May 12

Tibet: Answers to a reader’s questions

Written by Buxi on Monday, May 12th, 2008 at 7:36 am
Filed under:q&a | Tags:, ,
Add comments

A reader of our blog asked this question on a previous thread:

To Buxi and CLC:
Thanks for your replies. WRT Tibetan independence, some Tibetans seek it, presumably as they see it to be to their benefit. PRC opposes it, as they see it as a detriment. I would like to explore the second part. I’ve read the historical justifications for Tibet being within China, such as the territorial relationship dating back hundreds of years at least. There’s also the point that the PLA moved in to liberate Tibetan serfs and slaves. In moving forward, the principle of “One China” drives policy. My questions are the following:
1. If a majority of the residents of present day Tibet do not want to remain in China (I realize that is a major assumption, and the act of accurately determining that ie a referendum is not a realistic option for the CCP circa 2008), how does it benefit China to keep this territory in the fold? It’s like keeping a bad apple employee within a company: wouldn’t company performance, and the morale of remaining employees, improve by removing said bad apple, such that all who remain truly want to be there, and are willing to wholeheartedly contribute to the “business” of improving China?
2. “One China” is a euphemism I don’t understand. There was, is, and ever will be only one China. The question is what geographical parts you include. Does a region that at one time was considered part of China, need to forever remain so, for the present and future benefit of the whole?

I (Tang Buxi) will take a shot at answering these two questions, although I encourage more discussion in follow-on comments as well.

1. If a majority of the residents of present day Tibet do not want to remain in China how does it benefit China to keep this territory in the fold?

Let’s start by agreeing at least that “benefit” can not be calculated in this sense from an accounting point of view. China has already invested billions of dollars in Tibet, and despite Western activists desperate to find an economic motive, there isn’t one… there’s simply no way, short of legalizing gambling, that Tibet could be anything remotely resembling a profit source for China as a whole. At best, Tibet could generate enough economic activity to allow its people to continue to develop without more funding from the rest of China.

I think the benefit to China is that we show our dedication to building a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation.

China contains 56 nationalities; of these, there are numerous nationalities that are very meaningful and significant to the Chinese nation as a whole. Tibetans are a minority amongst minorities in China, really. We have the Muslim Hui, widely distributed throughout China, and impossible to carve out. We also have the Miao (or Hmong). For that matter, if we even look closely at just the Han, we’ll also find numerous linguistic and cultural differences. The Han of Guangdong province are very different from the Han of the northeast, for example.

If we declare that the Tibetans deserve independence because their cultural is “very unique” … what then? Are the cultures or language of the Hakkas or Shanghai-ese not unique? Is the Islamic-infused culture of the Hui not unique? Does this also mean that the rest of China can get rid of all pretenses of a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural country (since everyone not independent by that point “wants” to be Han), and we can start assimilating everyone?

The example of other minorities in China is also why I’m optimistic about the situation in Tibet. I believe the “problem” with Tibetans seeking independence can be resolved, given time. Much of the 19th century, and the early 20th century in China was spent fighting various race and religious wars. See this Wikipedia entry describing the Muslim wars; also the Taiping Rebellion was led initially by a Hakka Christian cult. I can’t find an English version, but see this description in Chinese of Miao uprisings throughout the Qing dynasty.

But happily, although mistakes have been made and some tension does still exist (as they do in every other multi-ethnic nation that I’m aware of)… the Hui, Hakka, and Miao population have largely found a way to balance their cultural background with their Chinese citizenship.  I believe the right thing to do is focus on building a generous country that allows minorities the ability to preserve their unique cultures, while giving us all a shared platform for mutual success and strength.

Shouldn’t this sort of co-existence be the hallmark of a modern nation? Isn’t it too late to return to the era of “ethnically pure” countries?

2. Does a region that at one time was considered part of China, need to forever remain so, for the present and future benefit of the whole?

I don’t pretend to have a good answer to this one. I have my own feelings, but I don’t know if there’s a common view on this.

History has clearly moved on from the past, so I don’t think there are any firm rules on what year’s Chinese borders should be the correct ones. For better or worse, my only answer can be… let’s talk about where we are today. When I talk about “One China”, I’m saying that we should maintain the borders that we have today.

Do these territories need to remain “forever” part of China? I’ll let my children’s and grand-children’s generations answer that question. I will tell them why I believe “One China” is important today, but if they feel differently in 50-100 years… well, I won’t be around to be angry about it.

There are currently no comments highlighted.

62 Responses to “Tibet: Answers to a reader’s questions”

  1. ChinkTalk Says:

    After the Yom Kippur War, President Anwar Sadat was in the US and a very prominent news anchor inteviewed him with the question that the Golan Heights is just a piece of desert, all sand, why fight over it. And President Sadat stunned the esteemed newsman with the reply that Arizona was just a piece of desert, what would the US do if someone decided to take it. I think this highlights that ethnicity has nothing to do with the territorial integrity of a country. It boils down to how powerful the country is; a place can be as Chinese as Hong Kong and it is not part of China for over a century; the Inuits of Northern Canada eat raw seal liver as part of their staple diet and their aged commit suicide by succumbing to the polar bears – hardly the norm of Canadian culture – yet no one questions the appropriateness of Nunavut as being part of Canada. Canada is a rich, powerful developed country. If the proposed principal of Tibet independence is considered valid, then every country in the world would be fragmented.

  2. CLC Says:

    I’d like to take a quick stab at your questions. First off, I appreciate that you acknowledge that it is an assumption that the majority residents of present day Tibet do not want to be part of China. Many people from the west just assume it’s a fact.

    1. To take your company analogy, if it is only an employee wants to leave a company, I would say that’s fine. However, what if this employee wants take away 1/4 of the company’s asset, which the employee did not really own to begin with (the “greater Tibet”)? What if other employees will lose their jobs along the way (people who have to leave “greater Tibet”, including many non-Han, non-Tibetan long-term residents)? What if the employee wants not just to leave but to aid the company’s competitors? (not to subscribe to any conspiracy theories, but that’s a fact that CIA armed and trained Tibetan fighters in the 60s). They are just 3 scenarios that will be detrimental to the company and there are more.

    Now if you were the said employee and wanted to leave the company, what would you do? Do you talk to your CEO or your colleagues to convince them your leaving is mutually beneficial? or do you go to your company’s adversaries and ask them to put pressure on your company? His holiness has given numerous lectures in the western world and they are well received. However, it puzzles me that there has never been a serious outreach program to Chinese people, or at least, overseas Chinese.

    2. “One China” is not always the norm in Chinese history. Had the CCP and KMT fought to a stalemate along the Yangtze River in 1949, we might as well have witnessed North China, South China today as we have seen in the Korea peninsula. And please remember, the PRC did not gain its UN seats until 1970s. As for the question “Does a region that at one time was considered part of China, need to forever remain so, for the present and future benefit of the whole?” my answer would be “nothing lasts forever.” We don’t even know how long the human race will exist:). Seriously, the concept of nation state may not be popular 1-200 years from now. So I’d like to echo Buxi on this one, it’s the “current” that counts.

  3. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I realize the “company” analogy is a gross over-simplification, but allowed me to get my question across most efficiently. Actually, the principle I believe in is that, in ANY demarcated geographic area, if a “significant” majority of the populace (regardless of race, ethnicity, etc)voiced a desire to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of the central/federal government, that they should be allowed to do so, with provisos such as restitution for infrastructure previously provided by the central government, assumption of per capita share of national debt if applicable, maintenance of reasonable freedom of passage for citizens, and guarantees of preservations of rights and freedoms particularly for the newly-formed minority who may have opposed independence in the first place. Obviously, the list of “conditions” would need to be far more exhaustive. And practical impediments abound, such as defining the “region”, or that of a “significant” majority. In my earlier question, I modified this to suit the Tibetan question more, but I feel it is applicable in other countries. C-Talk referenced Canada…I hadn’t considered the Northern peoples, but certainly for Quebec. Or I’ve heard people make parallels to Hawaii.
    I realize my idea is a pie in the sky. But even in an alternate reality, I doubt it would fragment very many countries in the world. When the implications of separation are evaluated against perceived benefits, I doubt if many jurisdictions could muster the needed majority to justify such a claim. However, a few legitimate cases might succeed. Either way, it would render obsolete the hankerings for independence in many nations that we have today, and would eliminate a source of violence such as being wrought by the Tamils and Basques and Kashmiris of the world.

  4. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    I don’t have a problem with your “pie in the sky” idealism. Perhaps one day we’ll get rid of the idea of nations entirely, and we’ll all travel/live/work as members of humanity rather than individual countries.

