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May 14

Harvard: Tibetan/Han Panelists Probe Issues

Written by Buxi on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 at 12:04 am
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If there’s one positive that has come out of the recent conflict in Tibet (and subsequent echoes around the world), it has raised awareness amongst many Chinese that the problem exists.  I think many (including myself) have learned much more about Tibetan wishes over the past two months, and this type of understanding can only help.

Kudos to those at Harvard who organized a very interesting panel discussion discussing the issues.  From the Harvard Crimson:

Tibet Poverty Alleviation Fund President Arthur N. Holcombe said that a resolution would only result from dialogue between the two groups.

“It is important for all of us that solutions to the problem are not an either-or-situation,” he said. “The solution must come from joint collaboration with the Han and Tibetan peoples.”


“Ultimately we are here today to listen to different perspectives on this situation,” Holcombe added.

Senior fellow in East Asian Legal Studies at the Law School Lobsang Sangay—who showed photographs of violence in Tibet—praised the discussion for achieving what he said the Chinese government has done poorly.

“Finally, after the tragedy, one good thing has happened,” he said, referring to last night’s panel. “The Han Chinese have taken responsibility—shared responsibility.”

Zhongrui Yin ’11, organizer of the event, said that last night’s dialogue was a positive step in achieving harmony between the groups.

“I was very delighted that we were able to have a very respectful, yet very frank, dialogue,” he said. “I wish the speakers could have talked to each other more, but the overall attitude was very positive.

I’ve worked with Arthur Holcombe (both junior and senior) of the TPAF in the past, and I’m a fan of their projects.  I’m happy to see that they’re involved in this discussion.   The quotes from the participants are also exciting.

In regards to Lobsang Sangay’s comment that he’s pleased that we Han Chinese are apparently ready to “share responsibility”… and that makes me reflect, perhaps in our rush to fight the Tibetan independence movement, we as Chinese have failed to make our thoughts more clear over the past few months.  We should continue to oppose an independence movement, but we should also be more humble in talking about our faults.  My sense is that many Chinese understand that there are things we have done poorly over the past 60 years, and legitimately want to do better.  And we should make that more clear.

However, from the other side, we’re just not sure that the Dalai Lama and the Tibet government-in-exile is the right partner for doing “better” with.


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19 Responses to “Harvard: Tibetan/Han Panelists Probe Issues”

  1. Allen Yu Says:

    “The Han Chinese have taken responsibility—shared responsibility.”

    I read the entire story – but am still not sure what this means. Responsibility for what? For inciting violence? For not developing Tibet even faster?

    And what responsibility have the Tibetans (exiled Tibetans, I assume) taken?

    I am sure the central gov’t and the entire Chinese nation will want to examine its policies on all issues of nation building – including institutions and policies regarding all minorities – and to improve them, but what does it mean that the Han Chinese have taken responsibility—shared responsibility?

  2. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    Allen,

    Han is the majority of the population and by default the driven force of China’s economical and political life.

    we have to acknowledges the violent reform,class struggle,culture revolution in the 50s,60s,70s happened in every corner including Tibet in China made everyone included Han and Tibetan suffer . From Tibetan side of view, these all caused by Han. of course we think differently, Han suffered no less than Tibetan suffered.

    Today’s issues, like education,health care,jobs,corruption,pollution,land abuse,cultural disappearing etc happens on both Han and Tibet. Even Han cultural has lost much greater than Tibetan cultural lost. But Tibetan might see the same thing differently. many of our Han don’t speak any longer our own local dialects our ancestors kept for thousands of years. But if the same thing happens to a different ethnic group might be viewed differently.

    we view same thing differently. that’s why we need talk rather than bashing each other.

  3. Buxi Says:

    I think there’s a huge list of reasons why, as Chinese, should be very unhappy with the propaganda coming out of Dharamasala.

    – Most of the destruction of Tibetan culture during the Cultural Revolution was carried out by Tibetan Red Guards, not Han Chinese. Very few Han Chinese made it out to Tibet during the ’60s. First person accounts of the Tibetan Red Guards from that time confirms this.

    – Many in the West still insist that the Tibetan independence movement is due to: Han Chinese migration, prostitution, economic discrepancy, etc, etc. But let’s keep one thing in mind: the Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959, started a war of independence, and tore apart the 17 point agreement long before any of these things happened.

    So, I’m very, very unhappy with the exile Tibetan version of “why” there should be independence.

