Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 05:37 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 05:37 | SYDNEY

China and Tibet: Missing the point


Malcolm Cook

18 March 2008 16:18

The recent demonstrations in Lhasa and beyond against Beijing’s treatment of Tibet has certainly hit a raw nerve in this year of the Olympics. Yesterday, the English language version of the People’s Daily (the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party) came out with its explanation of the violent demonstrations. Unsurprisingly, it puts all the blame at the feet of the Dalai Lama and his 'clique', while praising the restrained security officials and Beijing’s approach to the 'new Tibet'. However, one is struck how the article leaves the most important question unaddressed, particularly if you buy the argument on Tibet it is offering. The missing question, the proverbial elephant in the room, is why is there still and active and organised Tibetan autonomy/independence movement 50 years after the Dalai Lama fled and China gained full control over Tibetan territory?

On the same day, the Times of India, the national voice of the other major power involved in the Tibetan situation, ran an opinion piece by American Tibet expert, Dr Elliot Sperling, also criticising the Dalai Lama and his role in modern-day Tibet. However, Sperling criticises the Dalai Lama for helping Beijing in its program for the 'new Tibet' and his non-violent, consensus-seeking approach to Beijing.

The Dalai Lama is the focus of criticism in both articles, one as the enemy of China and the 'new Tibet' and one as the unintended pawn of China in Tibet. I wonder what will happen when the Dalai Lama is no longer the lightning rod for the Tibetan cause. Will it be the end of the cause of an independent or autonomous Tibet, or will the movement be taken over by the younger, more radical, elements willing to challenge Beijing directly?