the horrific violence of the last few days, somebody's been
working overtime to marginalize the Dalai Lama and undercut
him as the leader of the worldwide Tibetan movement.
to you, Tsewang Rigzin.
unrest in China is not just a problem for the PRC. It's a
major problem for the Tibetan emigre movement, which is threatening
to fissure because of conflicts between moderates and militants.
things end badly, the question will be, did the militants
fatally miscalculate the cost of confrontation, not only to
themselves but the Dalai Lama?
this side of the story is starting to trickle into the Western
the UK's Daily
is a growing frustration within the Tibetan community, especially
in the young generation," Tsewang Rigzin said. "I certainly
hope the Middle Way approach will be reviewed. As we can see
from the protests here and all over the world, the Tibetan
people remain committed to achieving independence."
Way is the Dalai Lama's incremental approach of engagement
with China, leading to autonomy, not independence.
Tsewang Rigzin, expressions of individual militancy are only
part of the story.
Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) describes itself as the
largest Tibetan emigre NGO, with 30,000 members and
over 80 chapters. It's pretty militant.
Rigzin is president of the Tibetan Youth Congress.
Youth Congress (TYC) describes
itself as the largest Tibetan emigre NGO, with 30,000
members and over 80 chapters.
for Cultural Affairs, Lhakpa Tsering, set
himself on fire in Mumbai in November 2006 to protest
Hu Jintao's visit - an interesting nugget that the Washington
Post's Rama Lakshmi failed to share with her readers when
Tsering's emotional account of a phone call from Lhasa during
the current unrest.
he set his pants on fire, which makes it sound somehow different,
eschewing the whole-body suicide approach for a badly burned
leg. He's got a picture of the event on his blog.
stated "sole objective" is to "restore Tibet's
importantly - and for some reason inexplicably unaddressed
in the Telegraph article or, as I can determine, any other
Western coverage of the unrest - the Tibetan Youth Congress
is a founding member of the Tibetan People's Uprising Movement
(TPUM), which has called for "direct action" inside
and outside Tibet in the cause of Tibetan independence.
Rigzin was elected president of the TYC in December 2007.
TPUM was formed in January 2008.
is a piece of defiant oratory:
is time for Tibetans to take control of our future through
a unified and coordinated resistance movement. We must now
proclaim to the Chinese and to the world that the desire for
freedom still burns in the heart of every Tibetan, both inside
Tibet and in exile. In particular, the time has come for Tibetans
in exile to boldly demonstrate that even after 50 years, we
long to return to our homeland. A return march from exile
in India back home to Tibet is being organized and will revive
the spirit of the 1959 Uprising.
2008 Olympics will mark the culmination of almost 50 years
of Tibetan resistance in exile. We will use this historic
moment to reinvigorate the Tibetan freedom movement and bring
our exile struggle for freedom back to Tibet. Through tireless
work and an unwavering commitment to truth and justice, we
will bring about another uprising that will shake China's
control in Tibet and mark the beginning of the end of China's
entity, the TPUM has been MIA since the Tibet unrest erupted.
help stop violence from Chinese side and also from Tibetan
its leaders have made the expedient calculation that, since
that Tibet is in the grips of a real uprising, the best way
to avoid alienating Western support with expressions of radical
militancy - and deny the Chinese government a very real and
effective propaganda target - is for the TPUM to fade away.
to the TPUM disappearing act, TPUM principals are available
for quotes, but only as leaders of their constituent NGOs.
now that TPUM members are going on record with the Western
media dissing the Dalai Lama, a critical examination of their
role in the current unrest inside China, and, more importantly,
the merits of the TPUM strategy should be forthcoming. Maybe.
if the whole thing turns into a bloody fiasco, the TPUM -
or its real story - may never resurface.
its stated commitment to direct action - not only direct action
in principle, but direct action to disrupt the Beijing Olympics,
something that has to occur on a pretty tight timeline - one
has to wonder if the TPUM was involved in orchestrating the
March 10 protests in Lhasa that sparked the confrontation
and demonstrations throughout the Tibetan ethnic areas of
the People's Republic of China.
has not explored the possible TPUM connection, even in light
of the report
of two European tourists concerning a large, organized demonstration
in Lhasa's main Bokhara Square on March 10 - several hundred
monks appeared at 6 pm to form a ring around the police in
the sqaure - that triggered a violent Chinese security reaction
and subsequent rioting at the same time the TPUM was organizing
a protest march from Dharamsala to the Indian border with
be said that TPUM members haven't taken responsibility for
the protests and unrest inside China. Beyond its manifesto
calling for an uprising, the TPUM's main public initiative
has been an abortive attempt for a non-violent march from
Dharamsala to the Indian border. And ample resentment exists
throughout the Tibetan areas to make it plausible to conclude
that many of the protests erupted spontaneoously.
that B. Tsering of the Tibetan Women's Association disavowed
any guiding role for emigres in the unrest:
China's charge that the Dalai Lama and his supporters planned
the uprising, the protests in Tibet and cities around the
world were spontaneous - organized by local Tibetan groups
and their sympathizers, B. Tsering said.
this continues I'm afraid the Tibetan people might lose control.
