Thursday, January 31, 2013

Intolerant regime talks of love and compassion

Tibet Declaration of Independence (1913)
My column in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.

The Tibetan plateau received 11 million tourists in 2012, and the dose is expected to double. Meanwhile, China continues to make it difficult for the Tibetans to obtain even passports. Instead, it preaches humanity to them

On the 18 day of the first month of the Water-Ox Year (in February 1913), Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, proclaimed the ‘independence’ of Tibet.
He recalled his years of exile, first in China, after the Younghusband expedition entered Lhasa in 1904 and then in India, when a Chinese warlord occupied Tibet. Then the 13th Dalai Lama mentioned his triumphant return to the Land of Snows, the last Chinese having been chased away. He told his countrymen: “Tibet is a country with rich natural resources; but it is not scientifically advanced like other lands. We are a small, religious and independent nation.”
For the Dalai Lama, it was crucial to militarily protect Tibet: “To keep up with the rest of the world, we must defend our country. In view of past invasions by foreigners, our people may have to face certain difficulties to safeguard and maintain the independence of our country; one and all should voluntarily work hard…” It was 100 years ago.
When one looks at the situation in the Land of Snows a century later, one is shocked by the prevailing situation. After 99 recorded self-immolations, the Chinese authorities are daily strengthening their grip on the land and people of Tibet. They use different tactics for the purpose. First they speak of development, equating development with happiness. Most of the time, they use Tibetan puppets to convey their message. Take the small village of Metok, a few kilometres from the Indian border (north of the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh).
In an interview with a Chinese website, Dorji Wangdark, the deputy head of Metok County (and a delegate to the Regional People’s Congress presently being held in Lhasa), praised Beijing for having brought a road to his border village: “great chances have been brought to Metok since the highway linking Bomi County and Metok opened [in December 2010].” But Beijing does not only invest in roads and airfields; according to Xinhua “more than US$563 million will be used for major forestation projects and for compensating and rewarding locals who protect and grow grass and forests and conserve wetlands, lakes and water resources.” At the same time, natural resources such as minerals are extensively looted.
Wangdark’s proposal to the Congress is to improve the maintenance of Metok highway “to accelerate economic development of Metok County”. What is not mentioned is that these roads are of vital strategic interest for the People’s Liberation Army. That is one of the reasons why tourism in Tibet has become the key to Tibet’s rapid development. The infrastructure constructed for ‘visitors’ can be used in case of a conflict (with India for example). The Tibetan Autonomous Region’s Government recently announced: “Tibet will strive to lift its number of incoming tourists to 20 million by 2015, nearly doubling the figure recorded last year.”
Padma Choling, TAR outgoing Chairman, gave the same figure while delivering a speech at the opening of the Regional People’s Congress. Choling declared: “Tourism has become one of the leading economic growth engines for the plateau autonomous region, which hosted 11 million tourists last year with revenue from the tourism sector topping 2.12 billion US dollars.” Can you believe it? The sparsely populated Tibetan plateau received 11 millions of tourists in 2012 and is expecting the dose to double to further flood the helpless local population.
In these circumstances, one can’t be surprised if a strong resentment against the Chinese Hans pervades Tibet, tempting youngsters to take extreme steps. But tourism is business. Dawa Yu of the Tibet Tourism Bureau told Xinhua: “Tibet’s tourism industry is growing fast…herdsmen and farmers have benefited from the development of tourism. By the end of 2012, there were 48,120 farmers employed in tourism-related sectors.” Whether these figures are true or false is immaterial, the mere thought of having 20 million Han Chinese tourists in one year is frightening for a population of hardly three million (in the TAR). The Chinese leaders have other tricks up their sleeves. They are now banking on ‘political advisers’ to pass on their message.
Xinhua quotes Sonam Puntsok, said to be the incarnation of a former Regent, Reting Rinpoche: “Buddhist or not, we should treasure the lives of all living things, including our own lives.” In other words, stop embarrassing China with self-immolations. Without going into the personality of the previous Reting Rinpoche, who occupied the regency in the 1930s and was closely linked to the Kuomintang, it is enough to say that he created a quasi-civil war in Tibet in 1947; the present seventh ‘incarnation’ is a pure production of the Chinese Propaganda Department, without any formal recognition from the Dalai Lama or any other serious spiritual leaders.
Beijing uses another ‘political adviser’, Dinga Rinpoche Pasang Namgyal from Tohlung Dechen County who quotes the Buddha as saying “do all that is good”; he probably means “good for the Party”. One Gyatso Ling Rinpoche Thubten Drapa, also ‘political adviser’ announced that “all lives are equal; the Buddha is also asking people to respect their own lives.”  It is clearly propaganda to control the desperate local population, most of the time not fooled by these gimmicks. With a new leadership taking over, many observers believe that the situation under the ‘new regime’ could improve.
In the coming months, Yu Zhengsheng, a newly-elected member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo (and number 4 in the Party) will replace Jia Qingling as the Chairman of Central Working Coordination Small Group on Tibet. Yu has already started overlooking the activities of the Roof of the World. His recent visit to Tibetan areas of Sichuan (where he had several photo-opportunities with local Tibetans) seems to confirm the takeover. But if the face is new, his first words are disappointing.
During his inspection tour, Yu declared: “The fight against the Dalai Lama clique should continue in order to create a favorable social and political environment for economic development and the improvement of people’s well-being”. However, while meeting major religious groups in Beijing more recently, Yu spoke of religion as a ‘positive force’.
He particularly mentioned the usefulness of religion in promoting economic and social development, saying: “Efforts are needed to make religion conducive to national development and the improvement of religious adherents' material and spiritual lives.” Are Yu’s latest utterances heralding a change in Beijing’s policy vis-à-vis the Buddhist region? It is doubtful as discrimination against the Tibetans still remains strong.
Radio Free Asia recently reported: “No new Chinese passports have been issued to Tibetan individuals in TAR, except for a few Tibetan officials who received the passports for official purpose and which they need to hand back upon their return”. Sonam Dorjee, a researcher working in the Office of Tibet in Taiwan found out that unlike Chinese nationals, Tibetans face “a very complicated and difficult process to obtain passports.”
Meanwhile, Chinese self-styled lamas are preaching the Tibetans the importance of love, compassion and patience.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reting and the Dalai Lamas' reincarnations

