Sunday, June 30, 2013

Extreme Weather in Tibet

Mount Kailash and Rinzin Wangmo
Recently Xinhua reported: ‘Extreme weather reported in Nagri [Ngari], Tibet’.
The Chinese news agency affirmed that according to the Chinese Meteorology Administration, heavy rain storms have been reported since June 15 in the western part of Ngari Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region [north of Uttarakhand]: “It is a rare weather condition recorded at this time of year. In Burang [Purang] County, the precipitation hit a new record on June 17, to reach an all-time high,” asserted the agency.
The Purang County, north of Pittoragarh district of Uttarakhand had experienced moderate rainfalls till June 16, when it was struck by a very unusual rain storm with a precipitation of 73.6 mm, the strongest rainfall ever recorded in a single day in June.
The next day, the precipitation for Purang County reached 96 mm, creating a new record of precipitation for June. As the result of this extreme weather condition (due climatic change?), the first batch of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims reached the Tibetan border with a delay of six days.
On June 20, the fifty one first yatris finally crossed over to Tibet from 17,500 feet high Lipulekh Pass in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand.
Ranvir Singh, an ITBP officer declared: “All members of the first batch are hale hearty and they braved the two km track on snow at the Pass to reach the Chinese territory."
Due to bad conditions of the roads and bridges en routes, the following eight batches of the ‘Kailash yatra’ were canceled by the External Affairs Ministry.
But Tibet seems to witness other ‘climatic change’, a political one.
Will it be remembered as the Tibetan Spring or will the Winter soon set again?
In this context, the interview of Prof Jin Wei of the Communist Party School generated a lot of speculations on the Net and in the world media.
So did the announcement that some monasteries would have received the permission to display photos of the Dalai Lama; further it would not be necessary anymore for the monks to criticize or demonize the Tibetan leader. What a big change!
I have also mentioned on this blog, the opening to public sight of the stone pillar on which is recorded the 821 CE Peace Agreement between China and Tibet.
You may think that there is definitively a climatic change for the best on the Roof of the World, but it may not be the case.
Read the recent reports of Human Rights Watch on the 'Grid System', 'Red Armband Patrols' or the relocation of nomads on the plateau.
The touring of Chen Quanguo, the TAR Communist Party boss in different Tibetan prefectures (Lhasa, Shigatse, Nagchu) does not herald a new era of peace and stability. It is still the old way of dealing with Tibet.
Recently, Chen Quanguo went to Shigatse and threatened the monks at Tashilunpo Monastery; he denounced the Dalai Lama, 'a splittist', according to him and told them that under the 10th Panchen Lama the monastery was patriotic. He said that he sincerely hoped that the monks would continue to be 'patriotic' under the 11th Panchen Lama.
Does it mean that some monks are not sincere patriots?
Apparently Chen also visited a number of Public Security posts to see if the lists of neighborhood residents were up to date, separating properly permanent residents, temporary residents and the ‘floating population’.
Chen would have checked if the ‘grid’ system was properly in place.
When he met the People’s Armed Police and the Public Security Bureau officials, he stressed the need to step up efforts to thwart cross-border plots (from India?).
All this is not very cool.
It sounds more like the continuation of the Tibetan Winter.
Cooler was the visit of Gary Locke, the US Ambassador to China who traveled with his family and some of his staff to Tibet to 'increase his familiarity with local conditions'
The three-day trip was organized by the local government (though Padma Choling, the senior most Tibetan official was touring in the United States at that time).
This was the first visit by an American official to the TAR since 2010.
More interesting in my opinion, is the visit to Lhasa, a week earlier, of Rigzin Wangmo, the only daughter of the previous (the 10th) Panchen Lama.
According to The South China Morning Post, Wangmo, “travelled to Lhasa on her first visit for several years. Thousands of Tibetans greeted her outside Jokhang Palace before being dispersed by police.”
The Communist Party's United Front Work Department had stopped her from entering the region for many years.
In 2006, Rinzin Wangmo, sometimes called Renji, ‘Princess’ gave a long interview to The Southern People Weekly (Nanfang Renwu Zhoukan).
Thought the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party immediately blacklisted media coverage of Rinzin Wangmo to “avoid disturbing religious figures”, we have an English translation of the interview.
At that time, Wangmo gave several unknown details on her life-story to the Chinese publication: “I came into the world in June 1983. I’m sure a lot of people were surprised at my dad’s marriage and wondered how the Panchen Lama could marry and have a baby. Many people raised in mainland China aren’t familiar with the conventions of Tibetan Buddhism, which belongs to the Mahayana branch. …Having said that, my dad was the first Panchen Lama to marry. Six hundred years passed from the First Panchen Lama to my dad, so for me to be the daughter of the Tenth Panchen Lama makes me feel a deep relationship with the Buddha.”
The Panchen Lama, his wife and 'Renji'
Her mother Li Jie, was the granddaughter of a Kuomintang general, Dong Qiwu.
‘Renji’ recounted the origin of the ‘70,000 characters petition’, a long missive that the Panchen Lama wrote to Zhou Enlai and the State Council; she said: “This ‘Letter of 70,000 Words’ bluntly enumerated seven key points, which attracted serious notice from top officials in the central government. Although Premiere Zhou Enlai disagreed with some of the views in the letter, he agreed that my dad had raised some valid issues. But a little more than a year later, this ‘Letter of 70,000 Words’ was labeled as reactionary.”
The Panchen Lama was to spend more than 10 years in detention, in most difficult condictions, often been beaten and humiliated by the Red Guards: “The 10 years in prison wore my dad down physically and psychologically, and after his release he craved the comforts of a secular family life.”
She said that at the age of 44, the 10th Panchen Lama was blessed with a daughter; it was her, Rinzin Wangmo.
Now comes an even more interesting part of the interview: “One hundred days after I was born, the party elders Deng Yingchao [wife of Zhou Enlai] and Xi Zhongxun came to my home. Deng gave me my childhood nickname, ‘Tuantuan’ or ‘Circle.’ She picked me up and said, ‘This baby’s face is so round, you should just call her Circle!’The deeper meaning was a wish for an unbroken circle of solidarity and harmony between the Han and Tibetan peoples. In Chinese, the word ‘circle’ carries the meaning of solidarity.”
Xi Zhongxun is President Xi Jinping’s father. One can imagine the bond between the two families.
Wangmo then recalled the tragic (and very mysterious) death of the Panchen Lama in Shigatse: “In the past, we had always just accompanied my dad to the plane when seeing him off. But that time, my dad couldn’t bear to part from us, and had people call me into the plane’s cabin time and time again. He kept telling me things, like that I should study hard so I could assist in his work in the future, and that I must obey my mom. The Living Buddhas [Rinpoche] who were with my dad at the time later recalled that he was very emotional in his regret at leaving us, and that he asked the Living Buddhas to take care of his family as they had taken care of him.”
On January 28, 1989, the Panchen Lama suddenly passed away after having dared to criticize the Party.
Rinzin Wangmo later went to the United States to study. Though the Universities of Virginia and Columbia accepted her as a graduate student, she decided to come back to China, where the Communist Youth League admitted to a Ph.D. program at Tsinghua University.
What is fascinating and timely is the description of her return to Lhasa some ten years ago. She remembered: “The year I turned 18, the government arranged for me to return to Tibet. This was the first time I went back to my native land without my mom. Although communications and transportation are not too advanced, and living conditions are quite basic, news that the daughter of the Panchen Lama had arrived quickly circulated, and every day thousands of people, young and old, sometimes entire villages, came to see me.”
She continued: “All they wanted was to receive my blessing and to present me with a pure white khatag. As I gave them khatags in return, one after another, my arms became so sore that I could barely lift them.
“At the end of my 45-day visit, tens of thousands of Tibetan people gathered in the square of the Jokhang Temple to see me off. With tears in their eyes, they said, ‘Please come back often. We’ll miss you.’ Even as my car drove off, people continued to stand there, waving at me. At that moment, I felt that the responsibility I had taken on was heavier than the soreness in my arms.”
She concluded: “I know the spirit of my dad is blessing me, and that his eyes are watching me...”
The same thing seems to have happened again last week.
Isn’t interesting? Was the hand of son of the official who blessed her when she was born, behind the event?
Everything is possible when the climate start changing.
But it is difficult to know in which direction the wind will blow next political season.
Will it be the same cold Winter Wind or a more refreshing Spring Breeze?
It will probably be decided in Beijing.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Five Guarantees?