    But let’s start more practically. The countries that have both the physical/legal capability and the moral responsibility to implement this should be the wealthier, developed nations. Just as many of the other important social experiments in humanity, let those who can bear the cost try it.

    I recognize for example that Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom have sort of experimented with some of these processes… but they’ve yet to follow through. Scotland and Wales have very, very limited autonomy, for example… when will they have the right to declare independence? What are the procedures for allowing a referendum for independence in Hawaii? What if not the entire state wants to secede, but only individual islands do?

    If these countries try your idealistic formula, they have the economic, social, and legal wealth to deal with a few decades of upheaval and chaos. When these countries achieve your idealism and prove that it does make the world a better place, then the poorer developing nations can follow suit.

    But China, a country with 1.3 billion mostly impoverished people, can not afford to be your guinea pig.

  5. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I agree that not all nations are equally or similarly equipped for all things. Having said that, is it just to offer the option of independence within some nations, but not others? On the flip side, and going back to my initial analogy, would only wealthy nations potentially benefit from the removal of a region of discontent? In fact, would a nation that is not well-off have proportionately more to gain, by streamlining her costs and distributing limited resources only to those who seek to improve what remains?

  6. Buxi Says:

    In fact, would a nation that is not well-off have proportionately more to gain, by streamlining her costs and distributing limited resources only to those who seek to improve what remains?

    S.K. Cheung,

    I think I made this point earlier… if this was a financial calculation, China would be much better off with Tibet cut away. For that matter, China would be much better off economically if we cut off all of the Western provinces (except perhaps for natural gas deposits in Xinjiang… we’ll keep those). If we take that to its natural extension, the people in the wealthier coastal provinces would be much better off casting *everyone* off. Why doesn’t Shanghai declare independence, for example?

    At some point, we have to understand that China isn’t an economic formula looking for the easiest way out. We have a long history of signing away pieces of territory in order to achieve temporary peace, and we have had centuries of regret following it.

    China is geographically (roughly) the size of Europe, with a population that is (roughly) the size of Europe, with cultural diversity that is (roughly) similar to Europe. But China has remained largely united, largely cooperative for the past 2000 years. And that has bought our people much more peace over those 2000 years than the mutual infighting that defined Europe. None of that happened by accident; I think this type of unity is amazing… it certainly hasn’t been duplicated by any other civilization in human history.

    I don’t think we should glibly, easily throw away something so valuable when it has been handed to us in one piece. Again, I’m open-minded enough to admit that perhaps humanity has evolved from this type of thinking… but let someone else prove it first.

  7. Allen Yu Says:

    I think the issues are quite simple, actually. Assume the majority of Tibetans want to leave China and be independent (I don’t buy it, but for the sake of making a point, I’ll make it), and assume the majority of the rest of the Chinese population do not want it, we have what we call a bona fide civil war.

    One side will win. One will lose. Now assume Tibetan loses, then the central government has many choices. Try to address what caused the Tibetans to want to leave in the first place or ignore them. If the issues are addressed, peace and stability results. If the issues are not, there is a potential for a future civil war.

    The cycle continues if there are unresolved problems.

    This is not unlike any other conflicts….

    In the American Civil War, Pres. Lincoln could have let the South secede. The majority of southerners would have happily seceded. And self determination of the south would have been preserved.

    But Pres. Lincoln didn’t. And the South lost.

    After the South lost, Pres. Lincoln could have allowed the South to keep its slaves to promote short term tactical stability. He didn’t. He forced fed northern values onto the south – and in the long term promoted strategic stability.

    I don’t see anything different today in Tibet. At worst it’s a clash of culture and politics.

    The central government as the powerful entity, reserves the right to govern – including force feeding values to the Tibetans.

    If the central gov’t is “evil” – time will show the Chinese central gov’t to be on the wrong side of history. Time will tell what is the right side of history – the Chinese version of a multi-pluralistic society or Dali Lama’s ethnic and religious focused society.

  8. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I appreciate your points. I do think there is a fundamental difference between China casting off provinces versus those provinces wanting to leave. As for the Shanghai example, my earlier point was that if the majority of Shanghaiese wanted to separate, and various aforementioned criteria are met, in principle i don’t see why not.

  9. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    your American civil war example is an excellent one, but I’m not sure that anti-slavery values and assimilation of Tibetan culture would of the same magnitude or significance to the vanquished. With your civil war analogy, I’m also not sure how that would be different from the Tibetan situation today. And if it’s not, then what incentive would there be for Tibetans to refrain from violence, as there would be nothing more to lose.

  10. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I was re-reading your initial post on this blog, and wondered, if China has 56 ethnic minorities, would losing one make her a materially less multi-ethnic multi-cultural nation?

  11. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    First of all, I don’t think many Chinese are “afraid” of the Tibetans turning to violence. The threats of an impending civil war (which is often made by those insisting China must compromise with the Dalai Lama) doesn’t work in China. Tibet will never be Palestine, because the demographics doesn’t work that way.

    So, while clearly all right thinking human beings want to avoid violence if possible, that’s not going to be our only priority here.

    As far as “why not” in terms of the Shanghaiese wanting to separate… I’m afraid you’re missing the point completely still. It’s certainly acceptable from the Judeo-Christian point of view, which is precisely why most of Europe has been fighting non-stop internecine wars for 2000 years. It is precisely why the term “balkanization” refers to a region of Europe.

    I’m asking you to look at history and consider it by starting from scratch. Consider whether China is unique, and what makes her unique. You might belief that life continues all the same regardless of the form/shape of the country you live in, but I don’t feel that way about China.

  12. Allen Yu Says:

    Hi S.K. Cheung:

    Your indication of the “significance” or “magnitude” of the Tibetan cause illustrates that we are imposing your sense of “value” onto a domestic conflict – which is all I am trying to say.

    Whether China is “on the right side” will be up to history to decide – though many like me have high confidence we are.

    As for nonviolence – I don’t think nonviolence legitimizes one’s position substantively. If slave holders are nonviolent in the American Civil War, that doesn’t increase their position substantively…

  13. Allen Yu Says:

    Buxi –

    I will make what I think is your point even stronger.

    The question is whether political fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines lead to more stable and peaceful configurations in the long term than a unified political unity in the area of China.

    From a European-centric perspective, the answer would be fragmentation. Europe has been traditionally fragmented. The few times it was unified (e.g., Napoleon, Nazi Germany, Soviet Union) unification was achieved through brutal conquest. Europe has also carried out global imperialism over the last five centuries – with devastating effects that is measured from domination of others’ religion, extinguishing of local languages, etc.)

    From a Chinese perspective, the answer would be unification. China has been traditionally unified. Times of unification have been characterized by stable relationships among ethnicities and great advances in science, art, and culture. The few times of fragmentation (e.g. last century or so) has seen great strife and suffering for the people.

    History aside, some people may say modernism is defined by self determination. But if one is really serious about self determination, one is really for anarchy, because in the end, even in the most democratic society, there is always a minority that is oppressed at the expense of the majority … The only way to guarantee against oppression is gov’t of individuals.

    If one doesn’t go to that extreme, then one has to draw the line somewhere. Ethnicity? Religion? Sect?

    Remember, even if we give Dali Lama his autonomy, frictions will inevitably form between the sects of Tibetan Buddhism (Tibet’s history is filled with warfare between the different sects), are we going to force the different sects to divide up Tibet or are we going to leave it to the Dali Lama to decide the internal affairs of Tibet?

  14. Allen Yu Says:

    1. If a majority of the residents of present day Tibet do not want to remain in China how does it benefit China to keep this territory in the fold?

    No. If the majority of the residents of Tibet are unhappy, it is the duty of the central gov’t to work on how to keep Tibetans, and all other minorities, happy.

    If the Tibetans must demand their own nation, and most of the rest of the Chinese do not want to let them, then the Tibetans need to fight for the nation. If they cannot win, then it is better to work with the central gov’t to address their need.

    2. Does a region that at one time was considered part of China, need to forever remain so, for the present and future benefit of the whole?

    No, that line of thinking would be more appropriate if were to talk about annexing Mongolia and a big swath of Siberia. But there is no movement toward that end that I know of today.

  15. Buxi Says:


    Thank you, you make very good points.

