Sunday, August 22, 2021

Wang Yang on the Roof of the Word

'Pigeons' flying over the Potala Square
What is the Liberation of Tibet?
China wants us to believe that it liberated Tibet 70 years ago.
It did not really happen like this.
It is true that on May 23, 1951, Tibet and China signed an ‘Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’; it is also known as the 17-Point Agreement. But it sealed the invasion of Tibet, not its 'liberation'.

The 17-Point Agreement
In his memoirs, the Dalai Lama has said that the Agreement had been signed 'under duress' and that the seals on the Agreement had been forged.
When he crossed the Indian border in March 1959 and reached Tezpur in Assam, the Tibetan leader denounced the Agreement.
He stated (using the third person) that in any case, the Chinese never respected the accord:

In 1951, under pressure of the Chinese Government, a 17-Point Agreement was made between China and Tibet. In that Agreement, the suzerainty of China was accepted as there was no alternative left to the Tibetans. But even in the Agreement, it was stated that Tibet would enjoy full autonomy. Though the control of External Affairs and Defence were to be in the hands of the Chinese Government, it was agreed that there would be no interference by the Chinese Government with the Tibetan religion and customs and her internal administration. In fact, after the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese armies, the Tibetan Government did not enjoy any measure of autonomy even in internal matters, and the Chinese Government exercised full powers in Tibet's affairs. In 1956, a Preparatory Committee was set up for Tibet with the Dalai Lama as Chairman, the Panchen Lama as Vice-Chairman and General Chang Kuo Hun [Zhang Guohua] as the Representative of the Chinese Government. In practice, even this body had little power, and decisions in all important matters were taken by the Chinese authorities. The Dalai Lama and his Government tried their best to adhere to the 17 Point Agreement, but the interference of the Chinese authorities persisted.
Later on June 20, 1959, in a press conference in Mussorie, the Dalai Lama was more explicit. He explained:
To understand and appreciate the significance and implication of the recent tragic happenings in Tibet, it is necessary to refer to the main events which have occurred in the country since 1950.It is recognised by every independent observer that Tibet had virtually been independent by enjoying and exercising all rights of sovereignty, whether internal or external. This has also been impliedly admitted by the Communist Government of China, for the very structure, terms and conditions of the so-called agreement of 1951 conclusively show that it was an agreement between two independent and sovereign States. It follows, therefore, that when the Chinese armies violated the territorial integrity of Tibet they were committing a flagrant act of aggression. The agreement which followed the invasion of Tibet was also thrust upon its people and government by the threat of arms. It was never accepted by them of their own free will. The consent of the government was secured under duress and at the point of the bayonet. My representatives were compelled to sign the agreement under threat of further military operations against Tibet by the invading armies of China leading to utter ravage and ruin of the country. Even the Tibetan seal which was affixed to the agreement was not the seal of my representatives but a seal copied and fabricated by the Chinese authorities in Peking, and kept in their possession ever since.
But today the Chinese authorities are using this event to celebrate the 'Liberation of Tibet'.

Wang Yang arrives at Gongkar Airport

Visit of Wang Yang in Tibet
Strangely, the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) has decided to celebrate the May-23 event in August. Beijing was probably too nervous in May.
God knows!
On August 19, a central delegation from Beijing, led by Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) arrived in Lhasa to attend the 70th anniversary functions.
Wang is No 4 is the Communist pantheon.
One can ask, why not celebrated the so-called liberation when the ‘Core leader’, Xi Jinping visited Tibet in July.
There is no answer to this.

Photos quickly circulated of Wang putting a khata around his own neck (strange tradition) and waving to the crowds “as the delegation was warmly welcomed at the Gongkar Airport by representatives from various ethnic groups and from all walks of life,” said Xinhua.
The Chinese agency further reported: “In the afternoon, Wang led the members of the central delegation to the Tibet Museum to attend the opening ceremony of an exhibition on achievements made during the 70 years”.
The exhibition includes “the peaceful liberation [1951], the democratic reform [1959], the establishment of the autonomous region [1965], the socialist construction, the reform and opening-up [1978], and the new era [Xi Jinpng’s], showcasing the significant progress achieved in Tibet's economic and social development under the leadership of the CPC.”
Wang had been ‘entrusted’ by Xi Jinping to “lead officials in Tibet along with veteran senior Tibetan officials” to Tibet: “Wang recognized the high reputation they enjoy among various ethnic groups and their important contributions to developing Tibet,” said a release.

