Saturday, June 6, 2015

Can bygones be bygones?

Working for the 'masses'?
China has discreetly started appealing to the Tibetan Diaspora to join again the ‘motherland’.
The move was decided during Central United Front Work Conference held in Beijing from May 18 to 20. It was the 20th time, since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, that such ‘United Front Work Conference’ was held.
China Tibet Online commented: “Many politically savvy think that this shows the strengthening of the united front work (UFW) of the Communist Party of China. Meanwhile, international speculation was drawn by the conference: perhaps the CPC policies for ethnic minorities will be ‘tightened’?”
I think that it may not ‘tightened’, but more dangerously (for the Tibetans), the policies may be ‘loosened with Chinese Characteristics’.
Let me explain why?
During his intervention at the Conference, Xi Jinping spoke of strengthening of the unity of ‘three types of people’.
Who are these 3 types?
Xi named them: overseas students, media representatives, and non-public economy representatives. As already mentioned in this blog, Jack Ma of Alibaba was invited to join the collective efforts to build the Chinese Dream.
The younger generation was particularly targeted by Xi, “as the future focus of the united front work with the aim of achieving and maintaining unity."
China Tibet Online asked a pertinent (for Beijing) question: “do overseas Tibetans count in the ‘three types of people’?”
The website affirms that there are about 170,000 Tibetans living abroad in 33 different countries: “Many Tibetans fled from Tibet with the Dalai Lama in 1959, there are now second - or third - generation of Tibetans living overseas, and some left Tibet after the 1980s.”
Then the website gives their description of the Tibetan Diaspora: “Among the exiled Tibetans, only a handful of ‘high-ranking officials’ Tibetans can obtain the ‘nationality status’ or ‘green cards’ from their host countries, such as several Kalons (cabinet ministers) of the ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’. Most of the overseas Tibetans, especially those living in India and Nepal, are living in poverty and are basically dependent on others.”
The formulation is definitively not as offensive as usual. It does not say the ‘so-called Tibetan government-in-exile’, it just uses ‘ ’.

Let the bygones be bygones
The new Party’s policy seems to be a return to the Deng Xiaoping’s days, when China ‘opened-up’: “In 1978, the Chinese government formulated policies that ‘all patriots belong to one family, and that patriotism can be shown at any time’, as well as ‘freedom to come and go, letting bygones be bygones’ to welcome expatriate Tibetans to come home. Furthermore, Tibet’s economic development and the improvement of people’s living standards have also attracted overseas Tibetans to return home to visit their families and friends, make Buddhist pilgrimage, travel as tourists or do business.”
It is an open invitation to the Tibetan refugees to return, ‘let the bygones, be bygones’.
China Tibet Online says that the number of overseas Tibetans who are truly engaged in ‘Tibet independence’ and separatist activities is very small, though, it admits that the noise they make is big. It concludes that most Tibetans are not interested in ‘politics’.
In these conditions (as seen by Beijing), the United Front Work Conference “reiterated the bottom line that so long as overseas Tibetans are not involved in separatist activities, but safeguarding the unity of the motherland and maintaining unity instead, they are the targets of the united front’s work.”
In other words, the Tibetan refugees belong to one of the three types.
Under the new scheme the Tibetan refugees would be free birds, free to practice their ‘own’ religion, but, there is a ‘but’, it should be with Chinese characteristics.
Take the beginning of Saka Dawa Festival which was celebrated on June 2 this year (15th day of the 4th month). It marks the day of Buddha Sakyamuni's birth, enlightenment and Nirvana.
Zhao Puchu, a former president of the Buddhist Association of China, states that there was only one Buddha Sakyamuni in the world, so there should be only one definite time and date of his birth, enlightenment and nirvana: “However, due to the different calendars that are used in different countries and regions, the Buddhist records of this date vary.”
He proposed that Saka Dawa should be aligned with the Chinese lunar calendar. He explains: “During the development of some big religions as they expanded their geographical scope, they encountered new believers who were rooted in the culture of their individual regions. Thus, as time passed, the original religion gradually combined with the local culture, eventually forming a new sect.”
Zhao concludes: “In China, the question is how to adapt religions to a socialist society with Chinese characteristics.”
Soon, the Tibetan New Year, Losar will have to aligned with the Chinese Spring Festival for the sake of the ‘socialist society with Chinese characteristics’.
During the UWF Conference, Xi Jinping spoke of the legalization of religion work: “Authorities must value the influence of persons in the religious sphere and guild them to better serve for the nation's development, harmony and unification,” he said.
The Chinese President added: “Active efforts should be made to incorporate religions in socialist society,” but “religions in China must be Chinese. The development of religions in China should be independent from foreign influence.”
It means that Tibetan Buddhism, a ‘foreign’ religion which originated in the pains of India, should adapt to its Chinese environment and adopt ‘Chinese characteristics’.

The 17-Point-Agreement

The UWF Conference also passed new Regulations (‘Trial Implementation’) “marking a historical milestone in the development of the United Front”.
China Tibet Online affirmed that the United Front Work had been the key to the peaceful liberation of Tibet. It then brings the “17-Article Agreement which marked peaceful liberation of Tibet.”
After giving an historical background, it says “from Tibet’s peaceful liberation in 1951 until the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the ‘17-Article Agreement’ was the binding legal document for the central government and Tibet local government to adhere to.”
The fact that the Chinese publication use ‘was’ is an admission from Beijing that the Agreement is no more 'binding'. Let us remember that it was denounced by the Dalai Lama in April 1959 when he reached Tezpur in Assam.
The article explains that “the CPC insisted on unity of principle and flexibility during the process of the liberation of Tibet, both to safeguard national interests and also to take care of the interests of the people of Tibet.”
It quotes Deng Xiaoping, then Political Commissar of Second Field Army, which entered Chamdo in October 1950: "In Tibet, we walk and eat relying on policies. Policies are life. We must work closely with and rely on the masses… We should unite the majority of the ecclesiastic and secular people who are patriotic under the anti-imperialist patriotic banner."
Then the Party “established and developed the anti-imperialist patriotic political foundation, with members of the upper class as the focus of the United Front Work,” says the China Tibet Online.
After giving this ‘historical’ background, Beijing appeals again for ‘forgiveness’ “For the pro-imperialists of the past, as long as they distance themselves from imperialism, sabotage and resistance, bygones can be bygones, and all can be united.”
It quotes the Tibetan collaborator, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, who was co-opted in the UFW and would have suggested that in October 1950, Tibet should "Stop the offensive. Both Chinese and Tibetans will benefit from a peaceful settlement."
The Chinese website admits that when the PLA arrived in Chamdo, Ngabo “ordered the withdrawal of Tibetan troops from Chamdo and sent for contact with the PLA.”
Further, Ngabo would have encouraged some 40 monks and lay officials “to write to the Dalai Lama, to urge the Tibetan local [Lhasa] government to speedily send representatives to engage in peace talks with the Central Government based on their knowledge and experience.”
It is how the 17-Point Agreement was signed (‘under duress’ say the Tibetans)
Then, China Tibet Online gives several examples on how the PLA brought ‘relief’ to the masses and “the PLA troops in Tibet were also pioneers of production: repairing roads and bridges, providing free medical care, and helping people with laborious work.”
Well, the truth is that the PLA built roads for itself, to defend the borders; in other words, to be ready to take on Indian troops.
How the Diaspora will respond to the new ‘offer’ of the UFW Conference is an interesting question to follow.
Let us see if the bygones can be bygones once again.

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