Agence France-Presse (and Xinhua before) reported that the 7th Reting Rinpoche, Sonam Phuntsok has become the youngest member of the Tibet Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The Reting incarnations have not been foreign to controversy in the past.
It is true that Beijing has recently been trying its best to increase its control over reincarnations of Tibetan lamas (and ultimately the Dalai Lama's), thus legitimizing the Communist rule over the Himalayan region.
One needs to point out that, contrary to what the AFP says, the Reting reincarnation was only one of lineages which could become Regents of Tibet and thereby conduct the identification and recognition process of a deceased Dalai Lama, (the Chinese agencies have put correctly).
By promoting the present puppet, Beijing probably believes that the new Reting will be able to 'conduct' the search for the 15th Dalai Lama.
But he himself lacks legitimacy, being a pure product of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China; how could any Tibetan accepts his choice as the correct one?
More interesting, the 5th Reting who help finding the present Dalai Lama closely collaborated with the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s, putting the Tibetan nation in grave danger.
In an excellent book, Tibet and Nationalist China’s Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928-49, (University of British Columbia, 2006), based on the Nationalist archives in Taiwan, Hsiao-ting Lin brings new lights on this dark period of the Tibetan history.
The 5th Reting incarnation, who had the merit to direct the search party for the 14th Dalai Lama in the right direction, nevertheless played a doubtful role later. I am posting here a few extracts Hsiao-ting Lin's books: 
It is best to begin the story by tracing Nationalist China's intelligence activities in Tibet. The war of resistance against Japan forced Chiang Kai-shek's regime to retreat from coastal China to the interior. The geographical proximity of southwest China and Tibet, along with the Nationalist regime's relatively consolidated status in the southwest, provided Chiang Kai-shek with opportunities to initiate his intelligence networks within the Tibetan boundary for the first time since 1928. An MTAC [Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission] wartime schedule in 1959 revealed that the Nationalists were ready not only to enlarge existing prewar intelligence units in the border areas of Kokonor, Alashan, Ordos, and Xikang, but were also prepared to install new stations in western Yunnan, Xinjiang, and Tibet. The expansion of the Chinese Office in Lhasa, as a result of the Wu Zhongxin mission of 1940, further offered Chongqing a legitimate excuse to dispatch more staff to work in Tibet. By 1945 the two major intelligence units of the Nationalist government, the Investigation and Statistics Bureau of the Military Affairs Commission, and the Second Chamber of the Ministry of Military Ordinance, respectively established their positions in Tibet. According to one autobiographical source, nearly all of the Chinese staff holding important official positions in Lhasa, such as master of the Chinese School in Lhasa, director of the wireless station, and head of the meteorological station, were serving concurrently as Chinese secret agents. The KMT [Kuomintang] Nationalists had two main objectives for their underground operations in Tibet: first, to construct a sound intelligence network throughout the whole of Tibet and recruit as many local inhabitants as possible to serve their regime, and second, to enhance the Nationalist government's links with pro-Han Chinese elements, with a view to counteracting a Tibetan government that was out of China's effective control.
...Cultivating Tibetan pro-Han factions became a more imperative goal after 1941, when the Radreng [Reting] Hutuktu [Mongol title] resigned from his regentship. During his reign, from 1954 to 1941, Radreng allowed the entry into Tibet of two important Chinese missions led by Huang Musong in 1934 and Wu Zhongxin in 1940. Wu's high-profile visit to Lhasa even constituted a huge propagandist victory for the Chinese, who claimed to have "presided over" the enthronement of the new 14th Dalai Lama. Radreng had also permitted the presence of a Chinese Office in Lhasa, and he had been more than pleased to receive honorific titles and handsome gifts from the Nationalist authorities. He was therefore generally described both in Chinese public opinion of the 1940S and over the past several decades of Chinese historiography as a ''pro-Han Chinese" Tibetan figure.
...Despite efforts made by the capable Shen Zonglian [Chinese Representative in Lhasa] to woo important Tibetan figures over to the Chinese side, most high Nationalist officials set their hopes on the ex-regent Radreng Hutuktu, whose political weight in Tibet could not be overlooked during the closing years of the Second World War. This fact was demonstrated in May 1945, when the sixth KMT National Conference was in session. Using the name of the party leader, not the head of the state of the Chinese Republic, Chiang Kai-shek personally invited Radreng to visit Chongqing and to participate in the forthcoming event. When it became clear that the former Tibetan regent was unable to arrange his trip due to the delicate political relationship between Chongqing and Lhasa, Chiang Kai-shek still hoped that he might be able to send a personal envoy to China's wartime capital. When even this option proved to be impractical, owing to the tremendous political pressure from the Taktra administration, Chiang Kai-shek decided to appoint Radreng as a member of the KMT Central Executive Committee, an appointment that no doubt bore considerable political symbolism. Obviously, the Nationalist planners were generally convinced that Radreng would return to power, but this proved to be wrong.
In the mid-forties, when Reting started fighting with Taktra Rinpoche, the new Regent to return to power, he shamefully approached Chiang's government for support.
His abortive attempt to reclaim power in Lhasa caused the ex-regent to return to his own monastery hugely depressed and indignant. Thereafter, Radreng strengthened secret contacts with the Nationalist government. In a conversation with a KMT intelligence agent in Tibet, Radreng openly requested Chiang Kai-shek to help him overthrow the existing Lhasa authorities. He urged China to send troops directly into Lhasa to assist his plot against Taktra. If Chinese troops could not overthrow Lhasa authorities, Radreng suggested that Nanking should at least move Chinese troops to the border as a gesture of support. If neither of these options were possible, the ex-regent hoped that the Chinese could at least provide him with the necessary ammunition, such as rifles, machine guns, and bullets, so that he could develop his own military force. In appreciation of Nationalist aid, Radreng promised that once he had successfully resumed his position, his new regime would immediately declare its wish to join the Chinese Republic and recognize Chinese overlordship.
The ex-regent's proposal immediately caught Chiang Kai-shek's attention. 
After playing the Panchen Lama's card, Beijing will try the Reting one. 
But the Communist Party has no legitimacy to decide on a subject which till recently was considered in the Middle Kingdom as poison. 
The Chinese new agencies give thus the pedigree of the new Reting:
When the 6th Reting Rinpoche, Reting Tenzin Jigme Thutop Wangchuk, passed away in 1997, the Tibet autonomous regional government and the Lhasa city government organized and formed one leader team and one council team according to the Tibetan Buddhist canon to look for the Yangsid [yangtsi], or the infant reincarnation candidate.
After a year's inspection activities, Lodro Gyatso, a herdsman's son from Arza township in Lhari County of Tibet's Nagqu Prefecture, was confirmed to be the 7th Reting Rinpoche.
On Jan 16, 2000, a lineage and ordination ritual was held in front of the Shakyamuni stupa in Lhasa's Jokhang Temple.
On July 14, 2000, with the mandate and entrust of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, the Tibet autonomous regional government gave an official approval that Lodro Gyatso, born in Tibet's Lhari County on October 13, 1997, was the 7th Reting Hutuktu.
Reting Hutuktu, or Reting Rinpoche, is one of the eight Hutuktus in Tibetan Buddhism and is one of the four Hutuktus eligible to be the regent of Tibet before the Dalai Lama takes over the reins of government upon coming of age.
Reting Rinpoche lives in the Reting Monastery in Lhunzhub County in Lhasa, which is the ancestral temple of the Kadam Sect Tibetan Buddhism. Built in 1051 AD, the Reting Monastery is 350 years older than the three major monasteries in Lhasa (Gandan, Drepung and Sera Monastery).
However, the Chinese have missed an important event: the next Dalai Lama will not "take over the reins of government upon coming of age", as he has now relinquished for good his political role in favour of an elected leader. 
This is probably terribly embarrassing for Beijing, as in the future, the Communist Party (or its successor) will be unable to play the Dalai Lama's card.
Beijing appoints teenager to Tibetan CPPCC
January, 9, 2013
Agence France-Presse
China's choice as one of the most important figures in the Tibetan religious hierarchy, aged just 16, has been given his first political appointment, state media said yesterday.
China enthroned Sonam Phuntsok in 2000 as the seventh Reting Rinpoche, a line of figures who have traditionally taken charge between the death of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the identification of his successor.
His selection was seen as an attempt by Beijing to increase its control over reincarnations of Tibetan lamas and to legitimise its rule over the region, with monks at the Reting monastery protesting at the time.
Now, as Tibet is roiled by ethnic tensions, the teenager has become the youngest member of the Tibet Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, according to China Daily.
The CPPCC is a nominated advisory body which plays a key role in policy debate in China and officially performs "democratic supervision" of the ruling party.
Following his appointment, the teenager told the state-run newspaper that he would "keep the Reting lineage of patriotism and the love for the religion".
There was no mention of the Dalai Lama in the article and his latest blog post was quoted as saying: "Don't care about who is the leader, but care about who treats the people well."
Beijing blames the self-immolations on separatist forces and the Dalai Lama, accusing the Nobel laureate of inciting the acts.
Many Tibetans accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as the country's majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas.
The fifth Reting Rinpoche played an important role in identifying the present Dalai Lama, who was enthroned in 1940, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.
Sonam Phuntsok was enthroned as the seventh Reting Rinpoche in 1999.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Great Wave of Han Tourists