Congratulating the Gang of Five
The Gang of Five Tibetan Communists
The ‘Gang of Five’ was Padma Choeling, a former Governor of Tibet and presently Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), Phakphala Gelek Namgyal, the first ‘rinpoche’ to join the Party in the early 1950s, Legchok, a former Deputy Secretary of the TAR, former Red Guard Pasang and Ngabo Tenzin Jigme, representing his father the famous collaborator Ngabo Ngawang Jigme.
Xinhua noted that the CPC Central Committee, the NPC, the State Council, the CPPCC and the Central Military Commission (CMC) congratulated Xi Jinping by unveiling a plaque on which "Building a Beautiful and Happy Tibet and Fulfilling the Dream of Great Rejuvenation [of China]" was engraved.
The agency added that “20,000 cadres and masses of all ethnic groups gathered on the Potala Palace Square on the morning of the 19th to warmly celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.”

Wang Yang and Wu Yingjie and Lobsang Gyaltsen (in Tibetan attire)
Wang Yang then gave a speech.

Xinhua said: “The ancient city of Lhasa is full of colorful flags, flowers and a joyful and festive atmosphere everywhere. Under the majestic Potala Palace, set up a podium in Tibetan style. Above the podium, the solemn national emblem and the banner of "Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" stood out, and the background wall was hung with the emblem of the big celebration and the words ‘1951’ and 2021’ and 10 red flags on both sides. On the Potala Palace Square opposite the podium, people of all ethnic groups dressed in festive attire gathered here early from all directions, waving flags and bouquets in their hands, converging into a sea of joy.”
However, the faces were rather grim in the audience, although the ‘masses’ had to clap from time to time to the speech of Wang and others.
An interesting aspect of the ‘celebration’s was the composition of the delegation.
You Quan, minister of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) who deals with minorities (and Tibet in particular) accompanied Wang. Other delegates were Padma Choeling, Zhang Qingli (who infamously called the Dalai Lama, a ‘wolf in monk’s garb when he was serving as TAR Party Secretary) and presently Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC and more importantly for India, Admiral Miao Hua, member of the Central Military Commission and Director of the CMC’s Political Work Department.

The Speech: from darkness to light
Under a warm 'applause' (a bit forced?), Wang Yang delivered a passionate speech, said Xinhua; Wang Yang observed that “the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet in 1951 was a major victory for the cause of liberation of the Chinese people and the unification of the motherland, and an epoch-making historical turn for Tibet. Since then, Tibet has embarked on a path from darkness to light, from backwardness to progress, from poverty to affluence, from autocracy to democracy, from closed to open, and a thriving new socialist Tibet stands tall at the top of the world.”
It sounds upanishadic!!
Wang mentioned the infamous Xiaogang villages on the border with India: “After persistent efforts, 628,000 poor people have all been lifted out of poverty, 266,000 people have been relocated from the bitterly cold land in the high mountains to live and work happily in river valley towns, and Tibet has joined the nation in building a moderately prosperous society on schedule.”
According to Xinhua, Wang Yang pointed out: “today the world is experiencing a major change that has not been seen in a hundred years, China is at a critical period to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, a new journey to build a modern socialist country has begun, and the economic and social development of Tibet also stands at a new historical starting point. 

Happy? Unhappy?

The Tibetans warned
Tibetans were however warned, they need to “fully implement the party's strategy for governing Tibet in the new era, conscientiously implement the decision and deployment of the party central committee, and strive to write a new chapter of long-term stability and high-quality development on the snowy plateau.”
Wang concluded “…let us closely unite around the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, carry forward the great spirit of building the Party, inherit the ‘Old Tibet Spirit’ [the invasion of Tibet in 1950/51] and ‘Two Roads Spirit’ [the Sichuan-Tibet and the Qinghai-Tibet highways opened in December 1954], build a new socialist modernized Tibet that is united, rich, civilized, harmonious and beautiful, and make unremitting efforts to realize the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
There was no mention of the Dalai Lama, Beijing’s bête noire.

The Tibet Military Region, the Tibet General Force of the Armed Police, the TAR Political and Legal Department and the Tibet Branch of the Buddhist Association of China were congratulated.
It was noticed that the Chinese–selected Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu who is President of the Tibet Branch of the Buddhist Association of China, only furtively appeared in the TV reports.
he is clearly not in Beijing's good papers, though his services will be needed for the succession of the Dalai Lama.

Lt Gen Wang Kai, the commander of Tibet Military Region, one Tenzin, ‘representing the masses’ and Liang Nangyu, the representative of Tibetan aid cadres, also spoke at the function. 

Adm Miao, Padma Choeling, Wang, You Quan and Zhang Qingli (behind Wang is Red Pasang)

A Grand Gala
Later in the day, a ‘grand gala’ was held to celebrate of the so-called Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.
Xinhua reported that in the afternoon of August 19, Wang Yang watched the cultural performance 'Tibetan Children's Heart to the Party', together with more than 600 cadres and people from all walks of life in the TAR.”
However, the Chinese Panchen Lama was missing in action. He was probably unhappy to have been relegated to the third row in front of Potala in the morning; he played a very marginal role during the entire visit, it was noted.
The CCP’s mouthpiece continued: “The performance reflected the glorious course of Tibet from peaceful liberation to prosperous development over the past 70 years through the first part ‘Sunshine Shines on the Plateau’, the second part ‘Striving for a New Era’ and the slogan ‘Always Follow the Party’, showing the great importance and deep concern of the Party Central Committee to Tibet with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and expressing the boldness of Tibetan people of all ethnic groups to unswervingly follow the Party and strive for building a new socialist modernized Tibet.” Propaganda is Thy Name.

