|Gyalo Thondup (Dalai Lama's brother), |
the Panchen Lama and Phuntsok Wangyal
Bapa Phuntsok Wangyal, alias Phüntso Wangye, alias Phünwang was the first Tibetan Communist in the 1930’s. He was arrested and accused to be a ‘local nationalist’ in 1958 and rehabilitated at the end of the 1970’s.
In 1980, he decided to participate to the redrafting of the Chinese Constitution. During his 18 years in confinement, he had become extremely knowledgeable about the issue of ‘nationalities’ of the People Republic of China. Unfortunately, his report did not please everybody.
In 1982, he was called by Li Weihan who had been the first principal of the Party School of the Central Committee in the 1930’s and headed the Chinese delegation during the Seventeen-Point Agreement (1951) with Tibet.
Li was a senior Party Leader involved in nationalities affairs.
This excerpt of A Tibetan Revolutionary — The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phüntso Wangye is fascinating. It shows:
1- The inner-Party manipulations, even at a time when Communist China was opening up.
2- The functioning of the Party at the highest level of the hierarchy and the way to find solutions to tricky ideological issues.
3- The important role of Xi Zhongxun, father of Vice-President Xi Jinping in 'Tibetan' and 'nationalities' affairs.
I have given a short description of the persona between .
[Excerpts of A Tibetan Revolutionary — The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phüntso Wangye]
Before long, Li Weihan came in, helped by two people. He was eighty-six and not in good health (he was living in a hospital and would die two years later, in August 1984). He had been attacked and demoted during the Cultural Revolution, and this was the first time he had been at the United Front Work Department since his rehabilitation. I was moved when I saw him and immediately rose, shook his hand, and told him how sorry I was to have been the cause of his having to come today.
Then we all sat down, and the meeting started.
"Phünwang," Li Weihan began, "thirty-one years ago you made a great contribution by helping to bring about the Seventeen-Point Agreement and the return of Tibet to the great motherland. But recently, people are saying that your understanding of Marxist theory is seriously flawed. I have examined what you said and have written a report about it. Have you seen that report?"
"Yes," I said, "I received the document and I have looked at it." Then I took out the statement I had prepared and read it.
I could tell from their expressions that Yang Jingren [head of the State Nationalities Affairs Commission in the early 1980’s] and the others were displeased when I said that I would not respond to Li's criticisms at this time. I directed my next remarks to Li.
"Director Li," I said, "you have just said that thirty-one years ago I made a great contribution. Do you know what happened to me after that?"
"No. Please tell me."
"Not long after my great contribution," I said, "I was accused of being a 'local nationalist' and imprisoned for eighteen years."
"Were you really imprisoned for eighteen years?" he asked. "You must have suffered terribly." He seemed stunned and said he hadn't known. At that time, he himself had been under attack, so probably he hadn't heard about any of it.
Yang Jingren and the others didn't like this turn of events at all, and Yang interrupted.
"Phünwang," he said sharply, "you promised to prepare a detailed written response. When, may we ask, will that be?"
"You have written a ten-thousand-character document," I said coolly.
"It will take me some time to study it and respond."
"It will take some time, will it?" Yang hissed angrily. "You don't seem to realize that you have not been accused of minor mistakes. Li Weihan is a famous Marxist theoretician. He is the one who has criticized your ideas, and so your mistakes are extremely serious. Moreover, it is Deng Xiaoping who is really confronting you today. He was too busy to come himself, so he asked Xi Zhongxun [vice chairman of the National People's Congress and father of Xi Jinping] to handle the matter for him, and Xi is the one who chose Li Weihan to examine your writings."
I did not lose my composure. I simply said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, that it would be difficult to specify a time when I would be finished with my detailed response. "Director Li has thought carefully about his criticisms, and his points deserve equally careful examination."
At that, they all spoke at once, all trying to criticize and attack me, until finally Li intervened.
"Listen, everyone, please!" he said with some emotion. "I believe Phünwang should be given time to write his opinions in full. He may criticize my report or even rebut it, and he should be given all the time he needs to do it."
He paused and then smiled, saying, "I am pleased today. When I came, I thought I would have to argue with Phünwang, but we got along very well. Now let's all go to eat."
He took my hand as we left the room, and I sat beside him at the meal.