  16. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    we all agree China has nothing to fear when it comes to Tibet from a military might standpoint. However, violent confrontation in the 21st century takes on different forms than in the past. Just ask the US military, whose “might” is producing negligible results in Iraq and Afghanistan; or the Israeli army, who should similarly easily vanquish the militant Palestinians, but are nowhere close. Your world view still relies largely on underlying suspicions of the Dalai’s intent, and is a world view I do not share. But the Dalai is 71, and when he goes, my personal opinion is that the “militant Tibetans” will rise out of the woodwork and make things far more unpleasant than they are now, for both sides. I don’t know if they will be successful, but I think many more people will die as we find out. I’ve never been oppressed, nor I believe have you, and I don’t think one can summarily disregard the capacity of a people who believe, rightly or wrongly, that they are so.
    While China is obviously “unique” (ie different) in comparison to the West, I believe that fundamentally, people are people. And I believe in the internet age, people will tend to become more similar than dissimilar, and with that, what were once unique values will hopefully become more universal.

  17. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    I agree that non-violence does not make a wrong right. My point was that IF Tibetans feel oppressed already, then what stops them from giving violence a chance?
    Obviously, my value set is of a Western persuasion. I don’t claim it to be superior. It is simply my values, much like you have your own.
    I agree that self-determination taken to the utmost extreme would absolutely mean everybody for him/her-self. I also agree that one test of the resilience of one’s logic is to stress it to such extremes. So I agree my logic does not pass that test. However, in reality, I’m not sure people would take such an idea to such an extreme; it would not be the first time people did what was not the most logical, but what was most feasible, practical, or attainable. I mean, even if you offered Shanghai the option of secession, would they? I doubt it. Just as if you offered it to Hawaii; or to Quebec. But Tibetans might, and that’s my point. As for where to draw the line, I think people can think for themselves, and needn’t be told by you, me, or anybody.
    WRT Post #14, it clearly demonstrates our differences of opinion. While I agree that it is in CHina’s best interests to make Tibetans happy (since that’s better than unhappy Tibetans), you might agree they haven’t been overly successful thus far. Does there come a point when Tibetans should get to try for themselves? And if China truly believes that she has been the best thing to come to Tibet since sliced bread (sorry, very western phrase there), wouldn’t she be confident that Tibetans would actually choose to stay?

  18. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    On the military angle, again, Tibet doesn’t look remotely like Palestine, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Keep in mind that the entire population of Tibetans in all of China are out-numbered twenty times to one by the population of immediately adjacent Sichuan province alone. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say just the civilian police in just Sichuan could probably win “a war” against those who actually pick up arms.

    The analogue isn’t 30 million Iraqis versus 200,000 American soldiers. The closest historical analogue would be 500 Apaches versus the United States cavalry.

    As far as Western values and self-determination or what not… I don’t need to take it to extremes. Very few Western nations have seriously considered any sort of self-determination within their own borders. The United Kingdom is the only example I’m aware of. The Quebecois in Canada, for example, held only a local referendum that had no legal bearing at the federal level.

    In the mean time, France (Corsica and Northern Basque), Spain (Southern Basque), and the United States continue to hold their people “hostage”. When you talk about a Western value set, who’s values are you really talking about?

    If/when Canada and the United States really live up to these Western values… I wonder if those of us who are Chinese living overseas will be given the opportunity to “self-determine”, and unilaterally decide whether we wish our Chinatowns to become part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China?

    When that day comes, I promise you, I personally will absolutely agree with your proposition that the Tibetans should unilaterally decide their fate.

  19. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    Regarding you observation that a referendum for independence in Hawaii (or Alaska, or Kansas) will probably not pass, I agree, but I also offer this: if you limit the referendum to only the native ethnicities – i.e. native Hawaiians and native Americans – it also might just pass.

    This, I think, is the more appropriate comparison to a referendum in Tibet and surrounding provinces. The vote results depends in large part on if one want to emphasize religious and ethnic differences by drawing lines around ethnic, religious demographics.

    In my humble opinion, however, I don’t think sub divisions make gov’ts more legitimate. Self determination must be informed by something else – not just self determination per se. In any political organization, there will always be a dominant central power and a disenfranchised few. Some may argue, in light of Western Imperialism, the best political units should be drawn around ethnic and religious lines. But that is not the history of China. In the experience of China, periods of unity has seen the most tolerance and advances in art, culture, and science….

    One point on which I do agree with you though – the U.S. is currently definitely a more politically stable country than China. But I think that has much to do with the U.S.’ premier position in the world in terms of economic power and military power – which combine to give it strong ideological power as well – not because of any of China’s inherent or unnatural political configuration.

    China only needs to worry about building a better future for its people. There is must to improve – no doubt.

    But the idea that of trying to delegitimize China by pointing out that there could be a subgroup of its population that may want to secede given sufficient prodding and foreign meddling is, to me, disgusting.

  20. Allen Yu Says:

    Buxi – I’ll add this to your post above. When the governments in Southeast countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia fanned ethnic hatred against ethnic Chinese over the last few decades, Chinese have been indignant but never once did the Chinese rebel. Tellingly, at no time did any of the Western country try to deletigimize those gov’ts and to seek more self autonomy for the ethnic Chinese.

    I really think the ideas of human rights, democracy, and self determination have been politicized too much to achieve ulterior political objectives. There have been too much hypocrisy and inconsistency for these concepts to have much inherent hold over me.

  21. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung:

    “And if China truly believes that she has been the best thing to come to Tibet since sliced bread (sorry, very western phrase there), wouldn’t she be confident that Tibetans would actually choose to stay?”

    Good job in isolating the point. I would say today is not the time – no least because China is a rapidly changing and evolving country. And any such timing is also a purely internal affair for the Chinese community.

    In the end, I don’t think all this really matter.

    If China is weak, she will fracture into multi states soon enough.

    If China is to become the great nation envisioned by the Chinese people, it will be in China’s interest to preserve as much of her culture as she can going into the 21st century and beyond.

    It will be a with great joy and pride for China to promote her proud and multi-ethnic self, including preserving and protecting the Tibetan culture, as China boldly charts a brave new world…

  22. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    Actually, the 1995 referendum in Quebec would have been binding, except the separatists did not even achieve a simple majority, let alone a “significant” majority. They came closer than Ottawa anticipated though, hence the passage of the Clarity Act thereafter which, i agree, in fact makes separation more difficult today. That, to me, is unfortunate.
    The western values to which I refer are my own, informed by my upbringing and my environment. As I mentioned previously, if it were up to me, all the groups you mentioned would have been given the opportunity to seek independence yesterday. So too would all the Chinatowns in the world, as you suggest. However, the occupants of said Chinatowns would have to realize that they would become an island surrounded by the host nation, with complete dependence on the host nation for basic infrastructure, the supply of which would be charged at a rate at the discretion of the host nation. “Tourists” visiting said Chinatown states would have to cross “borders”, with all their inherent restrictions. These Chinatown states would have to provide its own governance, financed now by what would likely be a very small tax base. Most would likely have no natural resources. Many would lack higher levels of health care without crossing borders. The list goes on and on. So yes, I absolutely think that people should be able to choose. As I said before, however, just because one could seek independence doesn’t mean one should, or would. But I don’t see the reasoning in why one categorically can’t make that choice for themselves. As it pertains to Tibet, I’m not sure it would be wise for them to seek independence. I happen to think they would be better off with the status quo. I just think it would be better if they told us, rather than having you, me, or Beijing tell them.

  23. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    sorry, forgot one point. It would not be a fair comparison to say these Chinatowns should be allowed to join the PRC, however. To my knowledge, Tibet just wants to be itself, and not to leave China in order to join another nation.

  24. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    when I suggested a referendum, I did not intend it to be on ethnic, religious, or any other such grounds. If you live in the area in question, you should have a voice. As for Tibet, anyone living there should have an equal say.
    I don’t know at what point you would distinguish foreigners speaking out against a perceived wrong with “meddling”. For instance, i don’t think I’m guilty of the latter presently. But I don’t mean to offend.
    I didn’t realize all the stuff happening in SE Asian countries. And I agree that human rights etc are politicized, and that’s unfortunate. I think the goal is virtuous; the means, at times somewhat less so.
    I would also like to see China proceed on its current path of economic and political modernization. I’m just a little impatient, I suppose.

  25. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung –

    Just to make a point – if we are voting by geography – then what’s wrong with waiting for the Hans to inundate Tibet before we hold the referendum – 10 years from now?

    I think under “moral pull” of the idea of “referendum” is to let ethnic Tibetans have a say on whether they want to be independent or not – not the Hans.

    Also you had compared to U.S. before. The only reason no area in the U.S. would secede today is mostly also because it has been inundated by one race – the white people of European decent.

    As for “political modernization” – it’s a big topic. But I don’t really believe in democracy for the sake of democracy.

