[JPRT, 111th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

                 A YEAR AFTER THE MARCH 2008 PROTESTS:




                               before the



                             FIRST SESSION


                             MARCH 13, 2009


 Printed for the use of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China

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48-753                    WASHINGTON : 2009
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                             CO N T E N T S

Opening statement of Charlotte Oldham-Moore, Staff Director, 
  Congressional-Executive Commission on China....................     1
Grob, Douglas, Cochairman's Senior Staff Member, Congressional-
  Executive Commission on China..................................     2
Sperling, Elliot, Associate Professor, Department of Central 
  Eurasian Studies, Indiana University...........................     3
Wangchuk, Tseten, Senior Research Fellow, Tibet Center, 
  University of Virginia; Senior Editor, Voice of America, 
  Tibetan Language Section.......................................     6
Smith, Warren, Writer, Radio Free Asia, Tibetan, Service.........     9

                          Prepared Statements

Sperling, Elliot.................................................    28
Smith, Warren....................................................    29



                         FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2009

                                       Commission on China,
                                                    Washington, DC.
    The roundtable was convened, pursuant to notice, at 10:02 
a.m., in room 628, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Charlotte 
Oldham-Moore, Staff Director, presiding.
    Also present: Douglas Grob, Cochairman's Senior Staff 
Member and Steve Marshall, Senior Advisor and Prisoner Database 
Program Director.



    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you for attending this morning's 
roundtable. My name is Charlotte Oldham-Moore. I am the Staff 
Director of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. My 
colleague, Doug Grob, who is the Cochairman's Senior Staff 
Member, and I will give brief introductions of our guests, and 
then we will turn it over to the panelists who will have 10 
minutes each to speak. Then, of course, we will turn to you in 
the audience for questions.
    The topic of this roundtable, as you all are aware, is the 
current situation inside the Tibetan areas of China a year 
after the protests and the Chinese Government's crackdown. This 
roundtable takes place between two dates that many Tibetans 
consider to be highly sensitive. The first is March 10, which 
marks the 50th anniversary of what Tibetans know as the 1959 
Tibetan uprising. It also marks the first anniversary of the 
start of last year's wave of Tibetan protests that occurred 
across the plateau and in other areas of China. That wave 
resulted in the arrest of thousands, and an untold number who 
are missing.
    March 28, the second date, will mark the first instance of 
the Serf 's Emancipation Day, a newly established Tibetan 
Autonomous Region holiday that celebrates China's dissolution, 
in 1959, of the Dalai Lama's Lhasa-based government.
    This past year, in order to strengthen further its security 
crackdown, officials in Lhasa implemented a ``Strike Hard Anti-
Crime Campaign'' that will run, they indicate, until at least 
late March, after Serf 's Emancipation Day is observed.
    International tourists and journalists, for now, are denied 
access to Tibetan areas of China. Chinese media reports tell us 
that security forces are prepared to prevent Tibetan attempts 
to stage further protests.
    The Chinese Government, over the past year, continues to 
press policies that have stoked frustration among Tibetans, 
saying such policies are essential for stability. The questions 
before our roundtable today, and to be addressed to the 
panelists, and also the audience are: have those policies 
served that objective? Has the dynamic between the Chinese 
Government and Tibetans changed over the last year, and if so, 
how? What should U.S. policymakers, Congress, and the Executive 
Branch watch for in the days and weeks ahead? These are the 
central questions before us today, a time of considerable fear 
and suffering, and, of course, uncertainty for many Tibetans. 
Our distinguished panelists will discuss the situation in Tibet 
today and help us to understand the background, as well as the 
    Now I will turn to my colleague, Doug Grob, who will 
introduce the witnesses.