    However, I do think there is reason to reflect on why and how we can do things better. I think insisting that officials in the TAR speak Tibetan fluently is good policy. I think it’s time that a Tibetan was appointed to the party secretary position in the TAR… or even a province outside of the TAR. I think it’s time that we find a way to let Tibetans worship the Dalai Lama religiously, while making it clear that his political position is unacceptable. (If the Dalai Lama couldn’t win a religious war in 1959, I don’t think he can win one today.)

  4. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    the violent and deadly land reform and class struggle happened in both inland China and Tibet before 1959.of course CIA played big part as well.

    there wouldn’t be Tibetan red guards if there was no culture revolution and Han red guards.

    We Han already left these tragedy behind and moved on. But some Tibetan might not. I am also sad to see Tibetan in exile’s magnification of the past and the hatred education towards Han which dose not serve well their interests.

    younger generation of Tibetans have no personal experience of what happened in the 50s,60s and 70s.they are facing same problems we Han people face today like migrate population, prostitution, economic discrepancy in some area, etc, etc. again they might see things differently than what we see these.

    we all know the propaganda coming out of Dharamasala and unhappy with it. but it dose not mean the government had and have perfect policy in Tibet.

    for sure,1959,1989,2008 Tibetan events all had external causes but were there any internal causes as well? why many Tibetan young monks and students fed by the government,educated by the government are still not happy only because of Dharamasala tell them not to be happy?

    there are lot we all need think and talk between Han,between Han and Tibetan, between all ethnic groups.

  5. Allen Yu Says:

    I am going to find a family member from the Qing dynasty. Tell him to preach peace. And get a few people in China excited over him. Then demand the Chinese central gov’t to negotiate with him because he is the real legitimate ruler of China, not the Chinese Communist Party or even the Kuo Ming Dang.

  6. Buxi Says:

    BMY,

    You make good points, I agree with you. I just want to clarify one thing:

    the violent and deadly land reform and class struggle happened in both inland China and Tibet before 1959

    There were violent and deadly land reforms + class struggle in inland China, as well as “inner” Tibet (Tibetan regions inside of Yunnan/Sichuan/Qinghai).

    But within the region controlled by the Lhasa government, which later became the Tibet Autonomous Region, there were no violent/deadly land reforms or class struggle before 1959. Beijing was faithful to the 17th point agreement, although of course pressure was building (mostly from Tibetan Communists). But the Dalai Lama still decided to flee and fight for independence.

  7. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    Buxi,

    you are right of “There were violent and deadly land reforms + class struggle in inland China, as well as “inner” Tibet (Tibetan regions inside of Yunnan/Sichuan/Qinghai).” before 1959. as a result, lots of Tibetans fled these area and went to Tibet.

  8. Allen Yu Says:

    “as a result, lots of Tibetans fled these area and went to Tibet”.

    Correction? “as a result, lots of Tibetan rule class fled these area and went to Tibet…”

  9. jim Says:

    which later became the Tibet Autonomous Region, there were no violent/deadly land reforms or class struggle before 1959. Beijing was faithful to the 17th point agreement

    I have a basic question. How do you know any of this? I am not necessarily contradicting what you are saying. I am asking a more basic question, a question which all Westerners will ask. Why will they ask this? Because everyone knows that the CCP whitewashes Chinese history, just like they whitewash and censor the media. So, the typical Westerner will think, “This is the kind of education you have received. You have been fed bullshit all your life and you believe it.”

    If you want to say that you are living/studying in the West and therefore you have access to other sources of information, etc., what you are really saying is that you have access to WESTERN sources of information. The only problem is that 99% of Chinese do not live/study in the West. 99% of Chinese do not have access to any of that information. And 100% of humans base their opinions on the information that they do have.

    The perfect example of this is people claiming that they “know” what happened in Tibet in March. They “know” that the Chinese government did this or that. They “know” that Tibetans caused the riots, etc. How do they know all this? CCTV told them so. Do I have to recount CCTV’s record of blatant lying over the past 60 years? I don’t think you could know what happened there by watching CNN, either, in this case. Since information was very limited and CNN has little credibility with me.

    This is the problem that the Chinese government and Chinese face: you have a system that has zero credibility, so even when you are right, no one will believe you. That might not be “fair,” but it is reality.

    I am not trying to defend anything relating to Tibet. Tibet is China’s problem. Foreigners should stay out of it — they will only make the situation worse. That is my opinion.

    I am just trying to explain why it is hard for Westerners and Chinese to have these conversations.

  10. Buxi Says:

    I have a basic question. How do you know any of this? I am not necessarily contradicting what you are saying. I am asking a more basic question, a question which all Westerners will ask.

