Put Rangtsen Back on the agenda again

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


18 Replies to “Put Rangtsen Back on the agenda again”

  1. Rangzen Road Map

    We should not throw away our precious dream of an independant Tibet in a hurry out of desperation.
    We must set our goal as Rangzen and strive towards achievng it, however long it may take. Where there is a will, there is a way.
    At this point we might not have all the answers on how to achieve independence. But that does not mean that it is unrealistic.
    It only means that at this point we don’t know how to make it a reality. But there has to be a way/ways.

    Let us first set a firm goal–Rangzen. And then let was work out Road Maps for Achieving our Rangzen.

    Take the example of global warming.
    2. Then a series of global conferences and meetings were organized to disucss concrete methods that can lead to slowing down/reversal of global warming.
    3. As a result of these conferences, it was decided that the key lies in reducing the level of CO2 emission.
    4. They then went about setting concrete steps and Road Map to Reduce CO2 emission.

    The order of the matter was:
    1. set a firm goal
    2. discuss methods to achieve the goal
    3. come up with a few key approaches to achieve the goal
    4. Make Road Map of key mile stones to achieving that goal

    Why can’t we employ such a strategy for our cause?

    1. Goal: Rangzen
    2. Discuss ways to achieve it.
    3. Come up with key approaches
    4. Set Road Map clearly defining Key milestones to be achieved.
    5. If these milestones are not achieved within a specified time period, review and reassess our strategy.
    6. We might have review and reassess time and again. But we will eventually get there.


    Nothing seem to appease China. So why bother?

    Let us walk away from these “dialogues” with China.

    And build our Road Map to Rangzen.

  2. The government has already surrendered. What do you have to say about TGIE ‘efforts’ to secure what it calls “regional ethinic autonomy” under the “framework of Chinese constitution”.

    Accepting the PRC “constitution” legitmizes all the crimes committed by this regimes against the Tibetans and the Chinese themselves…It legitimizes the mass murder Mao committed in so called campaigns like “Cultural Revolution”, “Great Leap Forward Movement”, “Democratic Reforms” and so on….

    The preamble of the PRC “constitution” says that China is a multi-ethnic nations consisiting of what it calls 56 minority nationalities…and is led by the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the Chinese communist party…I am not quoting it directly…

    I wonder doesn’t it pricks the consicience of those people who advocate such indignant approaches…

    Ask the Chinese themselves to live with/under the Japanese or Ask the jews to live side by side or under the Nazis, then we will understand the reality…

  3. Tibetan exile Govt. should stay active and functional for a long long time if we want to keep our issue alive. Under such circumstances, she has to comply with the policy of our host nation, India whose stand has always been tibet as an inalienable part of PRC. My personal understanding is that TGI should follow the middle path as it is while the NGOs should divert to the independent Tibet. Negotiation with China will not work at all. Stop it once and for all. Then we’ll see.

  4. Dolma, your argument about the host country does not make sense. If the TGIE has to do India’s bidding then why should it even exist to begin with?

    Actually the best possible thing that could happen in exile is for India to try to “kick out” Tibetan exile society. It would create a worldwide uproar and break the stalemate whereby other nations feel no need to face the Tibet issue because India provides a “pressure release valve” for Tibetan unrest.

    Of course, India will never do that. As much as they threaten and make demands of the TGIE, they’re in a position where they cannot kick anyone out or shut anyone down. Look how hard they fought to STOP Tibetans from going back to Tibet/China last March! So call their bluff. The worst that happens is that they’re not bluffing, which is actually in Tibet’s interest anyway.

  5. One wonders what happened to the stated commitments featured in the Tibetan Constitution which asserted:

    “..the Tibetan Administration and population in exile, and more especially the Tibetans in Tibet are striving hard for independence” (Guidelines for Future Tibet’s Polity and Basic Features of its Constitution)

    Was this amended through open and informed democratic debate, and with the agreement of the Tibetan people? Did the wider Tibetan community formally endorse an acceptance of a so-called ‘meaningful autonomy’? A ‘solution’ which would ensure a dangerous and uncertain future under continued Chinese domination.

