Archive | September 2009

Tibetan Democracy in Action at the Parliament Session

For some time now, the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile has been telecasting (to people in Dharamsala) live its proceedings when it is in session. Currently the Parliament is meeting in Dharamsala. It has also been webcasting the same on www.tibetonline.tv.

Howver, except for a brief time when I happened to be in Dharamsala when it was in session, I have not been able to watch the past proceedings on account of the time difference. The session hours are such that it is night here in the United States when they begin and even though I am somewhat of a morning person by the time I am up the next day the session is over.

But this morning I got up rather early as I wanted to get a taste of the proceedings. When I logged on, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche was there giving his response to some of the issues raised by the members. Thereafter, there was a discussion on a draft bill concerning another conference of the Tibetan people that is being proposed the next year or the next.

During the brief time that I watched, I saw quite a few members take part in the discussions.  There were strong criticisms of the Executive Branch’s policies relating to the welfare of Tibetans around Shimla and in Nepal. I also saw heated moments when members bluntly challenged the Kalon Tripa and other officials to be accountable. There were times when members touched on the core of the Tibetan polity and the nature of Tibetan democracy in the post 1991 period. They included the issues of the authority of H.H. the Dalai Lama as well as the role of the members.

There were also times when some members referred to the “expressed wish” of His Holiness as well as to clauses in the Tibetan Charter-in-Exile to support their contention. Thus, although the debate will continue as to how perfect Tibetan democracy is, or whether democracy is the end or the means to an end to the Tibetan people, I at least felt this morning that I was seeing some aspect of democracy with Tibetan characteristics in action at the Parliament.

Anyone interested in watching the same, you have till September 19 when the current session closes.

International Herald Tribune Says U.S. Endorses Dalai Lama’s Appeal on Tibet

According to the International Herald Tribune, the United States Government has endorsed an appeal by the Dalai Lama concerning Tibet.  “We believe the world should hear what he has to say, for the situation in Tibet has implications for free peoples everywhere,” the newspaper quotes the State Department as saying.

I am giving below the full text of the report, which appeared in the International Herald Tribune of September 10, 1959. Got it?

Bhuchung

1959 U.S. Endorses Dalai Lama’s Appeal

WASHINGTON The United States today [Sept. 10] endorsed the Dalai Lama’s appeal for a United Nations hearing of his charges that Communist China is guilty of murder and aggression in Tibet. The State Department did not say whether the United States delegation at the U.N. would take the initiative in getting the Tibetan appeal on the agenda. It said: “We believe the world should hear what he has to say, for the situation in Tibet has implications for free peoples everywhere.” The exiled Tibetan priest-king based his appeal on a claim of long-standing Tibetan independence from China.

The New Chinese Media versus the Dalai Lama of Tibet

There is a quiet revolution taking place in the world of Chinese official media.  In the beginning Xinhua (or whatever its first incarnation was known) was the word, and the only word. China had only media commandment; “Thou shall have no other media outlet before Xinhua.” Xinhua was the eye and the ear of all denizens of China as also of the other media outlets that Chinese officials had set up, whether in the name of a government or the party.

In between came the internet revolution. Internet savvy Chinese saw an opportunity to find a crack in the media firewall that China had build around them. More and more Chinese began to have access to an alternative media channel that began to worship gods other than Xinhua.  Online activism began to make its mark, whether it was personal blogs or public petitions. This battle continues even today.

The media czars in China of course did not like this development. In response they recruited “Internet security officers” to monitor the activities of China’s netizens.

But Beijing needed a better solution and they seemed to have found the same through the simple adage, “If you cannot beat them, join them.”  We thus heard of Chinese officials hiring citizens to post “personal” comments favorable to the government on the different internet outlets just to prove that the Chinese people” were solidly behind the Party.

May be as a precursor of the arrivial of “free media” we have also seen the abnormal development of at least two instances where one official Chinese media outlet has publicly contradicted and corrected the report of another equally credible outlet.

I want to put the recently established Global Times in the same category.  It is different from Xinhua in that it has a semblance of having views that do not necessarily seem to echo the official line. It even has the audacity to comment on the Chinese government policy positions (rather than merely announcing them), similar to how the media in the free world acts.

The latest example of this is its editorial of today (September 7, 2009) titled, “Under the microscope, China shows courage.”  In gist the editorial says China has the courage to confront challenges as it prepares for the October 1 National Day.  So far, so good. But has China really become a nation of courage and confidence?  The editorial said, “With maturity and an open mind, today’s China is more prepared than ever for scrutiny anytime, from anyone.” I am taking up this challenge by scrutinising China’s official CCTV’s coverage of H.H. the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan.

I agreed with the Global Times editorial that “Details determine history.” I read almost every word that the official Chinese media put out in English relating to the Dalai Lama’s Taiwan visit. Similarly, I tried to watch every footage of CCTV’s coverage of the visit that was available here in the United States. I was not surprised that the coverage was dominated by the protests (of which I had written in my earlier blog) by some people. Afterall, China has to put out the spin that the Dalai Lama was an unwelcome guest in Taiwan. As the editorial itself said, “being under the microscope implies the magnification of every detail, regardless of its size.” Therefore, it serves China’s short-term political interest to magnify the protests against the Dalai Lama’s visit.