    Mr. Grob. Thanks very much, Charlotte. And thank you all 
for joining us here today. On behalf of Representative Sander 
Levin of Michigan, Cochairman of the Commission, I extend a 
warm welcome and thanks to you. I have the privilege of 
introducing our panelists to you today. To my left, Professor 
Elliot Sperling, an Associate Professor in the Department of 
Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. Professor 
Sperling has written extensively on Tibetan history and Sino-
Tibetan relations. He is the recipient of MacArthur and 
Fulbright Fellowships. From 1996 to 1999, he served on the 
Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom 
Abroad. Professor Sperling teaches courses on the Civilization 
of Tibet, the History of Tibet, Tibet and the West, Sino-
Tibetan Relations, and other topics. He is currently working on 
a short history of modern Tibet for Cambridge University Press. 
So, we are very fortunate and honored to have you here with us 
    Seated also to my left is Mr. Tseten Wangchuk. Mr. Wangchuk 
is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Virginia's 
Tibetan Center, and a Senior Editor with the Voice of America's 
Tibetan Language Service. He is currently based in Washington, 
DC, but was born in Lhasa and grew up in Tibet. In 1983, Mr. 
Wangchuk completed his bachelor's degree in Tibetan history in 
Beijing at the Central Nationalities University, which is now 
named Minzu University of China. From 1983 to 1996, he was a 
researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and 
participated in field research in the Tibetan Autonomous 
Region, as well as in Tibetan autonomous areas in China outside 
of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Mr. Wangchuk also completed 
his Master's degree in public policy and international affairs 
at Columbia University in 1992. So, we are extremely pleased 
and honored by your presence here today, and we look forward to 
your remarks.
    And, finally, to my right is Dr. Warren Smith. Dr. Smith is 
an independent scholar and received his Ph.D. in international 
relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He 
writes about Tibetan politics for the Tibetan service of Radio 
Free Asia here in Washington, DC. His publications include 
``China's Tibet: Autonomy or Assimilation?,'' which was 
published last year by Rowman & Littlefield, and as well a book 
published in 1997 by Westview Press titled, ``Tibetan Nation: A 
History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations.'' 
So, thank you very much for your time this morning. We are very 
privileged to have you here, and look forward to your remarks.
    At this point I would like to turn the floor over to Mr. 