Inaugurating the Nagchu-Yangpachen section of the Beijing-Tibet G6 highway
Visit to Nagchu
“With comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the Party Central Committee's cordial care and the fond wishes of the people of the country”, Wang Yang and some members of the Beijing’s delegation visited Nagchu City (earlier called Prefecture); they visited the cadres and masses of all ethnic groups in Nagchu, continued the propaganda.
Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party Secretary accompanied Wang and his colleagues.
Xinhua observed: “Early in the morning of the 20th, Wang Yang and his party took the train to Nagchu City. Once off the train, the central delegation took a car to the Seni County ecological animal husbandry industry demonstration base. Wang Yang walked into the shed, detailed understanding of the base intelligent forage planting, yak dairy products traditional processing, etc., the base to drive the employment of farmers and herdsmen, to promote the local people's income practice affirmed.”
Here again, he left behind a plate with the inscription sent by Xi Jinping, "Building a beautiful and happy Tibet and fulfilling the dream of great rejuvenation". 

Wang Yang, Zhang Qingli, Zhuang Yan, Adm Miao, Wu Yingjie

Visiting some projects
Wang Yang is said to have inspected the grass-roots party organization construction work in Dronyi (Gemar) village, Gemar Lhoma town, Seni county. The usual propaganda speeches were given: “Hangjia Middle School in Seni county, built in 2017, is the largest single project in Zhejiang Province's 13th Five-Year Plan to aid Tibet, with more than 2,000 students, and the new semester has begun. Wang Yang came here to learn more about the work of education aid to Tibet, hoping to continuously improve the level of education in Tibet, so that more children grow up to become successful.”
He also visited a hospital and inspected the progress of high-altitude scientific and technological tree planting in Nagchu City.
Perhaps more importantly Wang Yang opened the Nagchu-Yangpachen section of the Beijing-Tibet National Highway G6.
In Nagchu he was accompanied by Zhang Qingli, Admiral Miao Hua and other members of the central delegation. Again it must be a first for Nagchu to see a three-star admiral in this remote, cold, deserted high-altitude region. But Miao had probably come to the Roof of the World for ‘political work’ and to follow up on his colleague General Zhang Youxia’s visit in July.
This is a serious issue for India.

Other Visits
While Wang was in Ngachu, You Quan of the UFWD went to Lhoka (Shannan) to meet the ‘masses’ while Padma Choeling visiting Shigatse and the Tashilhunpo, where he briefly met …guess who?
Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese-designated Panchen Lama.
It is not known if they discussed in Tibetan or in Mandarin.
Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Chairman of the TAR Regional Congress and No 2 in Tibet accompanied Padma Choeling in Shigatse, while Che Dalha, head of the TAR government (and no 3 in the TAR hierarchy) went to Lhoka.

Lobsang Gyaltse, Padma Choeling, Gyaltsen Norbu

Gyaltsen Norbu was briefly seen in the Tashilhunpo monastery with Padma Choeling and Lobsang Gyaltsen.

Other Officials present
Zhang Yijiong, a senior member of the UFWD and designated-interlocutor of the Tibetans was in attendance.  He was following his boss, You Quan everywhere.
Another UDWD official, Sithar (or Sitar) was also present during the visit. He was once described as: 'one-time Tibetan serf, now frontman for China.
A few years ago, Reuters wrote: “For many fellow Tibetans, Sitar is a Chinese government puppet, but for the Communist Party, the former serf is a model of loyalty and rising political star.”
Reuters' correspondent continues: “Sitar, who goes by one name and whose ancestors were serfs for generations until 1959, has risen to be a vice-minister of the Party's UFWD and a key defender of government policy in Tibet. The article further said: “[Sithar] has emerged as one of the most prominent ethnic Tibetans backing China's fight against Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his government-in-exile based in northern India. In that role, Sitar has come to embody the divide between a Tibetan political elite that has embraced China's programme for controlling and developing the region, and discontented Tibetans and exiles who instead see exploitation and repression.”

All this does not mean that negotiations with Dharamsala will start soon.

In any case, to discuss what? 

When one reads the speeches of the delegation, the positions are too far part.
In Lhasa, the function concluded with these words: “O Party, O Party. You are the sun rising in the east, shining on the snowy mountains and grasslands ...A song ‘Always follow the Party’ contains the ambition of the Tibetan people of all ethnic groups to forge ahead with a new journey under the guidance of Xi Jinping's thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, pushing the atmosphere to a climax.”

There is clearly no negotiations possible today. 