    I know this because I read Tsering Shakya’s Dragon in the Land of Snows, as well as Tashi Tsering’s Struggle for a Modern Tibet. I’ve also read basically anything Wang Lixiong has written on the subject.

    I can honestly say I have never read the Xinhua white-papers on Tibet in full. I have read the Panchen (Banchen) Lama’s “poisoned arrow” letter to Zhou Enlai during 1962.

    The Banchen Lama letter is widely available on the Chinese internet.
    http://blog.19lou.com/10065474/viewspace_117046
    http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kz=92369915
    http://cache.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/no05/1/111152.shtml

    Have you read the above?

    The perfect example of this is people claiming that they “know” what happened in Tibet in March. They “know” that the Chinese government did this or that. They “know” that Tibetans caused the riots, etc. How do they know all this?

    I don’t know the details of every encounter, but I do know the broad strokes of what happened. I know this because I watched the videos from Kadfly, as well as read the first-person accounts from James Miles of the Economist. All of the credible, eyewitness reports are consistent with each other.

    The reports that rely on James Miles’ personal observations:
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/20/tibet.miles.interview/
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/26/AR2008032603275_pf.html

    I don’t believe the Chinese government’s assertion that the Dalai Lama “planned” the riots, for example. I believe individual monks and activists (with the Dalai Lama’s approval) returned from India and sparked the initial protests, and everything followed from there.

    I also don’t believe the Chinese government’s assertion that *no* Tibetan rioters were shot in Lhasa. There are what I consider credible reports (in Chinese) from Tibetans of isolated confrontations in Lhasa. (But not on the first day itself.)

    But I also don’t believe for a second the Dalai Lama’s assertion that many hundreds of Tibetans were killed in the subsequent “crackdown”. I simply don’t believe it.

    Dharamasala claimed tanks on the streets and 100 Tibetans killed within the first hours of the 3/14 riots; these are outright lies. Dharamasala also subsequently published the “identities” of 50+ Tibetans they claimed were killed in Lhasa on 3/14. The Chinese state press in turn claimed to investigate these 50 odd Tibetans (all with very general names and very general locations), and not a single person even existed.

    The Chinese state press might be lying on this issue, but now we have a very simple litmus test for confirming who’s telling the truth. If these people are known to have been killed, what’s their shenfenzheng id number? Every Chinese citizen has a shenfenzheng, and thousands of people across China have the ability to access the database and tell us whether these people exist. Can Dharamasala publish them?

    If they are in contact enough to know they’re dead… can they tell us any sort of identifying information about these dead people? Birth dates? Profession? Address?

    So, I’ve told you how I know. Will you return the favor? Tell me how “you know”, how the West knows what they think you know about Lhasa. Who ultimately are the sources, and are they credible? Anyone who’s not an “anonymous” Tibetan? Anyone who’s not only passing on rumors, but speaking of a brother/sister/father/son/daughter they can confirm has died?

  11. jim Says:

    @Buxi,

    You missed my point. I already said I don’t know what happened there. I said that I wasn’t necessarily trying to contradict what you were saying. I was attempting to explain why few people in the West will take what you say seriously on an issue like this.

    >>how the West knows what they think you know about Lhasa.

    That is easy:

    1) The CCP has a 60 year record of lying on a daily basis and running over its own people with tanks, Cultural Revoultion, Great Leap Backward, etc. Blah, blah, blah…Therefore whatever they say is automatically bullshit.

    2) The CCP wouldn’t let the media into Tibet. If they weren’t doing anything “wrong,” why would they do that? Therefore, the government is obviously lying and trying to cover something up.

    3) Chinese who support the CCP have obviously been brainwashed because it would be impossible for rational people to support a government like the CCP.

    4) Tibetan monks are peaceful, religious, and cool.

    That sums it up, pretty much.

    I am not defending that way of thinking..just describing it. That way of thinking will NEVER change in the West until China gets either a free press or a new government.

    Actually, if the CCP just changed its name to the “Freedom Party” and replaced Mao’s picture in Tiananmen with Sun Zhongshan’s picture, everything would change. The CCP wouldn’t have to change any of its policies – just its clothing. You’d be amazed at the difference it would make in the coverage of China.

  12. Allen Yu Says:

    Jim – the exiled Dalai gov’t has specified many things that found to be false – including many sensationalized claims of genocide, torture, and natural resources…

    If you are going to start with CCP/Chinese brainwashed, then we will be discussing about ideology, not reality.

  13. jim Says:

    Allen,

    1) Do you know the difference between explaining why people think a certain way and actually thinking that way?