Li Liguo, Minister of Civil Affairs
My post The Chinese who matter in Tibetan Affairs has been updated. A few words on Li Liguo, Minister of Civil Affairs has been added.
Li Liguo, who has been posted for 10 years in Tibet (1993-2003) in different capacities,  recently visited Lhasa, Nagchu and Shigatse.
According to a Xinhua article (June 9, 2013), Tibet's per capita investment in civil affairs ranks first in China
The article speaks of the Five Guarantees. It says:

At the same time, the Tibet Autonomous Region proposes that by 2016, 100 percent of support rate will be achieved, which means that all the 'people of five guarantees' (childless and infirm senior citizens who are guaranteed food, clothing, healthcare, housing and funeral expenses) with willingness will have been fed in the support institutions above the county level. [original English not very clear]
The article continues:
Civil affair capital is a special fund used for guaranteeing basic living of people who have difficulties in life in China. It is the key responsibilities of governments at all levels to provide the civil affair capital for relative recipients accurately, timely and fully.
During the eighth TAR Civil Affair Meeting on June 7, 2013, Li Liguo declared in Lhasa:
In successive years, the investment put into Tibet by central government has been increased according to the situation. Since 2008, there are altogether 4.1 billion yuan (about 6700 million US dollars) of special funds invested in Tibet, including disaster relief allowance, social assistance and social compensation. The per capita civil affair capital investment in Tibet ranks China's first.
Lozang Gyaltsen, the Chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region 'frankly' commented: 
The civil administration in Tibet is still quite weak and away from the masses' expectation and the aim of building a moderately prosperous society. Therefore, we should take a path with Chinese characteristics and Tibetan national features toward modern civil administration.
The article continued: "The important measures that the government takes for developing civil administration should put more materials, financial resources and energy on the aspects of people's basic living, agricultural and pastoral areas, grass roots, the poverty-stricken population and disadvantaged groups."
Unfortunately, there another side to the coin.
A few days back, I mentioned the 'nets in the sky and traps on the ground'.  
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has come up with another report, 'They Say We Should Be Grateful - Mass Rehousing and Relocation Programs in Tibetan Areas of China'.
After reading the report, one has the feeling that the image of Tibet given by Li Liguo is propaganda. 
The reality seems vastly different. 
The HRW report explains:
Since 2006, the Chinese government has implemented large-scale programs to “rehouse”—through renovation of existing houses or construction of new ones—a majority of the rural population of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) under a policy called “Comfortable Housing.” In parallel, the government has accelerated the relocation and sedentarization of nomadic herders in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau, mostly in Qinghai province, and laid the ground for similar policies in other parts of the plateau. Both policies are a component of the government’s effort to 'Build a New Socialist Countryside' in Tibetan areas, which the government says is designed to rapidly increase the living standards of rural Tibetans and boost the local economy.
'Housing' is one of five guarantees promised by Li Liguo, but it can't be 'forced' on the Tibetan people. They need to have a choice to refuse the 'welfare' measures from Beijing, especially when it is about their housing and traditional way of life. The report says:
The scale and speed at which the Tibetan rural population is being remodeled by these policies is unprecedented in the post-Mao era. According to official figures, under the Comfortable Housing policy, 2 million people—more than two-thirds of the entire population of the TAR—were moved into new houses or rebuilt their own houses between 2006 and 2012. Twenty percent of those rehoused between 2006 and 2010—about 280,000 people—had to be relocated, some nearby and others at a great distance. The government intends to rehouse 180,000 more by 2015.
Today, the Tibetans (especially the nomads) have to accept the Five Guarantees whether they like it or not.

Nets in the sky and traps on the ground

My article Nets in the sky and traps on the ground is posted on Rediff.com.

Click here to read...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet and Chinese in the land of China?

Peace Treaty Pillar in Lhasa
China Tibet Online has just reported about a "Tablet witnessing Han-Tibetan friendship shown to the public".
Interesting news.

The Peace Treaty signed in 821 between Tibet and China is carved in Tibetan and Chinese on one side of a stone pillar in front of the Jokhang Cathedral in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. 
According to the historian Hugh Richardson (and first Indian Consul in Lhasa in 1947): "On another side is a historical introduction in Tibetan only; and on the other two sides are bilingual lists of the names of the ministers who witnessed it."
A Xinhua report explains: "As a key part of the maintenance project of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, an ancient tablet witnessing the Han-Tibetan friendship is shown to the public after its protective bounding wall is pulled down."
When  I visited Lhasa some 20 years ago, I looked for the stone pillar; it took me a long time to find it; it could hardy be seen, as it was surrounded by a high wall.
Now, the China Tibet online says: "According to historical data, the Tang Dynasty (618-917 A.D.) and Tubo Kingdom, or ancient Tibet kingdom, sent their envoys for a meeting to form alliance in 821. In 823, a tablet [pillar] was built in front of the Jokhang Temple in downtown Lhasa, engraved in both Mandarin and Tibetan with the close relationship between the two sides and the marriage of Princess Wencheng and Princess Jincheng to Tibetan kings.
The Chinese publication adds: "For a long time, the tablet has been protected by bounding wall. After the wall is pulled down, the tablet will be cleaned and protected with fence and glass cover to make it convenient for tourists' sightseeing."

The Communist authorities have however forgotten to give the translation of the 'friendship' pillar: "Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet, and Chinese in the land of China."

Let us hope that 12 millions expected Chinese tourists this year, will ask for a modern Mandarin translation of the Treaty.
During the next two days, Shivashankar Menon, the Indian National Security Advisor will meet his Chinese counterpart. The Mandarin-speaking Menon should give State Councilor Yang Jiechi a copy of the text of the Treaty and point out to him that at that time, it was decided that "even the frontier guards shall have no anxiety, nor fear and shall enjoy land and bed at their ease." Of course, it was about the Sino-Tibetan border, but the Spirit of 821 could be extended to the Sino-Indian border.


Chinese tourist in front of the Pillar
Treaty between Tibet and China AD. 821-822
(Translation from the Tibetan text)

The Great King of Tibet, the Miraculous Divine Lord, and the Great King of China, the Chinese Ruler Huangdi, being in the relationship of nephew and uncle, have conferred together for the alliance of their kingdoms. They have made and ratified a great agreement.
Gods and men all know it and bear witness so that it may never he changed; and an account of the agreement has been engraved on this stone pillar to inform future ages and generations. The Miraculous Divine Lord Thri-tsug Detsen and the Chinese King Wen Wu Hsiao-te Wang-ti, nephew and uncle, seeking in their far-reaching wisdom to prevent all causes of harm to the welfare of their countries now or in the future, have extended their benevolence impartially over all. With the single desire of acting for the peace and benefit of all their subjects they have agreed on the high purpose of ensuring lasting good; and they have made this great treaty in order to fulfill their decision to restore the former ancient friendship and mutual regard and the old relationship of friendly neighbourliness.
Tibet and China shall abide by the frontiers of which they are now in occupation. All to the east is the country of Great China; and all to the west is, without question, the country of Great Tibet. Henceforth on neither side shall there be waging of war nor seizing of territory. If any person incurs suspicion he shall be arrested; his business shall be inquired into and he shall he escorted back.
Now that the two kingdoms have been allied by this great treaty it is necessary that messengers should once again be sent by the old route to maintain communications and carry the exchange of friendly messages regarding the harmonious relations between the Nephew and Uncle. According to the old custom, horses shall be changed at the foot of the Chiang Chun pass, the frontier between Tibet and China.
At the Suiyung barrier the Chinese shall meet Tibetan envoys and provide them with all facilities from there onwards. At Ch’ing-shui the Tibetans shall meet Chinese envoys and provide all facilities. On both sides they shall be treated with customary honour and respect in conformity with the friendly relations between Nephew and Uncle.
Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet, and Chinese in the land of China. Even the frontier guards shall have no anxiety, nor fear and shall enjoy land and bed at their ease. All shall live in peace and share the blessing of happiness for ten thousand years. The fame of this shall extend to all places reached by the sun and the moon. This solemn agreement has established a great epoch when Tibetans shall be happy in the land of Tibet, and Chinese in the land of China. So that it may never be changed, the Three Precious Jewels of Religion, the Assembly of Saints, the Sun and Moon, Planets and Stars have been invoked as witnesses. An oath has been taken with solemn words and with the sacrifice of animals; and tile agreement has been ratified.
If the parties do not act in accordance with this agreement or if they Violate it, whichever it be, Tibet or China, nothing that the other party may do by way of retaliation shall he considered a breach of the treaty on their part. The Kings and Ministers of Tibet and China have taken the prescribed oats to this effect and the agreement has been written in detail. The two Kings have affixed their seals. The Ministers specially empowered to execute the agreement have inscribed their signatures and copies have been deposited in the royal records of each party.

[Richardson's comments]:
The translation of the Tibetan text of the treaty proper is a revision of the somewhat clumsy, literal rendering given in the above-mentioned publication.
The King of Tibet named in the treaty is better known as Ralpachen (815-841); and the Chinese Emperor is Mu Zong of the Tang dynasty (821-821). The frontier appears to have been not far to the west of the Kansu-Shensi border.
Two translations of the Chinese text of the treaty can be seen in G. Timkowsky's Travels of the Russia, Mission through China, etc. London 1827 and one by S.W. Bushell in JRAS 1880.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Debates in the Middle Kingdom?

