Friday, March 30, 2007

The Chinese are counting on loss of interest in Tibet after the Dalai Lama dies

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) invaded and seized control of Tibet in late 1949. Approximately half of Tibet was incorporated into surrounding Chinese provinces in 1950 and the remaining country was formally annexed by the PRC in 1951. An uprising by Tibetans against the Chinese occupation began in 1956 and spread until it was finally crushed in 1959. Tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed and the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India along with an estimated 80,000 refugees. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s, the Chinese Red Guard conducted a campaign to destroy Tibetan cultural sites. During this period an estimated 6,500 Buddist Mondastaries were destroyed and only a few of those left standing were not vadalized. Opposition to Chinese rule flares up from time to time and is always burtally suppressed.

The Dalai Lama became, and remains, Tibet’s best-known international spokesperson. However, he is 71 years old. China is calculating that international interest in Tibet will wane after he dies.

This is from Der Spiegel:
… the Dalai Lama strides through the crowd. He doesn't sit down in a wide chair that has been placed there for him. The 71-year-old remains standing, speaking into an orange microphone for about an hour.

His speech is more political than religious. "You are part of our struggle. You continue it. You keep the Tibetan spirit and culture alive. You are the keepers of faith and identity," he encourages his audience.

The Dalai Lama quotes Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. He insults the Chinese and at the same time praises them. China has undergone "great changes" in recent years and will not cease reforming itself, he says. That's why there is still hope that Tibet can free itself from the Chinese yoke, he continues.

The Dalai Lama makes such public appearances once or twice a month. The aim is to provide everyone who comes from Tibet the opportunity to be able to see him. He seems cheerful and relaxed -- and doesn't give the impression of a man whose time is running out. But he also knows that the chances of him ever returning to Lhasa are dwindling with every passing day.

No progress is being made in the negotiations with the Chinese on the future of Tibet. Both sides have simply "clarified their positions" over the past three years, meaning that the Dalai Lama doesn't pursue independence any more. Now, as he told DER SPIEGEL in an interview, Beijing has signalled that it wants to continue the dialogue, but it hasn't set any timeframe for doing so.

Beijing is betting that time will work to its advantage. It obviously wants to wait patiently until Tibet has lost the Dalai Lama -- and the world has lost a teacher who for almost 50 years has acted as Tibet's greatest PR agent, establishing close contacts with Washington, Brussels and Hollywood.

The Chinese are calculating that once the 71-year-old passes away, Western interest in the mystical place that is Tibet will wane, the quest for Shangrila will cease and the political pressure on Beijing will melt away like the butter candles on the altars of the local monasteries.
You can read the entire article here.

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