Tibetan Independence Is Now

Commentary Throughout most of recorded history, Tibetan independence and sovereignty coexisted uncomfortably with foreign powers upon which they depended for territorial protection from other foreign powers. That which was protected was not only a plateau territory, but Tibetan Buddhism, arguably the core of Tibetan identity. Today is a little different, with the center of Tibetan independence and sovereignty, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, having established themselves in Dharamshala, India, since 1959. While the most independent people of Tibet now find themselves in exile from their own land, the flame of Tibet remains alive and well, wherever Tibetans practice their beliefs and reject the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in thought, speech, or action. Defining independence as within the spirit of a democratic people rather than in some outward construction between authoritarian leaders decades or centuries ago is truer to fact and allows for a more fine-grained and continuous, rather than discrete, understanding of the concept. Likewise, sovereignty, defined as the inviolable will of the people as realized through democratic elections, implies that not only is the spirit of independence alive and well in Tibet, defined as its people and diaspora, but that Beijing already lacks sovereignty over not only the people of Tibet, but their territory. Until 1950, Tibet had not only its independence, as it always and still had according to the definitions above, but its land, most recently after the collapse of the Manchus in 1911 through a series of mutinies. Manchu forces in Tibet likewise mutinied, and by 1912, His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama and his allies had forcefully mopped them up and returned to rule an independent Tibetan territory. Buddhist monks in Dharamshala, India. (Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal) Tibetan control of Tibet lasted until the communists invaded in 1950. Since then, a free Tibet has stood strong in spirit, despite losing territory and disappointing diplomatic retreat of allies like the United States and the United Kingdom after the opening to China in the 1970s. As recently as 2008, the UK switched from allowing for Tibet’s independence to advocating its mere “autonomy” under the control of Beijing. But we have already seen what this “autonomy” means for places like Tibet and Xinjiang, whose official communist names already and perversely include the word “autonomy.” In fact, this autonomy, in the context of Tibet, means repression, control, and genocide, with the added insult of a misnomer. Most of the world has looked the other way from genocide in Tibet, deceiving themselves through silence and the active exploitation of Tibetan territory that can only be considered criminal. But now, the geopolitical foundations that underpin this wilful blindness to an atrocity are rooted in a tectonic shift. There has been no great ethical awakening, as one might hope, to robustly oppose genocide wherever it is found. Instead, there is now a congruence of interests in which regular American, European, Japanese, Indian, and allied citizens are finally waking up to the fact that communist China represents a threat to all of humanity. The 97 million CCP members, about 1 percent of the world’s population, are not only powerful enough to determinately influence international institutions, but to take them over, and with intent. A Tibetan worshiper looks at Chinese police officers patrolling in front of Potala Palace, in Lhasa, Tibet, China, on June 20, 2008. (Guang Niu/Getty Images) The CCP controls a military capable of making territorial gains, each of which empowers the next, with no end in sight. It is engaged in the same strategy of weaponizing development and infrastructure globally that was so successful in the capture of Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) in the 1950s and 1960s, and now captures the hearts, or rather wallets, of leaders in Africa and South and Southeast Asia through checkbook diplomacy masquerading as development. Therefore now, unlike anytime previously, the world has a realized interest in limiting the growth of the CCP’s power. One way to do this is to promote the legitimate aspirations for independence and territory of groups within China like Tibetans and Uyghurs. An independent and democratic Tibet and East Turkestan would help counterbalance the increasing concentration of power in Beijing. They would slow communism’s relative growth, complicate its ambitions of global hegemony, and decrease its threat to the international rule of law and sanctity of democracy, diversity, and free markets established after World War II that protects the delightful and independent plethora of nations, peoples, and cultures. Therefore now, unlike in the past, freedom-minded Tibetans can reasonably expect more support from the global powers that could one day help them regain control of their homeland as a fully sov

Tibetan Independence Is Now

Commentary

Throughout most of recorded history, Tibetan independence and sovereignty coexisted uncomfortably with foreign powers upon which they depended for territorial protection from other foreign powers. That which was protected was not only a plateau territory, but Tibetan Buddhism, arguably the core of Tibetan identity.

Today is a little different, with the center of Tibetan independence and sovereignty, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, having established themselves in Dharamshala, India, since 1959.

While the most independent people of Tibet now find themselves in exile from their own land, the flame of Tibet remains alive and well, wherever Tibetans practice their beliefs and reject the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in thought, speech, or action.

Defining independence as within the spirit of a democratic people rather than in some outward construction between authoritarian leaders decades or centuries ago is truer to fact and allows for a more fine-grained and continuous, rather than discrete, understanding of the concept.

Likewise, sovereignty, defined as the inviolable will of the people as realized through democratic elections, implies that not only is the spirit of independence alive and well in Tibet, defined as its people and diaspora, but that Beijing already lacks sovereignty over not only the people of Tibet, but their territory.

Until 1950, Tibet had not only its independence, as it always and still had according to the definitions above, but its land, most recently after the collapse of the Manchus in 1911 through a series of mutinies.

Manchu forces in Tibet likewise mutinied, and by 1912, His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama and his allies had forcefully mopped them up and returned to rule an independent Tibetan territory.

Buddhist monks in Dharamshala, India. (Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)
Buddhist monks in Dharamshala, India. (Nolan Peterson/The Daily Signal)

Tibetan control of Tibet lasted until the communists invaded in 1950. Since then, a free Tibet has stood strong in spirit, despite losing territory and disappointing diplomatic retreat of allies like the United States and the United Kingdom after the opening to China in the 1970s.

