[Reader-list] The Hindu

TaraPrakash taraprakash at gmail.com
Fri Apr 4 19:39:31 IST 2008

Thanks Sonia for writing this letter. However, Hindu which has seemingly 
assumed a role of being the mouthpiece of current Chinese regime, is the 
least likely to pay any attention to it, let alone publish it.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "S. Jabbar" <sonia.jabbar at gmail.com>
To: "sarai list" <reader-list at sarai.net>
Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 3:57 AM
Subject: [Reader-list] The Hindu

> This is a letter I have written to The Hindu in response to Pallavi 
> Aiyar¹s
> , How China sees the Dalai Lama and his cause (The Hindu, April 3).  I¹m
> posting the original article FYI below.
> ----------------------------
> Pallavi Aiyar¹s , How China sees the Dalai Lama and his cause (The Hindu,
> April 3) is full of inconsistencies and errors.  The argument that the
> Chinese leadership cannot be expected to engage in talks with the Dalai 
> Lama
> because they have portrayed him as the enemy for the last 50 years, is 
> like
> agonizing over how the Sangh Parivar can ever embrace Indian Muslims after
> demonizing the community all its life.  The only sane answer to this can 
> be:
> well, that¹s your problem, now go figure!
> Aiyar admits that there is little information about Tibet within China and
> then strangely concludes that there is widespread anger at Tibetan 
> protests
> based on her readings of Chinese blogs.  How does one accurately ascertain
> what people genuinely feel or think under an authoritarian government that
> controls information, thought and expression?  Besides, Aiyar seems 
> totally
> unaware of the ripples generated by the recent letter to the Chinese
> government calling for a direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama by over 30
> Chinese intellectuals, many of who are Han.
> To assert that the Chinese government has to Œsell¹ an idea to the public 
> is
> specious.  Since when have dictatorships bothered with popularity ratings?
> Did the Chinese government assess what 1.25 million of its citizens felt
> when they were displaced to make way for the Olympic games, or the 
> millions
> displaced in the Three Gorge Project, or what people feel when the
> government regularly arrests and incarcerates Chinese intellectuals,
> journalists, lawyers and activists who may harbour different opinions from
> the present regime?
> Aiyar claims the Dalai Lama refused an invitation by China in 1989 Œin an
> effort to re-start stalled talks,¹ and that he Œchose instead to appeal to
> the West to put pressure on China to accede to his demands,¹ and that is 
> why
> the Chinese view him Œas a chronically unreliable negotiator.¹ What is her
> source of information?  Why does she fail to mention concrete Tibetan
> efforts of preceding years that include the Dalai Lama¹s 5-point Proposal
> (1987) and Strasbourg Proposal (1988), and an invitation for talks in 
> Geneva
> in 1988?
> The Panchen Lama died on 28 January 1989.  The Chinese invitation to the
> Dalai Lama came unexpectedly on Feb 7 to attend the cremation on Feb 15. 
> Is
> it reasonable to expect him to jump at an invitation from hostile forces
> with just a week to prepare for thirty years of absence?  Incidentally, 
> when
> the Dalai Lama subsequently asked to visit Tibet and to meet Premier Li 
> Peng
> during his visit to New Delhi in 1991, both were denied.
> The Chinese government¹s stonewalling of the Tibet issue and issues of 
> human
> rights within China cannot be viewed as a sovereign state¹s legitimate
> rights over Œinternal matters¹.  These are acts of hubris which will 
> sooner
> or later force those in power to weigh what is more important, absolute
> power for the Communist Party of China or the very existence of China
> itself?
> Sonia Jabbar
> ------------------------------------
> How China sees the Dalai Lama and his cause
> Pallavi Aiyar
> What those urging China to negotiate with the Dalai Lama fail to recognise
> is the fact that Beijing's main constituency is not the international
> community but its own domestic public. For Beijing to appear 'soft' on the
> Dalai Lama would be as politically unpalatable domestically asit would be 
> in
> the United States were Washington to decide to engage in dialogue with 
> Osama
> bin Laden.
> With tensions in Tibet continuing to bubble, pundits and politicians in 
> both
> India and the West are increasingly calling for talks between the Chinese
> government and the Dalai Lama.
> One argument supporting the utility of talks between the Chinese 
> leadership
> and the pre-eminent Tibetan Buddhist leader reasons that contrary to the
> dominant belief in Beijing, the Dalai Lama is in fact China's best bet for 
> a
> long-term and stabl e solution to the Tibet issue. Only the Dalai Lama has
> the stature and authority to convince the Tibetan population at large that
> its interests lie within rather than separate from China, this line of
> reasoning proceeds. Thus it is argued that if Beijing loses out on the
> opportunity to reach an accommodation with the exiled leader now, it may 
> end
> up with an even more unpredictable and hard to control situation regarding
> Tibetan aspirations for self-determination after the Dalai's death.
> Others are urging the Chinese leadership to negotiate with the Dalai Lama 
> to
> prove to the world that it "deserves" to host the Olympic Games. Beijing
> will be able to boost its international image and prove its critics wrong 
> if
> only it would agree to talks, it is claimed.
> What neither of these arguments takes into account, however, is how 
> strongly
> divergent perceptions of the Dalai Lama within China and abroad, combined
> with the deep vein of government-stoked nationalism that runs through
> contemporary Chinese society, make it virtually impossible for Beijing to
> sell any potential deal reached with the Dalai Lama to its public. While 
> in
> the West the Dalai is widely seen as a Nobel prize-winning, peace-loving
> figure of moral authority, within China the monk is regularly projected as
> not only a separatist but also a duplicitous trouble-maker not above
> unleashing violence.
> In the aftermath of the recent riots and protests in Tibet, Internet chat
> rooms in China are abuzz with anger and indignation at what many see as 
> the
