Saturday, August 14, 2010

Feasibility of True Autonomy in Tibet

Watching TV last night (not much to do except that nowdays with no
passport and no travel plans), I saw Tibetan singer Alan perform. Now
for those who don't know, she signed with Japanese company Avex
Entertainment (a company that I almost worked for…damn that last round
phone interview) a couple years back, and has made a name for herself
in being distinctively Tibetan in voice yet good-looking and
fashionably dressed in a way Tibetans are traditionally perceived no
to be.

Now, with my theory that Tibetan traditional culture is ultimately
bound to be neutralized, a character like her would be seen as the
inevitable vanguard of such a trend. Now, I don't know how she would
be perceived back home in Tibet (not that favorably I bet, after all,
she gave up traditional culture for money), but as far as Han Chinese
and Japanese people are concerned, she represents a dramatic, and
welcoming, break, from the Shangri-la image that we always seem to
have about Tibet (perhaps her next target should be the U.S. and
India…man, would she be hated by the government-in-exile and Students
for Free Tibet).

As far as I am concerned, those who believe in Tibetan cultural
preservation through political independence are total hypocrites. The
fact that the central government in China has already pumped in so
much cash for economic development means that the people there cannot
go back down to a lower standard of living by reverting to a
traditional isolationist policy. Bhutan, south of Tibet, is
consistently rated one of the happiest countries on Earth, but that is
only possible because Bhutan is not exposed to modern globalized
economy and culture as much as Tibet has. For one, you would never
someone like Alan to walk out of Bhutan.

So, it can be said that, really, whether or not the Chinese government
decide to actively destroy Tibetan traditional culture as Dalai Lama
professes, the traditional culture of Tibet is fundamentally going to
change. The destruction is happening out of economic needs and desire
for integration into global society. As geographical isolation, the
biggest obstacle to globalization in Tibet, is overcame with
increasing transportation and communication methods, more and more
cultural imports will enter Tibet while more and more Tibetans like
Alan will enter the world, giving Tibetan society a more open view of
the outside world.

And it's funny, that with these positive developments, that most in
Free Tibet organizations are still clinging to an idealized concept of
Tibet as a land of carefree utopia slowly being destroyed by the
Chinese. They have to realize that because Tibet is exposed to the
world through China, the Tibetan people increasingly have the same
socio-cultural and economic needs as the Chinese and people in any
developing country. For these people who have never been to Tibet to
politicize such an issue is but a sign of utmost ignorance and
condescension.

But of course, these guys may be the most influential regarding Tibet
in the West (still so today, unfortunately). Over the last half a
century, there have been transformations in both the Tibetan
government-in-exile and Free Tibet movements worldwide, making the
autonomy issue more and more urgent. And recently, the political
status of Tibet has once again become an increasingly discussed topic,
much due to the riots in the Tibetan areas as well as protests by
"Free Tibet" personalities along the routes of the Olympic torch
relay. More importantly, there have been many transformations within
the worldwide "Free Tibet" movement itself that can lead to not also
further dangers but also potential solution for the historical issue
of Tibetan sovereignty.

The most important of such transformations has been a steady increase
in the power and influence of the radical elements of the Free Tibet
movements. Many of the exiled Tibetan youth, especially those in the
Tibetan Youth Congress, has become more and more frustrated over time
by the lack of progress under the leadership of moderates led by the
Dalai Lama. Many in the radical element have come to realize that
Dalai's emphasis on autonomy for Tibet rather than formal
independence, as well as his determination to bring about an
autonomous Tibet solely on nonviolent means and negotiations, will not
bring about any change in Tibet by the Chinese government.

Thus, they began to advocate a tactic combining violence and
intimidation as displayed by assaults on Hans and Muslims in the
Tibetan riots and assaults on the Olympic torch and torchbearers
during the torch relays. Such acts of violence are not only against
the peaceful Buddhist doctrines that forms the core of Tibetan
culture, they will, in long term, also lead to increasing harm to both
innocent Chinese citizens and the Tibetan cause as a whole. While
today the unquestionable ultimate authority of the Dalai Lama prevents
such radicals from leading the Free Tibet movement, the same cannot be
said after the death of Dalai in the near future. Observing the trend
of a weakening moderate element in the Tibetan government-in-exile,
the age of pursuing Tibetan independence through radical terrorism is
very near indeed.

Yet, complete independence is impossible both from the standpoint of
modern-day Tibet and the existing Chinese government. Even as Dalai
himself noted that the material well-being of Tibet requires continued
Chinese rule. Not only does Tibet import almost all of its consumer
goods from China proper, continuous Chinese tourism and economic aids
are necessary for income generation. Such benefits are simply
irreplaceable in an independent Tibet with a hostile Chinese neighbor.
For modern-day Chinese government, in which appealing to patriotism
has become a sign of legitimacy, failure to stop Tibet from declaring
independence may cause enough discontent from a growingly
nationalistic populace to topple the entire government. Thus, despite
the increasing split in opinions produced over time, the "Free Tibet"
groups have long been known for lack of concreteness and practicality
when producing ideas for solving the Tibet problem.

The feasible solution leading to peace and mutual benefit, therefore,
must consider both the increasing fracture of the Tibetan groups as
well as the current socio-economic status of the Tibetan homeland. An
idea of true political autonomy without independence may be able to
direct policy-makers toward probably the only realistic and
enforceable solution to the current situation in Tibet. The
application of "one country, two systems" closely echoing those of
Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR may be the only possible way to terminate
the tensions and potential conflicts. To be specific, in the newly
established Tibet Special Administrative Region (TSAR), the exiting
Tibetan government-in-exile at Dharamsala and Dalai Lama himself will
return to Lhasa as the new TSAR government.

The currently outlawed Tibetan flag will become the new TSAR flag
while Tibet will have the right to represent itself in international
organizations under the name "Tibet, China" much in the same way Hong
Kong is "Hong Kong, China." The TSAR will have full control over all
affairs except defense and foreign affairs, and it will have right to
issue TSAR passports to its residents. Autonomy under such practices
is perhaps the best and the only way to resolve the lingering
political questions regarding Tibet. On the other hand, certain
conditions need to be met for TSAR to earn its right to exist. To win
favor within the Chinese government, the new government in Lhasa must
act as a bulwark against Tibetan formal independence. To be specific,
the TSAR government must act against the radical elements of its own
leadership and any "Free Tibet" movement that continues to exist after
creation of TSAR.

There should be provisions in the TSAR legal codes sentencing such
individuals and groups for treason, and there should also be laws
granting Chinese military personnel rights to crash any formal
independence movement within TSAR if it becomes too massive to be
properly contained by the TSAR police force and legal authorities.
Furthermore, the existing interests of non-Tibetans need to be
protected by TSAR authorities. Properties owned by non-Tibetans
cannot be taken away by force and there should be no restriction on
travel within and without TSAR for non-Tibetans. Only with such
guarantees can Tibet peacefully transform into a self-governing
society without damaging the interests of the Tibetan people and their
Chinese neighbors.

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