    Whether a government is truly democratic – i.e. of the people, by the people, for the people – depend less on the ideological rhetoric than on the actual details of the implementation. Whether a gov’t is democratic depend on, for example: voter turnout (if average voter is apathetic, then it’s the organizations that churn out the votes that controls, not the people), media institutions (do people have the right info? who are the control points?), role of lobbyists (the legislative process today in the u.s. is controlled by the lobbyists (corporations and special interests), no ifs or doubts around it – what does that mean about our “democracy”?), candidate selection process (are there viable candidates for national spots besides those from the 2 parties? who control these platforms?), etc.

    To build a proper civil based democracy – there thus need to be a lot of things that have to go right for the gov’t to be a democracy in substance rather than just in name. Addition development of institutional, legal, and cultural institutions and attitudes must also go hand in hand (it hasn’t been easy to transplant democracy to Iraq, has it).

    So when people like me don’t seem to care about “democracy,” it’s not because we are against democracy. It’s because these calls seem so shallow. What China is looking are for solutions, not ideologies.

    It’s like the one-child policy. Given the emotional stake people have on reproductive freedom here in the U.S., most in the West would be appalled if they have to be subject to the one-child rule. But the Chinese people do not consider it to be abuse of human rights because it is a solution to moving to a brighter future.

    In the end, we are looking for an accountable government that can govern. We are not trying to appease whatever sensibilities might be sweeping over the West.

  26. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    Many believe an independent Tibet would also have a hard time thriving economically in the modern economy outside of China… some Tibetans don’t care, and others believe an independent Tibet can rely on steady assistance from the United States and India to thrive. Perhaps in exchange for leasing a military base to the United States, for example?

    If your moral belief is that people should be allowed to determine their political status and government, why shouldn’t Chinatowns be allowed to decide that they’re part of China’s territory? I have a feeling we might get decent economic compensation from the Chinese government out of it, too.

    As far as a “fair” comparison with Chinatown… what gives you the moral authority do decide whether its “fair”? You believe only separatist movements are morally acceptable to your Western values, but a movement to join a different country is not?

    What’s your stand on Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, and its subsequent refusal to allow northern Kosovo to become independent and reunify with Serbia…?

  27. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. Geographic region is geographic region. I have no intent of subversively suggesting that only ethnic Tibetans get a vote; in principle, that’d be wrong. As for flooding Tibet with Han CHinese, isn’t that already happening since the railway was completed? Morally, this “stacking” of the vote seems distasteful to me, but it’s happening regardless, and will only increase with time. So if China had the stones, they’d allow a vote sooner rather than later. I just doubt they’d ever allow it at all.
    I think the US is slightly more multi-cultural than you give it credit for.
    When I spoke of political modernization, I wasn’t even referring to the full-on western version of democracy. The only way CHina achieves that is to lose the CCP. I think some of Buxi’s ideas from other threads, like the right to protest, the right to organize in public, the right to information…even those would be a good start.
    I agree that voter apathy strikes at the heart of the principles of democracy. It appalls me that turnout often is less than 50%. However, if someone has the right to vote but fails to exercise it, they have no one to blame but themselves. But to at least possess that right is something I think everyone deserves.
    I can agree with your last 4 points, with the exception that the sensibilities to which you refer swept over the West a long time ago. As an aside, and I absolutely do not mean to be flippant about a natural disaster, I wonder if the one-child policy might see an uptick in resistance following recent events.

  28. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I agree what seems “fair” to me may not seem so to you, and vice versa. Since it was my post, I thought I’d be given the latitude, just as I wouldn’t begrudge you the opportunity to decide on “fairness” in yours. I was not invoking moral authority; are you?
    Just to clarify, my point was that Tibet isn’t desiring independence so as to become part of another country (besides, why would they leave one just to become subjugated to another??); she’s just seeking independence. Thus, it’s not “fair” to expect that Chinatowns seeking independence have the right to become an extension of the PRC. However, if one side does, then the other side should definitely be extended the same privilege. So if you’re saying that it’s okay for Tibet to join the US or whomever she chooses, then I would absolutely agree that Chinatowns all over the world can become Little PRC’s should they so desire.
    My stand on your last question is that Kosovo absolutely had the right to independence, but the northern section that is 90% Serbian should be allowed to go back to Serbia.

  29. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    I might have said this earlier, but again, I have no problems with your own views on morality. There’s no absolute standard, and as long as you’re consistent in applying these standards (for example: supporting the right of Chinese-majority areas in North American to join the PRC if they’d like)… I won’t accuse you of hypocrisy.

    So, as far as I can see, you’re being perfectly consistent with your morality. I congratulate you on that.

    So… what now? Do you understand what I suggested earlier, that your definition of Western values + morality is actually an extreme minority position? I think it should be fairly obvious that few of your fellow Westerners would accept the prospect of San Francisco or Toronto being administered by the People’s Republic of China… especially once we started figuring out where in Toronto we’d be locating a military base for the People’s Liberation Army.

    I will even say the world could very well be a much better place if all 6 billion of us adopted your morality. But you’re on the wrong path if you think you can convince “the Chinese” on the issue of Tibet… when you haven’t even convinced those who allegedly originated “Western values”.

  30. Allen Yu Says:

    I have two main problems with calls for referendum.

    1. If anytime a gov’t like China is forced to grant referendum by a few minority aimed to cause trouble force, a gov’t of 1.3-1.6 billion can’t govern….

    2. The fundamental of separatism is messy. Better to work on a multi-cultural society than trying to divide and subdivide…

    First, not all people will be for separatism. Even if we assume 60% wants to separate, there is still the 40% doesn’t. What of the self determination of the minority 40%?

    Second, people’s sympathy for separation will vary locally by geography. If you look at electoral maps in the U.S., you not only get red states v. blue states, but also red counties v. blue counties, and often red zip codes v. blue zip codes.

    In Tibet, Lhasa as a whole may choose solidarity with greater China, while specific neighborhoods within Lhasa may choose independence. Some rural regions may choose independence, with strong pockets choosing solidarity.

    How the electoral maps are drawn however can drastically affect the outcome of what the majority wants (in the U.S., partisan fights over boundaries and shapes of electoral counties often get very nasty because they determine whether the district will vote democrats or republican).

    In the end, it’s must better to work on a pluralistic society rather than become divisive and seek to divide and subdivide.

    In the end, however, I still think that a fight for Tibet is more a civil war than anything else.

    The U.S. did not vote a referendum to see if the South wants to secede. They fought a war foremost to keep the country together (the fight for slavery was made up later on to legitimize the war).

    We need not apologize that the fight for Tibet is about a fight to keep the country together. Referendum is neither relevant nor an option.

  31. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I only seek to illicit a discussion based on logic, rather than rhetoric. I have no desire nor the qualifications to lecture anybody on morality. Each of us has a set of principles that we live by, which helps to inform our decisions and opinions. As long as we remain true to those principles, I think we can all sleep well at night. We may disagree, but I certainly respect your breadth and depth of knowledge regarding all things China, and I have learned much from your various posts for which I am most appreciative. If you are representative of the new generation of Chinese intellectuals who will one day guide China, then I have much for which to be hopeful. As you can probably deduce, for me, that day can’t come soon enough.
    On a completely different note, you sound like you go to Duke. And I think you said you were in engineering. Plus there is not one bit of advertising here. So do you maintain this site on your own time, on your own dime?

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    I agree with #1, except that (at least in the Western media) I wasn’t aware of other minorities with a similar hankering for independence as the Tibetans. Plus, I think few such groups reside in such a well demarcated area as the TAR. So I don’t think the theoretical possibility of multiple independence struggles would actually materialize. I agree that China couldn’t practically manage a referendum right now, if only because she does not have a long record of experience in allowing her people to vote on much of anything.
    As for #2, i really think it depends on which side of the independence issue you live in.
    I absolutely agree not everyone in Tibet seeks independence. That is a practical, logical, physical, and mathematical impossibility. When I referred earlier to requiring a “significant” majority to legitimize a call for independence, I actually have no notion of what would constitute “significant”. Clearly, a simple majority is not sufficiently compelling; but I don’t know what would be.
    I agree entirely with your point about divergence of opinion among electoral districts. Having said that, at the end of the day, a state still ends up red or blue. Similarly, the most obvious region for which to pose a referendum would be the current TAR as a whole (let’s dismiss the whole Greater Tibet business once and for all). And at the end of the day, a referendum would allow that geographic region to express a single voice. This is no different than how the US elects senators, or presidents. It’s not perfect, but seems to work well enough.
    As for pluralism, I don’t see how a nation with 55 ethnic groups would be materially less pluralistic than one with 56.
    Practically, today, I agree that a referendum is not an option. But I respectfully disagree that it is irrelevant.