> biased portrayal of the situation by the western media and the
> 'hypocritical' actions and statements of the Dalai Lama. Revealingly, many
> Chinese have even lashed out at the authorities for their ostensible
> leniency in dealing with the protests, in sharp contradistinction to the
> 'repressive crackdown' most commentators abroad have criticised Beijing 
> for.
> The majority of Chinese have little awareness that there is a Tibet 
> problem
> at all. Although a relatively high-profile issue abroad, thanks in part to
> the efforts of Hollywood, within China Tibet is usually far less prominent
> in the consciousness of the average Chinese than Taiwan. In school, 
> Chinese
> youngsters are taught how the region has only benefited from Communist 
> rule.
> The feudal theocracy of the Dalai Lama was replaced by the enlightened
> policies of the People's Republic, they are told, with the result that 
> Tibet
> has enjoyed rising living standards and economic development.
> While the Dalai Lama is portrayed as a sinister figure working to split
> Tibet from the Chinese nation, he is also described as having little 
> support
> among the Tibetan population at large. When I gave a lecture to a class of
> about 50 students at one of Beijing's top journalism universities a few
> years ago, I discovered that not one of the bright, young things I was
> talking to was aware that the Dalai Lama had won the Nobel prize.
> Moreover, many Chinese regard Tibetans as being unfairly privileged since
> they are granted certain special subsidies and benefits from the 
> government
> because of their ethnic status. For example, they are exempted from the
> one-child policy that restricts urban Han Chinese families to a single
> child.
> Given this background, the TV footage and photographs of rampaging monks 
> in
> Lhasa and elsewhere attacking Han civilians and security forces have
> bewildered many Chinese. They are particularly outraged at western media
> stories that consistently blame the Chinese government for its handling of
> the situation while bolstering the Dalai Lama's version of events.
> With the Olympics being held in Beijing this August, 2008 was intended as 
> a
> year for the Chinese to showcase their new globalised and friendly face to
> the world. Instead the reaction of the West to the Tibet issue, widely
> publicised daily in all official media, is leading to feelings of
> victimisation among the Chinese and a correspondingly sharp response from
> the authorities. "If the terrorists insist on carrying out their attacks 
> on
> lives and properties of the Chinese nation," opined one netizen on the
> English language China Daily website chat room, "[the] next step would be 
> to
> exterminate them, like so many cockroaches." He added: "The Olympics is 
> only
> a party to celebrate China's successes. It is not a goal in itself. 
> Allowing
> the terrorists to run amok would jeopardise the 30 years of successes from
> all that hard work and smart work of the Chinese citizenry." What those
> urging China to negotiate with the Dalai Lama fail to recognise is the 
> fact
> that Beijing's main constituency is not the international community but 
> its
> own domestic public. The Olympics, important though they may be to the
> country's prestige, are seen as far less important than China's 
> territorial
> integrity.
> There is a range of scholarship on contemporary China that demonstrates 
> the
> fundamental utility of nationalism as a source of legitimacy to the
> country's ruling party. Given this fact, for Beijing to appear 'soft' on 
> the
> Dalai Lama would be as politically unpalatable domestically as it would be
> in the United States were Washington to decide to engage in dialogue with
> Osama bin Laden.
> The door for dialogue and genuine compromise between the Chinese 
> government
> and the Dalai Lama was open briefly in the 1980s. The two sides held 
> secret
> talks in Beijing in 1982 and 1984. At the time however, the Dalai Lama was
> less clear than he states he is today on the issue of how far he was 
> willing
> to accept Chinese rule over Tibet. The exiles repeatedly insisted that any
> solution must entail the governance of Tibet under a totally different
> political system than what the rest of China had. This would mean
> transforming the region into a self-governing democratic entity, something
> that was patently unacceptable to Beijing.
> When in 1989 the Chinese authorities invited the Dalai Lama to participate
> in a religious ceremony in an effort to re-start stalled talks, the exiled
> leader refused. He chose instead to appeal to the West to put pressure on
> China to accede to his demands. For Beijing this move branded the Dalai 
> Lama
> as a chronically unreliable negotiator. Since then the Chinese 
> leadership's
> preferred approach is to wait for the monk's passing. The idea is that any
> successor of the current Dalai is unlikely to inspire similar veneration 
> in
> Tibetans and would thus lack the clout enjoyed by the current leader.
> Thus while Chinese leaders have repeatedly, in recent weeks, stated that
> they are open to talks with the Dalai Lama, they reiterate the caveat that
> he must give up his demand for independence. The Dalai Lama in turn has
> repeatedly insisted that he has no such claim. The Chinese respond by
> pointing to the riots in Lhasa and hence the Dalai's 'obvious 
> insincerity.'
> And so on it goes, in circles. Even were the government persuaded to 
> attempt
> a compromise with the exiled leader, its room for manoeuvre is slim given
> the way the public views the situation. Any change in Beijing's position,
> including talks with the Dalai Lama, would appear as bowing to foreign
> pressure and failing to respond firmly to violence.
> In 1989 the Dalai Lama won the Nobel peace prize. However, beyond symbolic
> gains for his cause, his strategy of appealing to the West for support
> failed to make China compromise on Tibet. In fact, it precipitated a more
> hard-line policy on the issue, which persists till today. With the recent
> protests and the upcoming Olympic Games, the Dalai and Tibet are once 
> again
> in the international limelight. However, given the Chinese reaction there 
> is
> little cause to believe any fundamental shift in Tibet's situation will be
> precipitated.
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