My strategy had worked. They had wanted to attack me at the meeting and afterward report either that I accepted my mistakes or that I tried to argue back. I would have lost either way. If I had accepted my errors, they would have said that I was persuaded of my mistakes by Li Weihan.
If I hadn't, they would have said that Li Weihan advised me kindly and tried his best to educate me, but I stubbornly refused to listen. However, because Li himself made the suggestion that I be given more time and clearly seemed to have affection for me, there was nothing they could do, and so the meeting was concluded.
A week after the meeting, I sent a letter to Hu Yaobang [Secretary General of the CCP]. By then, I had begun my detailed response, and I estimated now that it would take some weeks to finish. So I sent Hu something brief to explain that Li's report had many points that were not factually accurate, and to request that the Central Committee investigate it carefully. I wanted to buy myself some more time, and I didn't want the only voices he heard to be those of my enemies.
It took several more weeks to finish my response, which ended up containing twenty-five thousand characters. I sent it to Li Weihan and also to Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Xi Zhongxun, and others because I was afraid that Yang Jingren wouldn't allow my comments to be passed along. I therefore thought that I had assured myself a fair hearing at the highest levels. I soon found out differently.
On July 27 1982, Li Weihan sent a letter to Deng Xiaoping, along with a brief summary of our meeting, his ten-thousand-character document, and my one-page response-but not my full-length rebuttal. I learned that Deng Xiaoping himself saw all these documents and sent them to Hu Yaobang with a note saying, "Comrade Li Weihan has made a good presentation. Please distribute these documents to each member of the Central Committee and to the officials of the Secretariat of the Central Committee.” Hu did so, in accordance with Comrade Deng's order.
I was, of course, upset because the documents now being distributed at the highest levels did not contain my full-length response to Li's criticisms. I subsequently wrote letters requesting that my complete response be read together with Li's comments, and I went to visit Li in the hospital, because I had suspicions I hoped to confirm.
I found him sitting on a sofa. I shook his hand, sat down next to him, and said, "Director Li, you knew me well. I served under you in 1951 and in 1953. I have the greatest respect for you. If I had made mistakes in my thoughts and you had critiqued me honestly, I would have listened to you. I believe, however, that the ten-thousand-character critique was made by the people who put me in prison in the past. Now they want to attack me again. They are using your name to attack me, and I believe that you never saw all of the things I wrote. Therefore, I felt I had no choice but to respond strongly to your critique. But I want you to know that my comments are not aimed at you but at them." He didn't say yes or no, he just nodded his head.
Then things got worse. The packet of materials-again without my response-was sent to Yin Fatang, the head of the party in Tibet [between 1980 and 1985]. Yin immediately distributed it to the members of the TAR Party Leaders Committee and called a big meeting to discuss it. Many Tibetan and Han officials criticized me strongly at this meeting. Only Yangling Dorje did not follow the party line [born in 1931 in Kham, Yangling Dorjee became a member of the Communist Party at the age of eighteen. In the 1980s, he rose to levels of Party to which few Tibetans have access; he however continued to make forthright remarks about the system]. I was told later that he stood up and said, "If Director Li is correct, then Phünwang has made a serious mistake. However, in the one-page letter Phünwang submitted, he said that many things in Li's essay are not factually correct and that he will submit a detailed written argument that responds to these inaccuracies. I think we need to read Phünwang's response to know the whole story."
Yin Fatang did not appreciate Yangling Dorje's interference, calling his attitude ambiguous and later accusing him of being my ‘representative’ in Tibet. Yin went on to distribute the materials to officials at the county level, where more meetings were held to attack me. It was a smear campaign, and it was extremely troubling.
In Beijing, I wrote several letters to the Central Committee telling them that I had written a twenty-five-thousand-character response to Li Weihan's ten-thousand-character essay and suggested that they ought to be evaluating the two arguments because this was not a trivial debate. Until now, I said bluntly, there had been no comparable debate in the party on nationality affairs. I stressed that the outcome was likely to have a huge impact on future work in minority nationality areas, and I therefore requested that the Central Committee set up a small investigation group to evaluate both Li's and my arguments. I sent letters making the same request to Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang.
