NORTH CAROLINA, US, 25 October 2017
Several Tibetan NGOs organized protest rallies primarily targeting Chinese President Xi Jinping rather than the communist regime itself, on the eve and also during the ongoing 19th Communist Party Congress which began on October 18, 2017 and ends on October 24, 2017.
It is true that during Xi Jinping’s first five-year tenure, there was religious, human rights, and political repression in Tibet as well in the mainland China in the pretext of controlling corruption. But do we simply want to defeat Xi Jinping in the forthcoming election and expect a better successor who is ready, willing and able to solve the Tibetan problem? If, so who would that prospective communist Chinese leader be?
The Communist Party Congress takes place once every five years. More than 2,000 delegates are attending the event. The main purpose of the Congress is to choose five or seven top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, who will steer China for the next five years.
Xi Jinping is seeking his second term, and possibly third, or probably permanent power like Mao Zedung. As an established tradition, Xi and all other leaders over 68 years are expected to retire. There are some leaders, including some sixth-generation leaders, who are much younger and may be willing to make an effort to solve the Tibetan problem. But do we have the confidence in any of them? Based on past experience, we do not have any.
Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, China’s economy has continued to grow, but the country has also become more authoritarian, with increasing censorship and arrests of human rights lawyers and activists. But let us say if Xi Jinping wants to make an effort to solve the Tibet problem, he has the guts and can do it. While consolidating his power, he has focused on military power and state security. He reduced the military divisions from seven to five divisions so that it will be easier for him to control them.
Xi will try to establish Xi Jinping’s thought during the current Congress. If he wins the second term, which is almost certain despite numerous protests all over the world, and also if the majority of his supporters win in Standing Committee, the 25-member Politburo and the regional leadership, he could gradually establish his control over other regions and then he can think about other problems. After comfortably settled himself, he could begin to look at the minority problems too.
So far, the United Work Front has the control over the Tibet issue. Unfortunately this department became futile for us as they always report only negative aspects about Tibet and the Tibetans to the higher authorities. Unfortunately Xi Jinping has not fully established direct supervision of this department. All the repressions in Tibet are manipulated through this department.
In support of Xi Jinping, recently party media have talked of crisis and chaos in the western democracies compared to strength and unity in China. Xi in his opening speech at the Congress also said that China has entered a new era and should take a center stage in the world. He said China has given new choice for the world. He warned against separatism, in an apparent reference to movements in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.
Xi continues to enjoy widespread support among ordinary Chinese citizens. He has introduced some long-term major changes for rural Chinese farmers. Hence he would expect to elevate himself to the status of Mao Zedung and Deng Xioping.
In order to realize his dreams of establishing an image as a world power, Xi may be realizing that His Holiness the Dalai Lama can contribute tremendously. Coincidentally, the Dalai Lama has also been asserting the crackdown corruptions all over the world which directly helps Xi’s corruption crackdown policy.
Although in addition to other repressions, there was tremendous religious repression in Tibet, including the demolition of Lharung Gar during Xi Jinping’s first term, are we aware of the fact that as a first communist Chinese President, Xi has said that Bhuddhism has made major contributions towards Chinese culture during a foreign tour. (Communist Chinese policy on religion is “Religion is poison”.) This is a major diversion from the communist ideology. Moreover, Xi Jinping’s mother had mentioned in a magazine that their family has a strong Buddhist root. During one of the fact-finding delegations from Dharamshala, Xi’s father has shown a watch to the delegation presented to him by the 14th Dalai Lama. Also Xi’s wife is well known to be pro-Tibetan culture, especially the Tibetan music world.
During Xi’s first term, along with some major long-term programs in Tibet, Jhang Gunchoe for example a major traditional Tibetan Buddhist conference was able to be revived as a gesture of his religious leniency. This large gathering is mainly study and debating the logic part of Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness has also expressed some hope in Xi’s Tibet policy on few occasions.
Over the years, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has attracted a large Buddhist following from all over the world, including from 400 million Chinese Buddhists in mainland China. Numerous Chinese Buddhists visit His Holiness in Dharamshala, although there was an ugly incidence during the recent Gu Chu Sum photo exhibition in Dharamshala by an unscrupulous Chinese woman from the US.
But we also know that there are many Chinese nationals supporting the Tibetan issues, including human rights activists, lawyers, professors and intellectuals, students, business persons and so on. Some of them even support Tibet’s independence.
Probably it was practically difficult for Xi Jinping during his first term to supervise all the developmental plans in a region like Tibet under the current communist system. The local leaders have the practical power and they always chose rigid and repressive policies in Tibet for their personal selfish motives. We cannot presume that the same repressive policy in Tibet can be repeated during his second term if he is elected.
In view of these, Xi Jinping would not be worse than any other leader elected as the Secretary, President, or even all-powerful Chairman. Perhaps we need a couple of more years to test his true color. A few Chinese leaders such as Hu Yaobang wanted to introduce some changes, but were difficult and even lost their power. Unlike them, Xi can balance the power to suit his favor. In this regard, he occasionally extends his support to both right and left press to suit his designs. As such, if Xi wins the supreme power, there is likelihood that at least some of our core demands such as religious freedom, cultural promotion, and language preservation can be achieved during his second or long-term tenure rather than another leader. I am not supporting Xi, but I do not see a better replacement.
Among the other prospective leaders, there are some leaders such as Hu Tun Ha who has spent 20 years in Tibet and is fluent in Tibetan language and music. He could be positive about Tibet but we have no guarantee such leaders will do better as Hu Jintao who also spent many years in Tibet turned out to be the worst leader for Tibet.
If Xi has some soft corners for Tibet, he can pull the strings behind even after two terms as Deng did, if Xi can groom and place his younger supporters who are the sons and daughters of veteran leaders. The standing Committee had nine, seven, and now can even be five which hold the power. We desire all of them who are willing to solve our problem. In case Xi is the next leader, it is very important for the Tibetans to establish grass root contacts with the Chinese general public, which will build a channel through which we can reach Xi or other senior leaders as we were able to establish some contacts through certain businessmen during Xi’s first term.
It is very important for us that the Chinese people must know the truth about Tibet to prevent incidents such as recently happened in Dharamshala. We can teach them how we want to fight for our rights under their constitution, that is, the Middle Way Policy. The Middle Way approach was suggested by the Dalai Lama, but adopted by 64.7% of the Tibetan people in exile through a referendum. Therefore if we demand independence before we give Xi a little more time to test his sincerity, support from the general Chinese people could be minimized in the present scenario.
But I must emphasize, as I mentioned in an article entitled “Evaluate the Manifesto” in Tibetan Political Review during the last Chitue/Kalon Tripa election campaign, that if we do not see any change in direction even after waiting for two more years in power by Xi Jinping, we must have another referendum for change of our policy to Independence. In that case, all the supporters of Rangzen need to discuss how we can achieve Rangzen rather than spending a lot of time only debating Rangzen versus Middle Way.
About the author
Ngawang Choechen was a Voice of Tibet correspondent, and now a realtor in Cary, North Carolina, US.