  33. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    As long as we remain true to those principles, I think we can all sleep well at night.

    I don’t intend to sound patronizing, for I know many in the West perceive the issue exactly as you do: as an interesting intellectual exercise, as a detached test of principles/morality.

    I don’t see the issue that way. I see it with far greater urgency. This issue impacts my country and my people in a very direct and specific way.

    As far as your second question about who I am… I do not go to Duke; I haven’t been in college for more than a decade. I’m going to open up a new topic to talk about “who I am”, and I hope you’ll continue this conversation there.

  34. Allen Yu Says:

    S. K. Cheung,

    “I wasn’t aware of other minorities with a similar hankering for independence as the Tibetans. Plus, I think few such groups reside in such a well demarcated area as the TAR. … Similarly, the most obvious region for which to pose a referendum would be the current TAR as a whole…This is no different than how the US elects senators, or presidents. It’s not perfect, but seems to work well enough.”

    With respect to “minorities with a similar hankering” – it really depends only on what point in history you are looking at. Look over the last 100 years of history, you’ll see. Today, you don’t see them in the U.S. because: there are few states where caucasians are not a majority or where there is no majorities, not the dominant minority; there are no external powers powerful enough to sponsor separatist movements; u.s. is politically and economically the world’s super power.

    With respect to voting in TAR, my fundamental disagreement with you I think is the fundamental premise for holding referendums. Yes, if we agree on democracy and morality rules in advance as a principle for ruling – then yes, we’ll speak with one voice even if I am in the minority. It’s the bargain I struck.

    But if we are talking about self-determination and potentially independence, why should my voice be lumped with yours. If my village wants to be independent, I don’t care what the rest of the Lhasa thinks ((or what other villages thinks) because we are talking about self-determination for my village, not Lhasa, not TAR. If we are going to ignore the voice of the rest of China, then we can ignore the voice of Lhasa when we decide self-determination for my village.

    I am not ranting just for ranting’s sake. I’m originally from Taiwan and am keenly interested in Taiwanese politics.

    If we must have a referendum on independence or unification, I’d guess 50-60% on the island would go for unification, 60-70% in Taipei going for unification, but 60-70% in Gaoxion probably going for independence. If we really care about self-determination, we would divide Taiwan up. If force Taiwan to only speak with one voice, then we are ok with a small minority being potentially “oppressed.” If that’s ok, then what’s wrong with holding a referendum on Taiwan and Tibet across the whole nation of China?

  35. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I responded to your latest post on the new link. Thanks for giving my opinions and questions the time of day.

  36. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    My “similar hankering” point was in reference to China. I’m not aware of any parallel hankering in the US, with the possible exception of parts of Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
    I agree there is no point in having a referendum unless participants first stipulate to the basic premises, like the question to be asked, and the people to which it refers.
    As I said to Buxi earlier wrt the “Chinatowns” analogy, certain pockets of people may seek independence while others do not. And that would be fine, so long as those who seek it bear the logistical consequences of such a choice, a few examples of which I also enumerated in my response to Buxi. So in theory, your scenario is possible; but in reality, I don’t think it’s probable. I don’t consider your points ranting. Trust me, I’ve seen ranting on other sites, and I far prefer discourse with someone like you. I don’t know enough about Taiwan to open my mouth, but in principle, i would apply my thoughts in similar fashion.

  37. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung –

    So we fundamentally agree on referendums…

    My analogy to Taiwan was meant to paint a picture that gives you pause – not to “apply my thoughts in a similar fashion.”

    The reason is that most people in the world would think that it’s perfectly fair to hold an island-wide referendum in Taiwan to determine the status of Taiwan – and whatever the majority says sticks… Most would not demand to go deeper. It’d be impractical. The pockets of dissent would be considered an internal affair of Taiwan – event hough if we are really serious about self-determination, we would do it on a city by city, street by street, even house by house level.

    The problem is that by assuming an island-wide referendum is fair – people have already assumed something! They assume that the island of Taiwan has ONE political voice – a voice that had never before been recognized and now a voice that is asked to decide a question separate from the political voice that China already has!!! What justifies this??? Who legitimized this? If we really want self-deterination – we need to go at a city by city, street by street, or even house by house level? If we are to assume Taiwan has a voice, why not Gaoshion – or 233 snake street, water district, Gaoshion also have an equally important voice???

    So – if we are going to hold a referendum – the entire country should hold a referendum. Or at the very least, the country must explicitly delegate that process for a specific geography to hold a referendum, as circumstances demand.

    Here China (democratic or not) as a whole is very clear. There will be no separatism. To ask China to hold a referendum for Tibet is to assume Tibet has a political voice as an entity – when that entity had never been recognized. To ask for that referendum is to buy into the Dalai Lama’s political position!

  38. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    yes, I believe we do agree on some of the principles of a referendum. And as I said, I don’t know enough about Taiwan to say anything really. But as with all things, in the absence of direct knowledge, I resort to applying the basic first principles that guide decisions in all aspects of my life. Hence my “applying my thoughts…” bit.
    I think where we disagree about referendums is “to whom the referendum question refers”. If the question is one of separation and self-determination, I completely disagree that the “entire country should hold a referendum”. The answer to that would be a forgone conclusion, but would in fact merely reflect the tyranny of the majority (of the host nation). It would be like asking all of Canada whether Quebec should separate (ironically, I would vote that they do, since they seem to want to so badly, but that’s beside the point); I suspect the answer would be “no”; but how is that self-determination? That would be the rest of Canada determining for them…hence the tyranny of majority remark. Similarly, if Serbia held a referendum on Kosovo, same result, but if I were a Kosovar, why would I care what Belgrade has to say? I would care, however, about what fellow Kosovars had to say. And if I were a separatist Quebecer, i would care about what other Quebecers had to say. And likewise with Tibet.
    I do agree that “the country must explicitly delegate that process for a specific geography to hold a referendum, as circumstances demand”. And wrt Tibet, to me, that would be the TAR.
    I also agree that in theory, be it Taiwan, Tibet, Kosovo, or anywhere with designs on independence, one could boil it down to a house by house discussion. But as I’ve said before, just because one can doesn’t mean one should or would. Think of the logistical implications of a single household seeking independence from the surrounding neighbourhood. I listed some of those in a response to Buxi (May 16 4:30am).
    I don’t think there is much value in debating the Dalai’s stated position versus his covert objectives that some accuse him of. It would amount to speculation about conjecture. And clearly, China’s position is very clear, although despite Buxi’s efforts I have yet to grasp the reason for China’s affinity to keeping Tibet (with the possible exception of national pride). I don’t agree that because an entity did not exist previously automatically means there is no justification for its existence moving forward. My point,which may not be popular here, is that wrt Tibet, the voice of Tibetans should matter much more than those of China.

  39. Buxi Says:

    The answer to that would be a forgone conclusion, but would in fact merely reflect the tyranny of the majority (of the host nation).

    And again, are you sure you’re ready to take this new definition of your “Western values” to its natural extension? Are you sure that you uniformly reject tyranny of the majority?

    Do you believe, for example, that pedarasty (sexual relationships between men/boys) should be illegal in Canada? What if there are religious communities (like Tibetan Buddhism) that have long held this is morally acceptable..?

    What if a primarily Muslim community in Canada declared that Islamic law would now be enforced in their community, and married women were stoned to death for the crime of being in the company of an unrelated man?

    Do you believe that those actually residing in these communities should have the right to set their own laws? In essence, if we take your values to its natural end, what’s the value of government at all?

    You might come back and say that indeed, your values remain intact. You could not care less if your neighbor had 5 wives and kept his children in cages… it’s their life, after all, and you respect their right to live their life as they’d like. And I’d give you the same response I gave earlier: as long as you’re consistent in the application of your value set, as long as you’re not hypocritical… you have the right to your value system.

    I simply don’t share your values. I believe that my welfare and my family’s welfare is better served by requiring that everyone in my country + society conform to some set of basic values decided by the majority, and those who refuse be damned. And one of these basic values, as iterated earlier, is that no one will be allowed to separate my country on the basis of a unilateral vote.

  40. Buxi Says:

    Think of the logistical implications of a single household seeking independence from the surrounding neighbourhood…

    “Tourists” visiting said Chinatown states would have to cross “borders”, with all their inherent restrictions.

    I didn’t respond to this earlier point from your post, but in case you weren’t aware of this, embargoes can be considered an act of war under international law. Refusing the right to fly over into “Chinatown states” would be seen as such. I don’t see why the United States and Canada would declare war with the Chinese nation.

