dj_clawson (dj_clawson) wrote,

25 Iyar, 5771

Recently I watched The Sun Behind the Clouds, a Tibetan documentary covering the events of 2008 and the general political mood of the Tibetan refugee community. Like most Tibetan documentaries, it was depressing, because it's a depressing situation. (The highly-recommended Unmistaken Child is an exception to the rule)

The summary of the movie is a summary of the general political situation: In the 1980's, with the opening of China by Deng Xiaping and the failure of the Tibetan guerrilla movement (which the film does not discuss), The Dalai Lama realized independence was basically impossible and decided to seek "genuine autonomy" within Chinese borders, as promised to him in 1950, allowing Tibetans to preserve Tibetan culture and customs but having China rule. Because he's the Dalai Lama, the government-in-exile went along with him, but nobody really agreed with him, they just didn't say it because they couldn't imagine a living Buddha could be wrong.

This policy has been a total failure. China refused to believe that he was sincere about it, or worse, they know he's sincere and they just don't care, because an autonomous Tibet would not be in their "plunder every possible resource in the area" interests. In 2010, the Dalai Lama admitted that the policy had been a failure, but that he couldn't abandon it as a Buddhist monk and a realist. After that he sped up the process of secularizing the government-in-exile. Last week, his request to step down from the government entire were finally honored after many, many rejections, and the position of Regent abolished. The Tibetans are now free to vote to reject his policy of the Middle Way and seek independence again, because the policy of the government is decided by voting and not the Buddha of Compassion giving his opinion.

But really, it doesn't matter either way. China doesn't care and the exile community has almost no leverage. There's talk about letting the Dalai Lama return to Tibet, something the Chinese government will only let happen if he's on his deathbed, not because he will tell the Tibetans to rise up (he'd say the opposite) but because his presence alone would probably lead to a major uprising, to be swiftly crushed by the government. This genuine concern is the major barrier preventing the Beijing from allowing him back; the major barrier on other side is that the Dalai Lama sees no reason to go back if his return doesn't include human rights improvements in Tibet itself. Interestingly, the film doesn't go into this major conundrum about causing another uprising (they go into the latter part).

Really, the only possible way for Tibetan independence would be several massive, violent uprisings simultaneously across the Chinese territory that would stretch the PLA too thin. You know, all three regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, maybe inner Mongolia, what are some other trouble ethnic areas ... that sort of thing. Or those things on top of a major economic collapse which causes food riots among the Han population. Yes. That might do it. But it's hard to hope for that.
Tags: tibet

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