Taipei Times: Sushil Seth
Tuesday, Apr 08, 2008, Page 8 The amazing thing about the developments in Tibet is that Beijing feels wronged. It feels that the world is ignoring its side of the story.
Beijing claims that the uprising in Tibet is the work of a Dalai Lama “clique” through some kind of “remote control” process.
Indeed, China senses a conspiracy of sorts to derail the Beijing Olympics.
Beijing’s make-believe world is made up of multiple contradictions. They can be simultaneously arrogant, suffer from victimization and have a highly charged sense of moral outrage. All these are in evidence in the Tibetan situation.
The arrogance is seen in the summary dismissal of the Dalai Lama’s plea for dialogue, even when he has repeatedly insisted that he seeks only genuine autonomy for Tibet and not independence.
Beijing keeps on demonizing him. They have almost called him a terrorist. He has been described in the Chinese media as “a wolf in a monk’s robe, a monster with a human face but with the heart of a beast.”
They have ignored his call for an international investigation of his presumed role in the Tibetan unrest.
Indeed, he has earned the ire of his youthful Tibetan followers for advocating autonomy and not independence, counseling non-violence and threatening to resign if things were to get out of control.
Above all, he supports the Beijing Olympics, even in the midst of strong calls for its boycott in some quarters.
At the same time, as Tibet’s leader he has highlighted the cultural genocide being committed in Tibet over the years and the unmitigated disaster caused by Han Chinese migration into his homeland.
Following the process, the Tibetans are now a marginalized people.
China had hoped to solve the Tibetan problem by hiving off parts of the old country and merging them into the neighboring Han provinces, reducing Tibetans to a hopeless minority.
And, in what is now called Tibet, they are in the process of being overwhelmed by the Han Chinese migration.
But it has not worked satisfactorily, considering that even in the neighboring western provinces with residual Tibetan populations, Tibetans have staged strong protests.
The problem is that the Tibetans feel a strong sense of loss and a consequent frustration and anger at the way Beijing has stripped them of their cultural heritage.
The Han Chinese surround them on all sides, flaunting their new money and power. In this new order, the Tibetans increasingly feature as a people of yesterday and their monasteries and temples are the subject of curiosity by visiting Chinese tourists. The Tibetans, therefore, feel homeless in their own country.
In this situation of intense alienation, the Dalai Lama has come to represent everything that they are denied — their country, their culture and traditions, their one reference point for all the loss they feel. Tibetans feel an intense desire to be one with him.
But Beijing’s arrogance not to acknowledge his important role and to demonize him tends to only aggravate the Tibetan problem.
Beijing is simply waiting for him to die, as he is already into his 70s. After him, they will appoint their own Dalai Lama and, presto, the Tibet problem will be solved.
What China fails to realize is that Tibet is a problem because its occupation has no legitimacy among Tibetan people. And, if they have not been able to win over the local population over the last 50 or so years, the legitimacy issue remains. In fact, it is getting worse.
They really need the Dalai Lama if they want to solve the Tibet issue. With his espousal of autonomy for Tibet, Beijing can create a new compact with its sovereignty intact. This would leave Tibetans to manage their own internal and cultural affairs, while China could deal with its foreign relations.
But this would be too much of a compromise for China’s communist leaders who are used to having their own way at whatever cost.
Just look at the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when the army was let loose on students who demanded democratic rights. Naively, China thought it could do the same thing in Tibet.
In the midst of such monumental arrogance, China’s ruling oligarchy also suffers from a deep-rooted sense of victimization. If they are criticized for their human rights violations in Tibet or on any other issue, they immediately cry foul and believe that there is a conspiracy abroad to deny China its rightful place under the sun.
And this is, they would argue, because Western countries have not got over their superior imperialist disdain of China.
All this contributes to a moral outrage that China, which gave so much to the world, should be regarded morally deficient. “How dare they lecture us,” goes the refrain?
Beijing’s view is that China has pulled Tibet out of the dark ages. The Tibetan people and the world should, therefore, be grateful to China rather than lambaste it because of the riots engineered by the Dalai Lama clique.
The Dalai Lama is accused of plotting “terror” in Tibet, in collusion with Uighur separatists in Xinjiang.
If China’s communist rulers can believe this, they apparently live in a world of make-believe.
And this is the problem the world is faced with when dealing with China, whether it is in regard to Tibet, Taiwan or whatever.
Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.