Chinese New Year in Lhasa
When one looks at the situation in Tibet today, one can only worry.
Apart from the 99 immolations, mainly outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), the Chinese authorities on the Roof of the World are strengthening their grip on the land and people of Tibet.
They use different tactics for this.
First they speak of development, equating development to happiness.
For the purpose, they use Tibetan 'delegates'.
Take the small village of Metok, a few kilometers north of the Indian border (of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh).
In an interview, Dorji Wangdark, the deputy head of Metok County who is a delegate to the Regional People's Congress presently held in Lhasa described his native village: "Metok County has a typical sub-tropical climate, which brings plenty of rainfall and spring-like days all year round, thus, it’s suitable for agriculture and animal husbandry. Metok abounds with rice, millet, bananas and many other grains and fruits, all of which, especially bananas, can be processed and pushed to market. Up to date, about 2,300 Mu (153.41 hectares) of banana plantations have been built in our county, yielding two crops a year. In the coming five years, we plan to enlarge the banana plantation into 10,000 Mu (about 667 hectares).”
Dorji Wangdark praised Beijing for having brought a road to his border village: "great chances have been brought to Metok since the highway linking Bomi County and Metok opened. But part of the highway, about five kilometers in high altitude, is easy to get snowed up in winter, so the traffic will be held up then."
Wangdark's proposal to the Congress was to improve the maintenance of Metok highway "to accelerate economic development of Metok County".
As often mentioned on this blog, these roads have also a strategic use for the People's Liberation Army.
That is one of the reasons why tourism in Tibet has become the key of the rapid development.
The website of the regional TAR government recently announced: "Tibet will strive to lift its number of incoming tourists to 20 million by 2015, nearly doubling the figure recorded last year."
Padma Choling, the only Tibetan in the Central Committee of the Party and TAR Chairman, gave the same figure while delivering the TAR government Work Report at the opening of the first session of the 10th Tibet regional People's Congress.
He declared: "Tourism has become one of the leading economic growth engines for the plateau autonomous region, which hosted 11 million tourists last year with revenue from the tourism sector topping 2.12 billion U.S. dollars."
Can you believe it? The sparsely populated Tibetan plateau receiving 11 millions of tourists and expecting to double the dose to flood the local Tibetan population.
It is not surprising, if there there is strong resentment against the Chinese Hans in Tibet. 
But tourism is business. Dawa Yu, the director of the Tibet Tourism Bureau told a Chinese publication: "Tibet's tourism industry is growing fast, with 70 class-A national scenic spots as well as 211 starred hotels by the end of 2012." adding that "herdsmen and farmers have benefited from the development of tourism. By the end of 2012, there were 48,120 farmers employed in tourism-related sectors, with averaged per-capita income of 6,118 yuan."
Whether these figures are true or false is irrelevant, the mere thought of having 20 millions of Chinese Han tourists in one year is frightening for a population of hardly 3 millions (in the TAR).
But the Chinese leaders have other tricks in their sleeves.
They are now banking on 'political advisors', in other words, Beijing-recognized Tibetan lamas to pass their message.
Xinhua said: "The seventh Reting Rinpoche Soinam Puncog said everyone, Buddhist or not, should treasure the lives of all living things, including their own lives."
The Chinese news agency explains: "The Reting Rinpoche occupies an important place in Tibetan history. The previous incarnations of Reting Rinpoche have taught Buddhist scripture to the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama and have taken key government positions, such as regent of Tibet."
Without going into the personality of the previous Reting Rinpoche who was at the center of a quasi-civil war in 1947 in Tibet, the present 'incarnation' is a pure production of the Chinese propaganda Department, without any formal recognition from the Dalai Lama or any other spiritual leaders.
They also used other puppets such Dinga Rinpoche Pasang Namgyal, a so-called 'political advisor' from Tohlung Dechen County who quoted the Buddha as saying "do all that is good".
The Chinese website explains that it means: "people should give, do good deeds and refrain from actions that are harmful to the human body".
Nothing wrong in this, if was not propaganda to control the local populations.
The new 'political leaders' are preaching for a halt to the self-immolations (which is good in itself).
One Gyatso Ling Rinpoche Thubten Drapa, also 'political advisor' said that "all lives are equal and that one should treasure life, the Buddha is also asking people to respect their own lives. Killing is one of the Ten Evils in Buddhist teachings and the Buddha Dharma has stressed that one should not hurt emotional beings."
A new 'Political Advisor', Reting Rinpoche

Batting for the Party which is extremely embarrassed by the current wave of self-immolation, Drapa declared: "Committing suicide is like murdering others, which falls under the high crime of killing. Those who kill will fall into the lower three domains in the Buddhist wheel of karma."
The involvement of monks in the Party's politics is not new. The case of the Chinese version of the Panchen Lama, visiting Tibet every year has regularly been reported in the press.
But a lot of new 'advisors' have recently appeared on the political scene apart from: "The seventh Reting Rinpoche Soinam Puncog, 16, is the youngest political advisor in Tibet after he became a member of the regional committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) this year."
Deqen Wangmo, chief of the religious affairs of Tibet's CPPCC committee clarifies: "The age should not be an obstacle for Soinam Puncog to become a political advisor, Living Buddhas like Reting Rinpoche enjoy a very high prestige among Tibetan people and they have always been role models for patriotism."
That is not sure at all, the Tibetans are not fooled so easily, especially when people like Yu Yaohua, an official with the CCP's Tibet Regional  Committee says: "The higher level of participation of religious figures in the CPPCC committee means the appeals of the religious circle could be more easily heard."
What worries and upset the common man is Tibet are the figures given by Xinhua: "Tibet has seen an increasing number of religious figures making their ways into the region's political advisory body. This year, they hold 115 seats in the political advisory body and took up 18.7 percent of the total 615 seats, rising 121 percent and 8.5 percentage points respectively."
Worrying indeed!
The Party who earlier said that 'Religion is Poison', now fully uses religion to rule.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Malpasset: An Act of Terrorism?

Have you heard of the dam of Malpasset?
It was an arch dam on the Reyran River, built approximately 7 km north of Fréjus on the Côte d'Azur, in the Var Departement of south France.
The dam, which was an arch type with variable radius, was started in April 1952 and completed in 1954.
Delays due to lack of funding and labor strikes (not an unusual feature in France) the construction halted a few times.
On December 2, 1959, the Malpasset dam collapsed.
Shortly after 9 pm, the entire wall broke open with only a few blocks remaining on the right bank. Pieces of the dam can still be seen today scattered throughout the area.
The breach created a massive wave, 40 m high, moving at 70 kilometres per hour. It destroyed two small villages, Malpasset and Bozon, the highway construction site nearby and 20 minutes later reached Fréjus. The wave was still 3 metres high.
Various small roads and railroad tracks were destroyed on the way, water flooded the western half of Fréjus town before finally reaching the sea.
The tragedy cost the live to 423 people.
The dam of Malpasset dam was meant to supply a steady stream of water for irrigation in a region where summers are dry and rains capricious. Under the stress of a vicious downpour of seasonal rains and probably due to fissures in the rock that supported its foundation, the dam collapsed.
After an inquiry was conducted, it is what was concluded.
Weeks before the breach, some cracking noises had apparently been observed, though not properly examined.
When did the cracking noises start? Nobody could say for sure.
The right side of the dam had some leaks in November 1959.
Some blamed a tectonic fault as the most likely cause of the disaster. The water collected under a wall was unable to escape through the rocks.
Further, between November 19 and December 2, 1959, the area had 50 cm of rainfall, in the last 24 hours before the breach alone, 13 cm were recorded.
The water level in the dam was only 28 cm away from the edge. As rains continued, the dam guardian wanted to open the discharge valves, but the authorities refused, claiming the highway construction site would be in danger by flooding water. Just 3 hours before the breach, at around 6 pm, the water release valves were opened, but a discharge rate of 40 m³/s was unfortunately not enough to empty the reservoir in time.

An act of terrorism?
Now, a French new TV documentary claims that the collapse of the Malpasset dam could have been an act of terrorism by Algeria's National Liberation Front (FLN).
The TV channel Arte claims that archive documents reveal that German secret service agents knew of the Algerian plot but allegedly failed to inform their French counterparts. The dam burst was till now considered an accident.
Can you imagine what could happen in the Himalayas with the myriads of dam, in case of a conflict with China?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Great Han Chauvinism

A year ago, I mentioned a debate which was raging is China: should 'nationalities' continue to enjoy the autonomy offered to them by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China?
I had written that Zhu Weiqun, Lodi Gyari's interlocutor in the Beijing-Dharamsala talks, wanted  the 'nationalities' to be divested of their special privileges to achieve 'national cohesion'.
In an earlier posting, 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'.
I had also quoted Tsering Woeser who wrote on 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. 

All this demonstrates that the Great Han Chauvinism and the racial discrimination against the non-Han 'nationalities' and the Tibetans in particular is still prevalent in China today. 
The issue of the passport raised in this article of the Radio Free Asia is another example showing that in the People's Republic of China, there are rules for Chinese and other rules for Tibetans.
The article speaks of a contradiction: "This is a contradiction of the law as the Chinese government, under national regulations, require the authorities to issue passports within 15 days after an application is made and to notify unsuccessful applicants within six days with the reasons why their applications were denied", but it is not a contradiction, it is part of a number of discriminatory policies which force young Tibetan to go for radical (and regrettable) solutions.
There are more examples
Take the posts in the defence services. A quick look at the composition of the CCP's Central Committee shows that there are 67 members with an Army background who made it as full or alternate members of the 18th Central Committee. 
Interestingly, there is only one woman, an alternate, among the 67 military CC members. All the military CC members  -- 100% of 67 -- are Han Chinese. 
Can you believe it?
In other words that are no non-Han military officers on the Central Committee. 
If one looks at the larger 18th Party Congress 300-person delegation list from the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police (paramilitary forces), it includes 21 women and 14 minority nationality officers totaling only 33 people (two were both female and Manchu), it constitutes hardly 11% of the 300. The minorities included 4 Manchus, 4 Hui, 2 Mongols, 1 Uighur, 1 Tong, 1 Zhuang and 1 Tibetan from Sichuan. 
None of these officers got promoted to the Central Committee. The one woman, a Han, who did get an alternate seat for the PLA, but she was not on the delegates' list.
A glance at the Central Committee membership (205 persons), shows that there are  9 women (all Han) and 10 non-Han male officials. Combined they total 19 or about 9%. The minority nationality males constitute a little less than 5% of 205. There are 3 Mongols, 1 Hui, 1 Korean, 1 Uighur, 1 Manchu, 1 Miao and 1 Tibetan (Pema Trinley). 

