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After the Dalai Lama, What?

Even while pretending to avoid the discourtesy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama of discussing what could happen after him while he was still alive, the Chinese authorities have indirectly dwelt on this subject at a press conference held on February 2,2010, to brief the Beijing-based media on the outcome of the ninth round of the dialogue with Mr.Lodi Gyari and Mr.Kelsang Gyaltsen, the special emissaries of His Holiness , from January 26 to 31. It is understood that the dialogue consisted of one day of formal talks in Beijing and a visit to minority-inhabited areas for a briefing on China’s policy towards its ethnic minorities.

2. The Chinese Communist Party was represented in the talks with the representatives of His Holiness by Mr.Du Qinglin, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Mr. Zhu Weiqun, Executive Vice-Minister of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee. The media briefing was held by Mr.Zhu.

3. Mr.Zhu made it clear that it was not a Sino-Tibetan dialogue, but a meeting with two “private representatives” of the Dalai Lama on the future of His Holiness and his associates and not on the future of Tibet and the Tibetan people. He dismissed the Dalai Lama’s claim of being the “legal representative” of Tibetans. He said: “The Chinese Government and the Government of Tibet Autonomous Region under its leadership are the only representatives of Tibetans.”

4. He said that during the talks, the Dalai Lama’s “private representatives” refused to “revise a single word” in the Memorandum for All Tibetans to Enjoy Genuine Autonomy which they had presented at the previous round, nor did they make any concession. They insisted that the Dalai Lama is “a legal representative of broad Tibetans” and would like to talk with the Central Government about the “Tibet issue” and “the welfare of 6 million Tibetans,” he said.

5 Mr.Zhu added: “The so-called ‘Tibet government-in-exile’ composed of those who defected to India and gathered there absolutely violates China’s laws. The private representatives have no legal status to discuss with us the affairs about Tibet Autonomous Region. They are only the Dalai Lama’s private representatives, so they can only talk about the prospect of the Dalai Lama, at most, the prospects of a small party around him.”

6. Mr.Zhu also warned of serious damage to Sino-US relations if US leaders were to meet with the Dalai Lama, saying the move would “harm others but bring no profit to itself either.” The US side would violate international rules by making such a decision. Such a move would be both irrational and harmful, he said. “If a country decides to do so, we will take necessary measures to help them realize this.”

7. He said the talks with the representatives of the Dalai Lama “had some upside” as they let both sides know exactly their differences and how wide the differences were. He added: “It helps the Dalai Lama realize the position he has been in. The Central Government wanted to give the Dalai Lama a chance to correct his mistakes by holding talks with his envoys. The talks were not without result, as the Central Government arranged trips for the envoys to visit central Hunan Province to better understand the country and the regional ethnic autonomy policy.”

8. According to Mr.Zhu, when the previous round ended in November,2008, after the Chinese rejected the Memo presented by the representatives of the Dalai Lama, Mr.Lodi Gyari left saying they would not want any new round of talks, but this time after the latest round failed, Mr.Lodi Gyari said the talks will continue in the future.

9. Mr.Zhu objected to some of the past remarks of His Holiness describing himself as “ a son of India” and projecting Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese describe as southern Tibet, as belonging to India, and asked: “Can these act and words of the Dalai Lama improve relations with the Central government?” Mr. Zhu said it was imperative that the Dalai Lama should “match word to deed.” What he sought to convey was that if His Holiness really felt that Tibet was part of China, he should not support India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh.

10. He added that the Central Government wanted the Dalai Lama to abandon his alleged attempts to split the country, cease separatist activities, openly admit that Tibet was an inalienable part of China and Taiwan was an inalienable part of China and the Government of the People’s Republic of China was the only legal government representing China.

11. The most interesting part of the briefing was about what could happen in Tibet after His Holiness. Mr.Zhu was asked by one of the journalists if he felt that the Tibetan issue would become more difficult to handle after the death of the Dalai Lama. He replied: “ Chinese people, including Tibetans, will decide the future of Tibet. It is not polite in China to talk about the possibility of a 75-year-old man passing away. We hope he can live a long life. The Central Government hoped the Dalai Lama could settle his affairs concerning his own prospects while still alive and would not pass away abroad. Since the armed rebellion in 1959, what did the Dalai Lama get except that he was pushed further and further away from the journey home? His followers should ponder what they should do when the Dalai Lama departed this life.”

12.Asked to comment on whether there would be an upsurge of violence and terrorist activities after the death of the Dalai Lama,Mr. Zhu said he believed most Tibetans living abroad loved peace and would like to contact their family and friends in Tibet and be engaged in Tibet’s development. It could not be ruled out that a few people would turn to violence, but history had showed that violence and terrorist activities would inevitably end in failure.

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: )

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