    And what of the assurances made by His Holiness during his Yale address when he informed the world:

    “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)

    In what genuine, accountable and transparent process are Tibetans assured of any truly democratic participation? Their aspirations of nationhood surrendered by a presiding cabal whose inane orthodoxy would abandon Tibet’s political and territorial freedoms for a settlement completely to the advantage of communist China!

    Yet the TGIE blindly ignores the lesson that history has written large, that there is no meaningful negotiation with tyranny. In the absence of understanding, mutual resect, tolerance and compromise only one outcome is possible, capitulation. The alternative carries formidable choices bearing inherent hazards and possibly suffering. Yet no people have regained their nation’s freedom by offering compromise and abandonment to their oppressors. Unless communist China experiences some form of economic, social and political cataclysm, similar to that of the former Soviet Union, it is difficult to envision how Tibetans can break free (or operate a more forceful campaign of resistance) without having to examine questions of grave dimensions. As noted by that great Irish patriot Padraig Pearse:

    “There are many things worse than bloodshed and slavery is one of them”

    Anyone in solidarity with the political objectives of Tibetans inside Tibet will be hoping, with an acute sense of concern, that the special meeting of Tibetans will not choose to accept enslavement.

  6. A letter from a Tibetan inside Tibet
    ICT[Wednesday, November 19, 2008 11:47]

    A young, educated Tibetan who returned to eastern Tibet after studying in exile sent the following letter to ICT about the Special Meeting. An English translation from the original Tibetan is provided below. Details of the identity of the writer have been withheld at his request for his safety”I am a Tibetan who was educated in India as a youngster but who returned to Tibet. I worked for various companies in Tibet, and visited different countries in the West. Tibetans inside Tibet can be quite successful in setting up businesses and finding jobs. This is important because we have to take part in the new economy and in all walks of life, and we have to make ourselves less dependent on the Chinese.This year our businesses were of course hit hard, as we were affected in all spheres of life by everything that happened since March. The situation inside Tibet is desperate. Even in an anonymous letter I am afraid to fully speak out. The names of friends that are in prison can’t be mentioned because while they are not yet sentenced, any evidence of a link with the outside world will further jeopardize their situation. Even though things have normalized a little since the end of the Olympic Games, the Chinese authorities use all efforts to silence people inside Tibet and also to create distrust and antagonism between the nationalities. Because of the terrible propaganda on TV and in other media, Chinese people these days are either afraid of or angry at any Tibetan they meet, while we are left furious when we see the propaganda that is being broadcast on television.Let me start by saying how great it was to see the demonstrations during the torch relay and during the Olympic Games itself. After all that happened in March, it gave people in Tibet hope. It showed us that Tibet is not forgotten. The Tibetans living outside Tibet did a great job. They keep the cause alive. I really support all of you involved in that, and hope that you become even more effective in the future. China is always concerned about their good reputation. This year they were very embarrassed because of the demonstrations during the torch relay. As a super power they need a good reputation and losing face is a very big thing in Chinese culture. So for the future of Tibet, it is very important that China is reminded of the unacceptable situation inside Tibet.I myself and others like me did not take part in demonstrations because we think we can contribute to the improvement of Tibet by focusing on our work and business. We believe that we can strengthen the Tibetan nationality in that way. But at the same time we support the demonstrations, even if it makes us suffer as well. That is okay, because we know it is for the good of our people. In terms of our struggle at large we must stay non-violent at any cost. China will be happy if Tibetans become more violent because it will give them an opportunity to portray Tibetans in a negative way. They are always eager to show that Tibetans in India instigate violence. It emphasizes how important the non-violent Middle Way approach is.Even Tibetans who work for the government inside Tibet feel strongly about their nationality. I hear how Tibetan police officers in Lhasa and Tibetans working for the army were really very upset when they saw how the army responded to demonstrations this year. But they could not do anything. They were very angry when a Tibetan lady gave the names of several protesters to the authorities. They called her a whore and told her not to hand in Tibetan protesters. Also well-educated young Tibetans who went to school in China are often deeply patriotic. When they return to Tibet to work for the Chinese government they see the difference in how people are ruled in China and how they are controlled in Tibetan areas, and in particular how people are ruled in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). But inside Tibet, it is very difficult to receive good information. We can never open Tibetan websites such as http://www.phayul.com/ and websites of Tibet organizations. Some movies on YouTube also can’t be opened. The foreign companies that provide the search engines in China have no business ethics; they help the Chinese government to block information.For the important meeting taking place in Dharamsala this week, there are two main things I would like to say.As a Tibetan inside Tibet who has also seen places outside my country, including Western countries, I think that the danger for Tibet is not whether we achieve independence or autonomy, but whether we manage to keep our culture alive. I don’t think an agreement will be reached with regards to full autonomy or independence. Perhaps in the future [there will be] some sort of autonomy. But the main issue is how we preserve and develop our culture. The main issue is the survival of our race and our way of life. People in Tibet, people who are part of our country, they are losing their culture. They prefer to communicate in Chinese and take on Chinese lifestyles. But in India you see the same. People talk to each other in English or Hindi. Tibetans lose their affinity with the Tibetan ways of life. When we look at the border areas in eastern Tibet, we see what will happen in central Tibet in the future. Our culture and our race will be completely assimilated and swallowed up by Chinese culture.In order to keep the Tibetan cause alive, the most important thing is to keep the culture of Tibet alive. In India the Tibetans are supposed to keep the culture alive, but you see where it is happening. Are they staying together as a community? People are moving around the globe. The new generation of Tibetans around the world won’t want to return to Tibet. So who is going to keep the cause alive? My point is that as part of any sort of negotiations of initial agreement, a priority should be given to the possibilities of exile Tibetans traveling to Tibet. It is very important that Tibetans outside Tibet take an interest in visiting Tibet, and if possible working in Tibet, setting up projects or businesses inside Tibet. In particular in the areas close to the Chinese areas, the climate is more relaxed and Tibetans can achieve a lot. Because Tibetans from outside Tibet are generally well educated, are well informed and are very broad-minded, they have a tremendously positive impact on the community inside Tibet. They can influence local people, not engage in politics. In this way they can keep the cause alive.In line with this, there is a need to thoroughly rethink the strategy. The dialogue with the Chinese is not likely to yield any result soon. On the question of independence or autonomy there is not much choice; it is certain that full independence will never be debatable. In the meantime, time is running out for Tibet and Tibet’s culture. I am from a Tibetan area that does not fall under the TAR. But I myself have come to the conclusion that perhaps it is important to consider that [if it is offered], whether we should accept full autonomy for [just] the TAR… [This is a controversial viewpoint, as it implies the exclusion of Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces.] .You see that in Lhasa and some other major cities, as well as areas close to mainland China, 60 to 80% of businesses belong to Han [Chinese] immigrants [and] the situation is urgent.I would like to express the wish that we keep up our strong desires, and our spirit to fight for freedom, dignity and peace for our people. I pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and I pray for those who gave up their lives for Tibet and those that are still in prison.”Tibet, 15 November 2008

