(Letter) What if the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet as a private citizen? Some details …
I got to thinking about some of the details that would need to be settled in order for this to be possible. I came up with eight specific points, although the eighth is a bit of an epilogue and would not be implemented until the government decides things are going well.
I suspect these points would in fact be accepted by neither side, but I’m interested in specifically why not. If nothing else, this is a conversation that could actually be had, as opposed to the government-in-exile’s negotiations with the PRC so far, which have basically been over before they began.
0) The agreement is based on the idea that the Dalai Lama will retire from politics for the duration of his current life, while the PRC government will refrain from interfering with his religious activities.
1) the Dalai Lama will be have a Chinese passport and will be able to travel freely into and out of the PRC.
2) the Dalai Lama will not engage in any political activities in public or in private and will not make any public political statements. The Dalai Lama may address any topic in private discussions with or petitions to the central government or its specified representatives.
3) the exception to point 2 is that the Dalai Lama may make political statements if those statements are mutually agreeable to himself and the PRC government. The PRC government will not expect or demand any particular political statements, such as statements about the history of Tibet or the Taiwan issue. The PRC government will not expect or demand the Dalai Lama’s presence at any particular meetings or festivals.
4) the Dalai Lama will live in Tibet at Drepung Monastery. The Dalai Lama will be able to travel to Beijing and return to Drepung at will.
5) the Dalai Lama will be considered the abbot of Drepung, and will be in charge of religious teachings there. For the foreseeable future, the Dalai Lama will not have a role in governing any other Tibetan monasteries. (The nature of the Dalai Lama’s relationship to the other Gelug monasteries will be eventually determined along with the structure of “separation of church and state” in Tibet. This is an interesting topic, since separation of church and state has never existed in Tibet in the past, but it’s a separate topic). The governance of Drepung is contingent on the nonpolitical behavior of the monks and other students residing there. In the event that people from Drepung engage in political activities that disrupt law and order, the Dalai Lama’s governance may be temporarily revoked.
6) the 15th Dalai Lama, the successor to the current Dalai Lama, will be located and validated by representatives of the current Dalai Lama. The current Dalai Lama should list those representatives specifically by name or by religious function. The persons listed should be religious leaders, such as the Ganden Tripa, or independent scholars, rather than members of the government-in-exile. Among the members of the search committee will be at least two tutors appointed by the Dalai Lama; the tutors will conduct the religious instruction and oversee the education of the future 15th Dalai Lama. In the event that any of the tutors dies or otherwise becomes unable to carry out his duties before the majority of the 15th Dalai Lama, the other members of the search committee will appoint replacements. The current Dalai Lama will state plainly that he plans to reborn somewhere that the search committee will be able to find him, and that this means that he will be reborn in India if conditions in Tibet at the time make it impossible for the search committee to carry out its responsibilities freely. The PRC government will accept the decision of the Dalai Lama’s search committe on this matter (this section of the agreement should be worded ambiguously, in order to be compatible with both of the following views: a) that the approval of the central government is required in order to have a new Dalai Lama, but the central government has agreed to accept the judgment of the search committee in this one instance; or b) that the approval of the central government is completely irrelevant to the identity of the Dalai Lama, but is being sought to avoid political problems).
7) if either side violates the terms of this agreement to extent that it can no longer be carried out, then the Dalai Lama will leave Tibet and go back into exile. No attempts should be made to detain him.
8) the issue of Gendün Chökyi Nyima, whom the Dalai Lama considers to be the current Panchen Lama, does not need to be resolved at the same time as the issue of the Dalai Lama’s personal status; however, if moves toward a resolution could be begun within a few years of the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, that would represent an important show of good faith. After the above points have been put into practice and things are going well, the Chinese government should arrange one or two short meetings between Gendün Chökyi Nyima and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, possibly along with representatives of neutral international bodies. Since the Chinese government has raised concerns about Gendün Chökyi Nyima’s privacy, he may be reluctant to take part in such a meeting. However, the government should request, now that he is an adult, that he attend as a patriotic duty, since his appearance will counter aspersions that have been cast upon the government and prove that he has not been mistreated. After the meetings, Gendün Chökyi Nyima may go back to living in seclusion if that is his preference. On the other hand, if he prefers, he should be allowed further meetings with the Dalai Lama or his representatives. If, after a period of discussion, they wish to do so, Gendün Chökyi Nyima and his family should eventually be allowed either to live publicly in Tibet or to go into exile in southern India.
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