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China launches new attack on the Dalai Lama

April 08, 2016 13:05 IST

'The first time that China alleged the Dalai Lama was 'anti-national' and 'unpatriotic' was after he affirmed that Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang are part of India,' points out former RA&W official Jayadeva Ranade.

The Dalai LamaWeeks before the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC -- where human rights and Tibet were among the issues on the agenda -- Beijing signalled a definitive, more critical, shift in its stance towards the Dalai Lama.

This was discernible from remarks by senior leaders attending the 4th plenary session of the 12th National People's Congress, China's version of a parliament, that concluded in Beijing on March 15.

China also utilised the sessions of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference and NPC -- popularly called the 'Big Two' -- to continue efforts to subtly drive a wedge between the Dalai Lama and the various Tibetan Buddhist sects, so as to isolate him and undermine his influence.

Meanwhile, delegates from the Tibet Autonomous Region attending the 'Big Two' sessions made clear there would be no relaxation in the tough policies enforced in Tibet.

Indication of the important shift in the Chinese government's stance towards the Dalai Lama was given by Padma Choling (Baima Chilin), the Chinese Communist Party's deputy party secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region. Choling categorically told journalists on the sidelines of the NPC session on March 7, that the Dalai Lama was 'no longer a religious leader after he defected his country and betrayed its people.'

'If the Dalai Lama wants to return to China, he must give up 'Tibet independence,' and must publicly acknowledge Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China and that the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government,' Choling declared.

Choling's remarks are significant and, as observed by Zhang Yun, a researcher at Beijing's Research Centre on Tibetology, show that 'the legitimacy of the Dalai Lama's status as a religious leader was no longer acknowledged by the central government as he has failed to fulfill his obligation to inherit and spread Buddhism and continued his separatist activities.'

'The reconsideration came about after the central government realised the Dalai Lama's commitment to oppose the Chinese government, and his support of separatism was unlikely to change,' Zhang Yun added.

Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic studies at China's Minzu University reiterated to the State-run Global Times, that 'Baima Chilin's remarks show the central government's attitude towards the Dalai Lama's identity, who had long been considered a religious leader.'

Earlier, on June 30, 2015, the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee decided at a week-long closed-door 'conclave' that final authority for recognition of the Dalai Lama rests with Beijing.

The authoritative official news agency, Xinhua, asserted that 'all confirmations of the Dalai Lama have required approval by the central Chinese government, which has deemed the process an important issue concerning sovereignty and national security.'

An anonymous source cited by AsiaNews quoted Chinese leader Xi Jinping as saying at the meeting that the Communist {arty would pick 'the next Dalai Lama, period! If things do not go well, we are ready to take corrective action.'

Pertinent are the accusations that the Dalai Lama 'defected' and 'betrayed' the Chinese people. The first time that China alleged the Dalai Lama was 'anti-national' and 'unpatriotic' was after he affirmed that Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang are part of India.

It made the accusation during the sixth round of talks between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama's representatives from June 29 to July 5, 2007, which was also the first occasion they raised the India-China border issue in these talks.

Notable also was the deliberate effort to use the sessions to single out the Dalai Lama for criticism. While a Chinese singer and two actors visited Bodh Gaya in India on February 14, 2016, for an event to commemorate the 92nd birth anniversary of the late predecessor of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, the deputy party secretary of TAR, Wu Yingjie, chose to raise the issue only during the NPC session on March 7.

Talking to reporters in Beijing, he criticised renowned Chinese singer Faye Wong, actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai and actor Hu Jun for attending the event.

'As celebrities, especially superstars, they are public figures that bear certain social responsibilities. We hope the celebrities to take the responsibility for their own deeds. We firmly oppose all celebrities, however influential they are, and whatever purpose they have, to make any contact with the 14th Dalai clique, or even help him spread his ideas,' Wu said. China's official media similarly criticised the celebrities.

Pointedly, while the Dalai Lama and his 'clique' were singled out for criticism and visitors warned to avoid contact with them, any critical reference to the Gyalwa Karmapa, who heads the Karma Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, was carefully avoided.

By doing so, Beijing has persisted in making a distinction between the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders and groups.

Beijing, meanwhile, continues to try and restrict the Dalai Lama's 'international space.' An article in the Global Times on April 5 quoted Wang Xiaobin, a scholar at the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Centre, as saying the international community had seen through the Dalai Lama's actions and were 'making his so-called visits more difficult to conduct.'

Only 12 religious lectures are scheduled for 2016, the newspaper pointed out, while between 2010 and 2014 the Dalai Lama visited 10 countries and delivered over 100 lectures.

Separately, Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference's ethnic and religious committee, significantly suggested that the Dalai Lama's advanced age was causing anxiety to his followers, implying thereby that Beijing was equally concerned about its consequences.

Jayadev Ranade, former Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, is President of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

Jayadeva Ranade