Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Dharamsala cannot represent Tibetan people

By Zhang Zhirong (China Daily) Updated: 2012-04-02 07:03

March 28 marked the 53rd anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day in Tibet. Since the central government successfully put down an armed rebellion in the region in 1959 and introduced ethnic autonomy in 1965, the Tibetan people have become masters of their own fate.

Naturally their legal representative should be the central government and the local people's government in the Tibet autonomous region. However, in recent years the "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala has been trying to "assume" this role. In a "referendum" in 2008, it called itself "the representative of Tibetan people".

To support its claim, the "government-in-exile" says it has the support of 100,000 Tibetans "in exile", as well as the so-called constitution of Tibet issued by the Dalai Lama in 1963.

However, according to international law, a sovereign country must meet the following four basic requirements: It must have a certain number of permanent residents, clearly defined territory, effective government, and the independent sovereign power to handle domestic and foreign affairs. Specifically, the territory refers to terrestrial soil, not including refugee camps in other countries.

International law also emphasizes the effective-rule principle in international recognition of a sovereign state, according to which a government must be able to effectively rule within its own territory, be recognized by other countries, and handle international affairs.

Obviously, the Dalai Lama and his followers in Dharamsala do not meet the requirements. First, the exiled Tibetans are not residents of the Tibet autonomous region. After the rebellion led by serf owners was suppressed in 1959, about 80,000 Tibetans fled together with the Dalai Lama's clique into India. But they followed the Dalai Lama for religious worship rather than political recognition; in other words, they followed the Dalai Lama, not as a secular ruler, but as a religious leader.

Second, neither Dharamsala, nor other settlements of the exiles, could have the territory it needs to form a sovereign state.

The "government-in-exile" cannot even effectively control the piece of soil under its feet, which is Indian territory. Besides, India has long publicly recognized Tibet as part of China, so how can it tolerate some other "sovereign state" within its own borders?

Third, and also most importantly, the "government-in-exile" of the Dalai Lama's clique has never been formally, even factually, recognized by any country in the world.

Since it was "founded" in 1959, many countries or hostile forces have blamed China on Tibet, while some human rights groups have also acted against China. The Dalai Lama has even been received by some foreign leaders during tours around the world. But, please remember, the fact is that none of the countries that received him had ever recognized his "state" or "government".

On the contrary, it is the view of even the opposition forces that Tibet is an indivisible part of China's territory.

In recent years, the Dalai Lama clique has attempted separatism in new forms, but never altered its intention of attracting foreign intervention, especially from United States.

By changing its official website into the "Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama", Dharamsala tried to pander to the tastes of some anti-China senators in the United States.

However, their attempt has failed like all previous ones, as the US will not alter its stance that Tibet is part of China. They even failed to achieve recognition from India. So it is nonsense for the Dalai Lama clique to claim to be the "representative" of Tibetan people.

For the past three decades, the Chinese government has repeatedly shown good intentions to the Dalai Lama by arranging the visits of his private representatives and relatives, even after the riot in March 2008. The central government has also made clear its willingness for talks if the Dalai Lama truly gives up Tibetan independence. The door remains open to him.

Ten years ago, I met Lobsang Sangay at an academic conference at Harvard University. I still remember how he and his companion murmured to me: "China is my motherland." I could feel his friendliness in saying those words. Today the young man is already at the center of power of overseas Tibetan individuals, by winning a US-style "election".

But the election had nothing to do with the 3 million Tibetan people living within China.

The Tibet "government-in-exile" should learn more about the development of the Tibet autonomous region in a neutral, unprejudiced manner, so as to give up separatism and embrace the goodwill of the central government.

The author is a professor from the School of International Studies at Peking University.

(China Daily 04/02/2012 page4)

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