    Mr. Sperling. Well, thank you very much. There is a 
prepared statement which I have, which is outside if anybody 
wants a copy of it. I will try and go over the main points. 
Please follow along.
    Over the last several weeks, there's been a build-up of 
tension in Tibet. We here have been asked to answer the 
question: is China promoting stability in Tibet? The short 
answer to that is, at the moment, by and large, yes. But it has 
to be qualified by pointing out that this stability is 
established by means of an effective lockdown in Tibet, as some 
have termed it, as well as the ongoing detention of political 
prisoners, hundreds of whom have been held since last year.
    There are reports of monasteries blockaded, Internet and 
cell phone use cut over large areas of the Tibetan plateau, and 
a very intense security presence. So the answer to the question 
is, yes, there is stability, but it is at the cost of severe 
security measures and a population subject to severe 
restrictions on movement and communications.
    Part of the measures designed to secure Tibet are related 
to the imposition of political education inside and outside 
monasteries, which are meant to reaffirm China's narrative of 
Tibet's historical place within the Chinese state. This, in 
turn, is tied to the fact that discontent in Tibet--
inevitably--goes at some point to the question of the 
legitimacy of China's presence there.
    The fact that March 10, which Tibetans observe as an 
effective national day, is the day on which mass protests began 
last year and which was the target date for the lockdown this 
year; the fact that protesters used the Tibetan national flag 
as their symbol: these attest to the nationalist content in 
Tibetan resentments and grievances. This is not to play down 
other areas of repression, but it is to assert something that 
this commission--in fact, I would say all outside observers--
should bear in mind.
    The U.S. Government often likes to view the Tibetan issue 
as either a religious or a cultural issue, a question of 
religious freedom. There are religious and cultural questions 
at work here, but we have to acknowledge the underlying 
nationalist sentiment below that. We may wish that the Tibetans 
were saying something else, but they are not. If we want to 
understand what is going on, we have to start with what the 
Tibetans are actually saying, not what we would wish that they 
were saying.
    Now, as I said, these sentiments represent a rejection of 
China's decades-long efforts to control the interpretation of 
Tibetan history. China's narrative is that Tibet has been an 
integral part of China ever since the 13th century. This is a 
construct. This idea really never took shape until the 1950s, 
after Tibet had been annexed to the People's Republic of China. 
Prior to that time, the general Chinese attitude, if they 
thought about Tibet at all, was that Tibet had become a subject 
vassal state of the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century.
    Now, I do not want to go into too much arcana here, but 
basically there is a big discrepancy. The traditional Chinese 
narrative had Tibet as part of a large empire, which is to say 
that it is an imperial subject, and that is not the same as 
being an integral part of a country. So the idea of Tibet being 
an integral part of the country did not really take form in 
Chinese statements until the 1950s--in fact, after the 1950s. 
Even in the 1950s, the terminology that was still used was, 
well, that Tibet had been a feudal dependency of China. So, 
there are a lot of questions there.
    So we can understand that you have this struggle over 
history, and at the same time you have a struggle, a contest if 
you will, over historical time. We saw some of it last month in 
February with the struggle over the celebration and 
commemoration of Tibetan New Year. A mass movement had begun--
grassroots, I might add--to demonstrate respect and mourning 
for those who lost their lives in the protest a year ago, by 
not celebrating Tibet New Year, which was on February 25. This 
was quite successful across the Tibetan plateau. China 
contested this and tried to cajole and force celebrations, but 
this was largely without success.
    Now we have March. We are here in March and the struggle 
has been between adhering to March 10 as a national day, which 
Tibetans do, although they have to do this in various ways--of 
course, it is not legal, by any means, but that is why we had 
demonstrations last year on March 10; a struggle between that 
and China's determination to purge March of any such 
nationalist significance and institute, instead, a new holiday: 
March 28, Serf 's Emancipation Day.
    Now, there is no doubt that March 10, which came and went 
three days ago, was stifled, but it took a tremendous effort on 
the part of the Chinese authorities, which I have already just 
described. I want to add that the manner in which it was done 
will certainly not end the question. On the contrary, I believe 
it will simply nurture further resentments and grievances.
    And again, you have to remember that there is historical 
memory at work here. The arrests and deaths of Tibetans in 
previous March 10 incidents such as last year's only serve to 
strengthen the resonance of the struggle that the date 
represents and link later generations to the history of March 
10, 1959. That is to say, all the repression that happens on 
March 10 adds to this historical memory and creates a link 
between generations, the generation you have now and the 
generation of 1959.
    Now, will Serf 's Emancipation Day be successfully 