As recently as 2008, the UK switched from allowing for Tibet’s independence to advocating its mere “autonomy” under the control of Beijing. But we have already seen what this “autonomy” means for places like Tibet and Xinjiang, whose official communist names already and perversely include the word “autonomy.”

In fact, this autonomy, in the context of Tibet, means repression, control, and genocide, with the added insult of a misnomer.

Most of the world has looked the other way from genocide in Tibet, deceiving themselves through silence and the active exploitation of Tibetan territory that can only be considered criminal. But now, the geopolitical foundations that underpin this wilful blindness to an atrocity are rooted in a tectonic shift. There has been no great ethical awakening, as one might hope, to robustly oppose genocide wherever it is found.

Instead, there is now a congruence of interests in which regular American, European, Japanese, Indian, and allied citizens are finally waking up to the fact that communist China represents a threat to all of humanity.

The 97 million CCP members, about 1 percent of the world’s population, are not only powerful enough to determinately influence international institutions, but to take them over, and with intent.

Epoch Times Photo
A Tibetan worshiper looks at Chinese police officers patrolling in front of Potala Palace, in Lhasa, Tibet, China, on June 20, 2008. (Guang Niu/Getty Images)

The CCP controls a military capable of making territorial gains, each of which empowers the next, with no end in sight. It is engaged in the same strategy of weaponizing development and infrastructure globally that was so successful in the capture of Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) in the 1950s and 1960s, and now captures the hearts, or rather wallets, of leaders in Africa and South and Southeast Asia through checkbook diplomacy masquerading as development.

Therefore now, unlike anytime previously, the world has a realized interest in limiting the growth of the CCP’s power. One way to do this is to promote the legitimate aspirations for independence and territory of groups within China like Tibetans and Uyghurs. An independent and democratic Tibet and East Turkestan would help counterbalance the increasing concentration of power in Beijing. They would slow communism’s relative growth, complicate its ambitions of global hegemony, and decrease its threat to the international rule of law and sanctity of democracy, diversity, and free markets established after World War II that protects the delightful and independent plethora of nations, peoples, and cultures.

Therefore now, unlike in the past, freedom-minded Tibetans can reasonably expect more support from the global powers that could one day help them regain control of their homeland as a fully sovereign country and a new member of the United Nations.

This is and should be the dream of a free Tibet—a dream that not only helps Tibet, but helps the world resist the totalitarian threat of the CCP.

The first principle of Tibetan freedom—which is independence–is justified by, but not dependent upon, its history. Today’s policy of genocide against the Tibetan people and culture is all that is required to justify Tibet’s full and internationally-recognized independence, sovereignty, and reacquisition of territory.

The same goes for any other people anywhere subject to the world’s worst crime, whether it be the Jewish people, Uyghurs, and other Turkic Muslims, the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar), or the Tigrayans in Ethiopia.

When any people is attacked to the point of genocide, they naturally seek, and ethically deserve, to regain sovereign independence over their homeland. All other nationalities are duty-bound to support their just aspirations for independence and territorial sovereignty.

Epoch Times Photo
Young Tibetan Buddhist novice monks stand in the grasslands of their nomadic camp on the Tibetan Plateau in Madou County, Qinghai Province, China, on July 24, 2015. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

This does not mean that they can drive out or deprive all those people of other identities who now live within their homeland. Those people must be accorded equal rights in any new state, however hard that may be given their possible complicity in past crimes.

While the leaders of genocide should face justice, average citizens of other identities should be allowed full citizenship with all their rights in any new state. Any other approach leads to further war, violence, and human rights abuse, threatening the reattainment of a Tibetan state complete with territory. The right of territorial control comes with the obligation to accept diversity in every territory.

There is no easy answer to the dilemma the CCP has forced upon Tibet and the world. The uprising to free Tibet from communist control in the 1960s and 1970s led to the deaths of as many as 1.2 million Tibetans. Yet the cause was and still is just. The need for Tibetan independence becomes more urgent for the world as Beijing’s power increases and is used for unspeakable crimes up to and including genocide.

Some counsel patience. Perhaps the People’s Liberation Army will dash itself on the rocks of Taiwan as has Putin’s army on the rocks of Ukraine. But the strategists in Beijing have long been underestimated. The growth of their power and influence since the 1970s has been unprecedented. If time is on the CCP’s side, waiting could be a mistake. Taking opportunities for initiative could be the only option to escape disaster.

Smaller initiatives across the CCP’s frontlines—whether they be economic, military, or diplomatic—may achieve more than large-scale armies ever could, and with far fewer costs. One of those initiatives may be a diplomatic reversal of past concessions to Beijing on Tibet’s independence.

The world’s democratic powers—including in North America, Europe, and East Asia—can, as one, explain to Beijing that the CCP has gone too far in its genocidal policies. We can support Tibetans, as well as other horribly repressed identities in China, to aspire to their rightful status as independent nations with a recognized territory because, at the very least, genocide justifies the provision of a territory in which the people can feel safe.

Of course, Beijing will protest these diplomatic reversals in the strongest terms, as it always does for any reversal.

But now is the time when ethics and geopolitical conditions, thankfully, may finally coincide. It is both in the world’s interests to recognize Tibetan independence and in accord with the world’s moral conscience.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.