    But if it makes the point any easier for you… assume that I + fellow patriotic Chinese purchase large plots of land (a few thousand acres) along the coast of California and British Columbia. We, or our children, will subsequently declare independence and unify these pieces of land with the Chinese republic. All actions that your values would support; I thank you for your implicit support, but your values unfortunately only exist in ideal-land.

  41. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    “The answer to that would be a forgone conclusion, but would in fact merely reflect the tyranny of the majority (of the host nation).”

    Thanks for your response. My question is: when is a tyranny of majority acceptable and when is it not?

    We accept the tyranny of majority in democracies, but we don’t de-legitimize the democracies even when we routinely quash the self-determiantion of the “minority” routinely in the course of democratic governance.

    If you are willing to accept a tyranny of majority in democracies, why are you not willing to accept the majority attitude of China?

    Instead of a referendum in all of China over the status of Tibet, you insist on a referendum of only the TAR – but not China – and not individual towns or villages or homes within the TAR… Why ignore some minority groupings but not others? Why draw the boundary artificially at TAR???

    Is it based on a conception of an assumed “people?” Where did you get that idea? Is it common ethnicity, religion, or culture? Must all multi-cultural, multi-ethnic societies yield to dividing political units along ethnic, religious, or cultural lines? How finely should we subdivide a country with the lens of self determination? Is it really as you implied – as finely as convenient?

    You may have a vision of an oppressed people (in this case a “Tibetan” people) and the idea that the only tool to liberate oppressed people is to give them a political voice – against a dominating majority.

    But political dominations happens in all societies – including (and inherently, I would argue) in democracies.

    In multi-cultural, multi-ethnic societies, the tool to remove oppression is to emphasize on people’s commonalities not people’s differences.

    I really don’t think it makes sense to say political domination is ok in democracies but not ok in China.

    Stepping back: I think it’s ok to support Tibetan independence (or any other separatist cause in the world) as a political struggle. Some may want it to weaken China. Some may actually want to nurture a Tibetan identity as a distinct identity from the Chinese multi-cultural identity. Just be open about it.

    That’s all fine. But recognize that it’s a political struggle, and realize that the Chinese will fight as hard as any Tibetan exile for their political vision.

    The Chinese have a grand vision of what they want to achieve as a nation. That vision starts with unity.

    As any traveler of the world will see, the fate of peoples across are – despite all the gobbledygooks about human rights, NGO’s, UN, etc. – inextricably tied to the strength of the nation in which they live. (You think China can achieve its progress as fragmented provinces?) For the Chinese, a brighter future starts with unity today.

    I stand by China for political reasons. But I also stand by China for economic and human rights reason. I really believe a strong, united China will bring about more good to the world and to her people (all national ethnicities included) than a fragmented China.

    And I think it’s hoodwink to cloak Tibetan independence as some sort of righteous movement for human rights or self determination.

  42. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    you make some ridiculous points. Allow me to dissect them for you. First off, I don’t “uniformly” reject tyranny of the majority. Any democratic vote requires that the majority’s wish be followed, implicitly at the expense of the minority. I have every faith and confidence in such a system. In fact, sometimes, the minority voice even wins out, as evidenced by the fact that Bush lost the popular vote to Gore in 2000 but won the WH because of the electoral college system. That’s the system Americans devised, and that’s the one to which they adhere. However, there are absolutely situations where the minority need to be defended from the tyranny of the majority. This is why the constitution protects everyone, not just the majority. And the constitution steps in to rein in the majority when they are in danger of crossing the line. Now, apparently, the Chinese constitution explicitly prohibits separation, so this discussion goes nowhere based solely on constitutional grounds. ON logic, however, let me enumerate the obvious fallacies in your use of mine.
    First, my previous reference was to regions that seek and achieve independence from the host nation. Last I checked, no such Muslim state exists in the middle of Canada. Until such time, they are subject to Canadian laws, which, in case you’re wondering, does not allow stoning of anybody. So your examples, though colourful, have no merit.
    Second, with your example of “pedarasty” (a new word for me, so at least something useful came of your last post), again, that would be illegal in Canada, for a Tibetan, Canadian, or otherwise. Even if Tibetans held that to acceptable doesn’t make it so in Canada. However, if Tibet is independent and they choose to make it so there, that’s their perogative. Remember also that you previously took exception to a suggestion of moral authority. So while I find such an act to be unacceptable, I’m not about to impose any moral authority over them. I also wonder if such “habits” are historical, and truly wonder if they have any bearing today, except to help you make a ridiculous point.
    So no, cultural communities within a host nation do not make their own laws. Independent nations do. That’s also the value of governments, BTW.
    And no, it’s not okay for my neighbour to practice polygamy, because we’re governed by the same laws. But it’s okay in many Arab states, and far be it for me to tell them what to do. Are you trying to? In fact, are you being anti Muslim or anti-Arab?
    Your values and the reasons that drive them are your own, and I certainly do not try to judge them. However, I would simply suggest that you may feel differently if you weren’t part of the majority.
    As for your second post, again, if a CHinatown chooses to form a land-locked state, they have their own airspace; but they should have no reasonable, default, or assumed expectation that the surrounding host nation would grant transit through their airspace. That’s not the same as an embargo. And I similarly don’t see China declaring war over a mundane argument like that.
    As for your last point, again, in theory you could do that; I just hope China is equally accomodating if a bunch of Americans bought up the HK waterfront, or better yet, the land that the HK airport sits on, and unfurled the stars and stripes. I’m just making some points, no need to get nasty with the tone, for while I much prefer polite discourse as we’ve had to date, I’m not shy about the alternatives either.

  43. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    I suggest you reread my post. I didn’t intend a “nasty” tone, and I don’t see one even upon my own rereading.

    I’m confused how to interpret “your values” after you admit that you too defend constitutional law, as well as tyranny of the majority.

    I absolutely wouldn’t expect China to allow Americans to declare independence on a stretch of land in Hong Kong; I think the concept of unilateral independence is preposterous and ridiculous. On the other hand, you seem to believe it is reasonable and desirable (logistical reasons aside)… I only wanted to understand how your values make any sense in a real world situation.

    I don’t really want to discuss polygamy and pedarasty. I only want to re-emphasize the simple fact that the vast, vast majority of Chinese people reject the concept of unilateral independence. Our current constitution forbids it, and if/when China becomes a democracy, our new constitution will forbid it again. Will you not respect our overwhelming majority opinion as well?

  44. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    I absolutely agree that we accept tyranny of the majority in democracies, and in most cases, it is in fact a pillar of democracy. However, in a democracy, there are obviously unassailable rights and freedoms availed to all. The laws of the land are there to protect even the minorities when those rights may be infringed upon by the majority. You’re the lawyer, so forgive me if my wording is juvenile in this regard. You should be the one explaining it to me. But I think minorities who have legitimate concerns will only have those concerns quashed when they are in contravention of the law. That this happens, though, is absolutely the price of democracy, and usually, the minority pays a disproportionate portion of it. The real problem arises when there are competing rights/interests, such as in the subject of our discussion, and i’m not qualified to explain it in terms of the law. I think it might come down to whether the minority has been disproportionately mistreated by the majority, as parallels the example in Kosovo.
    My only reason for “insisting” on the TAR as a territorial definition, as opposed to individual towns/villages etc, is that that seems to be how the issue has been framed by Tibetans as I understand it. If they want to go town by town, house by house, then that’s certainly ok by me. I just didn’t think that was their “reference question”.
    I think the “assumption” is common interest…whether that driving “interest” is cultural,ethnic, religious, would be for the people who pose the question to decide. Far be it for me to.
    As for how finely to divide something, I would say as finely as voiced by the aforementioned peoples, but only with the subsequent support of a “significant” majority in the region in question.
    I agree that it is far preferable to unite than to divide…almost sounds like an Obama stump speech. However, China’s had the chance to unite for almost 50 years, and so at what point does one say that consideration of an alternative is not unreasonable?
    As I said before, I have absolutely no interest in weakening China. I started by saying that I think it would in fact make China stronger. And in reality, I’m not sure Tibetans, when given the pro’s and con’s, would actually spring for it. And just think, if China offered the option, and Tibetans turned it down, what a bonanza that would be for China. She would be heralded for her openness, and any remaining voices for separation would be neutered.
    Again, I don’t contest your “grand vision”. I must be really dense, but I’m still not sure how Tibet factors into it, or strengthens it.
    I would respectfully disagree, however, that human rights are gobbledygook. And I don’t think Tibetan independence is being cloaked in anything; it is about human rights and self-determination, but I think it’s out there in the open, for all to see and judge for themselves.