celebrated? Well, it will certainly be realized, but only by 
coercive government dictate. So I think that we can look 
forward to gala television programs on CCTV, et cetera.
    Now, this is relevant, and I will make the point: the new 
holiday is relevant to our understanding of the collapse of 
talks between the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese 
Government in early November. Many of us, I would say, 
understood long ago that these talks were doomed, that they 
were meant only to drag on until the Dalai Lama's death, when 
China would select its own Dalai Lama and so, as China 
believes, resolve the Tibet issue.
    After the last talks ended, the Tibetan delegates returned 
to India and they vowed to make no statement before a special 
meeting was convened in Dharamsala, which happened later on, 
but there was no need for them to be coy because, within days, 
their Chinese counterparts held a press conference and said the 
talks had gone nowhere, they rejected compromise with the Dalai 
Lama on any of his proposals, and stated that while the door 
was open for the Dalai Lama to return, he would have to 
recognize the errors of his ways. So after almost 30 years of 
contact, China gave a very clear signal that those contacts had 
not advanced beyond square one.
    Now, significantly, in 1981, Hu Yaobang, the Communist 
Party General Secretary, had told the Dalai Lama's brother 
Gyalo Thondup, that ``there should be no more quibbling about 
past history, namely the events of 1959. Let us disregard and 
forget this.'' In its dealings with the Dalai Lama's exiled 
government, China largely operated under that premise, so the 
decision to recognize March 28, 1959, as Serf 's Emancipation 
Day puts 1959 back on the table and signals that the talks 
really are at a dead end. But I would like to stress that for 
those of us who were observing these things very clearly, this 
is no surprise. This was known long ago. It was easily 
    So what is the United States to do with the Tibetan 
question, with the Tibetan issue, under these circumstances? I 
think everybody in this room is aware of Secretary of State 
Clinton's February 21 statement that human rights concerns 
about China ``can't interfere with the global economic crisis, 
the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis."
    Now, while such comments are unhelpful, the feckless 
policies and empty threats over Tibet that have been made in 
the past are the real problem. In other words, we have been 
making all sorts of threats which we do not carry through on, 
and this really is the larger problem. Under Bill Clinton, 
revocation of most favored nation trade status, which then came 
to be PNTR, permanent normal trade relations, was periodically 
threatened, to no effect.
    What I am saying is, it is far worse to make a threat like 
that and then stand back and not carry it through than simply 
to remain silent. Under George Bush, there was talk of skipping 
the opening Olympic ceremony, but of course he decided not to 
do that. So in many ways, Secretary of State Clinton simply 
articulated the real nature of U.S.-China policy.
    Now, the Obama Administration certainly cannot be expected 
to act on the nationalist sentiments of Tibetans, especially 
when the Dalai Lama's and U.S. policy--I should stress, the 
Dalai Lama's policy and U.S. policy--have long been to 
recognize Tibet as a part of China.
    Hillary Clinton could continue making the empty gestures of 
advocating simple religious freedom, urging more talks, which 
is what was going on. Even though these talks were going 
nowhere, for years people were saying, ``Yes, but we have to do 
something, so let us just talk.'' But those talks, as I said, 
were being used to drag out the entire process, with China 
waiting for the Dalai Lama to die. So it wasn't that you had to 
have talks so that something would be done. Those talks were 
being used by China for its own purposes and nobody wanted to 
see the reality of that.
    So Hillary Clinton could continue making the empty gestures 
of advocating religious freedom, urging more talks, or she 
could adopt the very cynical position advocated by Nicholas 
Kristoff and Mel Goldstein in the New York Times that Tibetans 
should accept one-party Communist rule and some sort of 
cultural autonomy, leaving democratic aspirations completely 
out of the picture.
    Now, these options are hardly satisfactory. But what the 
administration and what the Secretary of State absolutely 
should not do, is to add to the history of empty threats over 
Tibet. But they can address Chinese abuses in Tibet in every 
reasonable forum, strongly and without apology.
    The Secretary of State can make China deservedly 
uncomfortable without using unrealistic threats, but she has to 
commit to a forceful human rights agenda. She should not fool 
herself that the issue is simply a religious one. She has to 
understand what it is that motivates Tibetan protests, and even 
though the administration might wish that Tibetan aspirations 
were not nationalist in nature, it must support, in absolute 
terms, the right of Tibetans to voice their aspirations 
    These are things that she can do, or she can reiterate once 
more, if anyone did not hear it the first time, that human 
rights in China will not be treated seriously until the crises 
in global warming, finance, and security are resolved.
    Thank you.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you, Mr. Sperling.
    Tseten Wangchuk?
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Sperling appears in the 


