Hindustan Times

‘Middle Path Approach Under Scrutiny’
(by Pawan Sharma | Hindustan Times | June 3, 2004)

Karma Choephel (President, National Democratic Party); 
    Kalsang Phuntsok (President, Tibetan Youth Congress) 
    and Tenzin Tsundue (National Secretary, Friends of Tibet)

On June 2, 2004, Friends of Tibet (India) initiated a discussion on "Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet", the recently published Chinese White Paper on Tibet. Below is a report by The Hindustan Times.

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The Middle Path approach the Dalai Lama had adopted with the hope of resolving the Tibet issue has come under close scrutiny of the Tibetan community with China for the first time officially refusing to accept the possibility of implementing this system. The silence being maintained by the Tibetan Government in-exile over the White Paper on Tibet that China had released on May 23 has further created suspicion as well as confusion among the Tibetan community, which has started questioning the so far unsuccessful middle path approach of their spiritual leader.

That the faith of the exiled community in the middle path is declining became evident in a public discussion held on Wednesday evening at McLeodganj on China's White Paper and future of Tibet. Apart from large number of Tibetans, National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT) president and MP of Tibetan Parliament, Karma Chophel, Lama Lobsang Jimpa from the Tibetan Department of International Affairs, Tibetan Youth Congress president Kalsang Phuntsok and Friends of Tibet general secretary Tenzin Tsundue participated in this heated discussion that lasted over three hours. Though the Tibetan community in unison termed the White Paper as the Black Paper, it raised a serious question mark over pursuing the middle path. Majority of those participated in this first such public debate on the future of Tibet were of the opinion that it was a right time to dump the middle path approach and wanted to adopt a different policy to force China to resolve the issue of Tibet.

Significantly, the participants were critical of their government in-exile for the delay in responding to the White Paper, which according to them, had created a confusion among the common Tibetans. "There has to be a new thinking. We should adopt the policy of complete Independence for Tibet," said Karma Chophel an MP of the Parliament in-exile. He was of the view that as usual the document was a bundle of unashamed white lies to say the least.

"Only one positive aspect can be considered as a result of this document. Since Chinese Government has made it crystal clear that they are not going to concede anything more than the status quo, it is now for the Tibetan leadership and the people to seriously reconsider the present policy and plan and think of new ways to fulfil aspiration of gaining back the lost nation, the NDPT chief Chophel said.

The concern, which appeared to have been uniformly bothering the Tibetan community was why their government in-exile was keeping quiet and that what would be the fate of Tibet struggle in view of China's rigid approach. The hidden motive of China behind releasing the White Paper on May 23 is another matter of concern for the Tibetan community. On May 23, 1951 the 17-point agreement was signed between China and the then local government of Tibet. China in its White Paper says that this agreement led to 'peaceful liberation of Tibet' and laid the foundation for regional ethnic autonomy in Tibet. However, since long the government in-exile has been maintaining that this agreement was forced on Tibet. "Is the White Paper yet another document China wants to impose on Tibet?" is what some of the common Tibetans have been asking and seeking answer from their leadership. "People are expressing urgency and want that new path for Tibet impasse should be found out. They want some alternative to the middle path approach," said the TYC president Kalsang Phuntsok.

According to one school of thought that always opposed the middle-path approach of the Dalai Lama, the White Paper has given an opportunity to the government in-exile to formally review it and adopt pro-active approach. It was in June 1988, while speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Dalai Lama had proposed genuine autonomy for Tibet wherein Chinese government can continue to "remain responsible for Tibet's foreign policy and defence."

That the demand for not continuing the middle path is gaining can be gauged from the fact that in its budget session this year, the Parliament in-exile passed a resolution stating that unless China withdraws its "unrealistic and untrue" official three pre-conditions put forward to the Dalai Lama and holds a meaningful dialogue, the middle path approach should be reviewed. The Tibetan Parliament had fixed the deadline of March 2005 before the 9th session of the 13th Parliament would begin.

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China's Stand On Genuine Autonomy: "It must be pointed out that the local government of Tibet headed by the Dalai representing feudal serfdom under theocracy has long since been replaced by the democratic administration established by the Tibetan people themselves. The destiny and future of Tibet can no longer be decided by the Dalai Lama and his clique. Rather it can only be decided by the whole Chinese nation, including the Tibetan people. This is an objective political fact in Tibet that cannot be denied or shaken. The situation in Tibet is entirely different from that in Hong Kong and Macao. Since ancient times Tibet has been an inseparable part of Chinese territory. With the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, Tibet had fundamentally extricated itself from the fetters of imperialism. The socialist system has been steadily consolidated. So the possibility of implementing another social system does not exist either. Regional ethnic autonomy is a basic political system of China. Any act aimed at undermining and changing the regional ethnic autonomy in Tibet is in violation of the constitution and is unacceptable to the entire Chinese people, included the broad masses of the Tibetan people.