  7. Is this supposed letter from inside Tibet, a coincidence too far?

    Like the spurious claims made by the CTA, that somehow it managed under the draconian gaze of the occupying brutes of Communist China to conduct an opinion poll of some 17,000 Tibetans (a slight majority of whom just happened to seemingly endorse the continuance of the ‘Muddle Way to Slavery’ policy) it appears a touch suspicious that this ‘letter’, which is pickled in a similar policy of surrender and desperation so often peddled by Samdhong Rinpoche, happens to be released during the Special Meeting of Tibetans.

    The more seasoned cynics amongst us will wonder if perhaps the provenance of this correspondence was not within Tibet but some closed room of the CTA? Or perhaps scripted inside the air-conditioned luxury of the ICT offices in Washington DC?

    An alternative possibility is that maybe the original correspondence has been subject to official sterilisation ensuring the removal of any supportive calls for Rangzen? Such censorship has happened before. Seems this statement was released by the ICT on 19th November, we recall of course a number of troubling questions concerning their misrepresentation of Tibetan political aspirations inside Tibet.

  8. Jeff, the “opinion poll” showed an overwhelming majority for rangzen, by a margin of at least 66/33. And this was of course subject to the sample bias of soliciting views only from those privileged to have contacts in the TGIE. Anyone claiming that this “poll” shows any support whatsoever for MWA is on crack.

  9. Rich,

    I value your response on that, I am curious as to these figures. May I enquire where you derived your findings from? Are they extrapolated from the ‘results’ of the supposed opinion poll? Or are you working from a different set of statistics?