    2) >>many things that found to be false
    “found to be false” by whom?

    This is my point: all of this relates to issues of credibility. Most people think the Chinese side has ZERO credibility on these issues because of the past 60 years of CCP rule, because of their control of the media, etc. etc.

    The CCP could say 2 + 2 = 4 and most people outside of China would doubt it. So I am saying you need to examine why that is the case. That is the fundamental issue that underlies Tibet, etc. If you ignore that fundamental problem, you won’t make any progress in the Western media or with Westerners on Tibet or any other issue.

  14. Buxi Says:

    jim,

    I understand your point.

    Actually, if the CCP just changed its name to the “Freedom Party” and replaced Mao’s picture in Tiananmen with Sun Zhongshan’s picture, everything would change. The CCP wouldn’t have to change any of its policies – just its clothing. You’d be amazed at the difference it would make in the coverage of China.

    Yes, sad but probably only too true. The question is if whether China should change itself so that it can better convince the West 2+2=4, or whether the West should buy new glasses.

    The question of Mao’s picture is an interesting one too. Mao is obviously a very controversial figure; he has done great good in the eyes of many, and he has done great evil in the eyes of others.

    Many Chinese debate when his entombed body, as well as his picture, will be removed from Tiananmen. It’s only a question of time of course; no one can imagine it there in 50 years. My personal opinion is that we should take the 60 anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (Oct 1st 2009), and use that as an opportunity to remember Mao for the last time… and then cremate his remains.

    It’s time for China to move on.

  15. jim Says:

    whether the West should buy new glasses.

    Maybe it should, but it won’t. Most people outside of China think of Mao as one step above Hitler. So when they see “Hitler’s” picture hanging in Tiananmen Square, they are reminded that the Chinese government is the government of Mao and the CR. This influences people’s views of the Chinese government and China in a very negative way, obviously. This colors every issue relating to China in the West, like Tibet. That might not be fair in some ways, but that is how it is.

  16. Buxi Says:

    Tibetan exiles continue to generate .. uh.. interesting stories:

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/080514/world/india_china_tibet_unrest_rights

    Sonam said after four days of protests in Lhasa, knife-wielding Chinese troops attacked Tibetan demonstrators on March 14, sparking retaliation and then a massive manhunt for protesters in the capital of the autonomous region.

    I guess that’s one creative way to explain why no one heard the gunfire (originally reported by the Tibet government-in-exile) on 3/14. PLA soldiers were tired of killing Tibetans the efficient way, and decided knives would be more entertaining.

  17. Allen Yu Says:

    Jim – the genocide talk has been refuted by all major U.S. scholars on Tibet, including A. Tom Grunfeld, Patrick French, and Melvyn C. Goldstein.

    If you are actually an academic type, you may find http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a757703502~db=all~tab=content~order=page helpful. (the article is copyrighted, so I can’t really post it on the web).

    If you just like to browse the web more, you can start with http://keeptibetfree.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49:learn-about-tibet-resources-on-the-web&catid=38:tibet-resources&Itemid=61.

  18. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    I fully understand and know Jim’s point. It is the reality on the ground that whatever CCP says even it says the right thing the west automatically don’t believe.

    one reason I accept it is because CCP has said too much bullshit in the past 60 years.

    But on the other hand , some of the west don’t know or don’t want to know politically there has been lot of change if not that big like economically in the past 30 years in China. I know many of the west automatically come of the image of culture revolution and tanks in Tienanmen square when talking about CCP as it seems still happening today. this is partly the result of less communication and contacts apart from some politically motivated bias.

    If CCP changes the name and Mao’s picture gets removed today it would change something in the west. But I doubt if it would change a lot. the west didn’t buy Putin’s story even he was the political rival of Russian communist party.

    Regarding Mao’s picture and remains in Tienanmen square, it’s just a matter of time for them to disappear. the nation and people had suffered too much under his rule.

  19. Nimrod Says:

    I’ve worked with Arthur Holcombe (both junior and senior) of the TPAF in the past, and I’m a fan of their projects. I’m happy to see that they’re involved in this discussion. The quotes from the participants are also exciting.

    +++++
    I agree. Also, Authur Holcombe seems to be on the talking circuit recently and I think it’s great to have credible people who have actually lived and worked in Tibetan areas of China speak up to give some depth to both the *actual* concerns of Tibetan people as well as the complexity of the issues.

    To solve a problem, we must first understand a problem. We weren’t going to reach that point by listening to either the diatribes of equally uninformed exile Tibetans or the political speeches of officials.

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