Sunday, February 26, 2012

Autonomy vs Repression

Marshal Chen Yi, the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama with the Tibetan Flag in 1956
A debate is raging is China: should 'nationalities' continue to enjoy the autonomy offered to them by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China?
As mentioned a few days ago, Zhu Weiqun, Lodi Gyari's interlocutor believes that the 'nationalities' should be divested of their special privileges to achieve 'national cohesion'.

In another posting this week, I quoted Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek about the possibility of ‘independence' for Tibet. In 1945, Chiang announced in the Chinese Parliament that his Government desired to allow the ‘frontier racial groups’ to attain independence, if capable of doing so. He affirmed: “I solemnly declare that if the Tibetans should at this time express a wish for self-government our Government would, in conformity with our sincere traditions, accord it a very high degree of autonomy. If in the future, they fulfill economic requirement of independence, the nation’s Government will, as in the case of Outer Mongolia, help them to attain this status”. 
In the early days of the Chinese Revolution, the Communists also believed in giving a large autonomy to the Nationalities.
As Tsering Woeser states in her blog:  "After the Red Army had firmly settled in Yan’an, Mao Zedong told the American journalist Edgar Snow: 'the Red Army’s only external debt is that it took away the food from the outer ethnic minorities and now owes them, one day, we must repay this debt.' But what does this 'external debt' mean? Does this not refer to owing a foreign country? It shows that at the time, Mao Zedong did not consider Tibet a part of China."
Bapa Phuntsok Wangyal, the 'first' Tibetan Communist in the 1940's has extensively worked (while in confinement) on the issue of nationalities, regional autonomy and Marxism in the People's Republic of China.
In 2004/2005, he wrote a series of letters to CCP's General Secretary Hu Jintao.
The first letter sent in 2004, is posted on my website as well as excerpts from A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phüntso Wangye by Melvyn C. Goldstein, Dawei Sherap, William R. Siebenschuh on the issue of 'nationalities'.
Here is Phuntsok Wangyal's (Phunwang) second letter to to General Secretary Hu Jintao sent on April 12, 2005:
Phunwang with Panchen Lama and Gyalo Thondup
Respected General-Secretary Hu Jintao, My greetings!
On 29 October last year I presented a long letter to you and the leaders of the NPC Standing Committee. On 26 February this year - according to comrade Sheng Huaren from the NPC Party Group who presided over the forum attended by Wang Yunlong, Secretary of the Party Group of the NPC Department of Administration, Zhu Weiqun, Deputy-Director of the United Front Department and. Sithar, Director of the Tibet Bureau entrusted by the Central Government and on behalf of the Party Group my letter was discussed, emphasising the need for consistency with the Central Government on the "Tibetan issue inherited from the past". And I was told to think the matters over carefully to put forward my opinions. Since this happened to be the time of ‘two meetings’ (the, National People's Congress and, the National People’s Consultative Meeting), this was delayed until 4 April. With regard to that letter, I made some statements and requested the NPC Standing Committee to report my opinions to the Central Government. I am now presenting a summary of those statements below:

1 The letter I presented to General-Secretary Hu Jintao and to the NPC Standing Committee is in line with the spirit of the Central Government's initiatives to build a harmonious and stable socialist society, which can be proven by the entire contents of that letter, and so it is needless to restate this.

2 The key concern in the overall question is: Whether or not it is good for the religious leaders of Tibetan Buddhism - with the Dalai Lama as the head - and the exile Tibetan Government, including around a hundred thousand Tibetan compatriots, to return to the nation or remain abroad. Strategically this is a question which needs to be carefully considered and deliberately decided. It is necessary to understand that those Western anti-China elements are trying to ensure that they [the Dalai Lama and his exile Tibetan Government] remain abroad, so as to keep on playing the 'Tibet card' for the sake of their own interests. Therefore, keeping them abroad is politically shortsighted and irresponsible in terms of history - creating endless troubles in the future. On the contrary, working towards the Dalai Lama's return to the nation will transform passivity to activity, antagonism to harmony.
Foreign diplomacy is the continuation and extension of domestic affairs; therefore the policy towards the overseas Tibetan compatriots should unquestionably be based on the guiding principles of the Central Government that advocate 'harmony and stability'. For over a thousand years, in the day-to-day life of devoted Tibetan Buddhists the intangible has superceded the tangible in their spiritual sphere; whether or not the hearts of the people are peaceful and at rest cannot be ignored and underestimated, especially the general will of the masses is the most important factor which can play a decisive role at a very critical moment. Therefore, we must channel our actions according to the situation and avoid being at a disadvantage.
Forgive my being straightforward. The comments made by the leaders of the United Front Work Department - let's not talk about other things - are not with the basic spirit of the Central Government's initiatives to build a 'harmonious and stable' socialist society. The Central Government emphasises the importance of 'friendship' as the national policy. So far as the policy towards Taiwan is concerned - the policy emphasises never censuring past mistakes under the premise of One China. Nevertheless, the United Front Department, in line with the 'leftist struggle', has stressed too much on the 'Tibet issue', with 'peace' on one side and 'struggle' on the other. It even adopts 'delaying tactics' to play for time with the Dalai Lama, waiting until his death. This is apparently a continuation of the wrong-thinking 'leftist' line over nationality and religious work - especially on the 'Tibet issue'. Everybody is aware that this wrong line of 'leftism' has brought disastrous consequences to the Party, the nation and the people. That is why it has been negated by Party decision-making.

