In the second installment of the Three T’s Of China, Tibet comes up as a topic that is, for the most part, known among those keeping up with the international community, but probably the lesser spoken of topic. Tibet is a taboo topic, but China does a pretty good job keeping the world from really being exposed to it, most of the time at least. The reason Tibet is such a taboo topic in China is because of the issue of Tibetan independence and the history of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.
In Tibet’s early history, it was an empire that operated very separate from China, up until the last few hundred years, where Chinese lords started ruling over parts of Tibet. In the last few decades during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese-communist government incorporated Tibet under the Seventeen Point Agreement, which the 14th (present) Dalai Lama repudiated while in he was in exile as head of the exiled government of Tibet at the time. As a result of the Dalai Lama’s decision, the Chinese killed between 200,000 and 1,000,000 Tibetans and destroyed 6000 monasteries during the “Great Leap Forward.”
Into the 1980s and leading up to today, there has been mounting pressures from the international community against China’s government maintaining their grip over Tibet’s sovereignty. With the Dalai Lama still residing in exile today in Dharamsala, India, he’s still active in the political and even spiritual struggle against China for Tibet. His stances on Tibetan independence are what he calls the “middle way approach”, where Tibet remains part of China but still maintains much control over its own affairs. Many within Tibet, however, do desire independence and have shown it in self-immolation (burning oneself alive) demonstrations.
Outside the issue of Tibetan independence is the interference from the Chinese government in the buddhist religion in regards to the Panchen Lama, a figure within Buddhism who is second to the Dalai Lama in spiritual authority. Within the buddhist spiritual practices, the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama are spiritually linked. When the Dalai Lama dies and is reincarnated, the Panchen Lama is to seek him out to be made the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. The reverse is also the case, where the Dalai Lama finds the next incarnation of the Panchen Lama when he dies. In 1995, when the Dalai Lama announced who the Panchen Lama was to be, the Chinese government took him into “protective custody” and stated he was living a “private” life in order to be separated from the chances of being taken to India with the Dalai Lama. Further rumors have come out stating the Chinese have installed their own Panchen Lama while the one chosen by the Dalai Lama is missing. This has left a thorn in the Dalai Lama’s side which led to a statement he made at one point where he considered “not reincarnating.” Later, the Dalai Lama stated he would reincarnate within India in order to stay out of China’s influence.
The issue with Tibet is that China is the crazy girlfriend that will not let go. She still considers them a couple while everyone else knows it’s more complicated and really shouldn’t continue. Tibet is the nice guy who just can’t say no because she’ll probably kill him if he makes the breakup official. This is the problem with authoritarian states driven by the power to rule over territories that don’t wish to give in. Tibet is a spiritual state that is the Mecca, Vatican City, and Jerusalem of Buddhism. China has forced its will upon Tibet while Tibet forces its will upon no one; their only desire is to be in control of their own affairs. China won’t even grant them that when they interfered with the religious traditions of Buddhism by usurping the authority of the Dalai Lama. Hopefully this issue will resolve in the 14th Dalai Lama’s lifetime, but China has shown to be going back to their more authoritarian roots of being “real” communists. Only time will tell.
Read more From Amos at Think Liberty here.