I usually like what Francesco Sisci, an Italian journalist working in China for the daily Il Sole 24 Ore, writes.
His latest piece in Asia Times is fascinating and opens new horizons on Chinese history and refusal of the present Communist regime to debate their history.
It reminds me that a few years ago, a leading Chinese historian had taken a different stand than the usual official line on China’s historical sovereignty over Tibet.
Professor Ge Jianxiong, Director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography at Fudan University in Shanghai stated in an article in The China Review: “It would be a defiance of history to claim that Tibet has always been a part of China since the Tang Dynasty (7th to 10th century).” 
While going through China’s historical record, he noted: “At least [Tibet] was not administered by the Tang Dynasty.” 
His point is that otherwise: “there would have been no need for the Tang emperor of the day to offer Princess Wen Cheng in a ‘marriage of state’ to the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo.”
He however reiterated that Tibet’s takeover occurred during the Qing Dynasty; it was the starting point for Chinese ‘sovereignty’ over the Himalayan region.
Interestingly Ge pointed out that before the foundation of the Republic of China in 1912, the idea of China or Middle Kingdom (Chinese, Zhongguo) wasn’t clearly conceptualised. Even during the late Manchu dynasty the term ‘China’ would on occasion be used to refer to the “Qin State, including all the territory that fell within the boundaries of the Qing empire; though at times, it would refer only to the ‘18 interior provinces’. Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang were not included.”
Prof. Ge goes a step further: “If China really wishes to rise peacefully and be on a solid footing to face the future, we must understand the sum of our history and learn from our experiences.”
The fact that his article was published in
China Review proves that everybody does not toe the Party line in China today.
Another point should be mentioned: the Yuans, the Mongol successors of the Khans, never administered Tibet directly. The situation of Tibet was similar to that of some territories occupied by the Mongols, especially in Russia, which were self-ruled. Maps published in 1914 by the Chinese government do not show Tibet as a part of the Chinese Empire during the Yuan Dynasty.
On the other hand, after the fall of the Yuans, the intense religious ties that Mongol Khans maintained with the Tibetans continued right up to the advent of the communists and the Stalinist repression.

The new manuscripts referred to in Sisci's article should open up new vistas and debates on the relations between China and Tibet. 
Sisci writes: "It is as if we were just seeing a sweet face and from that we guessed it belonged to a girl, but then the frame expands and we see the body of a person who is clearly a boy".
It is worth digging and expanding.

Ancient texts uncover meritocracy debate
By Francesco Sisci
Asia Times
June 25, 2013
BEIJING - Imagine we were to discover a series of ancient manuscripts revealing that Plato actually copied all of his ideas from Parmenides, a preceding philosopher from Elea in southern Italy; that Aristotle rewrote treatises originally penned by Archytas, another philosopher from Taranto; and actually the whole philosophical debate in ancient Greece was about politics (a very sensitive subject for the Roman Empire), not truth (a topic more consistent with later widespread Christian beliefs).
The same manuscripts could prove the Romans copied everything they had from the Etruscans, and history was later doctored by Roman emperors to undermine the importance of other Italian  civilizations conquered by Rome and present their home city as the one true representative of culture from Italy, which was then ruling the Mediterranean world.
This discovery would make our heads spin and make us reassess the trajectory of history and all our considerations about the future.
Something similar actually happened in the West in the 18th century with the discovery of the ruins of Pompeii by German historian Johann Joachim Winkelmann, which sparked the fire of Enlightenment. And it is happening in China now possibly on an even grander scale with the discovery and first understanding of three sets of manuscripts buried at the end of the 4th century BC. They cast a totally new light on the history and philosophical debate in ancient China.
The discovery of Pompeii proved to 18th century Europe, which was growing disaffected with Christianity and the Christian tradition, the importance of pagan history and its legacy. It helped to free European minds from the fetters of dogmatism, justified by a superficial reading of the Bible, and launched Europe on the path to developing the modern world. This discovery had a further support with the then immense influence of literature and ideas coming from China through the translations of Jesuits. That literature proved the existence of a non-Christian state with a high level of civilization and yet introduced to Europe through the work of the ultra loyal branch of the Church, the Jesuit order.
On August 30, 2013, at an international conference organized by Dartmouth College with Beijing's Tsinghua University, participants will discuss the findings from the first work on interpretation of the Tsinghua manuscripts acquired in 2008.
Three massive sets of bamboo slip manuscripts buried around 300 BC have now been found; one in a tomb in Hubei, in a site next to the capital of the ancient state of Chu; another looted from a tomb and sent to Hong Kong before being bought for the Shanghai Museum.
The Tsinghua University set, also bought back after looting, is probably the most significant because of its historical nature and relationship to several of the Confucian classics. The manuscripts are written in the script of the Chu state, so many characters are unknown (they are not the standard Chinese characters adopted after the unification under the first Qin emperor), and many others are illegible.
According to Professor Sarah Allan, the organizer of the conference at Dartmouth, and along with Tsinghua Professor Li Xueqin one of the main forces behind the reading of the manuscripts, it will take decades to fully understand the material. The discovery of Pompeii also took decades to be fully understood and internalized by European culture.
In any event, there are already quite a few very important findings, according to Professor Allan. The manuscripts revolutionize our understanding of ancient Chinese history, philosophical debate, writing, and circulation of ancient texts. The writing system was standardized by the Qin emperor, who also destroyed much of the traditional literature, so these texts give us a glimpse of what texts were really like before they were reconstructed - in practice often rewritten - in the Han dynasty (the dynasty ruling China from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD).
The writing is in a regional style and has many unique characters, but the spoken language it reflects is similar that that of the central plains. Perhaps there was already a common spoken language, like later Mandarin or today's putonghua. It also appears that ancient texts were not organized in finished sets like the ones we have now, but were more open-ended collections of writings, perhaps transcribed from oral dictation. [1]
However, the bigger revelations are about history and philosophical debate. Not much contradicts presently known facts, Professor Allan says, but so much more becomes known that the interpretation may become totally different. It is as if we were just seeing a sweet face and from that we guessed it belonged to a girl, but then the frame expands and we see the body of a person who is clearly a boy.
Li Xueqin just this month made Chinese headlines [2] by arguing that the Qin people (who unified the Chinese empire) came from the east - not the west, as previously thought - and might have been related to the Shang Dynasty, which ruled the central plains before the 11th century BC and preceded the Zhou Dynasty.
Moreover, as Professor Li was reportedly arguing, "What kind of culture was that of Qin? At the time, what was the peculiarity that historically shaped the Qin power in relation with other cultures of the time? We research the problem of the formation and the origin of the Qin culture. If we simply see the Qin culture as one of violence and military prowess, then it was a backward and closed culture. Then by using the Qin culture to unify the whole country, from the whole historical point of view, this was not useful for progress and development. This point is especially important to consider now." [3]
The point Li is making is extremely important for modernity, as the Qin emperor and his culture were the model of statecraft openly used by Mao during the Cultural Revolution.
On the other hand, research by Professor Allan has cast a different light on a mostly neglected aspect of the ancient political debate. Professor Allan found a large body of evidence supporting the importance of debate in the selection of the new king through abdication: a king chooses his successor from any walk of life, abdicates, and promotes him as the new king. This idea, according to the extant texts, seemed a quirk of Mozi (a philosopher of the 4th century BC and adversary of Confucius). But the manuscripts prove now that it had very wide support, in opposition to the idea that prevailed at the time and was supported by Confucians of succession through blood lineage.
This seems more in line with the present choice of the Communist Party to renounce blood succession and select leaders according to their merit. In a way, at the 18th Party Congress, Hu Jintao, like the ancient mythical kings Yao and Shun, abdicated and gave power to Xi Jinping.
The political parallels are of course too simplistic when considering the complex influence these findings will have on the rewriting of ancient history. Yet these archeological discoveries, casting a new light on Chinese history, find a parallel in the immense influence on China of a foreign culture which is reshaping the Chinese vision of the world and of its future. Here there is a new analogy with the discovery of Pompeii.
Moreover, Confucius, the mainstay of Chinese culture for centuries, here appears a part of a broader movement of rujia"soft scholars", who were very widespread at the time and included a broad spectrum of political ideas that were avidly debated. Most importantly, the whole body of Chinese culture that we have about the period begins to appear now almost as a doctored selection of texts from which many ideas inconsistent with the ideology of later times have been expunged or simply lost through disinterest.
Two elements concealed by this ideology begin to surface, and thus can be attributed to Han (the dynasty ruling China from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD) "spin doctors". One is that the Qin, cast as a semi-barbaric culture from the "wild west", now appears to be part of the core of the Chinese culture, actually from a dynasty preceding the Zhou Dynasty (the model of civilization for Confucius, the ideal thinker for the Han ideologues).
Another is that the idea of blood succession, punctuated by dynastic change, which prevailed through 3,000 years of Chinese history, was powerfully challenged at the time. If these two concepts were basically expunged from present texts, how many more ideas and facts were hidden or cancelled by the Qin and Han rulers, eager to spread their own propaganda through history?
Was there an idea of one China already? It is hard to answer to this question from the distance of over two millennia, when their idea of state and territory was so different. It is true, there were big differences, but the texts also reflect a language was largely similar to that used by the people people of the states located in central plains.
The debate we find in the manuscripts is consistent with the tradition we have; it was not totally different. Then this indicates the existence of a strong cultural community where everybody was talking about the same things. This cultural community possibly allowed the political unity of China to endure for many centuries. Chinese identity and Chinese history are intimately entwined and the findings in the next decades could change forever the understanding of history.

