Can anyone really be that surprised by recent disclosures from Wikileaks concerning advice offered by the Dalai Lama to the United States to avoid discussions with China on political issues relating to Tibet, in preference to environmental issues, most notably global warming. After all we are talking about a deeply religious individual, entirely devoted to, and infused with, Buddhist thinking with a capacity to see beyond the restrictions of politics and driven by universal compassion. Well that’s the version advocated by Buddhists, and some within the environmental movement, who care little for Tibet’s rightful independence and human rights abuses.
For Tibetans inside occupied Tibet who suffer the vicious tyranny of China’s occupation there is a very different perspective, sharpened by systemic torture, cultural genocide, forced-labor, a vicious colonization and forced sterilizations. Under such terrorism the rarefied and academic debate on global warming belongs to another universe, daily life enduring the totalitarian oppression of China’s rule emphasises instead a more pressing aspiration, restoring Tibet’s rightful independence. That objective, which is expressed through decades old resistance to Chinese occupation and continues to demand national freedom is clearly a political struggle for liberation, which brings into a troubling relief the comments attributed to the Dalai Lama in a cable to the US State Department.
Some would regard such words to be a betrayal of the Tibetan cause as waged inside occupied Tibet, yet we should not be shocked as they reflect what has been a steady stream of appeasement from the Tibetan Administration to appease China’s regime, in an effort to encourage and sustain its failed negotiations on Tibet. In advising the United States to ignore the politics of the Tibetan issue in talks with China no doubt the Tibetan leadership hoped it would be rewarded by China in terms of ongoing negotiations. Yet as every Tibetan knows, who has endured years of misery and suffering under Chinese domination, that formulae does not apply to communist China’s regime. Indeed compromise and appeasement are responded to with more demands and intolerance, as evidenced by China’s recent response to the exiled Tibetan Administration’s proposals on so-called ‘meaningful autonomy’ which have been forcefully rejected.
These comments reveal a widening chasm between the political aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet who demand national freedom and a leadership which advocates an acceptance of Chinese rule with limited and cosmetic improvements in terms of autonomy. It is particularly difficult to observe Tibet’s political head counselling the United States to disregard the political element of the Tibetan cause in favor of environmental matters, more so as such comments were made in the knowledge of that Tibetans were being tortured and shot for demanding their nation’s political and territorial freedom. What are we now to make of previous assertions made by the Dalai Lama, for example his address at Yale University:
“I have always stated that the central issue is that the Tibetan people must ultimately choose their own destiny. It is not for the Dalai Lama, and certainly not for the Chinese to make that decision. It should ultimately be the wishes of the Tibetan people that should prevail” (The Dalai Lama, Yale University, 9th October 1991)
That rightful recognition now appears to have been discarded by an exiled Tibetan Administration that tramples over the political hopes and struggle of its own people and advises governments to avoid political discussion on Tibet, in the hope of encouraging the communist Chinese regime. It is a very sorry affair and provides a wake-up call for Tibetans to regain ownership over their cause by insisting their leadership work towards a common unified goal of Tibetan independence.
An interesting footnote to this concerns the possible source of the Dalai Lama’s focus upon glacial melting in the Himalayas, which appears to be a somewhat flawed 2007 report from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which cautioned that the total area of the Himalayan glaciers would reduce from a current size of 500,000 to 100,000 square kilometres by 2035. However, the Sunday Times (January 17 2010) revealed that claims of glacial retreat were founded entirely upon speculative comments made by an Indian scientist, Professor Dr Syed Iqbal Hasnain, in 1999 during an interview with the New Scientist magazine. The Times quoted Hasnain as saying that the claim was “speculation” and not supported by any formal research by an Indian scientist who published a paper on the subject that was proved to be lacking any evidence being more of a baseless assertion.
The dubious claims made in that paper sent Tibetans and supporters scurrying to a climate conference in Denmark where this supposed environmental disaster was given prominent exposure at the expense of betraying Tibet’s struggle for independence. There was a recognizable degree of orchestration about that strategy and was most likely was encouraged by the exiled Tibetan Administration, which as we have now discovered used the supposed issue to advise the United States to ignore the political rights and goals of Tibetans.