    Mr. Wangchuk. Thank you for inviting me. Before I start my 
talk, I want to make it clear that what I say here represents 
my personal views, not the views of Voice of America (VOA) or 
the U.S. Government. I am obligated to say that.
    I want to look at this issue over the past year, and 
perhaps to look back even further, to look at Chinese policy in 
Tibet, to see what kind of impact it is having. Of course, the 
question before this panel is whether or not China's policy in 
Tibet is creating stability. I think Professor Sperling very 
eloquently described that, yes, it is creating ``stability.'' 
This year it seems like there hasn't been a major demonstration 
like there was last year. But at what cost?
    In some ways, if you look back beyond last year's 
crackdown, in the past 50 years there have been so many 
crackdowns and so much repression in Tibet. But I think last 
year was different. I think that what happened last year could 
explain a lot of things that are yet to come.
    First, I think of last year, during the period after the 
demonstration in Lhasa. In the first few hours of that 
demonstration, Tibetans did set fires to Chinese shops and they 
beat up some Chinese shopkeepers--and people even died. But 
that in no way represents the whole of that demonstration, or 
the whole of what happened. But, in any case, the Chinese 
Government, or rather, the official state media, used a small 
amount of video footage, only a few minutes of it, and replayed 
it, and replayed it. That was really unprecedented.
    If you really consider their narration, how they presented 
the Lhasa demonstration to the Chinese audience, then it is 
really, I think, unlike yesterday. They present to you just a 
few bad people. And the majority of Tibetans--how happy they 
are. But in those few days, after that demonstration, they 
really painted the whole Tibetan group, the entire Tibetan 
ethnicity, in a manner that made it seem like the entire 
Tibetan ethnic group was beating up the Chinese people. This 
has really increased the level of Chinese nationalistic 
sentiment so much.
    I think in the past, of course, the relationship between 
Tibetans and the Chinese has had a lot of political problems. I 
grew up there. But on some levels, the Tibetans and Chinese, at 
a personal level, don't have that much animosity between them. 
But since last March, I think the Tibetans and the Chinese are 
becoming racially hateful toward each other--in other parts of 
the world you can see the hatred. Truly, you can see it. This 
sort of hatred is really rare. I think, by and large, that the 
Chinese Government is really responsible for this. Whatever 
their purpose may have been at the time, they were responsible 
for those things.
    Another interesting part of this phenomenon--and it may be 
a product of the times, a product of the global anti-terrorism 
movement, and similar factors--is that Tibetans in China 
certainly have been discriminated against when they try to 
check into hotels, when they board flights at airports, and in 
all sorts of other aspects of their lives. This particular 
impact is very different from previous crackdowns. In past 
crackdowns, the impact was on people who participated in 
demonstrations--whatever happened, they were 
    But the Tibetan elite, most of them are, in effect, working 
for the Chinese Government. So, in the past, they have not 
really been affected by crackdowns. But this time it is very 
different. There are members of the Tibetan elite who travel 
and who check into hotels. These Tibetans, even if they are 
functioning as some sort of government official on a trip, they 
too have been discriminated against. So the impacts on Tibetans 
are truly large. This is taking place regionally, not just in 
Lhasa and in specific areas, but all over Tibet. This is 
something that is unprecedented in some ways. I believe that 
somehow people need to realize that this has major implications 
for the long term.
    But so far, policymakers are unable to find a way to deal 
with this, or a way to address Tibetan grievances. Of course, 
there are a million reasons now. Elliot just spoke about the 
historical reasons, and many other things. I want to mention an 
additional point. The reason I mention this particular point is 
not because it is the only reason, but because very few people 
talk about it. Nonetheless, it is a very important point, and 
we need to consider it. It is a matter of what I would call 
``an interest group.''
    In the past 20 years in China, the people who manage 
Tibet--and we are talking about tens of thousands of people--
have really gained power. Their economic interests and 
everything else are built on this power. They blame everything 
that goes wrong in Tibet--whether it is something to do with 
the Tibetan people themselves, or whether it is anything else--
whatever goes wrong in Tibet, they blame it on the Dalai Lama, 
or on the Tibetans in exile, like the Tibetan Youth Congress. 
This creates such a powerful argument.
