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Only the Dalai Lama can unite China
Claude Arpi
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May 06, 2008
Comrade Wen Jiabao, Premier,
State Council of the People's Republic of China
Beijing [Images], China

Dear Mr Premier,


You may think that it is presumptuous on my part to send a letter to the premier of one of the most powerful nations of the world, but I was born in the country which invented Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. I hope you will not misinterpret my gesture.

One of the reasons why I have decided to write to you is because you have served under two party general secretaries (Comrade Hu Yaobang and Comrade Zhao Ziyang) for whom I have a lot of respect.

On May 19, 1989, as a director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, you walked down with Comrade Zhao Ziyang to meet the youth striking at Tiananmen Square. On that day, your mentor is supposed to have told the students: 'I have to ask you to think carefully about the future.' It is said that he assured them that all issues could be dealt with in a proper manner.

You will remember that one of the recriminations of the students was that their protest had been considered by the party as 'turmoil' and not as a patriotic movement. For the youth on the Square, it made a considerable difference; that it was their motivations which were being questioned.

The remarks of Comrade Zhao as well as the recent events in Tibet [Images] made me to write to you. Do you not agree that the time has come to 'think carefully about the future' and look deeply into the true nature of the Tibetan 'protest?'

During your press conference at the end of the last National People's Congress in Beijing in March, you stated that you had 'ample facts and plenty of evidence to prove that the recent riot in Lhasa was organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai Lama [Images] clique.' You personally attacked the Dalai Lama: 'The constant claims made by the Dalai clique that they pursue no independence but peaceful dialogue are nothing but lies.'

I believe that these are wrong views. First, you have not subsequently presented any proof of the Dalai Lama's involvement in the unrest; second, I think that you are mistaken about the Dalai Lama's own motivation.

When you said: 'On March 14, violence involving beating, smashing property, looting and arson broke out in Lhasa, which was aimed to undermine the upcoming Beijing Olympics [Images],' you seemed to equate the deep resentment expressed by the Tibetan people to 'turmoil.'

I was sad when I saw that you yourself used these infamous words: 'I would like to ask, from the appalling incidents in Lhasa to similar turmoil in other parts of China... don't these conducts have nothing to do with the Dalai Lama?'

Like the students in Tiananmen, the Dalai Lama today does not want to split China, but make it a nation where everyone lives in harmony. To use this very pejorative term of 'turmoil' when people have no other recourse but to take to the streets to demonstrate their deep-seated resentment is incorrect.

Look at it from the Tibetan point of view (or for that matters from the millions of Chinese who every year take to the streets -- I understand than in one year alone, more than 100,000 protests occurred in China), most of these demonstrations are due to wrong policies of the central or more often of the local government.

Don't you agree?

You said that your government is 'fully capable of maintaining stability and order in Tibet,' but it is not the point. The question is: can your government generate respect and contentment in all? Is that not the true role of any government?

If you and President Hu are really serious about building a harmonious society, you should look at certain facts. Do not commit the mistake of the Elders who decided to send tanks to massacre the students on Tiananmen in June 1989. It did not solve any genuine problem.

Outsiders believe that the Great Han Chauvinism has never been eradicated from China. They are comforted in their opinion, when you declare: 'The door of dialogue still remained open to the Dalai Lama so long as he gives up his position for Tibet independence.'

After six rounds of talks (between 2002 and 2007) with your United Front Department officials, the Dalai Lama's Representatives have repeatedly conveyed the Tibetan position.

In fact, I was told that for the first time during these talks, your people carefully listened (without agreeing) to the Tibetan administration stand. When you are perfectly aware that the Dalai Lama does not seek 'independence' (but only a 'meaningful autonomy') why are you repeating what you said to The Washington Post in 2003: 'We have taken note of the recent remarks by the Dalai Lama but we still need to watch very carefully what he really does.'

More importantly for the future, you said: 'Since the peaceful liberation of and especially the democratic reforms in Tibet, the region has moved forward and become more developed.'

Yes, it is true that Tibet has become 'more developed', but unfortunately no democratic reforms have ever been implemented. Over the years, the status and role of the 'nationalities' has been sidelined and ignored by the central government with the result that deeper and deeper resentment has taken root on the Tibetan plateau.

