On July 6 Tibet’s political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama will reach his seventy-fifth year, around the world Tibetans and supporters will be celebrating, what is regarded as a highly auspicious occasion. Within Tibetan culture birthdays, as appreciated within the west, are not a moment of great festivity, indeed Tibetans usually mark the passing of their birth-year at the same time as the Tibetan New Year, Losar, at that period all Tibetans age collectively. The celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, though an hugely important cultural opportunity to venerate and give thanks, for what Tibetans hold as enlightened leadership and protection, has political overtones, though not of the same patriotic fervour as that other major calendar date March 10 (the Commemoration of the 1959 Lhasa Uprising against Chinese rule). Yet the profound respect and adoration which Tibetans feel towards their leader guarantees unquestioning devotion, and the many events planned to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday will be hugely popular with mass attendances. Such occasions are usually a colourful mixture of cultural celebration, ritual and prayer combined with an obvious display of patriotism and expressions of national identity. We can be sure of wonderful music, dance and of course the delights of perhaps Tibet’s most delicious food, Momo, that scrumptious meat dumpling, fresh from the steamer and served with a chilli sauce guaranteed to remove tattoo’s at a stroke!
There is of course much to celebrate, the visionary and astute leadership demonstrated by the Dalai Lama has kept alive Tibet’s culture in exile, provided education, health care and a political structure to the Tibetan Diaspora. In terms of protecting and developing Tibet’s culture and securing the welfare of Tibet’s exiles His Holiness has achieved, against the most trying of circumstances only a refugee could begin to understand, remarkable success. It is an inspiring story and Tibetans have every reason to feel a sense of pride and joy on July 6. However amidst the celebrations the question, that dare not raise its voice, will be still be troubling many Tibetan hearts too, can the same be said of His Holiness’ political leadership in terms of the Tibetan cause? With efforts to secure negotiations with communist China continuously rejected unless the Tibetan side offer further dangerous concessions Tibetans are increasingly feeling a sense of frustration and disillusionment towards a strategy, that in essence is prepared to surrender Tibet’s right to self-determination in exchange for autonomy, as defined by and subject to, the regional and national laws of communist China. In other words Tibetans would abandon their national identity to become a Chinese national minority with the illusory hope of some limited improvement in terms of religious or cultural freedom.
Such a development, if realized (and all those who support Tibet’s right to national freedom will be hoping that day never arrives) would signal the demise of Tibet as an international issue of concern and it would become, simply a domestic matter of China. However as Tibetans inside Tibet continue to sacrifice their freedom and lives to demand national independence there are those in exile who will be using the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s birthday to champion what has proved failed policy of appeasing communist China. Most active in this regard, although operating in stealth-mode, will be the exiled Tibetan Administration, which serves to implement and promote this politically suicidal and catastrophic policy. While outwardly (a matter of intense social importance within the Tibetan psyche) an event to mark the birthday of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Administration has increasingly exploited this occasion to promote to the wider Tibetan community the supposed political wisdom and intelligence of the Middle Way Take for example the statement issued by the Tibetan Government to mark this year’s celebration, which closes with the fact-free assertion that the Middle Way policy “has been adopted by the overwhelming majority of the Tibetans under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama” and apparently “is the sole way to resolve the issue of Tibet”.
Representatives of the exiled Tibetan Government will dutifully address a politely silent and conformist Tibetan audience of the benefits of accepting autonomy under Chinese rule. They will do so confident that at an event to honour His Holiness not a single voice of dissent will be raised, they know Tibetans will applaud whatever is thrown at them, including words which promote the very surrender of Tibet as a nation! The exiled Tibetan Government will be assisted in that treacherous aim by a number of international political allies, usually low ranking politicians who will be standing before Tibetans offering eulogies to the enlightened wisdom and humanitarian magnificence of His Holiness and praising his political pragmatism in seeking reasoned accommodation and negotiation with the communist Chinese leadership. They will not of course reveal their party’s or Government’s covert political and economic objectives in seeking a closure of Tibet as an international issue, which are usually about maintaining and improving relations with the Chinese regime. Instead they will with “words clothed in reason’s garb” propose the dubious advantages of autonomy as offering a solution to the suffering of Tibet.
Nowhere has demonstrated such betrayal with more poisonous consistency than England, where as we have discussed elsewhere the Tibetan Community there seems to have some allergic reaction to any action which involves championing Tibetan independence. Of all exiled Tibetan communities they surely are the most loyal and obedient to the inane orthodoxy dictated by the exiled Tibetan Administration, as reflected by those chosen to address their planned event for the Dalia Lama’s birthday, which takes place tomorrow on Saturday July 3rd. Guest speakers, who will no doubt be touching upon the golden opportunities of autonomy for Tibet under China’s compassionate and tender mercies, include Mr. Thubten Samdup (Representative of the Dalai Lama in London) and Mr. Sonam Frasi, (Member of the Tibetan Parliament in exile). They will be joined by an English politician Mr. Simon Hughes, a representative of the Tibet Society, and Mr. Pempa Lobsang, Chairman of the Tibetan Community in Britain. We can be fairly sure that not one of those people will express genuine solidarity with the cause of Tibet’s independence and will be too busy articulating a stealthy capitulation of Tibet’s national identity. Can we dare to hope that one Tibetan will take that revolutionary step and dare to openly challenge such treachery by declaring, before the assembled audience, that the best possible birthday gift for the Dalai Lama would be independence for his people.
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