Notes:
1. Ai Lan: "Guanyu Zhongguo zaoqi wenxian de yige jiashe", Guangming ribao, January 10, 2012 ; Sarah Allan, "On Shu (Documents) and the origin of the Shangshu (Ancient Documents) in light of recently discovered bamboo slip manuscripts", BSOAS,75.3, 547-557.
2. "Li Xueqin: Jiekai Qinren yuanyu dongfang zhi mi", China Youth Daily, June 18, 2013.
3. See here

Francesco Sisci is a columnist for the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore. His e-mail is fsisci@gmail.com (Copyright 2013 Francesco Sisci.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When Nehru lied in Parliament

The Aksai Chin road
I mentioned earlier on this blog, on October 6, 1957, a Chinese newspaper Kuang-ming Jih-pao reported: 
The Sinkiang-Tibet – the highest highway in the world – has been completed. During the past few days, a number of trucks running on the highway on a trial basis have arrived in Ko-ta-k’e in Tibet from Yehch’eng in Sinkiang. The Sinkiang-Tibet Highway… is 1179 km long, of which 915 km are more than 4,000 meters above sea level; 130 km of it over 5,000 meters above sea level, with the highest point being 5,500 meters.
Thirty ('liberation' model and Chissu 150) heavy-duty trucks, fully loaded with road builders, maintenance equipment and fuels, running on the highway on a trial basis, headed for Ko-ta-k’e from Yehch’eng. In addition two trucks fully loaded with Hami melons, apples and pomegranates, all native products of Sinkiang, headed in the same direction. These fruits were gifts brought specially by the road builders of Sinkiang for the people of various nationalities.
The Aksai road was opened. It took nearly two more years for the news to become public in India. 
It was only in August 1959 that Nehru dropped the bombshell in Parliament: what the Chinese called the ‘Tibet-Sinkiang highway’ was built through the Indian territory.
The Prime Minster must have known since several years, but he had kept the information secret.
Five months after the road was opened (on February 3, 1958), Subimal Dutt, the Indian Foreign Secretary wrote to Nehru: "there seemed little doubt that the newly constructed 1,200 kilometre road connecting Gartok in Western Tibet with Yeh in Sinkiang passes through Aksai Chin."

Dutt informed the Prime Minister that he agreed with Joint Secretary B.K Acharya's suggestion of sending a reconnoitering party in the coming spring to find out if the road passed through Aksai Chin.
Dutt added: "However, if the Chinese opposed, the party could come back and the matter could be taken diplomatically." [unfortunately for the South Block's babus, the reconnoitering party was captured and several Indian jawans were killed.]
Dutt requested for a meeting to discuss the matter with Nehru, Acharya and K. Gopalachari, the Deputy Director of the Historical Division of the Ministry.
Here is Nehru's answer (On February 4, 1958) recently published in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (Series II, Volume 41): 

I shall gladly discuss this matter  with you, JS and Gopalachari.  Meanwhile, my reaction is that we should send a reconnoitering party there in spring with c1ear instructions that they should not come into conflict with the Chinese. I do not think it is desirable to have air reconnaissance. In fact, I do not see what good this can do us. Even a land reconnaissance will not perhaps be very helpful.' However, it may bring some further facts to our notice.
2. I do not see how we can possibly protest about the alignment of the road without being much surer than we are. What we might perhaps do is that in some communication with the Chinese Government in regard to the points of dispute which have to be decided, we should mention the Aksai Chin area.
3. It is suggested that our maps should be sent to the Chinese. Certainly they can be sent through our Embassy. But I think it would be better to do this rather informally.
The Indian territory had been occupied and the Prime Minister wanted to remain informal about it. 
What to say?
The saga continued on October 18, 1958. The Indian Foreign Secretary (Dutt) handed over an 'Informal Note' to the Chinese Ambassador in Delhi. 
Here is the entire note:
The attention of the Government of India has recently been drawn to the fact that a motor road has been constructed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China across the eastern part of the Ladakh region of the Jammu Kashmir States, which is part of India. This road seems to form part of the Chinese road known as Yehchang –Gartok or Sikiang Tibet highway, the completion of which was announced in September, 1957.
The road enters Indian territory just east of Sarigh Jilgnang, runs north-west to Amtogar and striking the western bank of the Amtogar lake runs north-west through Yangpa, Khitai Dawan and Haji Langer which are all in indisputable Indian territory. Near the Amtogar Lake several branch tracks have also been made motorable.
2. The India-China boundary in the Ladakh sector as in others is traditionally well-known and follows well marked geographical features. The territory which road traverses has been part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries and the “old established frontiers' have been accepted by the Chinese in the treaty of 1842 as the International boundary. In an official communication, a Chinese member of the Boundary Commission of 1847-49 accepted the boundary as 'sufficiently and distinctly fixed so that it will be best to adhere to this ancient arrangement and it will prove far more convenient to abstain from any additional measures for fixing them'. Accordingly, Indian survey parties have visited the region since the nineteenth century. Travellers to the area have referred to it as part of Ladakh, and Atlases like the Johnston’s Atlas of India, edition 1894, and maps published by the Survey of India show it unmistakably as part of Ladakh.

3. In view of the position indicated in para.2 above, it is matter of surprise and regrets that the Chinese Government should have constructed a road through indisputably Indian territory without first obtaining the permission of the Government of India and without even informing the Government of India.
4. The Government of India would like to point out that Chinese personnel, including officials and workers engaged in constructing and maintaining the road, as well as Chinese travellers traversing this road have been contravening Article V of the Agreement between the People’s Republic of China and India on trade and Intercourse with Tibet concluded in 1954.
According to this article “for travelling across the border, the High Contracting Parties agree that diplomatic personnel, officials and nationals of the two countries shall hold passports issued by their own respective countries and visaed by the other party” except as provided in the subsequent paragraphs of the Article relating to traders, pilgrims and muleteers. No applications for visas from Chinese personnel working on the road or from Chinese travellers traversing this road have ever been received by the Government of India.


5. As the Chinese Government are aware, the Government of India are anxious to settle these petty frontier disputes so that the friendly relations between the two countries may not suffer. The Government of India would therefore be glad for an early reply from the Tibetan Government.


6. In this connection the Government of India would also like to draw the attention of the Chinese Government to another fact. An Indian party consisting of three Military Officers and four soldiers together with one guide, one porter, six pony–owners and thirty-four ponies, were out on a normal patrol in this area near Shinglung in Indian territory. This patrol had been given strict instructions not to cross the border into Chinese territory. Since the end of August, however, no news of their whereabouts has been received in spite of search by air. Since there are now Chinese personnel in this part of Indian territory the Government of India would be grateful for any information that the Chinese Government may have about the party and for any assistance that they may find it possible to give to the party to return to their headquarters.
It was a matter of 'surprise and regrets' that a road was constructed on Indian territory without India's permission and knowledge!
To make their case worse, the Chinese workers (building the road) did not have proper visas issued by Delhi on their travel documents!
No good!
But magnanimous India was to ready to 'settle these petty frontier disputes so that the friendly relations between the two countries may not suffer'.
Let us not forget that the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai era was still flourishing!

But there is worse, Prime Minister Nehru lied in the Parliament when the issue came up in April 1959.
A 'Reply to Questions' session was held in the Lok Sabha on April 22, 1959 (Lok Sabha Debates, Second Series, Vol. XXX, cols 12715-12721). 
The topic was  'Maps Published in China and Russia'
The questions were: Will the Prime Minister be pleased to state:
(a) whether Government are aware of the fact that maps recently published in China and Russia show large chunks of our territory as part of their territories; (b) if so, the action taken by Government of India in the matter?
Lakshmi Menon, the Deputy Minister of External Affairs answered: "Yes, Sir; Instances of maps, published in China and Russia, depicting certain parts of Indian territory as parts of China, have come to our notice. The attention of these two Governments has already been drawn to the discrepancies."
The debate continued for some time on the maps and then, a Congress MP, D.C. Sharma asked: "May I know if there is any dispute about any border territory or any kind of territory between China and India and, if not, why is it that some parts of India which are obviously in India have been shown as parts of China?"

