Tsering Topgyal: Our struggle will go on, despite the crackdown

The riots can be seen in the light of a quiet child finally fighting back against the playground bully

Share
Related Topics

In the biggest protests since 1989, Tibetans are rising up. Lhasa is tense but quiet under virtual martial law. However, protests and riots have spread to Labrang and Machu, Repkong and Ngapa in the Tibetan province of Amdo (Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan respectively), Lithang in Kham province (Sichuan) and Phenpo in TAR. Some protests turned violent and the death toll varies, but it is rising as the protests spread.

In one sense, it is not sudden. Even in the heavily censored blogs and other popular media from Tibet, there has been a sense that something angry was brewing. The Dalai Lama's exile, the future of the Tibetan nation and identity in the face of perceived Chinese political and cultural imperialism are lamented in various media at great risk. Tibetans have dealt with political hopelessness and cultural depression by escaping into exile, alcoholism and, in the case of the young poet-scholar, Dhondup Gyal, suicide.

Since 1989, China has implemented a hard-line set of policies towards Tibetans inside Tibet and towards the Dalai Lama. The hard-line faction within Chinese officialdom pressed for ruthless suppression of dissent and unbridled economic development, ostensibly to buy Tibetan loyalty. It is waiting for the Tibetan issue to die with the septuagenarian Dalai Lama and has sidelined the moderate faction that argued for engagement with him. These protests show that the hard-line policy has managed neither to intimidate Tibetans nor to win their loyalty.

However, Beijing's counter-productive strategy of rendering the Dalai Lama irrelevant has backfired. Beijing has weakened the one authority that can rein in and persuade Tibetans to remain within China. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile have been following the Middle Way policy that advocates Tibetan autonomy through uncompromised non-violence and dialogue. Since dialogue resumed in September 2002, they asked Tibetan exiles not to protest against visiting Chinese leaders.

These unpopular appeals were also made before the 10 March anniversaries. During the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, the Dalai Lama assured China that he would use his "authority and influence" to induce Tibetans to live as Chinese citizens. The Chinese , led by Tibet's hard-line Party Secretary, Zhang Qingli, stepped up the campaign of vilification against the Dalai Lama, describing him as a "false religious leader". After raising expectation among Tibetans, Beijing started to indicate in 2005 that it was not interested in meaningful negotiations. The Dalai Lama was vilified, his representatives not even formally recognised and his Middle Way policy, which has scaled down Tibetan demands even further from the unpopular concessions in the 1980s, was dismissed as "old wine in a new bottle".

After six rounds of dialogue, which the Tibetan officials handled with great delicacy, nothing was achieved. The Dalai Lama conceded a week ago that "on the fundamental issue, there has been no concrete result at all". This was fodder for those Tibetans who consider the Dalai Lama as their beloved leader but argue that complete independence is the only guarantee for the survival of Tibetan identity, and that action-oriented strategies should be used. It is not in the nature of the Chinese regime, they argue, to negotiate sincerely with a leader that advocates peace and a people that does not harm China's national interests. In the Olympics they have found the closest thing to a national interest that they could possibly hurt.

Unfortunately, because China does not tolerate even peaceful Tibetan dissent and Tibetans see the Government as the facilitator of Chinese colonialism, some protests in Tibet have turned violent against Han and Hui Chinese. The protests do not, however, entirely negate the Dalai Lama's approach. Just as the Burmese monks pressured the military junta to negotiate with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Tibetan protests strengthen the Dalai Lama's negotiating position. The riots can also be seen in the light of a quiet and apparently weak child, who has endured incessant beatings and humiliation and faces an uncertain future, finally fighting back against the playground bully. The tussle will go on for a long time and the outcome is uncertain. Events are unfolding even as I write.

But two things are certain. Beijing will seek to avoid concessions and will crack down ruthlessly unless the international community takes a far more robust stance. The Tibetan struggle will go on for generations unless a solution is reached with the current Dalai Lama.

The author, a Tibetan, is writing a PhD thesis on the Sino-Tibetan conflict at the London School of Economics.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor