The Chinese Communist party’s preoccupation with its leadership transition, expected to be made final next fall when Xi Jinping becomes general secretary, should not dissuade the U.S. from making a “strong intervention at the highest level” regarding Tibet, according to Lodi Gyari, who spoke yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Despite their renowned belligerence on Tibet, China’s Communists are “the most rational people” when confronted with a serious initiative, according to Mr. Gyari, who has been the special envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama since 1982. Mr. Gyari made his remarks in the context of the ongoing unrest and self-immolations – about three dozen over the past year—in Tibet, and in the context of the Chinese Communist party’s response, which includes harsh new restrictions on religion and monasteries.
A number of Mr. Gyari’s points support an in depth review of policy toward China and Tibet, as well as a consideration of new diplomatic initiatives, especially in coordination with other democracies supportive of Tibet:
—the achievement of Tibetan democracy in exile is significant and U.S. officials should grant greater access to the elected Tibetan leader, Lobsang Sangay. Sangay was inaugurated as Kalon Tripa, or chief of the exile government, last summer and has assumed the political authority that the Dalai Lama relinquished last March.
—the concept of “responsibility to protect,” or R2P, often discussed in connection to crises like Libya and Syria is relevant also to Tibet.
—China’s application of the “One China” concept to Tibet is specious and historically inapt. “One China,” was created for Taiwan and reflected President Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s desire to maintain ties with both Beijing and Taipei. China is using it to dissuade governments from meeting with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders in exile.
—an idea floated within Chinese academic circles to do away with Chinese constitutional and legal provisions for autonomy by Tibetans and other minorities would torpedo the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” policy for pursuing “meaningful autonomy” under Chinese rule and have implications for Sino-Indian relations. Mr. Gyari noted that India’s acquiescence to China’s invasion of Tibet was based on China’s fulsome guarantees of Tibetan autonomy given directly to Nehru in 1956.
Mr. Gyari spoke appreciatively of U.S. support for Tibet, especially the way the president, State Department, and congressional leaders have received the Dalai Lama. He also politely declined to make specific requests for changes in policy. But everything he said underscored the need for there to be some.