The Prime Minister answered:
It is rather difficult for me to answer that question. We have discussed one or two minor frontier disputes which comprise tiny tracts of territory, maybe a mile this way or a mile that way, in the high mountains where nobody lives and those are pending. We have discussed them and for the present no settlement has been arrived at.
Later C.D. Pande, the Congress MP from Nainital, UP (now Uttarakhand) brought the subject again: "Apart from the maps, because after all, the question of the maps is academic, may I know whether there are certain portions of land between India and Tibet where they are encroaching on the basis of these maps -- encroaching into our territory,-particularly in Taklakot which is near the border of Almora? At Taklakot they have come six miles this way, according to their map. It is not a question of map alone. They have actually encroached on our territory; six miles in one pass."
Jawaharlal Nehru said:
I should like to give a precise answer to such questions. I would not like to venture to give an imprecise answer. Taklakot [trijunction Nepal-Tibet-India in Pithoragarh district of today's Uttarakhand] and another place – Hoti [Barahoti in Uttarakhand] - have been places under argument  and sometimes, according to our reports we have received, some Chinese have advanced a mile or two, maybe, in high mountains. It is true. We have been enquiring into it. The difficulty is that in the winter months most of these places are almost inaccessible and more inaccessible from our side than from the other side.
Later another MP, Braj Raj Singh queried: "May I know whether Government's attention has been drawn to the news item published in several papers alleging that the Chinese have claimed some 30,000 sq. m. of our territory and they have also disputed the MacMahon line?" This was clearly related to the Aksai Chin and the MP adds 'and also the McMahon line' (Eastern Sector).
Nehru answer: 

No, Sir; I would suggest to Hon. Members not to pay much attention to news items emanating sometimes from Hong Kong and sometimes from other odd places. We have had no such claim directly or indirectly made on us.
The Prime Minister deliberately omitted to mention the Aksai Chin. 
Did he believe that he would settle the issue in a friendly manner with Mao or Zhou Enlai? 
It is difficult to understand his reasoning.
On September 7, 1959, a month after the bombshell, the Ministry of External Affairs published its first White Paper in which the issue of the Aksai Chin is prominently mentioned.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Two Distinct Views on Tibet?

Zhu Weiqun (left) in a previous 'avatar'
as United Front Work Department's official
I recently received an interesting write-up by Thubten Samphel, who is Director of the Tibet Policy Institute in Dharamsala.
Samphel argues that there are different views on  the role that the Dalai Lama could play in what Beijing calls 'China's Tibet'.
He quotes Prof. Jin Wei of the Central  Committee's Party School and Zhu Weiqun, a former United Front Work Department's official.
The Zhu Weiqun piece which appeared on June 10 in the 'China News Weekly' was reprinted by the Wen Wei Po and finally made it to the official Chinese press a few days later.
Zhu repeats some of his arguments published last year in an article “Seeking Truth Through Facts.”
His main point is that Party members must leave the Party, if they wish to embrace a religion.
In his opinion, religion could only divide and break up the Party.
Zhu believes that: "The world view of the Party relies on the Marxist strands of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, which form the foundation of all party theory and practice. By contrast, all world religions are driven by idealism and theism, meaning if party members practice religion it would create two contrasting world views that will undoubtedly rock the guiding position of Marxism and cause Party philosophies and theories to fracture."
Though Zhu agreed that a party-wide prohibition on religion would infringe on fundamental religious freedoms, he believes that "if a person volunteers to join the Communist Party, then they are also choosing to forgo religion. People have every right to believe in a religion — but not when they are a Party member."
He severely criticizes local Communist officials who promote religious symbols and religious history to increase tourism and make money.
He also mentions foreign forces using religion to bring instability in China with the ultimate objective of toppling Communist Party rule. As an example he speaks of China’s Christians who are about 23 million.
The former United Front official puts the number of believers in China at about 100 million (the same old figures from Mao's days).
It is in this context that he looks at Buddhism which he also sees as an outside threat, mainly because of the Dalai Lama and his followers.
Regarding the restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, Zhu has strong views, he said: "If party members in the Tibet autonomous region are allowed to be influenced by the teachings of the Dalai Lama, for instance, this would be bound to result in the party's organizational fragmentation".
He points out: "It is no coincidence that in Tibet and Xinjiang, where religious disputes are most frequently seen, Party members are prohibited from religious activities."
Zhu adds that for ethnic minorities, the Party may allow some religious activities but the philosophical arguments against religion within the party must stand.
It is in this context that he criticizes the Dalai Lama’s Buddhist credentials on three grounds:
1) the Dalai Lama and his group’s support for self immolation,
2) the Dalai Lama’s refusal to accept 'history and traditions' (i.e., the golden urn) as they are related to his own future reincarnation,
3) the Dalai Lama’s belligerent denunciation of Dorjee Shugden adherents within his own Gelug school which demonstrates little, if any, respect for his predecessors in history.
Thubten Samphel's piece should open up a debate amongst China watchers. Are there different perspectives on the Tibet issue in China today? Are Zhu Weiqun's views outdated?
It has to be noted that The Economist mentions the same topic in its current issue.

In China Two Distinct Views on Tibet
Thubten Samphel
If recent public comments on Tibet made by Chinese academics and officials are anything to go by, two sharply differing views are developing in China on how it should deal with the issue of Tibet.  How these views play out and which view will emerge as actual policy will determine China's attitude to how the issue of Tibet should be resolved, with ramifications for the future of all China.
Prof. Jin Wei of the CCP's Party School
A softer and perhaps a much more sophisticated argument on what medicine China should take to cure its perennial Tibet headache is advanced by Jin Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Central  Committee of the Chinese Communist Party  based in Beijing.   In comments made to Asia Weekly, a Chinese language publication in Hong Kong, on 12 June, Jin Wei said that treating the Dalai Lama is an "enemy" is alienating all six million Tibetans who believe him as "the living Buddha." She said "The Dalai Lama is the key to the issue of Tibet" and recommended that China should re-start its stalled dialogue with him.
On asked what the proposed new round of talks should focus on, Jin Wei suggested that big issues like the Middle-Way Approach should be set aside for the time being. Instead she suggested that the Tibetan spiritual leader be allowed to visit Hong Kong or Macau with the aim of his taking up permanent residence in the former British colony. According to Professor Jin Wei, China's final aim should be to avoid the "embarrassment" of a situation which throws up two Dalai Lamas. Jin Wei says that if China is able to gain control of selecting the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama the Party will succeed in winning the goodwill of all Tibet and destroy the strength of Tibetan independence forces working outside the country.
The Central Party School at which Jin Wei is the deputy director of minority issues and director of ethnic religious studies trains China top future leaders. The president of the school is Liu Yunshan, a member of the standing committee of the Politburo, one of the seven leaders who run China.  The current President of China, Xi Jinping, was the president of the school from 2007 to 2013. The background of the party school and its importance should be reasons enough for observers to pay close attention to Jin Wei's Tibet comments.
There is another reason for paying close attention. The party academics in China  are well tuned to the thinking of the party on all core issues. They would not dare speak out on their own without some vigorous nods from above. This is an assumption. It could be wrong. Professor Jin Wei might have voiced her own opinion on Tibet. But if she spoke out of tune with official policy on Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there is no indication yet of any adverse effect on her academic career. There is no news yet that she has been fired from her post.
The official Chinese hardline reaction to Professor Jin Wei's seemingly conciliatory remarks was not long in coming. Zhu Weiqun, who was the principal interlocutor in talks with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from 2002 to 2010 as the executive vice-minister of the United Front warned against changing the Party's attitude to the spiritual Tibetan spiritual leader. In an interview to China News Weekly of 16 June, Zhu Weiqun, who is now the director of the ethnic and religious affairs of the Chinese People's Political Consulatative Conference, an organ of the party, made these remarks: "When we refer to Mr. Tenzin Gyatso as the Dalai Lama we are recognising his spiritual rank. However, in the course of time, he has acquired another label which we should never forget. Because of his efforts to split China he has become a political refugee. "
For Zhu Weiqun there can be no talks on Tibet. He said, "The future of Tibet, since 1951 with the peaceful  liberation to 1959 with democratic reforms, has been decided by the Tibetan people themselves. The Dalai Lama cannot change this situation."
In the past, on Tibet and all other issues, China spoke with one voice.  Either in writing or orally, policy statements on sensitive issues like Tibet carried the same turn of phrase or tone of voice. The party, state and military carried the same coherent message.
For observers, the question is why is China's previously internal Tibet debate now out in the open? Which view will prevail? How should Dharamsala respond?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

You want independence and do not want bloodshed? Impossible!


A few days back, I posted the transcript of the 4-hour talk between Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister and the newly-exiled Dalai Lama (in April 1959 in Mussoorie).
Here is the Dalai Lama's version of this momentous event. 
It has appeared in the Dalai Lama's autobiography, Freedom in Exile (Chapter 8 - A Desperate Year).
The fact that the Dalai Lama is calling this particular chapter, 'A Desperate Year' is telling.
One can see from the transcript posted earlier that Nehru is sometimes quite tough with the young Tibetan leader, who puts it politely "I went on in spite of the growing evidence that he could be a bit of a bully".
It is true that Nehru was under pressure from the Parliament; many legislators wanted him to do more for Tibet.
And he was stil very enamoured with 'socialist' China.
The Dalai Lama is particularly heavily quizzed on the content of the letters that he wrote to General Tan Guansan (Acting Representative of the Central People's Government in Tibet and Political Commissar of the Tibet Military area Command).
The interpreter mentioned by the Dalai Lama is Sonam P. Kazi, a Sikkimese working for the Ministry of External Affairs; he was on deputation in Mussoorie. He was the only person present during the meeting except for the Foreign Secretary (Subimal Dutt) who took the notes.