While waiting for an answer and preparing to attend the Sixth National People's Congress (which was to start in mid-1983), I got another shock. One day, quite by accident, I met Wang Guangmei, the widow of Liu Shaoqi [former PRC President]. She told me that my name was not on the list of Sichuan delegates. I didn't pay this much attention, since what she said seemed impossible, but the following week, I met her again and she reiterated that she had checked and my name was not on the list. "You should pay attention to this," she said. This time I did.
Since I was a deputy party secretary of the Nationalities Committee of the National People's Congress, I had access to the list of representatives. As she had warned, I found that my name was missing and realized that this was another attempt to push me aside. Angry and frustrated, I immediately called Xi Zhongxun and asked for a meeting.
Xi, who was one of the top leaders in the party and a member of the Politburo, didn't know what I was talking about.
"No changes have been planned," he said. "You are still a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and a deputy party secretary of the Nationalities Committee."
"Then why has my name been dropped from the list of Sichuan representatives?" I asked.
Instead of responding, he turned to the lists, I think to show me that my fears were groundless. But the lists were so long-filling between ten and fifteen volumes that while I sat sipping a glass of tea, he stopped searching through them and called Yang Jingren directly.
"What happened to Phünwang's status as a delegate to the National People's Congress from Sichuan?" he asked bluntly. "Did you forget to put his name on the list?"
"I reported this to you some time ago," Yang said smoothly. "That report was so long I didn't read it all. Can you tell me what happened?"
"As you know," said Yang, "Phünwang has been accused of being one of three people harming the party's work in Tibet. Then there were his comments about adding nationality clauses to the constitution, and finally there was the debate with Li Weihan. For these reasons, I have withdrawn him from the coming National People's Congress and instead have placed him as a candidate for membership on the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference."
"Why didn't you discuss such an important thing with me first?" Xi said angrily. "And why did you bury an important decision like this under thousands of names on your endless list?" He paused, and continued, "You made a big mistake. Phünwang's position should not be changed. I am going to report this to Hu Yaobang! You must reinstate Phünwang immediately. Do you understand?"
After the phone call, I had a serious talk with Xi.
"Till now," I said, "I have never asked for a personal favor. However, as you can plainly see, the people who attacked me before are attacking me again. I have a right to be a delegate for the Tibetan people to the National People's Congress. You said just now that you will report this matter to Hu Yaobang. I will also report this to Hu-and to Deng Xiaoping himself if necessary-and I will fight to represent the Tibetan people."
After I left Xi, I did write letters, and so, I believe, did Xi. And before long, Hu Yaobang and Deng Xiaoping sent a message informing me that they had instructed Yang Jingren not to change my position as a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The decision meant a great deal to me, and soon my fortunes began to improve on another front.
My detailed criticisms of Li Weihan's report posed a difficult problem for the party. Li had made his judgments on behalf of the Central Committee, which in a sense meant that he represented Deng Xiaoping. Thus, if the Central Committee said I was right, it meant Li-and by extension Deng-was wrong. They came up with an interesting solution.
At the National People's Congress, Xi Zhongxun, representing the Central Committee, made a speech introducing the members of the Standing Committee. When he introduced me, he praised me as a party member who had done good revolutionary work for many years. "He has made a great contribution," he said, and then he added, "In our party, there are different thoughts on ideology, and according to the party's constitution, one has the right to hold different views." He didn't mention my name, but what he was talking about was clear to those who knew of the dispute. And it was now clear to me what the Central Committee had done. Indirectly and cleverly they had declared that Li Weihan and I had the right to hold our different views. It was not necessary to decide whether one was right and one wrong. I wasn't declared right, but in this battle of criticism and debate, I felt I had won a victory against enormous odds. Not only had the party leadership declined to support the attack on my views, but they also sent a message that people in the party like me were free to speak their minds.
I also had an impact on the constitution al front. I didn't get the specific clauses I had suggested accepted, but I was able to persuade Peng Zhen, Politburo member and chairman of the National People's Congress (and de facto head of the Constitution Revisions Committee), to phrase a section of the preamble so that the word "equality" preceded the words "unity" and "cooperation." I thought this made a big difference in orientation because without equality first there cannot be unity. The final version approved on December 4, 1982, said, "The People's Republic of China is a unitary multinational state created jointly by the people of all its nationalities. Socialist relations of equality, unit y, and mutual assistance have been established among the nationalities and will continue to be strengthened." [The previous 1978 constitution had said only, "The unit y between all nationalities of the country should be strengthened.")
