With the meeting between President Obama and Tibet’s political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama having taken place today in the Map Room of the Whitehouse, we are witnessing again a ripple of hope within the Tibetan movement, an ambition that the Whitehouse encounter can assist the stagnant negotiations between envoys of the Tibetan leader and the Chinese government. Such expectations are based upon an understandable desire to see a resolution, and an end to the plight of Tibet’s people, however they obscure a number of issues central to the cause of Tibet’s national identity. Moreover, in its misplaced optimism, such anticipation fails to recognize political realities which are implacably opposed to the hopes of Tibetans inside Tibet, who maintain a struggle for national liberation.
In short negotiations are no friend of the Tibetan cause, unless that movement is defined as a desire to end the suffering of Tibetans by accepting Chinese rule in Tibet, a central objective of the exiled Tibetan Administration, which despite the widespread protests of its people for independence across Tibet, is determined to settle for an autonomy, as dictated by Chinese state and regional law. Meanwhile, Barack Obama, and his State Department, have no interest in Tibet’s nationhood, nor the courageous resistance waged by Tibetans to preserve Tibet’s national identity, most shamefully expressed during his visit to Bejing, in which he prostrated himself to affirm that Tibet is part of China. See: http://twitpic.com/13r54b/full
From the US perspective there is no national issue concerning Tibet, it is presented instead as an internal conflict, a disagreement between two parties that may be addressed through dialogue. This is a cynical misrepresentation, designed to serve the interests of relations with China, an unwholesome accommodation of Beijing’s sensitivity towards the subject of Tibet. It may well be that is genuine concern regarding human rights and cultural suppression felt within the Presidential Administration, but in-the-main Tibet is regarded as an unwelcome distraction, an irritant that complicates diplomatic and commercial relations between Washington and Beijing. It is against this background that the US encourages a negotiated settlement, utterly indifferent towards the political aspirations of the Tibetan people, which were dismissed as unrealistic by the State Department decades ago. So much for championing democratic freedoms and justice, promised by Obama at West Point Military Academy December 1 2009. See: http://twitpic.com/13r3ra/full
Those whose expectations have been raised by the prospect of the meeting between the Dalai Lama and the President need to ask themselves some tough questions regarding the nature of their support. Are they content to encourage negotiations which would signal the demise of Tibet’s national identity and the abandonment of the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination ( which would be removed should Tibetans formally accept Chinese rule). Can they be satisfied with negotiations which prohibit the political aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet? No one supportive of Tibet’s rightful independence would surely endorse any process which would formalize the death of Tibetan national identity, yet we hear that one organization, committed to Tibet’s independence, has openly supported such a course.
The Students for Free Tibet has issued an appeal calling for people to encourage President Obama to facilitate negations between the Dalai Lama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, Without a reference to Tibetan independence they advise people to personalise a pro-forma statement to Obama which contains the following curious assertion: “Specifically, I urge you to offer to facilitate a meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and China’s President, Hu Jintao. A face-to-face meeting will signal the beginning of real progress towards a just and lasting resolution for Tibet.” (emphasis added). They also claim that such a resolution “will give the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people the freedom they have worked so hard to achieve”. Really?
So, an organization which has Tibetan independence as its objective, considers that negotiations with communist China, using a memorandum that has abandoned any notion of independence for Tibet, can be facilitated by a US President opposed to an independent Tibet (with the political hopes of Tibetans excluded by a Tibetan Administration that is willing to accept autonomy under Chinese occupation) regards this as representing a just and lasting solution?
Perhaps the excitement and hopeful anticipation of seeing Tibet’s leader at the Whitehouse has clouded the analysis and judgement of many, others may genuinely feel that the surrender of Tibet’s nationhood is a price worth paying for a peaceful slavery under China, in which the suffering of Tibetans is lessened. Yet, whatever justifications, excuses or denials are employed to support negotiations we should remember the dangerous consequences of negotiating with a regime which has only one objective, the assimilation of Tibet and destruction of Tibetan national identity. Nor should we forget that what really counts is the wishes of Tibetan people, who as the Dalai Lama is greeted by Barack Obama continue their struggle for a free and independent nation.
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