PUT RANGZEN BACK ON THE AGENDA AGAIN — An appeal to the delegates of the Special November Meeting
by Tsewang Norbu
Tsewang Norbu la is a good friend of mine (no relation) and has been an unrelenting activist for the Tibetan cause in Germany since the early seventies. JN.
The 8th Round of the Sino-Tibetan Dialogue was concluded on November 5, 2008. While the Tibetan delegation in a short press release stated that they were advised by the Tibetan Administration “not to make statements” about their discussions before the special general meeting of the Tibetans beginning on Novem-ber 17, 2008, China has – according to an AFP report quoting a Chinese Communist statement- admitted that their “contacts and talks failed to make pro-gress” and that they “will never make a concession”. As such it is now certain that the 8th Round of Talks did not bring any breakthrough.
Although in another despatch Chinese authorities are reported to have said that the door for dialogue is still open but now that the Olympic Games are over, China wants the dialogue only under her terms. Wang Lixiong is right in his prophetic statement, made in January 2007 that “Beijing sees the talks as an end in themselves” to fool the international community.
In the light of these pronouncements from China, the chance to reach at a negotiated settlement of the Tibet Issue has completely disappeared again. Given such developments, the Special Meeting of the Tibetans in the free world, where even some Tibetans from the occupied Tibet might be present, becomes really “historic” as it will be the first such meeting of Tibetans as envisaged under Art. 59 of the Exile Charter. Although the outcomes of this Special Meeting will not be binding to the Government of Tibet in Exile but the deliberations and recommendations of this meeting will send strong signals, both to China and the world. Therefore, the pressure on the delegates will be immense.
The Government of Tibet in Exile will do everything at her disposal to win the support of the Tibetans to the Middle Way Approach at the meeting again. The Tibetan Administration still hopes that such a clear support will increase her bargaining leverage vis-a-vis China. This is legitimate but it is an illusion and will further weaken her position and is bound to prove futile. “Fatal” would actually be the better word to describe such a scenario, if the majority of the delegates would once again lend their support to the Middle Way Approach.
It is very honourable that the Tibetans are still prepared to explore different options for the future status of Tibet. But let us be very clear that there will and can be no solutions acceptable to the Tibetans below those outlined in the Middle Way Approach which China has consistently rejected in the past two decades. The future status of Tibet as outlined in the Middle Way Approach may be the only and realistic position at the level of policy objectives but as a strategy to bring China to the negotiation table it was most unfortunate and disastrous because the Tibetan side has given up all her trump cards even before entering into any kind of negotiation. Why should China feel the need to make any compromise?
Secondly, HH the Dalai Lama has mentioned in his public address on October 25, 2008 at the TCV that 1993 the Tibetans were consulted to give their views on the stalemated dialogue process. According to a brochure, on the Middle Way Approach published by the Tibetan Administration, nearly 65% of the Tibetans in that consultation reinforced their faith in the Dalai Lama to continue with this policy. I am not challenging the accuracy of the final figure for the entire Tibetan exile populace but as far as the Tibetans in Europe were concerned, the figure was just the other way round. During a huge conference of Tibetans from all over Europe in March 1997 in Switzerland on referendum with four options, over 67% were for complete independence. I am mentioning this to set the record right, as far as the views of Tibetans in Europe are concerned.
Unlike the past informal consultations of 1993 or 1997, the deliberations and recommendations during this meeting may be more representative and as such will have greater weight. A repetition of such tragic error will be an act of high treason towards the future generations of Tibetans in our Land of Snow.
Of course during the meeting in November 2008 the Tibetan Administration under the leadership of HH the Dalai Lama will explore possible options to resolve the Tibet Issue. However, let us all be clear that there will be no solutions below those level as outlined in the historic speech of the Dalai Lama to the members of the European Parliament in 1988, now known as the Middle Way Approach. No negotiated settlement is acceptable to the Tibetans below the concessions already made in that Strasbourg Speech.