As often with people he considered 'junior', Nehru spoke tough (not to say contemptuously): "Nehru thought of me as a young person who needed to be scolded from time to time". He even banged the table.
It must have been a difficult experience for the young Lama.
He says: "I began to realise that my future, and that of my people, was far less certain than I had imagined."
And no question of Independence, hammered the Prime Minister.
It was probably the first seed of the 'Middle Path' approach. 
Remember, Nehru told the Dalai Lama: "We have yet to maintain good relations with China - a middle but difficult course. Does D.L. [Dalai Lama] agree with this?" "Yes" could only answer the young Tibetan leader. 
Interestingly, during the last week of March 1959, Nehru several times informed the Parliament and Indian leaders that the number of refugees from Tibet was not very large (hundred or so) and that he did not expect many to cross the border. 
Apparently the Dalai Lama had fresher news. He wrote in his memoirs: "It quickly became clear, however, that we were faced with more immediate problems than the question of Tibetan independence. No sooner had we arrived in Mussoorie than we started to receive reports of large numbers of refugees arriving not only in India but also in Bhutan. Immediately, l sent some of my officials to receive them at the camps hastily opened by the Indian Government".
An important point which does not appear in the Dalai Lama's version but which was very much present in Nehru's mind: Tibet is a backward country. The Prime Minister was probably convinced by his Chinese counterpart, Zhou Enlai that a good dose of 'reforms' was necessary and the take-over by 'modern', 'socialist' China was a great opportunity for 'old' Tibet to 'reform'.
In a letter to G. Parhsarathy (Telegram to Indian Ambassador to China, April 29, 1959) Nehru said: 
I am leaving Delhi for three days. Recent developments in Tibet have raised difficult problems not only for India but for China also and of course for Tibet itself. I can appreciate to some extent Chinese attitude, constituted as Chinese are at present. We realise that Tibet is very backward. Nevertheless the regimented and virulent attacks on India in China and their insistence on patent falsehoods have surprised and distressed me.
Nehru could understand 'to some extent' the Chinese attitude even after the Dalai Lama had told him that tens of thousands of his countrymen have been killed. 
What disturbed Nehru was the personal attacks against him in the Chinese official media. It culminated by an Editorial of The People's Daily on May 6,  1959. It was entitled: 'The Revolution in Tibet and Nehru's Philosophy'.
It begin thus:
The war of rebellion unleashed by the handful of traitors in Tibet has been quelled. With the ignominious defeat of the rebels, the sanguinary conflict they created has ended over the overwhelming portion of Tibet. Now Tibet faces a peaceful revolution, that is, the democratic reforms in Tibet referred to in the resolution of the National People's Congress and which the broad masses of people in Tibet have long expected and urgently demanded.
This is a revolution the continuation in Tibet of the great people's revolution which swept the Chinese mainland around 1949. Because of obstruction by the former Tibet Local Government this revolution has been delayed in Tibet during the past eight years since the peaceful liberation of Tibet. The revolution to be carried out immediately after the putting down of the rebellion will be a peaceful one, that is to say, a revolution without bloodshed. The Tibetan people will pursue a policy of redemption toward those of the upper classes in Tibet who have not taken part in the rebellion-almost the same policy adopted in the Han areas towards the national bourgeoisie. Ample conditions exist for the Tibetan people to do so, because they are backed up by China's hundreds of millions of people, who have already completed democratic reforms and the socialist transformation.
The same longish Editorial speaks of 'Mr. Nehru Deplorable Error':
In discussing Tibetan society, although Nehru does not oppose reforms and does not deny the part vested interest played in the rebellion, still on the whole he not only fails to touch on its externally cruel system of exploitation, but virtually lumps together the vast majority of the exploited with the tiny minority of the exploiters. On this basis, he denies that a handful of upper strata reactionaries are responsible for the rebellion in Tibet, describes the just action of the Chinese people in putting down the rebellion as a 'tragedy' and expresses sympathy for the rebellion.
Thus, he commits a most deplorable error. As friends of India and as the people whose affairs Nehru is discussing, we deem it necessary to point out this error. If one agrees with Nehru's logic, not only the revolution in Tibet, but the whole Chinese revolution would be impermissible. It will be recalled that before liberation the area of China inhabited by the Han nationality had basically not emerged from the orbit of feudal society, although it was not serfdom. It, too, had always been called a static, unchanging isolated society...
It was indeed quite a 'desperate' situation for the Dalai Lama.
 
Extracts: Freedom in Exile)
On 24 April, Pandit Nehru himself arrived in Mussoorie. We talked together for over four hours, assisted by a single interpreter. I began by telling him everything that had happened since I had returned to Tibet — largely, as I reminded him, at his insistence. I went on to say that I had done just as he had suggested and dealt fairly and honestly with the Chinese, criticising them where necessary and trying hard to keep to the terms of the ‘Seventeen Point  Agreement'. I then explained that I had not originally intended to seek India's hospitality but that I had wanted to establish my Government at Lhuntse Dzong. Only the news from Lhasa had changed my mind. At this point he became rather irritated. 'The Indian Government could not have recognised it even if you had,' he said. I began to get the impression that Nehru thought of me as a young person who needed to be scolded from time to time.
During other parts of our conversation he banged the table. 'How can this be?' he asked indignantly once or twice. However, I went on in spite of the growing evidence that he could be a bit of a bully. Finally, I told him very firmly that my main concern was twofold: 'I am determined to win independence for Tibet, but the immediate requirement is to put a stop to the bloodshed.' At this he could restrain himself no longer. 'That is not possible!' he said in a voice charged with emotion. 'You say you want independence and in the same breath you say you do not want bloodshed. Impossible!' His lower lip quivered with anger as he spoke.
I began to realise that the Prime Minister found himself in an extremely delicate and embarrassing position. In the Indian Parliament, another tense debate on the Tibetan question had followed the news of my escape from Lhasa. For years now, he had been criticised by many politicians over his handling of the situation. And now, it seemed to me, he was showing signs of a guilty conscience at having been so insistent that I return to Tibet in 1957.
Yet at the same time it was clear that Nehru wanted to protect India's friendly relations with China and was determined to adhere to the principles of the Panchsheel memorandum, despite the Indian politician Acharya Kripalani's description of it as having been 'born in sin to put the seal of our approval on the destruction of an ancient nation'. He made it quite clear that the Government of India still could not contemplate taking issue with the Chinese over the question of Tibetan rights. For now, I should rest and not make any plans for the immediate future. We would have the opportunity for further discussions on other occasions. Hearing this, I began to realise that my future, and that of my people, was far less certain than I had imagined. Our meeting ended cordially enough but, as the Prime Minister left, l experienced a profound feeling of disappointment.
It quickly became clear, however, that we were faced with more immediate problems than the question of Tibetan independence. No sooner had we arrived in Mussoorie than we started to receive reports of large numbers of refugees arriving not only in India but also in Bhutan. Immediately, l sent some of my officials to receive them at the camps hastily opened by the Indian Government.
From these new arrivals l learnt that, after their initial bombardment of the Norbulingka, the Chinese had turned their guns on to the Potala and the Jokhang, slaughtering and wounding thousands. Both buildings were badly damaged. The Chakpori Medical School was totally destroyed. No one knows how many people were killed during this onslaught, but a PLA document captured by Tibetan freedom fighters during the 1960s stated that between March 1959 and September 1960, 87,000 deaths through military action were recorded. (This figure does not include all those who died as a result of suicide, torture and starvation.)
As a result, countless thousands of my people tried to leave Tibet. Many died, either directly at the hands of the Chinese, or from wounds, malnutrition, cold and disease. Those who managed to escape across the border did so in a state of abject dereliction. And although there was food and shelter for them on arrival, the relentless Indian sun began to exact a pitiless toll from them. There were two main transit camps, one at Missamari, close to Tezpur, the other at Buxa Duar, a former British prisoner-of-war camp located close to the Bhutanese border in the north-east.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tibet: nets in the sky and traps on the ground

