Dharamshala: - Being part of the recently launched international awareness campaign on Middle Way Approach which aims to counter the Chinese government's misinformation campaign, I am elated to see the response it is generating world over. The Campaign generated one of the biggest media coverage in recent times from New York Times to Guardian to Straights Times to South China Morning Post and not to mention about Indian and Tibetan media.
On June 7, on a positive note, the US government urged for an unconditional dialogue. "We are deeply concerned about the poor human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China. We have continued to urge the Chinese Government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions as a means to reduce tensions, obviously urge China to address policies that have created tensions in Tibetan areas and that threaten the Tibetan unique culture," said US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
At the far end, caught on back foot, the Chinese government issued a series of baseless statements. On the next day of the launch, the spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry termed Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay as "100% splittist". On June 9, just three days after the launch, a Chinese government website posted an article titled "Tibet independence in Middle Way disguise : Zhu Weiqun". The article impinges on the exact misinformation that the MWA campaign has sought to clarify. Zhu Weiqun, former executive vice director of theUnited Front Work Department, who was also the key person in previous dialogue, resorted to misconstruing Middle Way Approach to confuse world opinion on Tibet issue.
The premise of Chinese side misinformation is based on Strasbourg Proposal. However, it must be noted that the Strasbourg proposal is no longer binding since 1992 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared in his 10th March statement that " the Strasbourg Proposal is no longer valid".
Even few individuals within the Tibetan community, in their writing, insinuates that the Kashag, headed by Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, is proposing a different version of Middle Way Approach than that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Interestingly, they have also based their argument on the Strasbourg Proposal that was long termed invalid. Like the Timeline of MWA document, Legal Materials on Tibet published by Tibet Justice Center also documented that Strasbourg Proposal is invalid. The individuals who leveled these allegations are either deliberately misleading or do not know about this crucial fact, which is hard to believe as these individuals also sit on the board of Tibet Justice Center.
However, this is not new. Similar efforts to create an impression of difference between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the then Kashag led by Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche were made in 2010 when the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People was alleged to be formulated without the consent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This allegation was put to rest after a live televised special Parliament Hearing with a parliament resolution declaring that the Memorandum enjoyed full confidence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This time, documents published during MWA international awareness campaign is entirely based on the official documents of CTA. It was launched with the blessings of His Holiness and former Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche also participated in this Campaign through appearing in the documentary video.
These unfortunate trends of distorting information also signify that every individual must read and understand the MWA documents, now easily accessible at www.middlewayapproach.org, on its own merits and not through a third party interpretation. One must form his/her opinion based on facts.
The reality is, 97.5% of Tibetans in Tibet are under repression and that it should be the most urgent concern of the Tibetans who live in free world. The exile population is only 2.5%, though important, but is secondary to ending the repression in Tibet. As Sikyong has clearly explained in the MWA video, the objective of MWA is to replace political repression by basic freedom, economic marginalization by economic opportunity, social discrimination with social equality, cultural assimilation by cultural preservation and environmental destruction by environmentally sustainable policies.
Some in exile have raised the issue of democratic system of governance in Tibet, which I feel may not be the most urgent concern compared to alleviating Tibetans inside Tibet from persistent cycle of repression. Therefore, the Memorandum and the Note clearly mentioned that given the Chinese government's compliance on the Tibetan proposal for self-governance covering 11 basic needs, the Tibetan side will accept the 'Three Adherences". This was made clear in a column by reputed journalist Nicholas Kristof, published in New York Times titled "An Olive Branch From the Dalai Lama" on August 6, 2008.
In short, such baseless allegations and intentional attempts by the Chinese government and some from within Tibetan diaspora to create confusion on MWA is a wastage of time, energy and resources. I am afraid these unwarranted negative campaign will try the Tibetan patience to the point of snapping into a more problematic issue for the Chinese government and tragedy for the Tibetan people. Under these circumstances, Tibetans creating distortion is amount to playing right into the hands of hardliners in Beijing.
The writer is press officer of the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamshala, India. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not necessarily reflects the editorial policy of The Tibet Post International.