It has to be noted that it is the third visit by a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo in two months (Xi in Amdo in June and in Central and Southern Tibet in July and now Wang in Lhasa and Nagchu).

Tail End: Don't you think that the 'pigeons' figuring in the photo at the beginning of this article, look like drones? Was China nervous during the Celebrations? Is Beijing not sure that Tibet has really been liberated? To be followed...

A few photos of the visit:


Friday, August 13, 2021

Han marrying Tibetans: 560 multiethnic families in Metok

Inter-marriage between Hans and Tibetans is not new, though during the 70 years following Tibet’s invasion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it has remained rare exceptions; the Tibetans being always reluctant to lose their Tibetanness.
It seems that it is changing, due to Xi Jinping’s new policy about the transfer of 'ethnic groups' on the border.
In March 1955, in a Report to the Ministry of External Affairs, Apa Pant, the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim noted that the Chinese were showing great energy and organizational skill to reform certain aspects of the Tibetan administration: “Starting of schools and welfare centres, organizing of social events such as cinemas, is attracting at least some of the inhabitants of Tibet.”
The PO believed that the people in the Chumbi Valley near Sikkim, were taken in by the Chinese efforts to win over the Tibetans; he also mentioned inter-marriages: “One of the aspects of the policy of establishing closer bond between Tibet and China is the great encouragement, even at times through a great deal of propaganda, that is being given to Sino-Tibetan marriages,” he wrote.
However, many Tibetans feared that the Chinese would marry the most eligible Tibetan girls “and produce a new generation of Sino-Tibetans who would have deeper emotional feelings towards China,” wrote Pant Pant.
This intermarriage phase would not last.
It would practically stop after the Dalai Lama took refuge in India in 1959.
In 1955, Pant however prudently added that “this aspect of Chinese activities in Tibet requires careful watching.”

Today, a State Policy

The situation has now changed and it seems that he has become part of the policies adopted during the 7th Tibet Work Forum in August 2020 in Beijing, to show 'unity of the Chinese Nation'.
As an article in The China Daily puts it: “Han-Tibetan couples reflect region's love of unity”.
The Chinese propaganda publication explains: “During the 70 years of history after the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, ethnic equality and unity have always been cornerstones for the region's rapid economic development. As reform and opening-up deepens, the physical and emotional ties between Tibetans and people in the rest of China become closer, with frequent business interactions and a growing number of mixed communities.”

Can Tibetanness disappears forever?

Xi Jinping’s visit to Tibet

As mentioned in a previous post, on August 2, The Tibet Daily published several quotes attributed to Xi Jinping during his interaction with the local officials in Tibet; Xi’s views are encapsulated in slogans, among them: “the border area is the first line of defense and the barrier for the national security. We must strengthen the construction of border infrastructure, encourage people of all ethnic groups to take root in the border, protect the country or build their home-town."
The remark about ‘all ethnic groups taking root on the border’ should have rung the alarm bells in Delhi and Dharamsala. Did it?

Tibet Multi-Ethnic?
To come back to The China Daily article mentioned earlier, it states: “Official statistics showed that more than 40 ethnic minorities live in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and Tibetan inhabitants account for over 90 percent of the total 3.64 million population. Nowadays, families consisting of members of different ethnic backgrounds are quite common in Tibet.”
Whether it is true or not, is difficult to say, but cities like Lhasa are today overwhelminingly Chinese.
The Party’s newspaper takes the example of four couples, their Han-Tibetan intermarriage being “a great demonstration of ethnic unity in this new era of development.”
It is clear that it has now become a State policy to be implemented before the next Tibet Work Forum around 2025. 

It has to be noted that these decisions remain secret (at least remain within the Party) till they are fully implemented. It has been the case for the Xiaogang villages, particularly those on the Indian border.

Four Examples
The first example given by the article is Wei Rongjian, who is born in Nanchong, Sichuan province, where he was managing a private martial arts school.
He came to Tibet in 1989: “After falling in love with the Tibetan woman Chaguo [Chinese name?], he settled down in Trinkhor (Zhongguo in Chinese) village of Nyingchi City. …Wei devoted himself to revitalizing countryside education and set up a non-profit school in 1996, offering local children a window to explore the outside world.”
In 2003, Wei invested some 2.6 million yuan ($400,000) to establish the first kindergarten in Trinkhor with both Tibetan and Chinese language courses for the students.” He told the newspaper: “Although I am over 60 years old, my wife and I still work over 10 hours a day with the school's affairs. My mission lies in providing modern and urban education resources for students in rural areas."
The second case is Jamyang Choephel, married to Du Yingfang; the couple lives in Bome in Nyingchi City.
Jamyang Choephel is a car mechanic born in Bome; he has been transporting goods and materials from Sichuan to Tibet since the mid-1960s. He met Du Yingfang, a Chengdu woman, via a mutual friend, and they got married in 1976. This is a rare case of Tibetan man marrying a Han girl: “At first, all of my friends were curious why I married a Han woman, because intermarriage between different ethnic groups was quite rare at that time," said Jamyang.
According to The China Daily: “Despite the misunderstandings of others, the couple live a simple but happy life for over 45 years and have two kids, who are already grown, and have with their own jobs and families. …Every year we go back to Chengdu to celebrate the Spring Festival, by plane or by car. It's more convenient than before!" observed Du.
Once again it is rather rare to have Tibetan man marrying Chinese girls.
The next couple is Nyima Lhamo and Zhou Jingming, who also live in Bome county.
Zhou Jingming, who is from Leshan, Sichuan province migrated several years ago to Göndrong (Yigong in Chinese) to earn a living, “a local woman named Nyima Lhamo who was running a small shop in the village caught his eye,” explained Zhou.
Lhamo had already been married, but had divorced: “After spending time together over three years, the two tied the knot in 2012, and have been managing a restaurant together since then,” she said.
The couple has now opened a new hotel with ten guest-rooms, offering Tibetan-style homestay experiences to tourists who come to Bome: “We earn about 300,000 to 400,000 yuan per year, [it is] a very satisfying income," Zhou said.
Zhou has entered politics; he was recentre elected deputy to the National People's Congress in the township; he is responsible for the rural revitalization; he swears that he “will devote himself to increasing the income of rural residents and diversifying the town's business models.”
Practically, he will bring more Han settlers who will marry Tibetan girls.
The last couples mentioned is Mumu and Yan Shiquan, who live in Lulang town, the ‘Switzerland of Tibet’ in Nyingchi.
The couple manage a 12 greenhouses of vegetables, and a pig farm with around 300 livestock. Married for 27 years, they have “dabbled in many business ventures, and started to earn a good living three years ago through farming as well as raising livestock. With little experience at the start, Mumu and Yan had to learn from scratch all the necessary agricultural techniques.”
These examples are obviously promoted in the Chinese media to emulate other Tibetan girls to marry Chinese.

560 multiethnic families in Metok
A few months ago, Xinhua had already touched upon the issue: “According to statistics, there are more than 560 multiethnic families in Metok [near the Indian border]. People of different ethnic groups help each other in farming and animal husbandry, and children of different ethnic groups study in the same classroom. People here celebrate the New Year's Day, the Lunar New Year, the Tibetan New Year, ‘Dashiang’ folk culture festival of Monpa ethnic group and other ethnic festivals.”
The news agency highlighted the case of Zhang Chunhuan and his family celebrating together he eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year: “Eight years ago, Zhang Chunhuan, a young man from Shanxi Province, came to Metok. At that time, the traffic in the county located at the southern foot of the Himalayas was inconvenient. Zhang had to walk three or four hours from some townships to the county seat to buy daily necessities. He never planned to make his home here one day,” recalls Zhang.
Zhang eventually married Tashi Yudron, a Monpa girl; they have now a daughter. Xinhua says: “Nowadays, Metok has schools, shops and restaurants. A beautiful park has been built in the center of the county seat. It has become a tourist attraction in Tibet and an agricultural products base featuring tea, Tibetan medicine and characteristic agriculture. In 2019, Metok shook off
Zhang's parents joined the couple to celebrate the Spring Festival for two consecutive years: “Now, Metok is my home,” said Zhang.

There is nothing wrong with inter-marriage as such, but when it becomes a State Policy, with the purpose of 'uniting' Chinese race, there is something wrong.
The above are obviously model cases to be emulated by many more Tibetans; Beijing has proably calculated that if thousands of Tibetan girls get married to Chinese migrants (for example those coming to work on for the mega infrastructure development projects on the border), a page of the history of Tibet will be turned forever, with no chance for Land of Snows to become Tibet again in the future.
Dharamsala and Delhi should take this issue seriously, otherwise it will weaken the Tibetan 'cultural' cause and the border populations in Northern India have soon to face new neighbours, with all the consequences it implies.

India must revisit Tibet policy to stop Beijing bullying

My article  India must revisit Tibet policy to stop Beijing bullying appeared in The Daily Guardian

Here is the link...

Xi Jinping visited Central and Southern Tibet after a gap of ten years. His objective was to ‘implement the party’s strategy for governing Tibet in the new era and write a new chapter in long-term stability and high-quality development of the snow-covered plateau’.

The last few weeks have been eventful as far as Tibet is concerned.

From June 21 to 23, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) visited Central and Southern Tibet after a gap of ten years. When the Chinese president landed in Nyingchi City (previously called Prefecture), near the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh, it immediately rang bells in the security establishment in India.

The China Daily reported about his stage-managed arrival: “He [Xi] was warmly welcomed by local people and officials of various ethnic groups.” Xi inspected the ecological preservation in the basin of the Yarlung Tsangpo River and its tributary, the Nyang River.

For India, this was an important part of the visit because first, the Chinese President was accompanied by Gen Zhang Youxia, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission (chaired by Xi), and second, due to the proximity of ‘Bayi’ (which means ‘8-1 or August 1’, a term reserved to the People’s Liberation Army which was founded on August 1). Bayi is the Headquarter of the forces facing India in Arunachal Pradesh. Though no details have filtered, Xi was probably briefed about the situation on the border (a meeting with the PLA top brass of the Western Theater Command and the Tibet Military District was later organized in Lhasa).

The visit has to be seen in the context of the CPC’s 100th anniversary and the 70 anniversary of the so-called Liberation of Tibet (read ‘invasion’). The People’s Daily resumed the objectives of the visit: “to implement the party’s strategy for governing Tibet in the new era and write a new chapter in long-term stability and high-quality development of the snow-covered plateau.” This refers to the 7th Work Forum held in August 2020 which defined the development policies for Tibet for the five next years, particularly the sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Chinese President’s tour was hardly over, that another development took place in Delhi: on July 28 morning, US Secretary of State Blinken ‘briefly’ met the Dalai Lama’s representative Ngodup Dongchung during the former’s maiden trip to the Indian Capital.

Later photos of a meeting with members of the Indian ‘civil society’, attended by Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Director of Tibet House, the Dalai Lama’s cultural centre in Delhi were released. Confusion was created between the two meetings, because Dongchung was called ‘a’ representative of the Dalai Lama, while he is the ‘The’ Representative in Delhi. The US embassy should have certainly given the full name of the Representative, to avoid such ambiguity.

A couple of days earlier Wendy Sherman, the US Deputy Secretary of State had met State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in China.

A State Department communiqué said: “The Deputy Secretary and State Councilor Wang had a frank and open discussion about a range of issues… [She] raised our concerns about human rights, including Beijing’s anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong; the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang; abuses in Tibet; and the curtailing of media access and freedom of the press.”

All this is fine and welcome, but one question remains: has India a Tibet Policy?

It is India that has long and tense border with Tibet from Demchok in Ladakh to Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh; is it not high time for Delhi to have its own ‘Tibet’ Policy and start immediately engaging Dharamsala?

At first, Indian officials should meet the newly elected Sikyiong Penpa Tsering; it has not helped India to keep the relations with Dharamsala at a low key (or non-existent). Both India and the Tibetans need to seriously discuss several issues, whether of common interests or problems facing the Tibetan refugees in India.

The election of a new Sikyong Penpa Tsering as the head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) is an ideal time to sit together.

Contentious issues, if any, should also be brought to the table (for example, why, nearly three months after the result of the elections, half the recently elected members of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies have still not yet taken the oath? Is there a Chinese angle behind this?). This should be frankly discussed (and not necessarily made public).

Several areas of Indian interests need to be discussed.

First, the recruitment of Tibetans in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Militia; it has been reported in the Indian media that China wanted to match India by raising a Special Force composed of Tibetans. It is doubtful if this can succeed as Beijing’s trust in the Tibetans remains extremely low, even 70 years after the so-called Liberation of Tibet (read ‘invasion), but Delhi should ascertain Dharamsala’s views; and the CTA should eventually issue a statement stating its views.

Exchanges should also take place about some aspects of the Tibet-Indian border, whether in the Eastern Sector (Arunachal Pradesh), Central Sector (Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) or the eastern part of the Western Sector (Demchok area); what is Dharamsala’s historical take on these issues?

This is particularly important at a time when it has been reported that the Chinese have erected tents on the Indian side of the Charding Nala near Demchok in Ladakh. The Tibetans are certainly aware of their traditional border with India and can hopefully openly state their position.

Another area of interest (not to say worry) for India, is the demographic change on the Indian frontiers. Since 2017, the mushrooming of ‘model’ villages in Tibet, at the proximity of the Indian border, is disturbing; hundreds of ‘xiaogang’ (‘moderately well-off’) villages have come up in the last four years with a mixed population of Tibetans and Hans.

Further, the authorities in Tibet have started to entice the local Tibetan population to side with the Communist Party. A new formula can be found in every speech of the local satraps, the inhabitants of China’s borders (with India) should be “the protectors of the sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes.” Officially, this development is linked with ‘poverty alleviation’ and the ‘defence of the borders’.

There are other areas of common interests, for example how to communicate with the Tibetans inside Tibet? Once the Ladakh episode is over, Delhi should facilitate cultural contacts between Tibetans in India with those in Tibet and why not invite the latter for religious or cultural happenings in India.

Environmental issues are also of concern for India, particularly the mega hydropower plants to be developed by China on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra; what are Dharamsala’s views on this?

From India’s side, assurance should be given that Delhi will stand by the Dalai Lama’s choice for his succession.