It could get difficult," she said. "Lots of demonstrations
are decided on by the young people and we can't control them.
of what the Tibetan
People's Uprising Movement
did before its fadeout, and even if the TPUM is just
a collection of big-talk and little-action emigres,
rest assured that the Chinese media will be happy to
connect the TPUM dots as they see fit... once they've
dealt with their primary political foe, the Dalai Lama.
she took the rather contradictory step of defending
and explaining activities inside China that emigres are
supposedly not involved with:
exiles in India have accused the Chinese Government of distorting
the nature of the protests in Tibet.
president of the Tibetan Women's Association, B. Tsering,
said the Chinese Government had released misleading images
to the world's media that portray the Tibetan protest as violent.
Women's Association is a founding member of the TPUM, something
the Sydney Morning Herald and the AP both neglected to report
- or were not told.
as far as press availabilities are concerned, the TPUM is
as of now the uprising that dares not speak its name.
believably, in line with Western reports of violence, rioting,
and looting in Lhasa, and in contrast to the possibly self-serving
narrative of Tsering, the Dalai Lama stated
in his press conference:
help stop violence from Chinese side and also from Tibetan
of what the TPUM did before its fadeout, and even if the TPUM
is just a collection of big-talk and little-action emigres,
rest assured that the Chinese media will be happy to connect
the TPUM dots as they see fit... once they've dealt with their
primary political foe, the Dalai Lama.
17 I wrote:
that TPUM has thought this thing [trying to get an Olympic
boycott] through, the conclusion would be that they are consciously
trying to elicit Chinese over-reaction, exacerbate the crackdown,
and alienate more and more Tibetans from the idea of accommodation
with the PRC...
approach] would also involve abandoning the moral high ground
that the Dalai Lama has assiduously cultivated for 50 years...
linking the Dalai Lama to the unrest - which he opposes
(and the Chinese know he opposes) - the Chinese
are forcing the Dalai Lama either to repudiate the Tibetan
militants and split the emigre Tibetan movement, or
endorse the insurrection and permit the Chinese to portray
him as an impotent captive of extremist forces.
happened since then?
have seized on the riots to discredit the Dalai Lama.
the Dalai Lama to the unrest - which he opposes (and the Chinese
know he opposes) - the Chinese are forcing the Dalai Lama
either to repudiate the Tibetan militants and split the emigre
Tibetan movement, or endorse the insurrection and permit the
Chinese to portray him as an impotent captive of extremist
unfamiliar with the Chinese pattern of denunciation, polarization,
division, and destruction this is a classic tactic - call
it Police State 101 - intended to isolate the target of a
purge by forcing him to denounce his associates - or force
the target to incriminate himself by not forswearing alliance
with a vulnerable, isolated, and discredited element that
the Chinese government is about to land on like a ton of bricks.
does the Dalai Lama do? Support the militants? Or denounce
he does is searchdesperately - for the third or middle
say to China and the Tibetans - don't commit violence," the
Nobel Peace laureate told reporters...
said that "if things become out of control," his "only option
is to completely resign..."
the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence, he would
have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence,"
Tenzin Taklha said. "He would resign as the political leader
and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always
be the Dalai Lama."
the point needs to be driven home with a 50-pound sledge,
the Dalai Lama's threat to resign is not meant to intimidate
the Chinese. There's nothing the PRC would like better than
to see their Nobel Peace Prize-winner adversary sideline himself
from Tibet's political struggle.
a statement to Tibetan militants that the Dalai Lama refuses
to be stampeded from his advocacy of non-violence and engagement
with the Chinese government on an autonomy platform.
and I might say somewhat pathetically, the Dalai Lama is still
trying to define Tibetan dissent as a non-violent movement
and create political space for himself by questioning whether
the undeniable violence is being stirred up by outside agitatorsthe
possible some Chinese agents are involved there," he said.
"Sometimes totalitarian regimes are very clever, so it is
important to investigate."
case the point needs to be driven home with a 50-pound
sledge, the Dalai Lama's threat to resign is not meant
to intimidate the Chinese... It's a statement to Tibetan
militants that the Dalai Lama refuses to be stampeded
from his advocacy of non-violence and engagement with
the Chinese government on an autonomy platform.
understandable Tibetan anger against the occupation being
manifested in dozens if not hundreds of outbursts, the Chinese
will have no shortage of atrocity tales and photographs to
brandish without fomenting incidents or generating forgeries
they've probably already got enough material.
innocent civilians were burned or stabbed to death, [Qiangba
Puncog, chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government]
said, adding that calm had returned to Lhasa.