4- Unquestionably, I myself and many others who understand the facts are extremely dissatisfied with this wrong-thinking line of 'leftism' and the mistakes made by it. Let's just forget other things, merely as far as the above-mentioned matters are concerned, people make various comments, such as: Ignoring good advice, they landed themselves in the trouble of 'two Panchens' today; the two great Buddhist leaders whom the Central Government used to care about, and who attract world attention - the Seventeenth Karmapa and Agya Rinpoche, the abbot of Kumbum Monastery - were also forced to flee overseas; playing for time, and intending to produce 'two Dalais' will create greater trouble in the future at home and abroad. However, the question of the Dalai Lama's health, and how long he will live, will not be decided according to the timetable of others. And regarding such questions, people have further comments, such as: The Karmapa is likely to be the successor to the Dalai Lama after his passing, in case of a period of vacuum of leadership. Although all the heads of Tibetan Buddhism, from the Gelug, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyud and Bonpo, have fled abroad one after another, they are still the inheritors of the Buddhist doctrines and are playing an important role, directly and indirectly.
Of course, those mistakes are not related to the leaders from the United Front Work Department. The question is related to the Party line, not to the individuals. Therefore, in order to improve and intensify the friendly relations between brotherly nationalities such as the Han and Tibetans - and for the prosperity and stability of the nation and the people - this residual 'leftist' line should not be continued; it is time to bring it to an end.

5- The letter I presented to the Central Government is concerned with the entire Tibetan nationality and peace and stability across te Tibetan regions in the Land of Snow, which occupies a quarter of the total area of the nation, and is related to a far-sighted, long-term strategic policy that needs to be sensibly considered and carefully decided, rather than being a question of seeking advice on current policy and concrete matters. Some people who are responsible for the relevant departments, who ignore the actual situation and don't care about the wishes of the masses, will not think deeply about their attitudes and words; they will not even undergo self-censure. Therefore I sincerely request the NPC Party Group to hand over [my letter] to the Central Government - headed by General-Secretary Hu Jintao - and forward it to the Central Institute of Political Research for their practical, objective suggestions based on the principle of seeking truth from facts. All decisions will then be up the Central Government.
With regard to the comments made by the United Front Work Department, besides the general tone that they adopted, they strayed from the point when mentioning my "talk" with Li Weihan in 1982, and criticised me for adhering to the so-called "consistently incorrect point of view", my view on "the greater Tibetan regions". But that was actually a plot attributed to Old Li [Weihan] by some specific leaders who had me sent to prison for eighteen years and have never admitted their mistakes. Old Li, aged eighty six, is now in hospital; those people have not even seen his articles, so what is the value of their comments?
I wrote a letter of twenty thousand characters to the leaders of the Central Government, and particularly wrote a letter to comrade Deng Xiaoping and General Secretary Hu Yaobang appealing to the Central Government to form a study team to clarify the arguments on the theoretical principles of nationality. Fortunately, after the Central Government looked into this, their summing up was that 'according to the regulations of the Party it is permitted to hold different points of view', and the case was held over indefinitely, with some statements made by comrade Zhong Xun.
Therefore, after twenty three years, referring to the talk with Old Li is unnecessary and of no significance.

6- As early as the 1940s I was the main person responsible for all kinds of revolutionary activities of was the only Tibetan among the members of the Party Committee for the PLA's Lhasa advance troop and of the CCP Tibet Work Committee during the '50s. For the sake of the Party, the people and history, and following the principle of being a communist who must be open and above-board, and must not hide any opinions, I present this letter to the leaders of the Central Party, and send it to some Tibetan comrades for reference.
I believe that this letter has fully reflected the expectations and wishes of ordinary Tibetans on the restoration of relations between the Central Government and the Dalai Lama. Many Tibetan comrades have directly or indirectly expressed their agreement to my views. 'Bitter medicine is good for ailments, good advice is unpleasant to the ears'. My letter cannot be supposed to be good medicine, but having a clear conscience and from the bottom of my heart - I sincerely state the views that people feel uncomfortable talking about, dare not talk about to protect themselves, and the questions that are sensitive to some people. Whether or not the views will be adopted is entirely up to the Central Government's decision-making. As an individual I am powerless. But time will prove all and history will make a fair evaluation

7 Any Communist Party member or citizen has the right to offer various kinds of opinions to the Central Government, and those opinions can also be passed on to other comrades for reference. But of course, it is without question that before the views in the letter can be accepted they must be consistent with the opinions currently carried by the Central Government. But if some relevant departments make comments as they wish with regards to the letter, I will reserve my right to correspondingly give explanations.