On the other main front-the "three enemies of the party" campaign against me-I also eventually was vindicated.
In spring 1984, a number of TAR officials (including Yin Fatang, Ragdi [later Executive Deputy Secretary of the Tibet Communist Party and the highest ranking Tibetan in the Tibet Autonomous Region in the1990’s], and Yangling Dorje) came to Beijing. During this visit, Yangling Dorje met with Premier Zhao Ziyang, whom he knew well from their days together in Sichuan. At their meeting, Zhao asked him about Tibet, and Yangling Dorje told him frankly, "After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Party in 1978, the whole nation shifted its priority away from political struggle to issues concerning economic development. However, Yin Fatang and others in Lhasa continued to proceed on the assumption that in Tibet the priority was political struggle. They have said that the primary targets of this political struggle are the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, and Phünwang. They also criticized Phünwang's views on nationality theory without even reading his response to Li Weihan."
"What is going on in Tibet is wrong," Zhao said. "Economic development is the work priority for the nation-including Tibet. Phünwang and the Panchen Lama are both our people, and we are trying to win over the Dalai Lama. Therefore, it is wrong to make them objects of political attack."
The next day, Yangling Dorje went to see Hu Yaobang, and when Hu heard what he had to say, he became angry. "Economic development is the priority of the whole nation," he said. "Because of class struggle, our country has had very hard times. If we do not pay attention to economic development in Tibet and improve the people's living conditions there, we will never achieve the kinds of political results we want." He also said that it was wrong to single out three people and make them targets of political struggle.
I didn't know about any of this until one afternoon when there was a knock on my door. It was Yangling Dorje, and he was smiling broadly.
"A rag, he said [a rag is a term of greeting that means roughly "my friend" in Khampa dialects), "I no longer need to be afraid to visit." (He meant, of course, that while I was under political attack, it was a risk for anyone to seem too close to me.)
"Today," he continued, "I bring two swords in my hands. One is from Hu Yaobang, and the other is from Zhao Ziyang. They are the ones who have asked me to visit you." He then proceeded to tell me about Hu's and Zhao's responses.
Not long after these events, the Central Committee actually criticized Yin Fatang publicly for his attack on the "three enemies," and then one day in early April 1984, Yin Fatang, Ragdi, Yangling Dorje, and Dorje Tseden [a top Tibetan cadre in the TAR government] unexpectedly came to see me. They came to tell me that the Central Committee had told them their campaign against me was wrong. They had visited the Panchen Lama yesterday, and today they had come to apologize to me. They admitted they had made a mistake!
It was more than I ever dreamed would happen.
Finally, in the fall of 1985, I also got closure on the status of our Tibetan Communist Party. When I had contacted the Chinese Communist Party in Yunnan in 1949, the local party leader agreed to accept me and the others in my party as members of the CCP but said that the date when our party membership should start would have to be decided later by the Central Committee. It was the mid-198os now. Many of our members were close to retirement, and there was still confusion about the date at which their party membership had begun. Therefore, the United Front Work Department and the State Nationalities Affairs Commission conducted an investigation and reported their results to the Central Committee.
In a document that was signed by Xi Zhongxun, Hu Qili [from 1982 to 1987, director of General Office and a member of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committees], and others, the Central Committee determined that after I met with Ye Jianying [Army general, Ye assisted Liu Bocheng in directing the crossing of the Yangtze River at Anshunchang and Luding Bridge during the Long March; he was appointed director of the offices that liaised with the KMT after 1936. Later he became Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1978 to 1983] in Chongqing in 1940, I established a Communist Party in Tartsedo and Lhasa and enrolled many members. My revolutionary work therefore officially began in 1940. I thought that they should consider my relationship with the Chinese Communist Party to have started when I met with Ye Jianying in 1940, but they said that because Ye Jianying, who was then in his nineties, could not remember our meetings, they did not accept us as part of the CCP until 1949, when I arrived in Yunnan. I decided not to contest this. I was satisfied that they had officially recognized our Tibetan party as a Communist Party, and it did not matter to me whether it belonged to the Soviet Communist Party or the Chinese Communist Party or was its own Tibetan party.
And so events had finally come full circle. I had not only been rehabilitated, but now my revolutionary work since 1940 had been accepted. The terrible years in prison could not be wiped away, but the historical record was now clean.