Chairman Mao had an interesting conversation with Anastas Mikoyan on February 6, 1949 in Moscow [Images]. One of the topics discussed was the status of 'national minorities'. Chairman Mao said: 'Once we finish the Civil War and resolve internal political questions inside the country and when the Tibetans feel that we do not threaten them with aggression and treat them equally, then we will solve the subsequent fate of this region. With regard to Tibet we must be careful and patient, taking into account the complex regional mix there and the power of Lamaism.'

You may also know that in 1955, Chairman Mao once advised the Dalai Lama to fly the Tibetan national flag on the guest house where the Tibetan leader was staying in Beijing. Mao even said 'In the future the Communist Party of China could also let Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia have their own flags.' It was a confirmation that Mao was contemplating 'adopting the Soviet Union's model, at least for the three large minority nationalities' remembered Phuntsok Wangyal, Mao's translator and the first Tibetan Communist.

In 1980, you were still posted in Gansu, but you must have heard of the historic visit of the Central Committee's Working Group on Tibet to Lhasa. This was the first working group formed after Comrade Hu Yaobang became the general secretary of the CCP. The Group was presided by Comrade Hu (Comrade Wan Li, then member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, was also a member).

They symbolically reached the Tibetan capital on the occasion of the 39th anniversary of the signature of the 'Seventeen Points for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet'. In 1951, this was supposed to become 'the governing principle in Tibetan work and policy.'

Though the Agreement gave a large autonomy to the Tibetans, it was never honestly implemented by the Central Government. If Comrade Hu chose this date to arrive in the Tibetan capital, it was probably because he wanted to reiterate the promises of autonomy made to the Tibetan people in 1951.

The visit tended to prove that the central government was ready to settle matters through consultation with the local people. It also showed that the Politburo was keen to get a new start and 'restore the harmonious atmosphere of cooperation which had prevailed in the early 1950s' as a Chinese commentator had put it.

As he arrived, Comrade Hu immediately made his stand clear; he told Phagpala, a senior Tibetan official 'Comrade Phagpala, what is tomorrow?'

I am sure that you have not forgotten that during a party organised to celebrate the 1951 Agreement, Comrade Hu gave a powerful political speech to some 5,000 cadres in Lhasa. The motto was 'Strive to build a united, prosperous and civilised new Tibet'. In the speech Cd Hu listed a few tasks for Tibet:

To exercise nationality autonomy in the region fully -- that is to say, to let Tibetans really be the masters of their own lives.

A commitment by the central government to relieve and reduce burdens of the people...

To make efforts to develop Tibetan science, culture and education, and to prepare for the establishing of the University of Tibet.

To implement the policy on minority nationality cadres correctly, to strengthen the unity between the Han and Tibetan cadres, and to transfer a large quantity of Chinese cadres who had worked in Tibet for many years back to the interior.

Mr Premier, don't you think that this could be a base to start negotiating with the Dalai Lama?

You will also recall the healthy debate on nationalities between the head of the United Front Department, Li Weihan (who wrote a 10,000 character report) and Phunsok Wangyal's 25,000 character reply. Wangyal's point was: 'In socialist States, the majority nationality does not (or should not) oppress the minority nationalities. All should be equal... Nationality unity, therefore, requires not suppression but new policies that provide real equality [between nationalities].'

Wangyal says in his biography that his views were validated by Comrade Hu Yaobang and Comrade Zhao Ziyang in 1984.

My appeal to you, Mr Premier is that you should personally meet the Dalai Lama like Chairman Mao used to meet him in the fifties. You should discuss threadbare all issues related to Tibet and the People's Republic of China. According to me, it is the only way to come out of the impasse and 'think about the future.'

After all, the Tibetan question has been sullying the image of People's Republic for more than 50 years now. The time has come to find a durable solution agreeable to all. I believe it is possible to have a win-win outcome.

The Dalai Lama is a good man, a sincere leader. Do you think that you will be able to find a better interlocutor to bring about a radical change in the relations between Hans and Tibetans?

In fact, I would go one step further: The Dalai Lama is today the only leader who can unite China. If you are able to find a satisfactory solution with him, he is the only person who can convince the Tibetans to work for a harmonious society. This in turn, will be an example for all nationalities.

I do hope, Mr Premier that you will understand my presumptuousness in writing to you. I feel that there is a golden opportunity for China to satisfactorily settle this long-pending issue.

Please meet with the Dalai Lama, it will bring more good to China's image than 1000 Olympic Games.

Yours sincerely

Claude Arpi

PS: I am told that your wife is a practicing Buddhist, I am sure that she will enjoy meeting the Dalai Lama and exchanging views on the Buddha Dharma with him.

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