CHINA> Regional
Ulterior motives behind Dalai's 'Memorandum'
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-22 09:50

At a press conference of the State Council Information Office on Nov 10, Zhu Weiqun, executive vice-director of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, UFWD Vice-Director Sita and Executive Vice-Chairman of the Tibet autonomous region government Pelma Trilek briefed media on their talks with private representatives of the Dalai Lama from Oct 30 to Nov 5.

Two Tibetan students play in Langkazi county of Tibet autonomous region in this October, 2008 file photo. [Xinhua]

Zhu said the Dalai Lama's private representatives presented the central government a "Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People", which has drawn wide attention. On Nov 16, the Dalai side held a press conference in India. They distributed the "Memorandum", and claimed that it was completely in accordance with relevant clauses of China's Constitution and law and it could meet Tibetan people's demands of special interests, if it was implemented substantially.

After a careful reading of the "Memorandum" and checking it against relevant Chinese laws, I found that contradictions with China's Constitution and laws were everywhere in the "Memorandum".

Denial of China's regional autonomy system for ethnic minorities

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The "Memorandum" suggests, "The exercise of genuine autonomy would include the right of Tibetans to create their own regional government and government institutions and processes that are best suited to their needs and system compatible to their own requirements and characteristics. It would require that the People's Congress of the autonomous region have the power to legislate on all matters within the competencies of the region."

The so-called local "matters" listed by the "Memorandum" are 11 issues such as language, culture, religion, education, environmental protection, utilization of natural resources, economic development and trade, public health, public security, administrative regulations on migrants, and exchanges with foreign countries. It also says that the central and local governments should set up a way to jointly solve issues of common concern and common interest and neither the central government nor the autonomous region could change the basic clauses of regional autonomy without the consent of the other side.

To say it straight, it is what the Dalai Lama has repeatedly emphasized in recent years, "Except for foreign affairs and defense, all other issues should be given charge and full authority to Tibetans," and Tibet should follow the method of "one country, two systems" and adopt "genuine autonomy", and its "autonomous right" should be broader than that applied to Hong Kong and Macao.

China is a unitary nation, unlike some nations that are federal states or confederations. Article 3 of the Chinese Constitution says, "The division of functions and powers between the central and local State organs is guided by the principle of giving full scope to the initiative and enthusiasm of the local authorities under the unified leadership of the central authorities."

Article 15 of the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy says, "The people's governments of all national autonomous areas shall be administrative organs of the State under the unified leadership of the State Council and shall be subordinate to it." There are no such problems as equal "negotiations" between the central and the local governments, seeking for mutual "consent" from one another, and establishing a "way to jointly resolving (problems)".

China has established a regional autonomy system for ethnic minorities, which is cordially supported by people of all ethnic groups. The legislative framework of the Chinese regional ethnic autonomy has been well established and the legal system is being improved constantly. To date, government departments concerned have issued 22 supplementary documents, while the whole country has stipulated 134 provisions on autonomy, 429 separate provisions, and 74 supplementary regulations for the Law on Marriage and the Law on Election.

Since the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965, people of different ethnic groups have actively participated in the management of the national and regional affairs, by fully practicing their autonomous rights endowed by the Constitution and law.

Of the deputies of all the previous regional people's congresses, those from Tibetan and other ethnic groups have always accounted for 80 percent or more, while all the chairmen of the regional people's congresses and regional people's governments have been Tibetans. The regional people's congress and its standing committee have stipulated 253 local laws, regulations and separate provisions, involving politics, the economy, culture, and education.

The regional autonomy system for ethnic minorities is the basic policy for the country on ethnic issues, and it is a fundamental political system for the country. Both the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy have defined clearly the right of autonomy of all the autonomous regions.

Unlike Hong Kong and Macao, Tibet does not have the problem of restoring the sovereignty and practicing a different social system, and thus it can not copy the models of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong", "Macao people govern Macao", and "A high degree of autonomy". By proposing the so-called "Genuine Autonomy" in the name of the Chinese Constitution, the Dalai Lama in fact attempted to deny China's regional autonomy system for ethnic minorities and the unified leadership of the central authorities, and set up another system according to their "political design".

Demand for an independent, uncontrolled 'right of legislation'

The "Memorandum" says, "Thus, whereas the Constitution intends to recognize the special need for autonomous regions to legislate on many matters that affect them, the requirements of Article 116 for prior approval at the highest level of the Central Government - by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) - inhibit the implementation of this principle of autonomy." "The exercise of autonomy is further subject to a considerable number of laws and regulations, according to Article 115 of the Constitution. The result is that the exact scope of the autonomy is unclear and is not fixed."

It seems that the Dalai Lama side demands not only the "power to legislate on all matters within the competencies of the region" but the "legislative power" independent from the central authorities. Article 57 of the Constitution says that the NPC is the highest organ of state power, and Article 58 says that the NPC and the NPC Standing Committee exercise national legislative power.

The Constitution is the fundamental and supreme law for a nation, and all laws and regulations, including autonomous regulations of ethnic autonomous regions and separate provisions of ethnic autonomous regions must not be contradictory to the Constitution. Meanwhile, regulations and separate provisions of ethnic autonomous regions often involve adaptations of state laws. It is reasonable that the Constitution demands for prior approval by the NPC Standing Committee before the regulations become effective. The procedure will not undermine the decision-making right of autonomous regions. Instead, it grants the right with a higher level of legislative protection. The "Memorandum" denies the supreme power of the NPC Standing Committee and demands for legislative power that is equivalent to the state level. Is it compatible with the Chinese Constitution?

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