    I had been referring to the ‘results, as noted in the following:

    “Karma Chophel, speaker of parliament in the government-in-exile, said more than 8,000 of 17,000 Tibetans recently surveyed in Tibet about their view said they would follow any decision by the Dalai Lama. More than 5,000 said they wanted Tibetan independence, more than twice the number who wanted to continue with the current approach, he said.” (The Washington Times Novermber 24th)

    Hardly a ringing endorsement for Tibetan independence for Tibet, the central message being that the majority will either follow whatever decision is made by the Dalai Lama or support the goal of autonomy. A claim seized upon by the CTA and fed to an interested world media.

    If on the other hand there are results available from a claimed opinion poll which demonstrate that Rangzen secured the majority response (and we would not be shocked by that) I would welcome such a result as another nail in the splintered coffin of appeasing communist China.

    As you know I hold the view that Tibetans inside Tibet demand independence for their nation, what concerns me here is that both the ‘poll’ and ‘letter from inside Tibet’ may be a cynical effort on the part of both the CTA (and some of its suporters) to manipulate opinion, within and beyond the Tibetan Disaspora, during a politically sensitive ‘Special Meeting of Tibetans’.

    Do not be surprised to see Samdhong, et al, waving these ‘findings’ in the faces of those who would be duped, as some sort of evidence that the Tibetan people have extended a mandate in support of the CTA’s ‘strategy’ of pursuing autonomy under Chinese domination.

    The exact details of this supposed survey of Tibetan politial opinion should be demanded, publicly available, and examined with very careful scrutiny. Do you think the CTA will make available such information?

  10. Jeff, those are exactly the results I’m referring to. The numbers:

    Independence: “more than 5000” (read 5500-5900)
    Autonomy: “almost 3000” (read 2600-2800)
    Follow HHDL: “some 8000” (read 8000)

    The mistake is considering a statement of willingness to follow HHDL’s decisions as an endorsement of autonomy. I have written a long analysis of the “poll” which is not publicly available; I may post it sometime. But the basic conclusions are that you can either discard the 8000 (because HHDL’s position is that his approach has failed and his request is to seek out the people’s wishes), or you can consider them as votes for independence. The latter is probably more appropriate, and the reason for such consideration becomes clear as soon as you think about the reasons someone might make a particular statement.

    I really hope this “poll” was not actually a multiple-choice poll but a solicitation of freeform written opinions. If it was a 3-way poll, Samdhong needs to be slapped over the head for failing to understand Arrow’s Theorem, or even the simplified version of it we see in election politics around the world.

    Regardless of how cynical folks in Dharamsala choose to interpret the results, it’s clear to me that this poll reflects an overwhelming majority sentiment for independence, even among the biased sample most closely associated with the TGIE. With that in mind, the actual majority is likely somewhere between 95% and 99%.

  11. Rich,


    My heart wishes to agree with your understanding and extrapolation, in asserting the supposed poll endorse a majority support for independence. Sadly though we are in the realm of speculative interpretation and statistical wizardry, as opposed to a defintive and emphatic stated majority calling for Rangzen.

  12. Jeff, just look at it this way. Out of 17000 people, roughly 9000 of them expressed a preference between rangzen and autonomy; the others refrained from expressing any position. Among those 9000, the majority for rangzen was at least 2/3 and probably more like 70%. If you don’t want to be bothered with more analysis, it’s that simple, and already pretty overwhelming.

  13. Rich

    I hope you do choose to make public your examination of this poll, one trusts you will be afforded by the CTA the complete details. There are a number of important questions regarding the origin. motivation and content of this supposed survey.

    Until such time as we are provided with detailed information, a cloud of suspicion may well continue to enquire if this was a genuine poll, or an exercise in manipulation by the CTA.

  14. The siminar that was undertaken at my school:gopalpur had been very instructive . Since it has a driving force to push all of us ahead . It has given me a good insight about the fact of being our country independent . Thanks

  15. we the tcv bylakupee students would like to heartly thank to your program in our school hall.through your speech we got lesson about real situation of tibet.
    i hope that you can make huge differnt in our tibetan sociaty.

    thank you

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