  45. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I believe a constitution is the guide to how a nation practices its own form of democracy. So just as tyranny of the majority has an obvious place in a democratic system (eg. every time a vote takes place), so too does constitutional law (or what little I understand of it). As I suggested earlier, if the justification against Tibet independence falls onto a prohibition in the constitution, then the discussion becomes a very brief one. I suppose the only alternative would be to declare oneself as not subjected to said constitution. And I’m not sure one wants to travel down that road. It’s simply a position I have not previously considered.
    I’ve previously suggested that all these examples of independent Chinatowns, while consistent with my reasoning, are not realistic scenarios. Clearly, expropriating Kai-Tuck airport also has no basis in reality. Nor is anyone seriously suggesting any of those possibilities. But Tibetan independence is being discussed (such as right here) which already makes it far more “real” than any of the above.
    I realize that the overwhelming majority of Chinese seek “one China”; I think that voice would deserve (my opinion only) more respect after a meaningful voice is also afforded to Tibetans. And as I’ve said before, once they see the pros and cons, who’s to say that they wouldn’t agree with you?

  46. Allen Yu Says:

    Hi S.K. Cheung,

    Forget about the law (even though I am a lawyer) – because the law ultimately follows politics…

    But you also said: “My only reason for “insisting” on the TAR as a territorial definition, as opposed to individual towns/villages etc, is that that seems to be how the issue has been framed by Tibetans as I understand it.”

    There is my problem – who are these Tibetans? The Dalai Lama? The criminal elements within China? The Western protesters? Your imagination? (I don’t mean it derogatorily)

    As I mentioned earlier, China can’t afford to delegitimize itself and hold a referendum every time there are trouble makers….

    Regarding tyranny of the majority – I think you are trying to make a distinction between political domination and political oppression. In the U.S., we’ve got a constitutional gov’t which blunts or prevents oppression of minorities through legal means…

    I buy that. But I’d advocate trying to create mechanisms for blunting political oppression in China and not throw the child out with the bathwater and conclude that the only solution is an independent Tibet… Because even with an independent Tibet, we still need the same mechanisms to protect the many minorities within Tibet. (there are after all various religious sects, 12 dialects, with some categorized to be so different as to be different branches of languages, etc.) It’d bring the most good to fix China rather than break China.

    As for your “50 years, so China is done” idea, let’s remember America has some 200 to deals with her civil rights issues, and many issues still exist.

    Should a few black nationalist leaders (remember the 1960’s?) – or a few pro-Mexican politicians demand referendums to be held in predominantly black or predominantly Hispanic areas – would you be so cavalier in saying – sure, the U.S. has had its chance?

    Both China and US (and India) are multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural societies. I really think the only difference between China and the U.S. is that China is still too weak today. There are no outsiders to support the black nationalists or the Pan Latin activists, while there are plenty of western powers who are willing to support Tibetan nationalists…

  47. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “But I’d advocate trying to create mechanisms for blunting political oppression in China and not throw the child out with the bathwater and conclude that the only solution is an independent Tibet… Because even with an independent Tibet, we still need the same mechanisms to protect the many minorities within Tibet. (there are after all various religious sects, 12 dialects, with some categorized to be so different as to be different branches of languages, etc.) It’d bring the most good to fix China rather than break China.” I agree 100%, without equivocation. I guess the question becomes how one would achieve that. And while I agree that the US is a work in progress with 150+ years of longer history than the CCP, would it be reasonable to wait another 150 to bring about what you advocate? BTW, I wasn’t trying to imply that China is done; I was just wondering if it was time to give another option a chance.
    As for who these TIbetans are, I don’t know, but I’m fairly confident I’m not making them up. What I’m not confident about is that more of them would want independence if given the choice than those who don’t.
    You’re absolutely right…politicians make laws, judges interpret them. That’s why you’re the lawyer, and I’m not.
    To go back to what you advocate, in a conversation with another blogger on another blog, he mentioned moving not to a full-on “western” democracy, but to an “asian” form, like that which exists in Singapore, for instance. What are your thoughts on something like that?

  48. Buxi Says:

    I realize that the overwhelming majority of Chinese seek “one China”; I think that voice would deserve (my opinion only) more respect after a meaningful voice is also afforded to Tibetans.

    I would agree that Tibetans demanding policy changes in China don’t have enough of a voice within China. Unfortunately, partly because of the existence of the Dalai Lama and an active independence movement (supported by many in the West), that space doesn’t exist.

    It’s very difficult for a Tibetan official to call for more open religious practice, for example. In fact, Tibetan members of the Communist Party, and all Tibetan government officials are very restricted in terms of their religious practices, to the degree do not let even family members have a private home shrine. There’s really no opportunity for Tibetan Communists to argue for even reasonable policy reform, because of the possibility that this reform could strengthen the independence movement. It’s also very difficult for a Tibetan intellectual in this day and age to make Tibetan nationalist arguments without being considered a separatist.

    So, all of that is very unfortunate, and absolutely needs to change. I believe Tibetans should have the same equal voice that every other Chinese citizen (including myself has).

    But I refuse to accept that Tibetans, or any other community in my country, can unilaterally declare that the constitution or the will of the country’s majority no longer applies to them.

  49. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I am only guessing, but I think part of the reason why Tibetans don’t want to be in China is because they’re not being heard in China. And you’ve listed more examples than I possibly could. So if the Tibetans were to feel that their voice were equal (per capita, since you’ve already pointed out that Tibetans are an extreme minority within China) to other PRC citizens, I suspect that would already resolve part of their sense of alienation. The problem goes back to what I’ve been talking to Allen about…how exactly do you do that? And presumably, the CCP has been trying to achieve this for a while, so how much longer is it going to take? And how much longer should the Tibetans give them? Is it an open-ended “trust us, we’re working on it….”?
    Here’s the other thing I don’t get. If the Tibetans have a legitimate grievance, what does it matter that their case is being championed by the Dalai or the West? It almost seems that China (and CHinese people) wants to ignore them simply because they have international support. Don’t you think that makes China (and CHinese people) look juvenile? Shouldn’t China (and CHinese people) have the maturity to address her policy shortcomings without constantly worrying about “face”? Going back to a business analogy, if a CEO refused to take the “proper” steps to grow the company business simply out of spite, do you think that CEO would continue to enjoy the confidence of the shareholders? And if you then say that in this analogy, PRC citizens (ie shareholders) are in fact in support of the CEO’s (ie. CCP) spiteful stance, then what kind of company (read country) have you got?

  50. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    I am only guessing, but I think part of the reason why Tibetans don’t want to be in China is because they’re not being heard in China.

    True and not true. First the “true”: government policies are certainly a factor, but keep in mind that minorities have also rioted in the streets of Los Angeles and Paris over the last 15 years. Managing race relations is very difficult in any country, period.

    Now the part that’s “not true”: Tibetan nobility were calling for independence from India since 1950, and the Dalai Lama went into exile and launched his campaign in 1959… long, long, long before any of these factors came into play. Before the Dalai Lama went into exile, he held one of the highest civilian (advisory) positions in the Chinese government.

    So, is the Dalai Lama really only doing what he’s doing because of legitimate concerns over current policies? It’s hard to see how that makes any sense, he’s been fighting for independence for 50 years, even as the government in Beijing has changed dramatically in every direction during that same time frame.

    It almost seems that China (and CHinese people) wants to ignore them simply because they have international support. Don’t you think that makes China (and CHinese people) look juvenile?

    With all due respect, you don’t have enough knowledge of Chinese society or Chinese history to be reaching the above conclusion.

    If the Dalai Lama was only trying to gain a greater “political voice” for Tibetans inside China, why are his supporters taking down the Chinese national flag and flying the snow lion flag? Why are they chanting “Chinese out of Tibet”? Why aren’t they waving the Chinese constitution and demanding more rights? Why haven’t they made any serious attempts to ally themselves with Chinese of other races that also call for political reform?

    Have you considered *why* the Dalai Lama is trying to internationalize the issue? Do you understand the history of international intervention in China? Don’t fall for the idiotic and patronizing theory expressed by those in the West that China is motivated by “face” alone. We don’t want the issue internationalized because we see clearly what happened in Kosovo, and we have a clear appreciation for our own history.

    As far as “how much longer is it going to take”… that’s not really a question with an answer. As Chinese, our goal is to perfect our country as oson as possible. I do not accept that there’s anyone out there with the moral or legal authority to render judgment on how long China “should” take… except for the Chinese people.

  51. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    Regarding your last message to Buxi, you said “if the Tibetans have a legitimate grievance, what does it matter that their case is being championed by the Dalai or the West?”