Finally, a mechanism should be set-up for regular exchanges between Delhi and Dharamsala; centuries of close kinship between the Roof of the World and the Indic civilization cannot be erased just for political expediencies , or due to Beijing’s bullying tactics.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Hans on the Frontiers: The Worrying Message of Chairman Xi

Zhang Chunhuan and his wife Tashi Yudron in Metok

From July 21 to 23, President Xi Jinping went on an 'inspection tour' of Central and Southern Tibet. His visit was widely commented upon in the world media; especially as it was the first after a gap of ten years.
As soon as the Chinese President landed in Nyingchi City (previously called Prefecture), near the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh, bells rang in the security establishment in India.
The China Daily soon reported: “He [Xi] was warmly welcomed by local people and officials of various ethnic groups.”
Why mention ‘various ethnic groups’ in Tibet? You will soon understand.
In the meantime, the fact that Xi, who is also the Secretary General of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) was accompanied by Gen Zhang Youxia, a CMC Vice-Chairman, and the proximity of Bayi, the Headquarter of the forces facing India in Arunachal Pradesh, was noticed in Delhi.
On the first day, Xi inspected the ecological preservation of the Yarlung Tsangpo River’s basin (which becomes the Siang and Brahmaputra in India), Nyingchi’s planning hall and a ‘model’ village. Officially, he was briefed about the development planning for the region and the City’s progress in rural revitalization; the next day, Xi left for Lhasa by train, travelling on the newly inaugurated strategic section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway.
The visit was analyzed by the China watchers in the context of the CPC’s 100th anniversary and the 70 anniversary of the so-called Liberation of Tibet (read ‘invasion’).
Though very few details filtered through at first, fresh quotes from the New Great Helmsman have now appeared in The Tibet Daily; they unfortunately confirm the worst worries of the Indian Government.
On August 2, The Tibet Daily published several quotes attributed to Xi Jinping during his interaction with the local officials; an entire series was consecrated to the border with India. Xi’s views are encapsulated in different slogans: “protecting the country [China], building hometowns [border villages], ensuring the defense of [China’s] border and consolidating border security.”
Xi Jinping emphasized that “the border area is the first line of defense and the barrier for the national security. We must strengthen the construction of border infrastructure, encourage people of all ethnic groups to take root in the border, protect the country or build their hometown."
Xi added that he had “ardent expectations for speeding up the construction of border areas. We have to be serious about it,” he said.
The remark about ‘all ethnic groups taking root on the border’ is a clear message that Beijing wants Han Chinese to settle on the Indian borders.
For India, it means a dramatic change of the demography on the frontier areas which has had a Tibetan-stock population since immemorial times.
Since 2017, the borders right from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh, have witnessed a mushrooming of new model villages in Tibet.
Xi Jinping had thus described China’s relations with Tibet: “Govern the nation by governing the borders; govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet; ensure social harmony and stability in Tibet and strengthen the development of border regions.”
The local satraps in Tibet started immediately to implement the ‘vision’ of their boss and the Party propaganda did its best to entice the local Tibetan population to side with the Communist Party.
A new formula could be found in every speech of Tibet’s authorities, the inhabitants of China’s borders should be “the protectors of the sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes.”
And as usual, the Tibetans were not asked for their opinion.
The policy has taken a concrete shape with the growing number of ‘model’ villages on the Tibetan side of the Indian border, mainly north of Arunachal Pradesh, but also of Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Officially, these ‘Xiaogang’ (or moderately well-off) villages are linked with poverty alleviation and the defence of the borders.
But for first time on August 2, through the mouth of its ‘Core Leader’, China has admitted that it wanted these villages to be inhabited by ‘people of all ethic groups’, a metaphor for Han migrants from the Mainland.
Xi also insisted “on the simultaneous deployment of troops and the people, and equal emphasis on strengthening the border, and safeguarding the sacred land.”
It was a hint to the fast-paced recruitment of Tibetans into the PLA to ‘defend the border’, which again could be dramatic for India; this issue has recently been reported in the Indian media, but Xi’s words give the true magnitude of this worrying perspective.
The Tibet Daily also mentioned that while encouraging people to settle on the border, Xi asked the local population to “build a shared spiritual home for all ethnic groups”; this might not be an easy proposal.
All this brings to light a new scenario which was never contemplated earlier by the Indian Government, particularly for its security agencies and defence forces; Delhi has little choice but to immediately act to counter these nefarious moves.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Bid to recruit Tibetans in China PLA may backfire

My article Bid to recruit Tibetans in China PLA may backfire appeared in Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

Here is the link...

 The PLA also knows well they can’t trust the Tibetans: a word from their Leader in Dharamsala and the troops will desert

China has a serious problem. Beijing claims that it “liberated” Tibet 70 years ago, but in the recent confrontation in eastern Ladakh, it was the Tibetan troops serving with the Indian Army who successfully fought against the Chinese.

When China’s overlord Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, visited Lhasa last week, on July 22 and 23, he is bound to have discussed this burning issue, especially after his tour of the Indian border region the previous day.

