A New “Middle Way” Approach
Phayul.com: A New “Middle Way” Approach
March 30th, 2009 · No Comments
By Yang Jianli (Chinese pro democracy activist)
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, we can only hold the deepest respect for the Tibetans’ extraordinary struggle for freedom and democracy under the leadership of the Dalai Lama. Ever since the 1989 Democratic Uprising and the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the future of Tibet and the Chinese’s struggle for democratic reform has become intertwined. In recent years, these issues have generated increasing attention and critical reflection among people within China. Despite the continued efforts by Chinese Communist Party continues to block the free flow of information, and to promote discord by flaming the fires of nationalism, the taboo of debating the issue of Tibet is gradually dissipating.
Today, innumerable articles exist regarding Tibet’s history, culture, religion, the Dalai Lama’s efforts at reconciliation, and the Chinese Communist Party’s Tibetan policies. Therefore, I will not elaborate on these issues here. Instead, I will look at the future.
For several reasons, the events of March, 2008 in Tibet (hereafter referred to as 3.14) have become a new watershed moment in the course of this struggle. First of all, the Tibetan upheaval, and its subsequent brutal suppression, explicitly demonstrated the failure of the Chinese Communist Party’s policies on Tibet; secondly, the riots stimulated many Han Chinese pro-democracy activists to examine more closely the Tibetan status quo. This reexamination led many to realize that to truly accomplish China’s democratization they must incorporate the issue of Tibet into the pro-democracy movement; finally, the events of 3.14 led the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan compatriots to reevaluate the concept of the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach.
The Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” concept for Tibet proposes the pursuit of genuine autonomy instead of outright independence. This pursuit is guided by the principles of peace and non-violence. This approach reflects both pragmatism and extraordinary wisdom. Combined with his humility and commitment to non violence, the Dalai Lama has earned worldwide admiration and has become a moral inspiration for China’s pro-democracy movement. For the past three decades, Despite numerous setbacks, the Dalai Lama has always hoped to realize the “Middle Way” through good faith negotiations with the Chinese government.
However, I cannot but say the Dalai Lama made a strategic mistake that doomed his efforts. Because, under China’s current political system of a Communist one-party dictatorship, it is simply impossible for any ethnic or pro-democracy group alone to reach any reliable agreement with this dictatorship. The logic is quite simple: if the Chinese government grants true autonomous rights to Tibet and freedom to the Tibetan people, it is impossible for the Chinese government not to give freedom to the Han Chinese and other ethnic groups. However, if the government does grant freedom to everyone, it basically means the dissolution of China’s one-party dictatorship and the establishment of a democratic government, which, ironically, is what the Chinese government resists at all costs. After 3.14, the Dalai Lama has also recognized this past strategic flaw. In the past year, he has said on various public and private occasions, including a meeting I personally had with him in July, 2008, that he has given up on the Chinese government. Instead, he has turned to the Chinese people as the source for his hope.
Since 3.14, the call for Tibet’s independence has become louder and stronger. In the First Special General Meeting of the Tibetans-in-Exile held on November 17th 2008, the Tibetan representatives recommended that: “1. [The] [majority [decide] to continue the policy of Middle-Way-Approach. Besides that, looking at the Chinese Government’s behavior in the past, views to stop sending envoys and to pursue complete independence or self-determination, if no result comes out in the near future were also strongly expressed. 2. The Middle-Way-Approach, independence or self-determination, whatever is pursued in the Tibetan struggle, we shall not deviate from the path of non-violence to achieve our aims (Item 2, 5th Resolution, 1st Special General Meeting of the Tibetans-in-Exile).” This recommendation is rather reasonable. Both the ethnic Han Chinese and the Tibetans have suffered tremendously under the Chinese government’s dictatorship. However, as ethnic Han Chinese, we cannot but feel ashamed because of the ethnic discrimination we have practiced, adding to the torment to which the Tibetan people have been subjected. We cannot but feel heartbreak due to the suffering of our Tibetan brothers’ families, religion, culture, environment and economic well-being. Because of these particular reasons, we feel even stronger sympathy and compassion towards the concept of ethnic self-determination, which conforms with the general trends of the civilized world to pursue governance that respects individual freedom as well as ethnic and racial equality.
Unfortunately, every dictatorship always lives with a despicable dilemma by which any plans for realizing such just goals are simply not feasible because the pursuit of such goals undermine the very existence of the dictatorship. Every individual, group (including religious group) or ethnic community under dictatorships is stuck with this predicament without any exception. The Dalai Lama deeply understands the core nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorship, He is also aware of the perspective of the ethnic Han Chinese after several generations of education (or brain-washing if you want to call it) on the “mono-China” propaganda generated by the CCP. The Dalai Lama is aware that if Tibet ever pursues full independence, war is unavoidable. Yet, violence and bloodshed violates the core principles of the Dalai Lama. In addition, through his broad and long-term perspective, the Dalai Lama realizes that the pursuit of independence is indeed not the best path toward happiness for the Tibetan people. Based on all these concerns, the Dalai Lama proposal of a “Middle Way” approach toward solving the Tibet issue is extraordinarily wise and courageous.
However, whether the issue is Tibet’s “unity” or “independence”, there is simply no common ground, or constitutional foundation for the resolution of these issues. As a matter of fact, over the past one hundred years, the ethnic Han Chinese and the Tibetans have never had any legal foundation for governing mutual relations which reflected free will of both parties. As everyone knows, the current Han-Tibetan relations were imposed by the Chinese constitution. In fact, even the forcibly imposed Han-Tibetan relations written into the Chinese constitution haven’t been fully realized. However, the imposed relations have become reality. All countries have established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China have de facto acquiesced to the current Tibet-China status. Moreover, the two peoples have been mingled together for so long under the concept of “one country”, that any relationship other than the status quo appears to have no legal ground.
In order for future relations to be convincing and acceptable, a process involving all parties must be established. This process begins with a starting point agreeable to all. The most plausible “common ground” from which to start is for all parties to agree on a goal toward which they will work together to achieve. I submit that this goal should be to establish a constitutional democracy. Once the goal is established, then all parties will work together to establish a legal and binding process for achieving this goal.
For example, following the constitutional procedures agreed to by both the Han Chinese and the Tibetans, laws and protocols can be established for building better Han-Tibetan relations based on mutual trust and respect. Without such a constitutional foundation, any imposed unity or forced independence without the participation of the people will be perceived as unconvincing by both the international community and the two ethnic groups involved.