    I think it does matter though.

    I agree with what Buxi said in the post earlier, “I would agree that Tibetans demanding policy changes in China don’t have enough of a voice within China. Unfortunately, partly because of the existence of the Dalai Lama and an active independence movement (supported by many in the West), that space doesn’t exist.”

    This is what makes this whole thing so tragic. The Dalai Lama originally enlisted the help of the West to strengthens its position in negotiations with the CCP, using rhetorics o independence. But this made the CCP paranoid, and the CCP tightens down on Tibetan activities… (including, e.g., the display of DD’s pictures)

    The exile Tibetans ratchets up their rhetoric, now further pointing to the CCP controls as abuse of human rights.

    China feels the wrath of western rhetorical attacks and further tightens control.

    The exile Tibetans have fomented Tibetan nationalism to such a large extent that I don’t know the Dalai Lama can do anything to control it even if he wants to.

    At the same time, in China, genuine discussions over Tibet cannot start when China (here I really mean China, not the CCP) feels it is at war, under attack over its very legitimacy.

    How to break the logjam?

    It will take a miracle. But I really still thinks it must start with the exile Tibetans…

  52. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Chang, regarding your question regarding moving not to “a full-on “western” democracy, but to an “asian” form, like that which exists in Singapore, for instance. What are your thoughts on something like that?”

    I think the main issue in China now is not “democracy” per se. I had posted earlier how in a democracy so many things (e.g. freedom of press, transparent political funding, transparent legislative processes, active citizen participation in the political process, etc.) have to line up for the democracy to be a democracy in substance rather than just a democracy in name …

    In China, I think instead of democracy today, we just need a better process of letting people form a voice and for the gov’t hear the people’s voice. The gov’t (made of technocrats and compassionate and visionary leaders) can still ignore that voice – under the auspices that it’s doing so for the long-term benefits of the people, but at least the people have a mechanism to vent and discuss.

    Freedom of speech and press is a good start (China has it on paper; it needs to be less paranoid about everything said or practiced being a threat to state security).

    Next, China should find some way to try to take that first initiative to relax control in Tibet. Sure, there will be those who crow that Beijing is bending to the West or the DD, but China needs to be confident enough to carry these out for its own benefits.

    These two things, together with more equitable economic developments, will do a lot to help the situation in Tibet.

    If the DD can reciprocate accordingly, we just may be onto a genuine reconciliation…

  53. Allen Yu Says:

    Ok – I understand the last lines of my last two posts may not be completely consistent. But that’s what happens to someone like me – who is both hopefully optimistic and realistically pessimistic at the same time…

  54. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    absolutely, managing race relations is complicated. However, note that the Koreans in LA and the African immigrants in Paris (to my knowledge), though with legitimate grievances, are not seeking independence. That Tibetans are suggests unique circumstances. We merely disagree as to whether they have sufficient justification.
    I realize villification of the Dalai is a popular position for some. My point was, if you ignore the Dalai’s position on record, and his supposed attempts at subterfuge, and also ignore Western opinion, can you still not judge Tibetan grievances on their own merit?
    Perhaps the reason why the Tibetans have stopped trying for more rights within the Chinese constitution is because they’ve gotten nowhere for so long, that they’re now wanting to try something else. And perhaps they’ve not aligned themselves with other minorities because they don’t share common goals.
    I don’t think the Dalai is “trying” to internationalize the issue; I think that was achieved a while ago. What’s wrong with the solution in Kosovo? I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.
    As I’ve said before, history is great as a guide to avoid repeating prior mistakes in the future. But personally, I don’t take it as a rigid framework by which all future decisions must abide. So among other reasons, I don’t buy that Tibet must remain a part of China simply because it was apparently historically so.
    If you were Tibetan, and China tells you that “how long…” doesn’t have an answer, do you think you would find that satisfactory?

  55. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “The exile Tibetans have fomented Tibetan nationalism to such a large extent that I don’t know the Dalai Lama can do anything to control it even if he wants to.” I completely agree, which is why I think it is not logical to blame him for recent events. But just wait till he dies… I think it will get worse. You and Buxi have both said that the Sichaun police alone could crush the Tibetans. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
    I also agree that it has become a vicious cycle as you describe. And somebody has to be the adult enough to stop the cycle. Hopefully both sides plan to send adults to their next meetings.
    I also agree that a nominal democracy is not worth having. What you describe is a first step; however, it seems to me that if people are given a voice, eventually they’ll want that voice to be heard. And what then? And are the logical consequences of such a progression consistent with the existence of the CCP?
    “China should find some way to try to take that first initiative to relax control in Tibet. Sure, there will be those who crow that Beijing is bending to the West or the DD, but China needs to be confident enough to carry these out for its own benefits.” To my uninformed eye, that would represent a CCP far more worthy of support than today’s iteration.
    I enjoyed your last post, put a smile on my face. But I see what you’re trying to say.

  56. S.K. Cheung Says:

    You know what this site needs, is a Tibetan. Not a rock-throwing, stick-swinging kind; but someone who can at least give a personal (if not necessarily generalisable) perspective to many of the hypotheticals that we’ve raised. For if there’s one thing we should all agree on, is that none of us speak for them.

  57. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    In the case of the LA riots, I was speaking of the ’92 riots after the Rodney King trial, in which the black community exploded in outrage and violence. Hundreds were killed in the subsequent violence.

    And yes, there used to be and still is an active black movement calling for separatism from the United States. That’s still part of the Nation of Islam’s charter. If there was not a more moderate (and respected) Martin Luther King, Jr. in the African-American community, history might have turned out very differently in the United States.

    Unfortunately in the case of China, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people isn’t a Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Dr. King spoke of a dream where black and white children could one day play together, side by side. The Dalai Lama has only spoken of a dream where Tibetan children could play by themselves, away from the negative cultural influences of non-Tibetan children. The Dalai Lama is essentially the Tibetan version of Malcolm X, an early and very charismatic leader in the Nation of Islam movement.

    What’s wrong with the solution in Kosovo? I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.

    And this is precisely why your advice and values is so meaningless to the Chinese people. You think it was the right thing to do, but the vast majority of Serbians see themselves as victims of the Kosovo solution.

    I don’t intend to change your mind, but we simply don’t want to be the victims that the Serbians were.

  58. A Yu Says:

    Buxi – I can’t agree more with your last post.

    Serbia is really a victim of an expanding NATO. The flames of ethnic and religious hatred and grudges fanned by external powers.

    I don’t think historians in the future will look back to today as a moment of liberation for the Kosovo people…

  59. S.K. Cheung Says:

    It once again boils down to perspective. What’s “right” to one side isn’t to the other. I think it’s humorous that you paint the Serbians as “victims”, especially after they tried to exterminate Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians before NATO stepped in. That you view it that way is actually disturbing to me. In fact, one of the reasons why I haven’t emphasized Kosovo is because China hasn’t tried to exterminate Tibetans, so there is really no parallel, except for their respective desires for independence. If one of your reasons against Tibetan independence is the potential of one day achieving mutual harmony within China, I would have thought you’d agree that such harmony would be impossible in Serbia after one side tried to exterminate the other.
    What also strikes me is that you seem to refuse to even acknowledge the Kosovar or Tibetan perspective. I think “the right thing” by the Chinese or Serbian people may not always be THE right thing.
    I agree that MLK was the right person for the US at the right time. And I wasn’t aware of any black separatist movement currently in the US. If present, I think it might be fair to say it is not at the level of Tibetan desires.

  60. Allen Yu Says:

    S.K. Cheung – sorry, from my end, there may be a misunderstanding.

    My time frame was from the beginning of the whole Yugoslavia dissolution – not at the time of Kosovo declaration of independence.

    Given the tragedies of the last decade, independence may be the right thing to do (at least reasonable person can disagree).

    But the dissolution of Yugoslavia need not have been what it had been…. And I think in that way, Yugoslavia was a victim of uncontrolled rush to heighten ethnic identity – and of the tug of war of NATO v. Russia.

  61. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    I apologize as well. I don’t mean to say that the breakup of Yugoslavia was a good thing…I actually have no opinion on that, other than to agree that the Bosnian War was tragic for millions of people. My point was strictly confined to Serbian treatment of Kosovars under Milosevic…that, I have a strong opinion about, as you can see. BTW, I also agree that Northern Kosovo with majority Serbs should get to decide with whom they want to be affiliated.
    I saw your self-determination thread…I’m going to read it more carefully later.

  62. Alat Peraga Says:

    Penyedia Alat Peraga Edukatif TK sampai SMA / SMK alatperaga.web.id

Leave a Reply