In Lhasa, Mr Xi met the PLA’s top brass stationed in Tibet as well as their Western Theatre Command bosses from Chengdu. Mr Xi didn’t mention the recruitment in his speech. “Over the past 70 years, troops of the Tibet Military District successfully completed a series of heavy tasks in the snowy plateau and withstood the test of the arduous environment and complexity of the country in order to uphold national security and unity and promote the development of Tibet,” he said. With Gen. Zhang Youxia, CMC vice-chairman, and a large number of three and two-star generals in attendance, the issue must have come up at a closed meeting.

The question of Tibetans’ recruitment in the PLA has become acute for the CMC after Nyima Tenzin, a Tibetan officer, sacrificed his life during an Indian Army operation to take control of the Kailash range on the southern bank of Pangong Tso (lake) in Ladakh on August 29, 2020. At that time, many in India discovered the existence of the Special Frontier Force (SFF) Tibetan troops, also known as Establishment 22 or Vikas Regiment. In the night of August 29-30, Tibetan commandos managed to capture from the Chinese a string of strategic high-altitude areas on the Kailash range. It was a resounding victory for India.
The PLA, in contrast, has very few Tibetan soldiers and practically no local officers.

From that time, rumours circulated that the PLA wanted to replicate the SFF, but it’s doubtful if Beijing can succeed, for several reasons.

In the meantime, the Chinese propaganda machine is working full swing. A few weeks ago, a Tibetan female sniper called Dawa Choekar came into the limelight: she was described by CCTV Military as “an amazing female soldier in Special Forces”. It said: “The story of her efforts to achieve a counterattack [against India?] is more exciting than you think!”

Dawa belonged to the first mobile detachment of PAP’s Tibet Corps; she enlisted in the Army in September 2013. “She broke through the language barrier, kept reading the news and looking up the dictionary every day,” the website said, adding she could write “a neat application for joining the party”. It is worth noting that recruits have to first join the Communist Party.

Nobody can deny Tibetans have always been good warriors; in the 1950s-60s, the Khampa freedom fighters gave a nightmare to Chinese generals for years. There were persistent rumours recently that the PLA was recruiting “exclusive military formations of ethnic Tibetans” That would be entirely new, and difficult to corroborate.

On June 4, China National Defence News commented on the National Defence Education under Conditions of Dispersion: a farmer living near the border was quoted as saying: “Our village has a special geographical location, and our home is connected to the ‘gate of the nation’ [Indian border]. To protect our home is to defend the border.”

In summer 2020, it was reported the Shigatse military sub-district sent a national defence education propaganda team to the border: “The alpine pasture in Gyeru Village in Kampa County [north of Sikkim] carried out national defence education for grazing people on the borders. The sub-district is focusing on national defence education… and often sends out preaching teams to open ‘mobile classrooms’ to ensure national defence education strengthens the nation and brings awareness for jointly guarding the border”.

That is the formula repeated ad nauseum by party cadres; the website says that in Shigatse City enlistment has risen by an average of 25.8 per cent: “With the continuous advancement of the preaching squad, the national defence awareness of herdsmen continued to increase… it has become the norm for the military and civilians to join hands to defend the border.”

On March 10, 2021, China Tibet News referred to the recruitment process. It appears some 3,800 people applied for recruitment in Tibet in the first half of the year; it was not specified if they were Tibetans, probably they were, though the recruitment appears to cover the PAP and the militia too.

On March 8, 22 young women from all seven cities (also known as prefectures) in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) passed the preliminary screening and took part in the final conscription medical examination at TMD hospital. Under China’s “Military Service Law”, male citizens who have turned 18 can each year register for military service before June 30. The applicants are regular high school graduates, full-time college graduates and current students, all between 18 and 22.

If this information is correct (17 women selected out of 753 candidates), the induction of Tibetans is minimal, some two per cent for the women, which means around 60-65 men would be selected. One can think the proportion may be higher for men, but even if it is five per cent, it makes 150 recruits. Given that there are two recruitment sessions every year, one can evaluate the number of new male recruits may be 300 per year.

This is without taking into account “special recruitment drives”, if any. (Nothing has been reported so far in Chinese websites and blogs).

It is, however, certain that a large number of candidates won’t be able to pass the “political” exam, which is crucial for the PLA or the paramilitary forces like the militia.

Communist China sees with a certain envy, if not jealousy, how India has managed to recruit several thousands of Special Forces troops among the Tibetan community in exile. The PLA also knows well they can’t trust the Tibetans: a word from their Leader in Dharamsala and the troops will desert. It’s much easier to do propaganda films than to change the hearts of the local population.

There’s no doubt that all these issues were discussed at the encounter between Xi Jinping and the generals in Lhasa on July 23. And while all this is ominous for India, it will remain a formidable task for the CMC to recruit Tibetans that the Communist Party can actually trust.