Friday, violence involving physical assault, destruction of
property, looting and arson broke out in urban Lhasa. Rioters
set fires at more than 300 locations, including 214 homes
and shops, and smashed and burned 56 vehicles.
one case, a civilian was doused with gasoline and burned to
death by rioters.
members of the armed police were injured, including six critically.
Rioters beat a police officer into a coma and cut a fist-size
piece of flesh out of his buttock, he said.
if the 2008 Lhasa riots will follow the 18th century War
of Jenkin's Ear into body-part historiography as "The
War of the Policeman's Buttock Chunk".
return to the TPUM and its previously announced strategy,
I see it borrowing from the Chinese playbook by advocating
polarizing actions that undercut the middle ground out from
under people that might be interested in appeasing the PRC,
or at least repudiate the moderates willing to put up with
Beijing's prolonged and cynical effort to "negotiate" the
emigre movement into exhausted impotence.
if they hope to exploit the unrest inside the PRC to advance
an alternative to the Dalai Lama's peaceful engagement, the
TPUM isn't dealing from a position of sufficient strength
to benefit from polarizing the Tibetan community, or "energizing
the base" as American politicians might say.
it is in danger of making the critical and perhaps fatal error
of dividing its own forces instead of the enemy's, thereby
weakening its own already precarious position instead of strengthening
be surprised if the Chinese invoke the Global War on
Terror, that magic elixir of oppressive state power,
to justify going after TPUM, Tibetan monks, and any
other source of actual or potential resistance.
most immediate result of Tibetan militancy will be to unite
the Chinese and isolate the moderates on the Tibetan side,
while undermining the political standing of Tibet's most effective
political figure, the Dalai Lama, as spokesman for a unified,
internationally popular political and diplomatic movement.
bad politics and dumb tactics... and it's exactly what the
Chinese have been trying to accomplish for the last five decades.
case is that the Tibetan unrest and toothless Western censure
unite Chinese elite and Chinese public opinion in favor of
another one of those major security actions against Tibet's
isolated people and fragile institutions that seem to happen
every 20 years.
one might end up destroying the Dalai Lama's authority as
a leader, encourage the Chinese to further interfere in Tibetan
politics and culture by aggressively inserting itself into
the search for the next reincarnation, split Tibetan Bhuddism
between a PRC-sponsored Dalai Lama in Lhasa and an untested
child in Dharamsala, redefine the emigres as a collection
of secular, angry - and vulnerable - dissidents, and put the
Tibetan regions securely under Beijing's thumb for another
a potential win big enough to compensate for some embarrassment
at the Olympics.
be surprised if the Chinese invoke the Global War on Terror,
that magic elixir of oppressive state power, to justify going
after TPUM, Tibetan monks, and any other source of actual
or potential resistance.
it's already happening, as the Tibetan Women's Association's
B. Tsering realizes:
of the most disturbing realities is that China is now trying
to give the picture that Tibetans have adopted terrorism to
raise our issues," she said.
Tibetan activists now looking more like Steven Seagals
than Mahatma Gandhis and the Dalai Lama threatening
to resign, how to keep the West's goodwill is probably
the topic of some anxious discussion at TPUM headquarters.
draconian Chinese response may elicit ever more powerful resistance
from the Tibetans, insurrection, and even independence.
alternative is that the Chinese successfully mobilize their
power to quash political and religious opposition inside Tibet,
resulting in the discrediting of the independence movement
and the political destruction of the TPUM.
if the West, already committed to supporting PRC sovereignty
over Tibet, finds even less reason to support Tibetan dissidents
if the Dalai Lama is out of the picture.
of the benevolent and moderate Dalai Lama is critical to the
fortunes of every Tibetan emigre group.
Tibetan activists now looking more like Steven Seagals than
Mahatma Gandhis and the Dalai Lama threatening to resign,
how to keep the West's goodwill is probably the topic of some
anxious discussion at TPUM headquarters.
if Nancy Pelosi and Richard Gere will be as eager to go to
bat for Tsewang Rigzin as they now do for the Dalai Lama.
previous post, I wrote:
world opinion starts to regard direct action in Tibet as a
Buddhist intifada led by confrontational hotheads, with monasteries
and nunneries filling the role of extremist madrassahs, then
the international opinion that stands between China and the
most brutal public security and occupation measures may crumble
and leave the Tibetan independence movement worse off than
it is now.
straight from China Matters' lips to Barbara Demick's ear.
print edition of the March 18 LA Times, "Years of Grievance
Erupt into Outrage", Demick writes:
Dalai Lama is revered as a god-king by Tibetans, and insults
toward him elicit a visceral response - not unlike the violent
response of some Muslims to perceived slights against Muhammad.
China Hand edits the very interesting website, China
PRC Plays It Cool, As US Tries To Amp Up Pressure On Iran
Pope Rat In Brazil, by China Hand