Party Chief Chen Quanguo visits
a 'convenience police-post'
It was to happen on a redwood bench at the luxurious desert estate known as Sunnylands in southern California.
President Xi Jinping of China had agreed to meet US President Barack Obama for a ‘relaxed’ week-end but a righteous Obama had planned to blast his Chinese counterpart on a hot topic in Washington, Chinese hackers visiting the Pentagon’s and other US government Internet servers and taking away American military secrets. This was deeply irritating for the Obama Administration and the President had decided to corner Xi on the subject.
In his opening remarks, Xi denied any wrong doing from China’s side and said that the cybersecurity issue needed to be resolved in a ‘pragmatic way’.
He probably had a smile, because the night before the tide had changed.
The Guardian had reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US Internet giants. The British newspaper quoted from a top secret document showing that the NSA had been using a previously undisclosed programme called PRISM, allowing US officials to collect personal information including search history, content of emails, file transfers and live chats.
Suddenly, it was the pot calling the kettle black.
Not really. China is still far 'in advance' in surveillance, take the example of Tibet.
The Human Right Watch (HRW) reported in March on a new system had been put in place in Tibet to watch the 'masses'. HRW's report, titled: "China: Alarming New Surveillance, Security in Tibet - Restrictions Tightened on Tibetans Despite Lack of Threat" described a 'grid' system to catch the flies and the tigers (these are not in the HRW report, but Xi Jinping used them while talking about corruption).
Sophie Richardson, China Director of the HRW explained: "Chinese authorities should dismantle this Orwellian ‘grid’ system, which has been imposed while the government continues to avoid addressing popular grievances. Its purpose appears to be surveillance and control, and it encroaches on Tibetans’ rights to freedom of expression, belief, and association."
The human rights organization goes into detail about the infamous 'grid':
Official documents describe the new system, known as 'grid' (Tib.: drwa ba, Ch.: wangge) management, as designed to improve public access to basic services. But the system also significantly increases surveillance and monitoring, particularly of 'special groups' in the region – former prisoners and those who have returned from the exile community in India, among others. Expansion of the grid system, alongside the construction across Tibet of over 600 convenience police-posts' with high-tech equipment to monitor daily life, and increasingly active volunteer security groups known as 'Red Armband Patrols' (Tib.: dpung rtag dmar po) in 2012, means that surveillance is now a pervasive part of life across the region.
Are these 'Red Armband Patrols' not reminiscent of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and its millions of victims.
What greatly surprises me is the return of the Cultural Revolution's methods under Xi Jinping who suffered the most of Mao's follies.
You can read the report on the HRW website.
This was in March.
Since then further 'progresses' have been made in the repressive system.
President Obama may be right when he termed the US surveillance a ‘modest encroachment on privacy’. Indeed, 'modest' compared to the Chinese 'grid' surveillance on the Roof of the World.
Yesterday, Xinhua reported that all Internet, fixed line and mobile phone users "in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region" have provided service operators with their real names, "as required by a 2011 local regulation".
The Chinese official news agency says: "By the end of 2012, 2.76 million fixed line and mobile phone users and 1.47 million web users in Tibet had registered for services under their real identities, according to data from the regional communications administration."
Xinhua defends the drastic measures (which means that thereafter all the Tibetans' phone conversations or email exchanges will be monitored): "The real-name registration is conducive to protecting citizens' personal information and curbing the spread of detrimental information, said Nyima Doje, deputy director of the administration."
The Communist propaganda has started justifying the new move: "Thanks to the rules, I feel less bothered by disturbing messages and calls," said one man called Zhang who lives in the regional capital of Lhasa.
Dai Jianguo, a member of the commission of legal affairs under Tibet People's Congress explained: "The growing popularity of the Internet and mobile phones has brought about social problems, including the rampant circulation of online rumors, pornography and spam messages."
Apparently, the regional legislators passed the regulation on real-name registration, a year before the country's top legislature approved similar rules.
It was in November 2011.
But monitoring Lhasa and the large cities was not enough, sometime in 2011, Beijing decided to also target the countryside.
More than a year ago, I had mentioned the deep cause for resentment of the Tibetan masses against the Communist Party. I then wrote:
Today, the hardcore leftists are still at the helm, trying to impose policies reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.
For example, during the 5th Tibet Work Forum in January 2010 (Tibet Work Forums are large meetings called every 5 or 10 years to discuss the CCP’s Tibet policies. They are attended by all the members of the powerful Politburo's Standing Committee, senior PLA generals, United Front Work Department officials, regional leaders, etc.), it was apparently decided to send 21,000 Han and Tibetan Party officials in teams of four to each of the TAR’s 5,453 administrative villages; they had to remain there for a period of 4 years. Each team member could rotate to a new location after 12 months only; they were assigned to a particular village for at least 25 days in a month.
A new report of the Human Rights Watch give more details about the scheme which has been 'working' for the past 18 months.
The title of HRW report is 'benefiting the masses'.
Like the phone tapping, the 'grid' surveillance, the countryside monitoring will ultimately be for the benefit of the masses, says Beijing.
Once the 5th Tibet Work Forum had decided (in January 2010) the general lines how best to 'benefit the masses' and perhaps more importantly, how to avoid the recurrence of the 2008 unrest, it was the job of the Central Working Coordination Small Group on Tibet or Small Group on Tibet to implement the policies.
Apparently, the secretive Group had a meeting on October 18, 2012 under the Chairmanship of Jia Qinglin, the CPPCC's Chairman. It was attended amongst others by Ma Kai, Meng Jianzhu, Ling Jihua, and Du Qinglin and 'local' officials (like Chen Quanguo) .  At that time, Ma, Meng and Du were the Vice Chairmen of the Small Group.
After the 18th Party Congress' leadership change, all these leaders have secured good jobs. Ma Kai and Meng Jianzhu are part of the Politburo, (Meng will take the mantle of Zhang Yongkang as the boss of the Security apparatus). Du Qinglin shifts from the United Front Work Department to the Party Central Secretariat while Ling Jihua takes Du's seat in the United Front.
It is said that the reconstituted Small Group under the chairmanship of You Zhengsheng had a meeting last month.
Interestingly, as mentioned earlier, the Nagchu incident occurred when Chen Quanguo, the TAR Party Chief was returning from Beijing where he had attended the meeting.
Indeed, Mr. Obama's surveillance is mild compared to Mr. Xi's grids.
But should not the United States give the good example to their Chinese friends?

China: ‘Benefit the Masses’ Campaign Surveilling Tibetans
Cadre Teams in Villages Collecting Political Information, Monitoring Opinions
June 19, 2013
Human Rights Watch
It’s hard to see the ‘benefit’ to Tibetans of thousands of political education sessions, partisan quasi-police force operations, and scrutiny of their political views. In a region where people are already subjected to extraordinary monitoring, this village-level drive, alongside similar efforts directed at towns and monasteries, effectively means that Tibetans cannot avoid state surveillance.
Sophie Richardson, China director
(New York) – The Chinese government, under the rationale of a campaign to improve rural living standards, has sent more than 20,000 officials and communist party cadres to Tibetan villages to undertake intrusive surveillance of people, carry out widespread political re-education, and establish partisan security units, said Human Rights Watch today. These tactics discriminate against those perceived as potentially disloyal, and restrict their freedom of religion and opinion.
Over 5,000 teams of officials and communist party cadres have been stationed in Tibetan villages under a government campaign called “Solidify the Foundations, Benefit the Masses” (qianji huimin). The campaign, launched by the party leadership in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) on October 10, 2011, is now halfway through its planned three-year duration. It is described in state media reports as improving living conditions and prosperity for people living in rural areas of the TAR, but research by Human Rights Watch shows that the teams are also categorizing Tibetans according to their religious and political thinking, and establishing institutions to monitor their behavior and opinions.
“It’s hard to see the ‘benefit’ to Tibetans of  thousands of political education sessions, partisan quasi-police force operations, and scrutiny of their political views,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “In a region where people are already subjected to extraordinary monitoring, this village-level drive, alongside similar efforts directed at towns and monasteries, effectively means that Tibetans cannot avoid state surveillance.”
The campaign is one of three major new systems of social organization and control introduced in the TAR since 2011. An urban administrative network that includes significantly increased surveillance and monitoring known as the grid system was introduced in the TAR in 2012, and a new system of information gathering known as the “Six Ones” was introduced to monitor monks and nuns in Tibetan monasteries in November 2011.
The three systems are officially described as measures to promote “stability maintenance,” a drive which was described by the TAR party secretary in March 2013 as “the number one priority exceeding all else” in the TAR. The “Benefit the Masses” campaign aims to achieve “the three non-occurrences,” meaning no protests or expression of dissent.
In Tibetan areas, particularly since a wave of unrest in spring 2008, dissent is viewed by the Chinese authorities as the result of “splittist sabotage by hostile forces and the Dalai Clique.” In a major policy speech on February 14, 2013, Yu Zhengsheng, China’s top official in charge of minority and religious affairs, called for forces supporting the Dalai Lama to be “resolutely ground into dust.” As a result, hundreds of arrests, sentences, and punitive measures have been carried out in Tibetan areas since 2008 involving Tibetans suspected of support for the Dalai Lama.
“Beijing’s obsession with so-called ‘stability maintenance’ is a recipe for abuses,” Richardson said. “It is intended to suppress Tibetan citizens’ basic rights to free expression and to instill fear.”
While facilities have been upgraded by the cadre teams in some villages, “benefiting the masses” is only the last of the five objectives of the drive. The instructions given to the teams state that their first priority is to expand the role and size of the party in Tibetan villages, while the second is to “maintain stability” by “carrying out activities against the Dalai clique.”Implementation of these measures, which are also reported to be taking place in some Tibetan areas outside the TAR, have led to curbs on freedom of expression and religious practice.
For example, according to a villager interviewed by Human Rights Watch, a resident village work cadre team (zhucun gongzuodui) in Taktse (Dazi) county in Lhasa prefecture questioned all the inhabitants of his village, including young children, and classified them into three categories: those who want wealth and support the current system, those who secretly pray to and support the Dalai Lama but do not protest openly, and those who “do not accept re-education and do not have faith in motherland and party.” The classification led to about 135 people from the third category being “taken to the county seat and kept there for 45 days to be given re-education” in March 2013, according to the interviewee, who also claimed that up to 500 villagers from Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture had been detained for re-education during the same period. Another interviewee reported that 73 villagers had been sent from Meldro Gungkar (Mozhugongka) county for re-education at the same time.
An official report on the operations of a cadre team in a village in Chamdo (Changdu), one of the seven prefectures in the TAR, confirmed claims by interviewees that teams are tasked with identifying the social network of each villager. The team was also required to register “key personnel” in the village and maintain “close vigilance over them.” The term “key personnel” typically refers to people considered likely to cause political unrest.
Official documents about the campaign state that its first objective is to build the strength and numbers of the communist party in rural areas of the TAR. Each cadre team has been required to turn each village into “a fortress” in the struggle against separatism by setting up a new party committee in each village and by persuading “those who are good at getting rich” to become party members and village leaders.
The second objective of the drive, according to official reports, has three elements: to increase “social stability maintenance;” to “deepen the struggle” against followers of the Dalai Lama; and to “strengthen the management and education of monks and nuns.” Interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch show that these directives have led to a sharp increase in information gathering by cadre teams about support for the Dalai Lama among rural families, and a setting up of security operations and surveillance mechanisms aimed at eradicating support for the Dalai Lama.
On February 28, 2013, the official in charge of stability maintenance in the TAR, Hao Peng, told paramilitary forces that that they must “thoroughly ensure no shadows, no gaps, no cracks, not giving hostile forces even the slightest opportunity” and must “strengthen surveillance and secret intelligence.”
The campaign is unprecedented in its scope, size, and cost. Some 21,000 cadres – the largest proportion of a provincial-level cadre force to have been sent to the countryside since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, according to an official report – have been stationed in groups of four or more in each of the 5,451 villages in the TAR as part of the three-year drive. The campaign costs 1.48 billion yuan (approximately US$227 million) a year, more than 25% of the regional government’s budget, with an additional 10 billion yuan (approximately US$1.5 billion) allocated for infrastructure construction in the villages.
Cadre teams in the villages are also tasked with “solving difficulties” and promoting economic development, and media reports have described the teams helping villagers with snow clearance, access to water, road building, solar energy supplies, literacy classes, and the purchase of entertainment or communications systems, besides other forms of practical and economic support. Each team has been allocated at least 100,000 yuan (approximately US$16,000) per year to spend on their village.
“If the government and the party are serious about improving everyday life of Tibetans, they must begin with addressing ongoing human rights violations, including restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression, and access to information,” said Richardson.  “That’s likely to be a far more successful approach to ‘solidifying foundations.’”
Click here to continue reading the HRW report ...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pray that we have the sense to read China