Note that out of the top Communist cadres who rule China today, there is only one Tibetan! Is it not discrimination, or Great Han Chauvinism, whatever you want to call it?
The passport is yet another pointer to this issue which will have to be tackled by General Secretary Xi Jinping, he wants to avoid an implosion of China.

Tibetans Face Passport Dilemma
January 20, 2013

Hardly any Tibetans have been issued international passports since Chinese authorities introduced tough travel rules nearly a year ago in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), according to sources.
Under the April 2012 procedures issued by the TAR authorities, prospective Tibetan travelers are subject to arduous—and what some call discriminatory—procedures in an apparent attempt by Beijing to clamp down on their travels abroad.
The procedures, contained in an official TAR document obtained by RFA's Tibetan Service, were introduced after many Tibetans attended the "Kalachakra" religious gathering in India in January 2012 presided over by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is reviled by Chinese leaders as a separatist.
The move was also part of tightened security measures following self-immolation protests by Tibetans questioning Chinese rule in the TAR and Tibetan-populated areas of neighboring Chinese provinces. 
“Since February or March of last year, there has been no issuing of new Chinese passports to Tibetans and those in the TAR were hit hard by the move," Office of Tibet in Taiwan researcher Sonam Dorjee told RFA's Tibetan service.
Another source, who has contacts in Tibet and spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was only aware of Tibetan officials being issued passports by Chinese authorities.
"No new Chinese passports have been issued to Tibetan individuals in TAR, except for a few Tibetan officials who received the passports for official purpose and which they need to hand back upon their return," the source said.
Unlike Chinese nationals, Tibetans face a "very complicated and difficult process" to obtain passports, Dorjee said. "They may have to wait for years for their applications to be processed and may have to pay bribes along the way."
"For most Tibetans with no official connections, they cannot get a passport at all," Dorjee said.

This is a contradiction of the law as the Chinese government, under national regulations, require the authorities to issue passports within 15 days after an application is made and to notify unsuccessful applicants within six days with the reasons why their applications were denied, he said.
“There should be one set of regulations and procedures for all citizens of the country but for China, it is not the case," Dorjee said.
Tibetans have to first submit their passport applications to local government offices in the areas where they reside. The documents are scrutinized at the village, district, and county levels and then finally by the TAR police bureau.
"Even after the lengthy process, the applicant is required to sign a document guaranteeing that he will not engage in any 'illegal activities' or activities that are 'harmful to the nation' while abroad," Dorjee said.
Even if Tibetans successfully obtain passports and get to travel abroad, they have to surrender the travel document to the authorities within seven days on their return home.
They also have to report to the local police and subject themselves to interrogations—requirements not imposed on Chinese nationals whose passports are usually valid for five to 10 years and not collected back on their return from abroad.
“It shows that even though all are considered Chinese citizens, TAR passport applicants do not have the same rights as guaranteed in China for other applicants," Dorjee said.


Tibetans already with passports are also in a quandary.
When the Chinese authorities began implementing a nationwide electronic passport scheme last year, Tibetans in TAR had to surrender their passports even before expiration and were subject to thorough investigation and screening procedures, according to Tibet-watcher Gonpo.
Many Tibetans with passports wanting to re-enter Tibet from Nepal were stranded in the border due to the change to electronic passports, he said.
A Tibetan businessman who arrived in the Nepali capital Kathmandu in the first week of January from Tibet said many Tibetans who had attended the Kalachakra festival in India a year ago had their passports seized by the authorities and have not got them back.
"Passports for all Kalachakra returnees are confiscated with the assurances that new passports will be issued, but to my knowledge no new passports have ever been issued to them," he said.
Tibetan businessmen shuttling between the TAR capital Lhasa and Nepal are also concerned their passports will be confiscated.
In fact, the number of Tibetans traveling to Nepal with Chinese passports is significantly reduced in recent days, impacting Tibetan businesses in Nepal, said a Tibetan resident in Nepal.
There are about 20,000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal and Beijing has urged Kathmandu to restrict their activities.
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Will history repeats itself?

Five years ago, I wrote this text for
The most striking aspect in the Tiananmen incident (and the subsequent massacre of the students on the Square) was the crucial role played by the so-called Elders and particularly Deng Xiaoping, who at that time had no official position in the Party or the Government.
You may think that the situation is different now and that things have changed. It is however not certain that the Chinese are today able to rule the Middle Kingdom in a more constitutional way.
In 1975, the CIA internally circulated a secret document entitled, "The Art of China Watching". The document declassified in 1994, is about the techniques used by professional China-watchers to decrypt China.
A para, 'The Pecking Order' explains:
Another favorite tool of the analytical trade is the scrutiny of leadership appearances. The order in which Chinese leaders are listed can be a reliable gauge of their relative standing in the leadership. The Chinese have often circumvented this system by listing their leaders in the Chinese equivalent of alphabetical order. On major holidays, the Chinese used to hold mass rallies in Peking, with the entire leadership standing before the assembled crowds. Who stood next to whom was another clue to the importance of individual leaders, but in recent years the rallies have been abandoned. Instead, several small groups of leaders appear in different parks in Peking, thus avoiding a public display of the entire pecking order.
When several important officials fail to appear over an extended period of time, it often means that a leadership meeting is in session. When at the same time the top officials in many of China's 29 provinces do not appear at home, the betting is that Peking has called in leaders from the provinces for a large meeting. 
Yesterday, The South China Morning Post (SMCP) reported that the name of former president Jiang Zemin has been officially placed behind those of members of the CCP's Politburo Standing Committee. 
China Central Television said that at the funeral service for General Yang Baibing  (brother of the former President, and one of the main actor on the Tiananmen Square in 1989), who died at the age of 93 in Beijing, the wreath placed in Jiang's name came behind that of President Hu Jintao , party general secretary Xi Jinping and the other members of the Politburo Standing Committee. 
Observers are nevertheless of the opinion that Jiang may continue to play an important role behind the scene. The SMCP believes that the 86 years old Jiang "played a key role in the framing of the new leadership line-up for the party's 18th national congress, succeeding in getting allies including Zhang Dejiang , Yu Zhengsheng and Zhang Gaoli on to the Politburo Standing Committee."
Has Jiang now fully retired?
Beijing-based independent political analyst Chen Ziming told the SMPC that: "Jiang can still exert his power, even if he has no ranking in the top leadership", while Hong Kong-based Johnny Lau Yui-siu told the Hong Kong newspaper that the ranking did not necessarily mean that Jiang would play no role in Chinese politics from now on: "On the contrary, I think that his political influence will extend for quite a while at least."

One thing is sure, no reform will come through as long as the old man control (or remotely control) scores of senior officials in the Party.
And there will always be the danger of new wounds (such as the Tiananmen incident) in China's history. 