In more than 20 years China has not reciprocated positively to the far reaching concessions made from the Tibetan side. It is in this light that I fail to understand the position of Dr. Lobsang Sangay that the Tibetans have to “be more flexible”. I only hope that our young and bright intellectual was wrongly quoted. No Tibetan leadership can come up with positions below the policy out-lined in the Strasbourg Speech. Anything less than that will amount to complete surrender and this is exactly what the Chinese want that the Tibetan leadership choose voluntarily and wash clean China´s blood stained hand of invasion and occupation. Chinese are very history conscious people and this in fact is their motivation for keeping dialogue going. What China wants is not dialogue but complete voluntary surrender.
Looking at the opinion poll of the Tibetans living in Germany I am scared of the special meeting in Dharamsala. In Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne-Bonn, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich Tibetans have met to discuss over various option. I was shocked to learn that over 80% of the total participants support the Middle Way Approach. Although over 60% of the Tibetans in Berlin demand complete independence, but in Munich there is a hundred percent support for the Middle Way Approach. The only new thing is, even those Tibetans in Munich, demand that TYC should be represented in the Tibetan delegation for dialogue.
It is for this reason why I call upon all participants of this special meeting to stand up for complete independence. Senior members of the Executive Organ are expected to recommit themselves to the Middle Way Approach. This will be for certain members of the Executive rather a question of steadfastness than following their conviction. For the members of the Parliament in Exile it will be their last chance to redeem their past errors and I expect both from the in-cumbent and former members of the parliament to stand up this time for complete independence.
The unfortunate role of the Exile Parliament on the Middle Way Approach in the past two decades has exposed the weakness of our parliamentary system that has no political parties. In a parliamentary democracy you have a ruling party or coalition party of two or more parties and an opposition party or parties. We do not have that. I am not implying that multiparty parliamentary system per se is better than one or no party parliamentary system. But our parliamentary system does have certain structural pitfalls which has become very apparent in connection with this particular issue.
Unlike my friend Robbie Barnett I am convinced that the majority of the Tibetans in Tibet still retain a strong commitment to full independence for Tibet. Nevertheless, with the Dalai Lama leading the Tibetan struggle, they can be convinced to accept a genuine autonomy as a compromise. Once the extremely charismatic present Dalai Lama is gone, no Tibetan leadership in future will be in a position to convince the Tibetans to accept a solution of genuine autonomy as outlined in the Middle Way Approach.
I completely agree with Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, and Tenzin Taklha that the non-violence is non-negotiable. On this point Tibetans as a people are completely united, at least during the life time of the XIV. Dalai Lama. I bet that even the TYC will agree on this, although China and her friends try to project the TYC as an organisation having terrorist leanings. This is a great thing and the special meeting is an excellent occasion to convey this message to the world.
Of course self-determination as a right of the Tibetan people will definitely come up as an option during the upcoming meet as was explicitly recognized even by the UN in her Resolution No. 1723 (1961). The Tibetan struggle for complete independence was aimed at the right for external or the highest degree of self-determination. Since the historic address of HH the Dalai Lama in Strasbourg in 1988, the Government of Tibet in Exile has voluntarily given up the demand for independence and is prepared to remain within the territorial boundaries of the PR China amounting to the lowest degree of rights derivable from self-determination. Whether you can find during the special meeting other interesting options or not to resolve the Tibet Issue, the Tibetans as a people have this right to self-determination and we should not forfeit this right.
Whatever recommendations might come out of this Special Meeting, less than Middle Way Approach will amount to high treason to the future generations of Tibet. I earnestly hope that the Tibetan leadership is now convinced that no negotiated settlement would be reached with China. It is, therefore, high time to come back to square one and put Rangtsen on the agenda again. At least we will keep the options open for our future generations to decide themselves. No Tibetan and for that matter, no delegate at this Special Meeting would want to go into history as complicit of such high treason.
Tsewang Norbu, Berlin (November 11, 2008)
Tsewang Norbu finished his school in March-April 1969 from the CTS Mussoorie and did his B.A. (Hons.) from the St. Stephen´s College. Since 1973 he has been living in Germany. You can reach him: Norbu.Tibet@gmail.com