FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON TIBET
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON TIBET
1. Why has no progress been made at the formal meetings between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government since contacts between the two sides restarted in 2002?
Despite all the efforts made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Chinese Government has not shown any willingness to resolve the Tibetan issue.
2. Is His Holiness the Dalai Lama seeking a political role in Tibet?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said publicly and repeatedly he is not seeking and would not accept such a role as soon as the Tibetan issue is resolved (see Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, section VII). In addition, the CTA would be dissolved once an agreement had been reached since its objective is to represent the interests of the Tibetan people and speak on their behalf.
3. Is His Holiness the Dalai Lama asking for the removal of non-Tibetans from Tibet?
The Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People clearly states (section IV, para 11) that it is not the intention of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to expel non-Tibetans who have permanently settled in Tibet and have lived and grown up there for a considerable time. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA’s concern is the induced massive movement of primarily ethnic Chinese into many areas of Tibet which contributes to the marginalisation of the Tibetan population. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA do not say that Tibet should be occupied by Tibetans to the exclusion of all other nationalities.
4. Why do His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration talk about cultural and environmental destruction in Tibet but not mention the enormous increase in wealth and infrastructure in Tibet?
Although China has developed Tibet, urban Tibetans only benefit marginally and rural Tibetans hardly benefit at all. It is the Chinese settlers who are the main beneficiaries of the new wealth. Tibetans without Chinese language skills and connections are left to fend for themselves and so become increasingly marginalized in their own homeland. China’s own statistics show Tibet’s per capita income falls below that of all Chinese provinces, and vast areas of rural Tibet lack basic healthcare and education. It is true that China is spending huge amounts of money on infrastructure but this is predominantly to secure control, mobilise the military and export resources. The new railway to Lhasa, for example, has cost Beijing more that what it put towards healthcare and education for Tibetans in the more than 50 years it has occupied Tibet.
5. Why doesn’t His Holiness the Dalai Lama just agree to go back to Tibet without any preconditions?
Although China’s policy on the possible return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet states he would be welcome, the Chinese position is far from clear and confusing. The basic conditions for his return, on which the Chinese will not compromise, are that he accept Tibet as an inalienable part of China since historical times and defend the unity of the motherland. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently insisted that the question of his return is not a matter of his personal welfare or status, as the Chinese authorities maintain, but that of finding a political solution acceptable to Tibetans.
6. What is meant by ‘Greater Tibet’?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has never used the term ‘Greater Tibet’ either verbally or in a written document. It was coined by the People’s Republic of China after 1979 to refer to the total areas inhabited by the Tibetan people, currently divided into the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), ten Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAP) and two Tibetan autonomous counties (TAC). The Beijing government uses the term either to make people believe His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s aspiration is unreasonable, as it represents one quarter of the PRC’s total territory, or to imply that he is asking for certain areas that are not already declared as Tibetan autonomous areas to be included in his demand. Currently, just over two million Tibetans live in the TAR whereas approximately four million live in the ten TAPs and two TACs in the neighbouring four Chinese provinces.
The essence of the Middle Way Approach is to secure genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the scope of the Constitution of the PRC.
7. How are the Tibetan autonomous areas currently administered by the PRC?
The autonomous areas were founded under the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law which state that the Chinese Government has an obligation to ‘respect and protect the right of every minority nationality to manage their own internal affairs’, i.e. policies formulated in Beijing are intended to be adapted for implementation in these areas. The Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law was passed on 31 May 1984 by the 6th National People’s Congress and put into effect on 1 October of that year. China’s Constitution does stipulate that the chairmanship and vice-chairmanships, as well as administrative heads of an autonomous region, should include a citizen or citizens of the nationality of that region. In effect, however, autonomy is only theoretical. No Tibetan autonomous area is expected or permitted to define its own policies. Even if local administration is in local ethnic hands (often the case in Tibet) and some kind of locally elected leadership is in place, it is the Party Secretary (in most cases Chinese) who will have the last word.
8. Is His Holiness the Dalai Lama asking for the removal of Chinese military from Tibetan areas?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly made it clear that external affairs and defence would be the exclusive subject of the central government. In matters of internal public security, the Constitution of the PRC (Article 120) and the Law of Regional National Autonomy, LRNA, (Article 24) both recognise the importance of local involvement and authorise autonomous areas to organise their security within ‘the military system of the State …with the approval of the State Council’.
9. Why shouldn’t the Chinese just wait for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to pass away? Won’t the Tibetan movement then become much weaker and less significant?
Even after over 50 years of living under Chinese rule, Tibetans inside Tibet continue to speak out against the policies of the Chinese Government which undermine their identity, language, religion and culture. The 2008 Tibetan uprising which swept across the Tibetan plateau was the most vivid recent example of this. New generation of Tibetans born after China assumed control of the country held continuous protests against Chinese rule between March to July 2008. The determination and the resolve of the Tibetans inside Tibet will continue as long as the rights of the Tibetan people are not secured.
Tibetans in exile, through the encouragement and guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have established a democratically elected leadership, with the Parliament and Kalon Tripa (chairman of the Kashag) elected through universal franchise. In the political field His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in a state of semi-retirement for more than ten years. All the important political decisions are being taken by the democratically elected leadership and this will continue in the future. Other Tibetan exile institutions continue to develop and evolve with flourishing Tibetan NGOs working for the Tibetan struggle and the growing number of independent Tibetan media.
Issued by Tibet Information Office
8/13 Napier Close, Deakin
ACT 2600, Australia