The Wound of History
June 4, 2008
Blindfolding us, you expect us to see no more
Plugging our ears, you want us to hear no more
Yet, the truth is in our heart
The pain is in the chest
How much longer do we have to endure
How much longer do we have to be kept silent?
If tears can wash away all dusts...
If blood can be exchanged for freedom...
Let tomorrow remember today's outcry
Let the whole world see the wound of history!
June 4, 1989 will forever remain a wound in the history of modern China.
On that fateful night, hundreds, if not thousands were killed. Nineteen years later, the Chinese government maintains that no one died on the Square itself (only on the adjacent avenues) and it has still not released the list of those killed.
A few days after the event, Yuan Mu, the then spokesman of the State Council, declared that only 23 students had died, along with some ‘ruffians’.
A year later, Beijing tried to make their version more plausible. The Time Magazine quoted the official report of the upheaval: “Chen Xitong, Beijing's hard-line mayor, claimed that 200 civilians were killed and more than 3,000 were wounded.” But Chen insisted that casualties were mainly soldiers and policemen.
The Time continued: “[Chen’s] figures for civilians are almost universally dismissed as outrageous underestimates. On the day of the crackdown, Chinese Red Cross sources told reporters that 2,600 people died and 10,000 were injured, although the organization later denied it.”
Nicholas D. Kristof, the New York Times correspondent wrote: "The true number of deaths will probably never be known, and it is possible that thousands of people were killed without leaving evidence behind.”
One can immediately draw a parallel between the massacre of Tiananmen and the riots in Tibet in March/April this year. Soon after the events, when someone asked me: “How many people were killed?” I replied “We will never know!” Nearly three months after the March 14 incident in Lhasa, the Chinese authorities still claim that 13 people, mostly Chinese were killed, while the Tibetan Government-in-exile alleges that in Lhasa alone, nearly 100 Tibetans lost their lives. The analogy does not stop here. As in June 1989, according to Beijing the casualties in Lhasa were mainly policemen and paramilitary staff (People’s Armed Police) while according to the Dalai Lama’s Administration, it was mostly Tibetans who were shot at.
In both cases, the Chinese troops quickly removed the bodies and cleaned up and the consequences for the surviving participants in both cases were ruthless. One young Tibetan who managed to escape to India after the March events recounts: “[one day]‭ around‭ ‬one‭ ‬hundred soldiers entered my house,‭ ‬broke down five doors,‭ ‬checked everything and threw it all on the floor and hit everyone present there.‭ ‬It was like a robbery or burglary.‭ ‬There were a lot of firearms and they were very rough with us.‭ ‬I was arrested.‭ ‬They took me with them,‭ ‬with my thumbs tied behind my back,‭ ‬very tightly,‭ ‬resulting in the whole area being numb for the last two or three months‭‬.‭ ‬They treated us very harshly.‭ ‬Talking to each other,‭ ‬they said,‭ "‬This is our chance‭"‬,‭ ‬and they beat us.”
The Tiananmen Square episode was prompted by the death of former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary General Hu Yaobang who had resigned from his position on January 16, 1987 (after some minor students’ unrest). At that time, the People's Daily had expressed some sympathy with the students while affirming that "the limits of official toleration were being approached". A US Embassy official had noted "political stability has always been a critical consideration in China. There can be no doubt that the authorities will crack down, and crack down hard, if stability seems to be being called into question."
It is what happened in June 1989, hardly 2 years later. In the case of Tibet, Zhang Qingli, the Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region declared that the punishment will follow the principles of "quick approval, quick arrest, quick trial, quick execution". The above testimony is a proof that it was not mere words.
As often in China, an external event (the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989) was the excuse which triggered the demonstrations against lack of democracy and corruption in the Middle Kingdom. During the first days, the Party was not directly targeted, but an Editorial of the People’s Daily on April 26 which termed the student movement as ‘turmoil’ (a highly pejorative word used during the Cultural Revolution) enflamed the students; their number on the Square began swelling. This Editorial quoted Deng Xiaoping who, though he had no government position was still taking all important decisions. Deng accused some "extremely small segments of opportunists" of plotting ‘turmoil’.
Interestingly, the Tiananmen Papers, the most remarkable collection of documents on the events of 1989 and the inner functioning of the CCP, show the crucial role of 8 Elders led by Deng Xiaoping. Though outside the Party structure, it is they who decided the course of the event.
During the following weeks, one of the main demands of the students was the withdrawal of the April 26 Editorial. (Incidentally, Premier Wen Jiabao also spoke of ‘turmoil’ in his press conference soon after the Lhasa incidents in March 2008).
What was the true motivation of the student movement on the Square in 1989? This question deeply divided the Chinese leadership who began to rally behind either Zhao Ziyang, the then General Secretary of the CCP or Li Peng. In his introduction to the Tiananmen Papers, Editor Andrew Nathan analyzed: “Zhao Ziyang’s instincts were to loosen up politically in order to invigorate the economy, accepting a consequent loss of control but maintaining authority through a more consultative style of leadership. Li Peng’s instinct was to focus on stability and keep political control”.
It is probable that these two tendencies are still prevalent among the top hierarchy today. But in June 1989, the latter hard-line prevailed, demonstrating at that time that tough decisions only could save China from going the Soviet Union’s way.
Gorbachev’s visit to China is usually considered as the turning point in the history of the events of the Square. The Soviet leader as proponent of the perestroika (or restructuring of the State) was a role model for the students; further the Sino-Soviet friendship was important to the leadership in Beijing. The details of the visit were discussed at the highest level of the Party. The transcript of a discussion held on May 11 between Deng and his ‘assistant’ Yang Shangkun (President of the PCR) put Gorbachev’s trip in perspective. “Deng Xiaoping: When Gorbachev’s’ here, we have to have order at Tiananmen. Our international image depends on it. What do we look like if the Square’s is a mess?
Yang Shangkun: “Tiananmen is our national face. Especially when Gorbachev’s here, we just can’t let it turn into a stinking mess. I’ll make sure that they [the top leadership] are clear on this”.
To save the face has always been crucial for China. This explains Beijing’s anger after the recent unrest in Tibet and the subsequent large media coverage of the riots. Beijing loose face before the Olympics.
On May 13, 1989, two days before Gorbachev’s arrival, the students started a hunger strike. Deng made it clear to his protégé Zhao Ziyang that this should be stopped; the welcoming function for the Soviet leader on the Square was to be held in a dignified manner.
Unfortunately, Zhao was not able to fulfill the Old Emperor’s wish; Gorbachev’s visit to the Square had to be cancelled.
During the following days and weeks, the consequences quickly followed: martial law was imposed; Zhao Ziyang was sacked; Li Peng was given the task to implement the decision of the Elders; Jiang Zemin was selected to replace Zhao (“he’s got it just right politically, has strong Party loyalty and can see the big picture” remarked Deng). The built-up of events culminated during the night of June 3-4 when the tanks of the 27th Army rolled on the Square. We know the rest.
Though Deng managed to keep the economic reforms on track, the West announced that it would boycott China until democracy was introduced. But business is business, two high US Officials, Scowcroft and Eagleburger returned to Beijing in December 1989 to "explore the possibility of developing a ‘road map’ toward better relations."
So goes the world, but nineteen year-old wound remains wide open, especially after the Tibet events. In fact, it is doubtful if the ‘negotiations’ between the Dalai Lama and Beijing can ever succeed as long as the ‘stability’ hard-line, today led by Hu Jintao prevails in the party. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Rafale deal and why it makes China nervous

My article on the Rafale deal is posted on

The People's Daily, the Chinese Communist newspaper, says the sale of the Rafale fighter plane 'encourages, excites and spurs India's appetite and ambition to become a great military power while intensifying its aggressive and expansionist tendencies, which poses a serious threat to peace and stability in Asia.'
Does India have a choice, considering the People's Liberation Army's frantic speed of development, wonders Claude Arpi.


There were six in contention; four were dropped, and one became the Chosen One: The Rafale.
In French, 'Rafale' poetically means a 'sudden gust of wind.'
It was one of the six fighter aircraft in competition for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, MMRCA, when the Indian Air Force wanted to acquire 126 polyvalent fighter planes.
In April 2011, the IAF shortlisted two birds -- the Rafale produced by Dassault Aviation and the Eurofighter (known in Europe as 'Typhoon') from EADS, the European consortium.
It was a big deal worth $12 billion. You can imagine the stakes, especially for Dassault which a few months earlier, was unsuccessful in exporting its flagship plane to Brazil and the Emirates.
Finally on January 31, 2012, the IAF announced that the Rafale was the chosen one.

Read on...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Day Chinese Glasnost died