Shenyang J-11 over Tibet
My article Pray that we have the sense to read China appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer today.
Here is the link...

The Pioneer
June 20, 2013
in Edit Page
Perhaps Saint Antony can deliver us from the dilemma: How do we tackle an increasingly belligerent Beijing without ruffling its oh-so-sensitive feathers? As we debate, our neighbour adds more strength to its air power

In Europe, there is a belief that if you have lost something, whether it is a material object or a dear one who can’t be traced, or even if you face too many hurdles in a particular project, the best way to solve your predicament is to pray to Saint Antony, who is venerated for his many miracles and his capacity to redeem any lost situation.
India seems to have lost its capacity to stand up to China; most defence deals are missing (not even in action) in the dust of babudom; further, the country has misplaced its capacity to innovate. Can Saint Antony intervene?
Why should there be such an urgency to pray to the saint of Padova?
While India is struggling to modernise its armed forces, China has never been so innovative (helped by ‘borrowing’ from others, in President Barack Obama’s opinion); the Middle Kingdom is fast-moving in all domains, but particularly in ‘defence preparedness’, forcefully advocated by President Xi Jinping. And when Beijing can’t innovate, it acquires.
On June 6, the Chinese edition of The Global Times reported that a Chinese delegation was in Moscow to discuss with Russian arms export officials the purchase of the latest Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jet. A day earlier, the Russians had given the Chinese delegation, a grand demonstration of the multipurpose jet’s capacities. The Global Times said: “The primary mission of the visit was to determine and assess the technical capabilities of the new multifunctional fighter jet.” While both sides refused to reveal the number of jets in the deal, a Russian official hinted that it would be a “very sizable” number. Interestingly, Russian Government officials have also confirmed that this would be a ‘supply contract’ and no manufacturing license would be given to China. The Russian media said that the political decision had already been made, the two parties were just negotiating the payment schedules which should not be too much of a problem.


As the pressure on India keeps increasing, news agencies announced that France will start delivering its first Rafales to India by 2016. If true, this is good news for New Delhi and Paris. The financial daily, Les Echos, quoted French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as saying that Dassault will stop production of Rafale for 18 months — from 2013 for an export contract (Read: For the IAF).
Let me explain. France has a Defence Planning Law called ‘Loi de Programmation Militaire’. it is a five-year plan which takes care of the country’s military requirements. The French Budget said that in 2016, the Directorate General of Armament and the Ministry of Defence have planned to acquire only four Rafales (leaving 11 for India). Dassault Aviations, the manufacturer of the Rafale, has an order with the French Air Force for 180 Rafales, out of which 119 have already been delivered. The factory produces some 11 planes in a year, though there is an agreement that if Dassault gets an export order, the delivery of Rafales to the French Air Force may be stopped to enable the delivery chain to work for the export.
If one considers that it takes three-and-half years to produce a Rafale, and the delivery of the first of the 18 planes to be built in France is scheduled for 2016, one can deduct that the production of the ‘Indian’ Rafales will have to start latest by the end of this year. Can Mr Le Drian manage a miracle à la Saint Antony and accelerate the negotiation process between the Ministry of Defence and Dassault Aviation when he visits India in July? It is a one-billion Euro question!
Under the proposed deal, Dassault is to supply 18 Rafales in ‘fly-away’ (off-the-shelves) condition; then the Government of India undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will manufacture the remaining 108 planes in Bangalore (or elsewhere in India). But from the start, Dassault had some doubt about the ‘indigenous’ capacities of HAL. Hence, separate contracts for the 18 and the 108 have apparently been proposed by Dassault. This may not be acceptable to the Indian Government which is aware that a ‘middle path’ solution needs to be found. During a Press conference at the Aero Show 2013 in February in Bangalore, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne spoke of a possibility: HAL would outsource parts of the ‘assembly’ of the plane to Indian private companies, but would keep the overall monitoring of the project. But is this agreeable to South Block babus?
Last week, Mr Eric Trappier the chairman of Dassault, said in an interview: “We are actively working on the Indian contract...  But it does not mean just selling planes; we have also to conclude an agreement for license production... The discussions are about ‘who does what’, ‘who is responsible for what’.”
It is not that the Russian contract for the SU-35 to China is without hurdles. Russia wants to protect its intellectual property rights over the 117S engine of its fighter jet, especially after Beijing is suspected to have borrowed engine technology from the Su-27SK to produce its J-11 jet. This time, China appears to have made concessions and dropped the technology transfer, while Russia may agree to sell China 24 Su-35s, rather than 48, the threshold for an ‘economical’ transfer. The Russian Federation will probably demand further guarantees from China; a Russian Ministry of Defense official told Kommersant, a business publication: “Moscow is not only aiming to ensure its presence on the Chinese market but also attempting to prevent the potential copycat production of Russian aircraft for subsequent sales to third parties with predatory pricing.” Even China’s friends do not always trust the PLA! But for Moscow as well as Beijing, the Su-35 contract demonstrates the new strategic co-operation reaffirmed during President Xi’s visit to Russia in March. The new Chinese Defence Minister told his Russian counterpart that bilateral defence co-operation was a key part of Sino-Russian relations.
What should truly worry New Delhi and add to the urgency of signing the Rafale deal are the repeated Chinese air exercises on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Last year, news agencies reported that China tested its multi-role J-10 fighter jets for the first time at high altitude. According to Chinese media, in March 2012, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted a first of its kind ground attack training on the Tibetan plateau. The PLA Daily published some photos showing the ground crew of J-10 regiment fuelling the fighters and loading ammunition at an altitude of 3,500-meter-high with temperatures below -20 C. The Chinese jets could attack targets with conventional as well as laser-guided bombs, it says.
In two or three years’ time, Sukhoi 35, far superior to the J-10, will probably be seen in the Himalayan sky. Will India then be able to match China with a few Rafales? If it is New Delhi’s desire, it should move now. The French prayers to Saint Antony may not be enough to seal the Rafale deal; Indian gods will probably have to be called in for the finalisation of the contract.