Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Ethnic Faces of China

China's Panchen Lama and Hong-Kong-based
Master Kuan Yun
My article The Ethnic Faces of China appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

The third session of China's 12th National People's Congress (NPC) opened with fanfare at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2015. Two days earlier, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) had started its deliberations.
The Two Meetings (or Two Sessions) have always been an occasion to see new faces and hear people who are not always in the news.
This is particularly the case for the ‘ethnic faces’.
Padma Choling, (alias Pema Thinley), Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress and only ‘ethnic’ Tibetan member of the CCP’s Central Committee, has recently been used by Beijing to create a flutter, widely reported in the world press; he declared: “it's not up to the Dalai Lama [to decide about his own reincarnation].”
The Tibetan official objected to the Dalai Lama’s announcement that ‘his traditional religious role should cease with his death’. Padma Choling affirmed that it was against “the Tibetan Buddhism tradition as the soul of a senior lama is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death. …[as] the move is expected to upset the reincarnation system that has been honored for hundreds of years in Tibet and destabilize the Buddhist region.”
The Central Committee member added that the process: “should follow strict historical conventions and required religious rituals of the Tibetan Buddhism …and be approved by the central government.”
For Beijing, it is for the Communist Party of China to ‘decide’ who will be the next Dalai Lama.
An atheist Party, which has unexpectedly become expert in ‘religious matters’, believes that the Dalai Lama’s claims to stop his lineage (more correctly, the institution of the Dalai Lamas) “is blasphemy against the Tibetan Buddhism.”
Poor Marx must have turned in his tomb, if he heard the uttering of his Tibetan follower? Does Padma Choling realize that when he speaks of ‘soul reincarnation’, it is a serious Marxist blasphemy?
Beijing has a few other ‘ethnic faces’, who are regularly seen (often in traditional costume) during the NPC/CPPCC deliberations.
This is also true for the People's Liberation Army (PLA), though no ‘ethnic’ officer has ever made to it to the powerful Central Military Commission or the Central Committee.
However, Beijing realizes that these 'faces' (Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols, Huis, etc.) are very useful to support China’s pretense of 'regional autonomy'.
In March 2014, when 33 people were killed and 130 wounded when a group of attackers dressed in black went on the rampage in Kunming railway station, we heard the voice of Saimati Muhammat.
In an interview to Xinhua, Saimati affirmed that counter-terrorism in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region had the strong backing from the PLA: “Xinjiang is at the front line struggle against 'The Three Forces’, namely terrorism, extremism and separatism,” said Saimati, a Uygur ethnic and member of the NPC.
Saimati Muhammat who is one of the first Uyghurs to be promoted as a Major General in the PLA, is presently Deputy Commandant of Lanzhou Military Command Area (MAC).
Tibet is also represented in the PLA delegation to the NPC.
Major General Ngawang (Ang Mong) Sonam, born in Jyekundo in today’s Qinghai province is today Deputy Commander of Qinghai Military District, also of Lanzhou MAC. A Chinese publication noted: “These [officers] bring pride to the rugged western China [Tibet and Xinjiang], they are absolutely honest and have defended the country's frontiers with their blood; they feel from their heart for the people,” adding: “Minority officers are dedicated to a strong army and China’s steadfast dream.”
In the religious field too, Beijing has its ‘ethnic faces’.
On March 5, China Tibet Online reported the visit of a ‘Buddhist’ delegation from Tibet to Bangladesh. Can you believe it?
Quoting the Chinese Embassy in Bangladesh, the website said: “At the invitation of the Buddhism Association of Bangladesh, the China Tibetan Buddhism delegation, led by Rinpoche Dupkang Tupden Kedup, visited Bangladesh from February 21 to 25.”
Dupkang, though Chairman of the Tibet Branch of Buddhist Association, is an nameless religious figure outside Tibet.
But, he has now been awarded the ‘2015 Atisha Peace Gold Award’ by the Buddhism Association of Bangladesh (BAB). The fact that Dupkang is not a monk anymore does not seem to have bothered the BAB.
His visit to Bangladesh however raises very serious questions for Delhi (and Dharamsala).
Why has the Dalai Lama been unable to visit Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand (he went once in the 1970s) or Sri Lanka? Most of these countries (apart from Bangladesh) have a large Buddhist population. Why should a Communist rinpoche like Dupkang, non-existant in the Buddhist hierarchy, be ‘honoured’ with the ‘Atisha Award’, when the Tibetan leader has never been able to visited Bangladesh?
In Tibet, Beijing is fully using Gyaltsen Norbu, China’s Panchen Lama for political purpose. On March 4, Xinhua reported the young Lama (25) spoke about "Cultivating talent, making Tibetan Buddhism better adapted to a socialist society."
Gyaltsen Norbu is today the main ethnic face of Buddhism in China. There is no doubt that in the years to come, Beijing will continue to fully play the ‘Panchen Lama card’ and he will probably be seen around South Asian capitals as the representative of the Buddha.
Madam Cui Yuying is one of the few ‘ethnic’ Tibetans who today serves in a high position in the Central government in Beijing, thereby helping China in its ‘ethnic equality’ propaganda.
After occupying different junior posts in Tibet, she has become Deputy Director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, an important post.
But often the ethic faces are more Chinese than the Hans.
Last year, Madam Cui opened the infamous ‘2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet, China’, organized in Lhasa and attended by a few foreign fans of the Communist Party, who had no choice, but to agree to the terms dictated by the Party in Beijing. One can’t bite the hand which feeds you!
Cui Yuying, while inaugurating the ‘Forum’, used the old Communist argument that Beijing only wants modernity for Tibet. The same argument was used in the 1950s, when Mao and his colleagues pretended that the Dalai Lama did not want ‘reforms’ and therefore Tibet needed to be ‘liberated’.
Like for the PLA ‘ethnic’ officers and religious figures, the presence of ‘ethnic’ Party cadres in the government in Beijing does not help much to find a solution to the Tibetan issue, on the contrary!
It is sad, especially at a time when photos and videos have appeared in the social media networks, showing heavy security presence at the annual Monlam Prayer Festival at Kumbum monastery, in Qinghai province; the 500-old Festival is traditionally dedicated to social harmony and world peace.
Voice of America reported: “The heavy security presence with armored vehicles and troops with automatic weapons doing drills and marching through one of the major Tibetan monasteries appears to have deeply hurt the feelings of the Tibetan people in the area.”
Unfortunately, the few ‘ethnic faces’ can’t do anything about the hardening of the situation on the ground in the minorities’ areas. It is tragic.

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