What surprised me was that in the very many reports that CCTV devoted to the visit of the Dalai Lama, something was missing. It dawned on me then that I had been watching a dramatization of the epic, Gesar of Ling, seeing the very many “warriors”, hearing the name “Gesar” now and then while not seeing even one image of “Gesar” himself.  To put it simply, the official TV media of the mighty China did not have the courage and the confidence even to show the visual of the Dalai Lama to its citizens even while feeding them negative thoughts about his visit.  China’s CCTV seemed scared to show the face of this simple Buddhist monk to the Chinese people. I guess the Chinese leadership cannot be seen to lose their “face.” This is not certainly a sign of “maturity and an open mind” or the way for China “to showcase itself as a nation riding the wave of unprecedented economic and social development in the past 60 years.”

The era of Global Times (with its plethora of foreign editors) notwithstanding, I think the Chinese propaganda people will have to do much more than indulging in “cheap trick” (not my word, it is in the editorial), if it wants to show that China has become a responsible player. As of now China’s actions speak much more than its words, whether on Tibet or any other issue. And the actions do not seem to be confident ones.

Japan’s New Government and Tibet

Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama meeting the Dalai Lama in Tokyo in November 2007

Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama meeting the Dalai Lama in Tokyo in November 2007

The landslide victory by the Democratic Party of Japan under Yukio Hatoyama in August 30 general elections is something that Tibet friends may want to monitor.

Those who know Mr. Hatoyama, who is expected to be the new prime minister, say that while he will certainly work towards better relations with China, he has also a good understanding of the Tibetan issue and has personal respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama and Mr. Hatoyama had met during one of his trips to Tokyo.

Japan watchers seem to think that the transfer of political power from the Liberal Democratic Party to the Democratic Party of Japan after around 54 years will mark some subtle changes in Japan’s approach.

A Human Approach to the Dalai Lama’s Taiwan Visit

The Dalai Lama consoling some Taiwanese people during his visit

The Dalai Lama consoling some Taiwanese people during his visit

I have been following the developments relating to the Dalai Lama’s ongoing groundbreaking visit to Taiwan with great interest.  Although this is his third trip to the island, the visit is groundbreaking on account of the different factors that have gone into play in its happening.

While political rhetoric has dominated the “controversy” part of the visit, I feel the human aspect of the visit has to be appreciated much more than that is being done. The human aspect is something that I feel will continue to have far reaching impact when the visit is over and when the political din has subsided.

When President Ma Ying-jeou made that announcement before the media, the words he used to describe the nature of the Dalai Lama’s visit was “to pray for the dead and bring hope for the living.” In these 11 short words President Ma has succinctly described the spiritual and moral standing of individual known by the title of the Dalai Lama. While given his position and the situation of cross-straits relations, President Ma had his hands bound, it seems clear that the political decision of the KMT leadership was based on the basic human need of the Taiwanese society.

His Holiness also brings out the human aspect of the visit quite clearly when he told CNN in an interview, “As soon as I received the invitation, I know there’s some complications maybe. But it is my sort of moral responsibility to come and to see, show my face, to those people who are passing through a difficult period.”

The Dalai Lama would certainly have weighed the consequences of such a visit by him. As can be expected of him, he has utilized the new opportunity provided by the visit to encourage the Taiwanese people to think positively, pragmatically and to have a long-term vision.

A case in point is the issue of the protestors who had shown up at some of the venues where the Dalai Lama went.  When the media confronted him about his reaction to them, he had this simple response saying he understood the right of these people to exercise their freedom of expression.  May be the people behind the protestors (some of whom seem to be the handiwork of a leader of a criminal organization who has openly admitted to this in Chinese media) were seeking a confrontation. But the Dalai Lama’s message of “I love it” is something they may not have expected. A Taiwanese individual from Chungli, near Taipei, put this well when she told the Taiwan News that she was deeply moved by an event with the Dalai Lama that she attended, and that “the compassion and magnanimity of the Dalai Lama transcends all of those who criticize him.”

The fact that these protestors do not reflect mainstream Taiwanese public opinion can be seen from the turnout at the public events during the visit. According to one estimate over 17,000 people gathered on September 1 to hear the Dalai Lama and a photo shows a long winding line of people waiting to enter the venue.

Some official Chinese media tried to create dissension in the religious fraternity by pointing out that majority of the victims were Christians and not Buddhists, and thereby questioning the purpose of the Dalai Lama’s visit. In response, NTDTV carried a report where one Kaohsiung resident says this, “It doesn’t matter whether the evacuees follow his religion or not. His visit here should be meaningful to all of us. It is not about the politics. I think those people are reading too much into it.”

Chinese politic rhetoric is understandable for that is the only position they can take with regard to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan. It will be too much to hope that the Chinese leadership would be mature enough to welcome the spiritual solace that such a visit is providing to the Taiwanese people.

All in all, while the Chinese government and some elements in Taiwan have taken a political approach, the Dalai Lama has chosen to take a human approach to his visit to Taiwan.

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