Eight years ago, I wrote for, The Day Chinese Glasnost Died.
Former Chinese Premier, Zhao Ziyang had just passed away.
Eight years later, the new leadership in Beijing is still afraid of Zhao's ghost; they tightly control whatever is happening around his former residence.
On January 17, The South China Morning Post reported: "More than 100 mourners flocked to a traditional house in a quiet alleyway in Beijing yesterday morning to pay their respects at the home of the late Zhao Ziyang on the eighth anniversary of the ousted party chief's death," adding "before his death, Zhao had been under house arrest at the courtyard home at No 6 Fuqiang Alley since opposing the use of military force against the Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989."
Though according to Zhao's daughter Wang Yannan, this year the Communist authorities did not try to stop Zhao's family from receiving mourners, nobody from the government visited Zhao's residence.
Microblog postings on Zhao were however dutifully removed from the Net.
Hu Jia, a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee explained to the Hong Kong daily that he had to sneak out from his apartment 6 am, in disguise, when security was laxer. As soon as the police noticed that he was not home, his mother was warned that he could be  arrested again (Hu was jailed in 2008 and was released June 2011).
Hu Jia said: "People are talking about the changes since the new leadership took power, but I don't see much change based on my own experiences."
Bao Tong, a former secretary of Zhao Ziyang who helped published the former Premier's memoirs Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, knows what it means to be close to Zhao.
His home telephone is constantly tapped and periodically cut off. Bao Tong is still followed everywhere he goes, and banned from 'sensitive' events or places. Even visits from his son, Bao Pu, who lives in Hong Kong need prior clearance from the Public Security Bureau.
On the occasion of Zhao's 8th death anniversary, Bao explained why Zhao is not popular with the regime. China's former Premier just treated people as 'human beings':
Zhao Ziyang had a particular characteristic: he treated people as human beings ... This doesn't sound very extraordinary ... but it's not a misunderstanding to understand him in this way, nor is it an exaggeration.
He was instrumental in protecting the autonomy of farming communities, because he saw farmers as people. He was instrumental in protecting the autonomy of enterprises, because he saw entrepreneurs and their workforce as people.
He was instrumental in stopping the Party pronouncing on everything, because he didn't see the Party as a judge.
He was also instrumental in stopping the Party from censoring books and newspapers, because he thought authors should be authors, and not the subject of constant inspection.
Perhaps it was his tendency to treat people as people that led so many people to appreciate Zhao Ziyang. Perhaps it is this very tendency that leads some people now to pretend that no such person ever existed.
Further, Zhao refused to believe that as the Premier of the State Council, he was superior to the masses. It cost him his job.
Bao believes that to treat others as human being is an affront to the leaders' superiority:
Of course, in an ordinary citizen, such a quality isn't anything unusual. But the leadership at various levels seem to regard treating people like human beings as an affront to their own superiority. I'm not talking about a myth; I'm talking about our country's modern history.
To put it in a more abstract manner, if the one who conducts the main theme tune decides that he wants to stake out his political territory, then people become a target to be silenced.
If hard reasoning tells one to go out and get rich, then people become the trees that money grows on, or the goose that lays the golden egg.
If a performance is meant to create a sensational effect, then people come in handy as extras and props. So you see, people don't often get treated as people.
To give a concrete example: Mao Zedong was number one, the leader in charge of everything. Because of this, no one else, not Liu Shaoqi, Peng Dehuai, nor Xi Chongjin could be treated as people. They were simply there to be led by Mao.
They had to surrender utterly to his will, and not the tiniest breach of his edicts was tolerated.
Will the new leadership bring a wind of glasnost on the Middle Kingdom like Zhao tried in the 1990s?
I believe some are trying; the battle is on.
Zhao speaking to the students on Tiananmen Square
Wen Jiabao, the present Premier seen behind

The Day Chinese Glasnost died
January 17, 2005
Did Zhao Ziyang die on January 8 or did he die on the morning of January 17? That is a million yuan question!
On the same day in 1976, another Chinese leader, its Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, passed away.
When Zhou died, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had just ended. Modern China had gone through its 10 most tormented years.
During previous months, Mao had refused to provide treatment for his premier who had cancer; the Emperor wanted Zhou to die before him.
Even in Communist China, there is protocol!
In fact, the problem was that the premier was more popular than the Great Helmsman with the masses. Zhou's death was observed by Dr Zhisui Li, Mao's private physician who commented: 'What worried me most was the power struggle to follow.'
In Beijing, memories of the Cultural Revolution purges were still fresh in the populace's psyche. Though resentment was growing, nothing could be done openly as yet.
At that time, the Chinese New Year was approaching. When Mao decided to celebrate the event with firecrackers, the crowd outside Zhongnanhai (the residential enclave where Politburo members live) thought the Chairman rejoiced over his premier's death. Anger mounted, but the people of Beijing had to wait a few more weeks to express their respect for the deceased leader.
Dr Li wrote: 'Beginning in mid-March, knowing that the Qing Ming festival for honoring the dead would be celebrated on April 4, the citizens of Beijing began going to the Monument to the Revolutionary Heroes in Tiananmen Square to place mourning wreaths for Zhou. The movement was spontaneous, and the crowds grew larger by the day. The country had not witnessed such an outpouring of popular sentiment since before the Communists came to power in 1949.'
As April 4 approached, Dr Li visited Tiananmen clandestinely: 'The Square was filled with tens of thousands of people singing, making speeches, and reading poems. The mourning wreaths stretched from the Monument to the Revolutionary Heroes in the centre of the square all the way to Changan Avenue just in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and thousands of banners were flapping in the breeze. It was impressive and moving.'
A similar event occurred 13 years later.
In 1989, though Hu Yaobang had been sacked as the secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party in January 1987, he was still a member of the Politburo and entitled to attend important meetings. On April 9, after uttering some strong words on the Communist Party's failures, the respected Hu Yaobang had a stroke. A week later he passed away.
Zhao Zhiang, then secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party, made the customary brief assessment of Hu's life: 'Comrade Hu was a loyal, tried and tested Communist fighter, a great proletarian revolutionary and politician, an outstanding political worker for the army.'
It was agreed that Hu would have a national funeral service with the norms of standing members of the Politburo. The plan was accepted by all the party's senior leaders including Deng Xiaoping. During that meeting, Zhao requested Qiao Shi, No 3 in the party and responsible for security, to 'keep a close watch on how Comrade Yaobang's death might impact society.' Qiao Shi is said to have replied: 'At the moment, society is in pretty good shape, Things are fairly stable.'
In the afternoon of April 17, 600 students of the Chinese University of Political Science and Law marched into Tiananmen Square with mourning banners and wreaths. They were 10,000 by the evening.
The next day, students and onlookers poured in from Beijing University and other places. Wreaths accumulated in front of the Monument to the Revolutionary Heroes.
The rest is history.
It was the beginning of the largest spontaneous student revolution since 1919.
During the following days and weeks, the students demanded freedom of speech and the press, democratic elections, greater transparency in government dealings.
The pretext for the explosion of the students' ire was the fact that Hu Yaobang had been sacked though he had followed 'correct' policies. They demanded that the government 'should affirm as correct Hu Yaobang's views on democracy and freedom.' When the People's Daily termed the first spontaneous demonstrations as 'turmoil', the events took a new turn. For the students, the word 'turmoil' (dongluan) had a strong meaning in Chinese reminiscent of the black days of the Cultural Revolution.
One man played a major role in the Tiananmen events -- Zhao Ziyang. Having the same conviction as Hu Yaobang, he thought that a possibility of political reform existed in Communist China. During the following weeks, he constantly tried to negotiate a compromise with the students. This could have changed the Middle Kingdom's fate.
One of his collaborators, Wu Guoguang, remembered in Time magazine: 'In the wrong place at the wrong time, Zhao Ziyang did the right thing. It was close to midnight on the night of May 19, 1989. China's leaders were finalising their plans to declare martial law and crush the Tiananmen Square democracy protests that had, in the preceding 48 hours, swelled to include more than a million demonstrators.
Zhao, then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, might have remained with the commissars inside Beijing's Great Hall of the People as they called in the troops. Instead, stooped with fatigue, tears in his eyes, he waded into the throngs of students and in the gathering darkness pleaded with them to abandon their vigil before it was too late.'
Three days earlier Zhau had received Mikhail Gorbachev, then general secretary of the Soviet Union Communist Party. Was Zhao trying to emulate his Soviet counterpart when he spoke to the students? The Chinese leader told Gorbachev, 'Some young people now had doubts about the superiority of socialism, that these doubts arose from genuine problems with the Party leadership and certain entrenched habits, and that the only way out for socialism was continued vigorous reforms.'
This view was certainly not shared by all in the standing committee of the Politburo. Just after Zhao had met Gorbachev, an important meeting was held, the verdict was split: two members were in favour of using force against the students, two were for a continuation of the dialogue and one, Qiao Shi, abstained.
The next day, the matter was referred to Deng Xiaoping. Zhao had told Gorbachev: 'Even though Deng Xiaoping had retired from his Party posts in 1987, the Party had recognised that his wisdom and experience were essential and that for the most important questions he would still be at the helm.'
Deng decided to use force. On May 20, the martial law order was signed by Prime Minister Li Peng. Two days later, Zhao Ziyang was sacked and Jiang Zemin was called from Shanghai to replace him.
During the night of June 3, Li Peng ordered the tanks to roll on the Square. Between 3,000 and 10000 students lost their lives that night. The Party was saved and the fate of China was sealed (at least for the next few decades). One of the many ironies was that Li Peng was Zhou Enlai's adopted son.
On October 17, 2004, Zhao celebrated his 75th birthday. The Human Rights in China group reported: 'In the past three days large groups of people have been gathering outside Zhao's Beijing home, requesting permission to see him. The groups, which range in size from a dozen to upwards of 100 people, seem to be made up largely of Zhao's former subordinates and his close friends and relatives.'
On the same day, a group of senior Chinese citizens and Zhao's supporters wrote to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao about Zhao's continuous detention: 'We strongly urge that you unconditionally and immediately release Mr Zhao Ziyang from house arrest, restore his freedom, and resume all his civil rights!
'No matter how the CPC (Chinese Communist Party and its government would now judge the 1989 political storm and whether Mr Zhao was right or wrong at that time, as a citizen of the People's Republic of China, his civil rights ought to be respected and protected. Without due legal procedure, his freedom and civil rights are not to be deprived. We believe that you share this common view with us, and with all those who respect the constitution and laws of China.'
On January 8, 2005, the media reported from Hong Kong that Zhao had died. This was denied by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan as totally untrue: 'Zhao Ziyang is an old man who is over 80. He fell ill, but after attentive treatment, his condition is currently stable,' he told reporters. However, one can doubt the veracity of this declaration (Zhao's daughter admitted he was in a coma).
Probably, like Yasser Arafat, the announcement of his death will be stage managed to ensure that all arrangements for his 'non-official' funeral are complete.
Already news from the BBC says, 'A thousand policemen are to be deployed every morning on Beijing's Tiananmen Square to escort visitors to the flag-raising ceremony. The new rules may be designed to prevent any dawn protests on the square, scene of a bloody pro-democracy crackdown in 1989.'
All this coincides with the publication of a Gallup report which concluded: 'The people of China may be far wealthier than they were a decade ago, but they are not very satisfied with their quality of life, a survey showed.'
In the meantime, the European Union prepares to lift the arms embargo imposed after the Tiananmen events.
This will be the third time Zhao died. Politically, he died at Tiananmen Square in May 1989; he probably died in a Beijing hospital earlier this month; and the principles he fought for will be buried for the sake of selling a few weapons more.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Learning from China

