist values. Opposition to the use of force is completed by the public position of the Dalai Lama, who has condemned all forms of violence for many years. The movement for a free Tibet has been branded as an exclusively non-violent cause, with those questioning the possibility of other directions castigated as ignorant youths, a hot headed minority.
If we follow the thread of reasoning which counsels against the use of force to resist Chinese occupation it leads us into some very interesting dead-ends indeed. For example, what leverage will bring communist China round to release its totalitarian grip on Tibet? The current model, which is more an act of faith and loyalty towards the approach of the Dalai Lama, insists that through international pressure, somehow Beijing will extend the Tibetan people greater freedoms and rights.
What exactly is the motivation of governments, in their relations with China, that would enable them to step beyond commercial and geo-political considerations, to stand up for Tibetan freedom? Not one nation has a policy which either recognizes, nor supports, a free and distinct Tibetan national identity, including the most influential of all, the United States. Which has long acknowledged China’s bogus claims of sovereignty over Tibet. This depressing yet emphatic political reality immediately begs the question, what is China being pressurized to concede? It is not being asked to restore to Tibet any political or territorial sovereignty. Nor are the Tibetan people’s rights to self-determination (as recognized in a United Nations Resolution) being championed by international governments. Neither is Beijing required to grant Tibet any political structure distinct from, and beyond, communist Chinese laws on national and regional autonomy. Thus it is a gross self-deception when people talk of the importance of governments pressurizing China, as a key means of realizing Tibetan freedom. What pressure that is applied is concerned, not with freedom for Tibet, Tibetan national identity, or an independent Tibetan territory. Its objectives are more self interested. To secure a resolution to the Tibetan issue, which remains an irritating and distracting inconvenience in terms of relations with China. This is the pressure zone that concerns governments, to encourage talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and communist China.
Yet such negotiations, should they recommence are dictated entirely by China, and feature an exiled Tibetan Government that is willing to accept Chinese rule and autonomy, as defined by communist Chinese law. So anyone supportive of Tibetan freedom, who complies with the prevailing orthodoxy which insists that international pressure will result in freedom for Tibet, is deluding themselves. While governments can contribute towards areas of human rights and individual cases, and in that context there is much positive work to be done (in terms of lobbying and awareness) in respect of advancing freedom for the people of Tibet, they are too reliant and involved with China economically and politically to make such a stand.
Still the question remains unaddressed as to how Tibetans will attain their freedom, clearly taking up arms against communist China would be suicide. We can almost hear the outcry from those of Buddhist persuasion, and loyal followers of Kundun, describing the suffering and carnage such an action would generate. In a strict military sense it would be a futile and vainglorious effort, resulting in the wholesale slaughter of countless Tibetans. Impossible, within that likely outcome, to argue the case for armed opposition. What options are left to win Tibetan freedom, it not being possible via the cynical real politic of international governments, nor from a war-of-aggression against Chinese occupation. Perhaps the laws-of-Karma may intervene, or the dark and powerful deities of Tibet may strike a blow for Tibet’s freedom? Which choices are open to Tibetans, if they are to avoid the blood-bath suggested by any attempt to use force against the Chinese? Lacking any genuine international support, for a separate and free Tibet, what course is left for the courageous and determined Tibetan people?
For those who twitch uncomfortably at the thought of Tibetans taking up arms in an effort to resist Chinese rule, and others who unwisely invest hope in freedom emerging from international governmental pressure, it is surely wake-up time. Following 60 years of violent suppression and cultural genocide, what is left for Tibet? To submit to Chinese domination? Become a Chinese minority, increasingly marginalized and facing an inevitable extinction as a people and culture? In doing so slavery will most certainly avoid bloodshed, it will not though forestall the demise of Tibet as a nation. With the cultural and national identity of Tibet facing extermination, can anyone justly stand in moral opposition to Tibetans choosing force as a means of making a stand?
Whatever personal or philosophical objections we may hold towards violence, or reservations as to the outcome of any such action, it should be remembered that it is the right of the Tibetan people to determine the nature and direction of their cause. Some would argue that a carefully planned guerrilla campaign, aimed at communist China’s transport and energy infrastructure, inside occupied Tibet, could serve to sharpen Beijing’s interests in reaching a more just and equitable resolution to the issue of Tibet. As Michael Collins, the great Irish resistance hero realized about the imperialist English Government, whose forces occupied Ireland, ‘There is only one language they will understand which can bring them to the table, that is violence’. Is such a strategy justified against the communist Chinese totalitarian regime, with its mobile death-vans, programs of forced sterilizations, slave-labor camps, mass shootings and torture regimes?