Comrade Hu Jintao,
I completely understand that the leaders of the CCP Standing Committee, headed by you, are deeply occupied with the affairs of State. Nevertheless, the question of the Tibet issue today is the most important of our entire nation's nationality works. Though I am in sound health, clear-minded, and able to write and give lectures, time does not spare people. I am now eighty three years old and have no ambition for fame and repute. I have spoken the truth from facts, and this is all purely in the interests of the State and nationalities.
Looking forward to understanding if there is anything inappropriate herein.
With regards
Phunsok Wangyal

The debate will continue, but one can only regret that Han Chauvinism has increased over the years. 
It is not a good omen for the regime.

The Used Geta Rinpoche
Tsering Woeser
By Tsering Woeser
September 28, 2011,
After we arrived in Kardze at the end of July, I suddenly noticed a street sign attached to an electricity pole at the side of the road, which read: “Memorial Hall for the Commander in Chief, Zhu De and the 5th Geta Rinpoche”. Had this been built in recent years? I followed the sign, was slowly guided out of the city and finally found a tightly closed red door with a Chinese-style building behind it and verdant trees and lush flowers surrounding it; the hall name was an eye-grabbing piece of calligraphy created by Jiang Zemin.
Afterwards I found on the internet that the construction of this hall began in 1991 and was completed in 1993, becoming the “base for patriotic education” from Kardze County and Prefecture all the way to Sichuan Province.
According to the introduction, “the hall features the detailed descriptions of the 5th Tulku’s entire life, accounts of how the Red Army passed through Kardze during the Long March as well as revolutionary relics”. I noticed that among them were “paintings and photos of the establishment of the first ethnic minority region during the Soviet Tibetan Bopa Government; and also images of Geta Rinpoche, the Vice President of the Bopa Government and its other Tibetan members”.
How did the name of “Bopa Government” come about? It is quite a complicated story, just as the Communist Party admits, on its Long March, the Red Army established two “Republics”, namely the Gyarong Republic and the Bopa People’s Republic. These regimes were all established on Tibetan territory, the former where today’s Gyarong area of Rongdrak county is located and the latter in today’s Kham Region (Kardze and other counties); their declarations did by no means go against the native population’s political and religious authority, instead they determined the following: “all Tibetan territory will always be administered by the regional Bopa Government. We swear to oppose Han Chinese aggressors, KMT officials and warlords that have put in place politics of annexation for thousands of years and we firmly stand for the course of liberating and making an independent Bopa”; “Our flag is one of an independent Bopa, our current mission is to revive Tibet and extinguish Chiang Kai-shek.”
Let us look back at what happened more than 70 years ago, relevant comments conclude that the Communist Party’s minority policies did initially support “self-determination” and even “independence”, but today are against “ethnic splittism”. However, for the fleeing Red Army, their so-called assistance to establish a “Bopa Government”, at the time, was in fact only an expedient and temporary measure and was by no means a “‘solemn commitment’ to the Tibetan people”. In actual fact, during its 12,500 km Long March, regardless of whether they passed by Chinese, Tibetan, or other minority areas, from the facts that have been revealed today, we know that the Red Army’s journey was one of empty promises and swindle.
The Tibetans had to pay for the assistance to “revive Tibet and extinguish Chiang Kai-shek” and to establish an independent political entity. According to Party documents, during the 16 months before and after the Red Army passed through Ngaba Prefecture, the Gyarong Government had to provide 5 million kilos of staple foods as well as 100,000 cows, sheep, horses, pigs and other livestock; when the Red Army passed through the northern Kham region, the Bopa Government had to provide 2.25 million kilos of staple foods. After the Red Army had firmly settled in Yan’an, Mao Zedong said to the American journalist Edgar Snow: “the Red Army’s only external debt is that it took away the food from the outer ethnic minorities and now owes them, one day, we must repay this debt.” But what does this “external debt” mean? Does this not refer to owing a foreign country? It shows that at the time, Mao Zedong did not consider Tibet a part of China.
As for Geta Rinpoche of Beri Monastery in Kardze County, together with other Tibetan elite such as Jago Tobdan, Pangta Tobgyel, Gompo Tsering, Tashi Wangchuk, he formed the leadership of the Bopa Government and they jointly formulated a programme that included the guiding principles, including “ethnic independence, the establishment of an independent Bopa Soviet Government, and its own Bopa territory” as well as “the unification of the red Army and all groups and individuals that support the independence of Bopa”; they firmly believed that “all the people, countries, governments and armies that support and sympathise with Bopa are also Bopa people’s friends”; however, in the end, they were ridiculed by historical events for exactly this naivety.
If we want to justly evaluate historical figures such as Geta Rinpoche, we must admit that essentially, they were all Tibetan nationalists rather than repeatedly used by the Communists; he pursued the title of the “Red Tulku” of the “unified ancestral land”. Some people say that if Geta Rinpoche had lived until the Red Army became the Liberation Army, he would probably sooner or later have been thrown into prison, just as it happened to Phuntsog Wangyal. But just as the Liberation Army launched its “Chamdo military campaign”, he suddenly died a violent death, and thus became the justification for why the Communists violated or forgot their “solemn commitment”.

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