Indian Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V. Narayanasamy recently met his Chinese counterpart Yin Weimin in Beijing.
According to Ananth Krishnan of The Hindu "Mandarins and Babus to learn from each other".
One can only hope that the babus and the mandarins will exchange good practices. 
Last month, I mentioned on this blog an article of the China Economic Weekly which says that scores of Party's officials were fleeing China with large amounts of money.
The China’s Academy of Social Science released statistics showing that between 16,000 to 18,000 Party officials had fled the country since the mid 1990s, taking away with them 800 billion yuan with them. 
A Report of the People’s Bank of China suggested that dishonest officials had clandestinely taken $124 billion of illegally obtained money out of the country between 1995 and 2008. 
The mandarin's practices were detailed in my posting The Chinese babus invest abroad.
Since then, Radio Free Asia affirmed that "Half of World’s 'Black Dollars' Are from China; Capital Flight Is Accelerating":
The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said that in the past 10 years, through different means and various channels, the illegal funds fleeing from China reached a staggering US $3 trillion. Out of every two 'black dollars' in the world, one is from China. It was estimated that, after the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, when the authorities considered implementing the exposure of the personal assets of government officials, the capital flight accelerated to US$ 41.2 billion in November alone. Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the second largest group responsible for the flight of capital was government officials.
Li Xinde, who runs a website that monitors Chinese public opinion, believed that the cause of the problem was the current policies and laws that involve anti-corruption, exposure of personal assets, and supervision of power.
A Beijing economist Zhong Dajun attributed the rampant capital flight to the current social political system, where a person can become rich quickly but develop a strong sense of insecurity after becoming rich. A 2011 report from China’s central bank revealed eight major means that corrupt officials use to transfer their property: cash smuggling, remittance fraud, current account fraud, overseas investment, credit card spending, creating an offshore financial center, foreign direct receipt, and transfer through offshore special relationships.
Indians still have a lot of things to learn from China.  
But one can't put the entire blame on the bureaucrats, business people are also leaving China. 
On January 6, Xinhua mentioned China’s International Migration Report (2012), released in December which indicated that among business owners with personal assets of more than one billion yuan (US $ 160 million), 27 percent have emigrated, and 47 percent are considering emigration.
In the past three years, at least 17 billion yuan ($US2.7 billion) of capital has flown abroad. According to the Blue Book many businessmen transfer their 'gray income' overseas to avoid tax and evade prosecution.

Mandarins and ‘Babus’ to learn from each other
Ananth Krishnan
The Hindu
January 17, 2013 
Indian and Chinese officials plan to train together and exchange best practices on reforms
Two of the world’s biggest bureaucracies — India and China — have begun an effort to share their experiences of carrying out administrative reforms and to jointly train their civil servants, following talks between the two governments here this week. In an effort to share “best practices” — more sensitive issues such as the rampant corruption plaguing both governments have been kept off the table, for now — both countries have decided to come together to learn about each other’s experiences in carrying out administrative reforms within two of the world’s most complicated and vast bureaucratic systems.
Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V. Narayanasamy and Chinese Minister for Human Resources Yin Weimin held day-long talks on Tuesday that covered a range of issues from assessing the performance of officials to social security and the functioning of the public sector in both countries.
China has offered to host Indian civil servants at the Chinese Academy of Personnel Sciences for training, while India will similarly choose an institution to host young Chinese bureaucrats. A delegation from India will visit China in May to kick-start the process, while officials from Beijing will travel to India in November. China’s vast bureaucracy — a source of increasing criticism from some quarters here on account of its opacity — is more than three times the size of India’s, employing 3.7 crore officials in the Centre and provinces. While talks on expanding cooperation are at an early stage, Mr. Narayanasamy said he was particularly struck by the Chinese approach to training civil servants. Here, officers are only trained intensively for five months before taking up their jobs,compared to a two-year period in India.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

China's Media War

It was perhaps due to some special constellations, but yesterday several Chinese commentators were breathing fire; they were in a 'fighting' mood.
I post here three articles which appeared on the China Military Online and in The People's Daily.
These commentaries speak for themselves.
In the meantime, Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's Minister for Foreign Affairs was also in a combative mood; she put the blame on India for the tensions on the LOC.
Speaking at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York, she said that she was "saddened and disappointed at the continued negative statements emanating from India both from the media as well as certain Indian leaders.”
She added that Pakistan has observed a measured and deliberate self-restraint, especially in public statements on India, ...keeping in view the interest of peace in the region.”
She explained: “We have invested hugely in the dialogue process and have worked energetically to keep the dialogue process moving forward in a sustained and constructive manner, Pakistan has gone out of the way to build constructive relationship with India.”
She advised Indians restraint, "instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension."
She has just forgotten that her troops beheaded an Indian jawan in a barbaric manner.
Probably, a detail for her.
Here are examples of Chinese Media War.

Chinese soldiers should be ready for battle
Meng Yan
January 16, 2013
National interests are always the focus of the soldier’s attention. To safeguard national interests is always the power source to motivate soldiers. The mission of the military should expand to the place where the national interests extend to. With the expansion of China’s national interests, the battlefield for soldiers has become more and more diversified. The soldier’s vision should be broaden and cast onto the deep blue ocean, the vast aero space, and the virtual networks.
It is for this reason that Chinese soldiers should get ready for battle and should not be fooled by such clamored idea as the “China threat theory”. At this moment, there are always some public opinions from overseas wantonly accusing China’s military development with such excuses as “causing military imbalance in the region”, “causing arms race in the Asia-Pacific region”, and the like. Nevertheless, we should keep a clear mind, because all the suffering and humiliation that China has sustained in modern history tell us the truth that: “Rich country with no strong military forces is doomed to nothing”. It is quite normal for the national defense construction to be criticized by outside world. It is never a smooth process for a country to develop the national defense.
We express great concern over the security of our maritime space, aero space, and cyberspace on our way towards a prosperous country with powerful military force. Despite of all these, we are by no means a belligerent country with the ambition to dominate the world. Instead, we are a nation riding on the tide of peace on a sail of development towards the promotion of the collective development of the whole world.

Commentary: Soldiers should prepare for war
China Military Online
Guo Jianyue
January 16, 2013

The recent escalating situations in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, the new Japanese Abe administration’s drawing of Vietnam, Philippines and other East Asian countries to its side in order to contain China, as well as the letter they wrote to NATO leaders for the purpose of smearing China, which have formed layers of pressure to counterbalance China.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have held very frequent drills focused on the Diaoyu Islands for the past days, and boasted of firing warning shots at China’s marine surveillance ships. This confrontation between China and Japan, which has been so rare since World War II, has escalated from the original air force mutual monitoring over the waters around the Diaoyu Islands to the verge of war.
China will not frivolously wage a war, but “if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack.” This is absolutely our bottom line. Therefore, we should prepare ourselves to fight a battle as soon as possible.
Then, what kind of war are we preparing to fight? Don’t be so naive to take it for granted that maritime issues can be resolved in maritime ways and the Diaoyu Islands conflict is merely the confrontation between the two navies and the two air forces. For the soldiers, there is no difference among arms, and no difference between the front and the rear in a war, even just in a local conflict.
Prof. Jin Yi’nan once made an intriguing statement: “You can only prepare yourselves for a large-scale war in order to control a local war. According to Western risk control and warfare control theories, by upgrading the war scale to cause greater damage to the other side, the other side thus decides not to upgrade but stick to the local scale. Without this capability, the scale of the war is very likely to grow out of control.” Therefore, soldiers should be mentally prepared that “the war cannot be fought without me.”
We also need to figure out why we should be prepared to fight and what kind of war we are going to fight. We should prepare ourselves according to our positions and responsibilities. What kind of war are we able to fight? We can no longer shout for war preparation as a slogan. Therefore, soldiers must be well-prepared that “there’s always a plan ready for the war”.
It is the duty and value of the military and soldiers to be able to fight and to win the war. The concept should be prevalently rooted in the minds of the officers and men that soldiers are meant to fight in war, troops are led to fight in war, and military training is conducted for war. We should be ready to fight a war at any time so that once the order is given, victory is to be won.

Commentary: China advocates peace but will never trade in peace
People's Daily Online
January 16, 2013
“Never solve the issue of the Diaoyu Islands by force. China and Japan should not deal with the issue of the Diaoyu Islands through war.” said a netizen recently about the dispute of the Diaoyu Islands.
Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, a famous expert on military issues, expressed that the netizen referred to a very idealized state. Peace is a balance of power. Peace will also come if one side imposes his will upon the other side, but it is a dirty and humiliating peace. Although we advocate peace, we can never trade in peace.
By quoting the strategy of “the best policy in war is to thwart the enemy’s strategy; the second best is to disrupt his alliances through diplomatic means; the third best is to attack his army in the field; the worst policy of all is to attack walled cities” from The Art of War, Luo Yuan said that to attack the army and walled cities is the last resort, but also an indispensable and irreplaceable resort. Previously, we should resolve the issue with wisdom and strategy. Now, we are not at the end of our wisdom and strategies on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, and we still have many non-war means to choose.
However, it does not only depend on the Chinese side whether the issue of the Diaoyu Islands will be solved through peaceful means or not. The tree craves calm but the wind will not subside – things do not go on as we wish. Presently, the Japanese side has frequently escalated the tension of the issue of the Diaoyu Islands and pushed the situation to the brink of war, and therefore, we must prepare for the worst. Luo Yuan said that only by being prepared can we avoid dangers and only by daring to fight can we make peace with each other, which is the dialectics of war and peace.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From a ‘Normal’ to a Belligerent President

Rafales in action
François Hollande who, eight months ago, took over as the President of the French Republic from the flamboyant and hyperactive Sarkozy, is often described as ‘Mr. Normal’.
Plantu, a famous cartoonist working for the daily Le Monde always draws Hollande driving a Deux-Chevaux, the French Nano of the 1960/70s.
During his tenure as the Socialist Party’s First Secretary, Hollande had learned to be a ‘grey’ man, a man without strong opinions. He did not have other choices, with the different factions and ‘currents’ constantly threatening to pull apart the Party.
Were these qualities required to govern France which, since the time of the Gaullish tribes, is the ungovernable country par excellence (like India in fact). But is ‘normal’ enough to govern a country? It can often be synonymous with ‘indecision’.
Take Hollande’s African policy. Last October, Hollande declared in Dakar: “The time of Françafrique is gone; there is France and there is Africa; there is a partnership between France and Africa, our relations are based on respect, transparency and solidarity”.
The French President explained that he wanted to bring to a close the period “of the influence-networks in the bilateral relations between Paris and its former colonies, when politics and business are mixed”. He affirmed: “The ‘emissaries’, the in-betweens, the backdoor cooking will from now on, find a closed door at the Elysée Palace as well as in the ministries”.
Observers deducted that the French President would follow a mild ‘normal’, non-interventionist policy in Africa and Paris would not militarily intervene in conflicts as Sarkozy had in Libya or in Ivory Coast.
But things have suddenly changed. As France was busy with L’Affaire Depardieu and the debate over the gay marriage, Hollande suddenly became a chef de guerre, a Commander-in-Chief.
In a televised address, the President decided to personally inform his countrymen of his decision to go to war: “I, in the name of France, answered the President of Mali’s request …French armed forces lent support to units of the Malian army to fight against terrorists.” He added: “This operation will last as long as needed.”
Foreign Policy Magazine admits: “Mr. Hollande's decision to dispatch soldiers to Mali marks a shift in France's strategy. Paris had earlier said it wouldn't send troops to Mali, though it was ready to help coordinate a multilateral intervention in the country.”
What triggered this sudden volte-face?
A day earlier, Le Monde had reported: “[For the Malian government], this is the moment of truth in their confrontation with the military groups and [the situation] is not encouraging for the regular Malian Army which suffered a first defeat by losing control of the town of Konna.”
Though the regular forces continued to send reinforcements to the important base of Sevare, near Mopti, observers believed that the Islamists’ advance towards the south and more importantly to the capital Bamako, could not be stopped. 
President Hollande said his decision had no other objective than the fight against terrorism. Through Operation Serval (the name of a tiger-cat of the desert), France did not intend to defend any particular interests, stated Hollande, adding that the French military intervention was limited to the support to the Malian forces, while expecting a swift intervention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Mali’s conflict.
There is no doubt that Mali faces an Islamic threat. Three main groups are present on the Malian scene. First, the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat which was started in the 1990s by radical Algerians. The group, based in north Mali, has in the past kidnapped several westerners working in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone.
The second group is the Ansar Dine ('Defenders of the Faith' in Arabic). It was started by the Tuareg commander Iyad Ag Ghaly in the 1990s. With the help of the AQIM, Ansar Dine took the towns of Kidal and Timbuktu, where Ghaly made triumphant entries. In Timbuktu, the Tuaregs were chased away and women were ordered to wear the purdah. Its main demand is the strict implementation of the sharia.
The last group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), advocates ‘holy war’. In June, the MUJAO seized the northeastern town of Gao. It appears that the first French airstrikes forced the MUJAO insurgents to leave Gao. The MUJAO is also on the UN list of Al Qaeda affiliated groups; three Algerians and one French national are said to have been abducted by its members.
Surprisingly, the French operation has the support of China. Hong Lei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesman declared: "China condemns the latest military operation by Mali's anti-government forces and notices that related countries and regional organizations, at the request of the Malian government, dispatched ground forces and military airplanes to strike against rebel forces …China has always supported the Malian government's efforts to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Xinhua explained that these groups have “vowed to impose an extremist version of Muslim Sharia law throughout Mali.”
While Beijing violently condemns the Western intervention in Syria, in this case, China clearly does not object to the French action.
President Hollande’s decision has been more or less unanimously welcomed in France. While political parties are tearing each other apart on the subject of ‘gay’ marriage, all agreed that France had to act in Mali. Opposition leaders belonging to Sarkozy’s UMP (Union for a Popular Movement), François Copé and François Fillon immediately supported the operation. The former Prime Minister declared that “fight against terrorism demands that the nation be united, beyond all political differences.”
The centrist Jean-Louis Borloo, President of UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents) spoke of the ‘spirit of solidarity’.
An important collateral is that it has shown Hollande in a new light: that of a decisive leader. One of his collaborators said: “He is the President, the Head of the Republic and the Chief of the Army”.
Many believe that it is a turning point in Hollande’s 5-year term.
The fact that on the same day France sent commandos into Somalia to rescue an intelligence officer held by an al Qaeda-linked group since 2009 was another proof that Hollande is a new man. Though the ‘special operation’ in Somalia was a flop, the French agent was killed by his captors and one (or two) French commandos also lost their lives, at least Hollande tried. Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was of course quick to declare that both operations were not connected.
As The New York Times put it: “The sudden French military intervention in Mali …have displayed Mr. Hollande in a more somber, decisive light that could represent a turning point for his presidency. The French, like the Americans, judge presidents on their ability to make tough decisions, and there are few tougher ones than to send young soldiers into battle.”
India should carefully watch the operations, not only because four Rafale fighter jets, flying from their base in France, were used to destroy rebel training camps and logistics depots in Gao, but also because it demonstrates that a ‘normal’ head of the State, should the conditions require it, takes swift decisions and implements them in national interests.
The New York Times says that François Hollande “has regularly been criticized as indecisive, even complacent. But the events of the last few days will go some way toward changing his image, as Mr. Hollande has moved swiftly to use the French military in Mali and Somalia.”
Will leaders in India emulate their French colleagues?
It does not mean that the battle against terrorism is won, far from it, but there are time when something needs to be done.