    These policies, and the self-interests that these officials 
have to continue such policies--and not merely to continue 
them, but to really push them forward, even exaggerate them--is 
continuing. For the past 20 years these people--and as I said, 
there are tens of thousands of them--are living on this. They 
are making money on this. These are powerful people.
    My understanding of the situation now is that, at least in 
the past couple of years, whenever there is debate about Tibet 
policy in China, there are different voices. I'm not saying 
that there is a different ``faction,'' that one group is saying 
that China should give the Dalai Lama autonomy, nothing like 
    But now people are saying that perhaps we should be looking 
at things differently, and that perhaps we would find some 
different alternatives. But each time when such voices speak 
up, then the group of people who have been in charge of Tibet--
the group of people whose livelihood, and in some ways their 
children's livelihood depends on this policy, the group for 
whom everything depends on this policy--that group is so 
powerful. That group, really an interest group, has people who 
are writing books to argue their point, people who are on top 
of the power structure, and who have the rhetoric and 
everything else to push their policy.
    I think it is really important to see just how important 
this group is in the role that they play. Sometimes it looks as 
though we are seeing only the truly top level of China's state 
leadership, and we assume such high-ranking views are the only 
reason for what is happening. But actually, if you look at the 
details, there's a messy political process going on. In that 
process, there are people who have political and economic self-
interests playing a role in this particular policy.
    Since I don't have much time left and there's another point 
I want to speak about since we are addressing the U.S. Congress 
and Government. My fear is that, now that the Taiwan issue has 
sort of melted away in China, the Chinese Government has shown 
since last year a tendency to successfully use the Tibetan 
issue to galvanize the Chinese nationalistic sentiment. In this 
way, they have managed to somewhat unite all kinds of people 
who otherwise would have a problem with the government. With 
the economic crisis in China, the Chinese Government really 
needs some sort of common enemy to unite a lot of the Chinese 
    I am really worried that perhaps the Tibetan issue is 
becoming that uniting factor. In that process, of course, 
Tibetans would be the victim. But when the Chinese Government 
builds such an enemy, the West is becoming an integral part of 
it. That is historically a part of it. That is why I believe 
that we need to be aware of what is happening, and not to fall 
into that trap.
    For the Chinese, it is very easy to accept such an 
explanation, and to say that the ``issue'' of Tibet doesn't 
exist, that Tibet is part of western China, that the West is 
just using Tibet. So, all these Tibetan ``issues'' are nothing 
more than the West wanting to split China, to weaken China, to 
contain China, all those sorts of accusations. I understand 
that for most Chinese people it is very easy to accept this 
kind of notion, but it is a very dangerous notion. I am 
Tibetan. Really, the hardest part of this is that the Chinese 
people are not able to see the Tibetan issue as it is. Rather, 
they see this as some kind of larger issue, an issue that they 
have with the West. This is a tragedy.
    The last point I just want to mention is on the Chinese 
Government. Whether they want to talk to the Dalai Lama or 
not--they probably don't--they still have to manage Tibet. But 
the way they have handled Tibet in the past year, particularly 
in the past year, it is really difficult to see how sustainable 
this kind of policy can be.
    Among the Chinese intellectuals now, you can see that 
people are presenting different views. I hope that it is just 
temporary that the government is so insecure that they just 
have to crack down. But in the longer term, they are hoping to 
find a different alternative at least to manage Tibet.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you, Tseten. We are very fortunate 
to have you here today.
    Warren Smith. I have to plug his books before and after 
this roundtable. He has written two terrific books on Tibet. I 
encourage you to read them. They're long, but they're good. And 
I'll plug the books again after he gives his remarks.
    Mr. Smith. Actually, only the first one is long.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Actually, I haven't read the second one 
yet because I haven't gotten through the first one.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Wangchuk appears in the 


    Mr. Smith. I have to begin by thanking the Commission for 
inviting me, but also to say that any opinions I express are my 
own and not those of Radio Free Asia.
    I have a written statement with the title, ``Serf 's 
Emancipation Day and China's New Offensive on Tibet,'' about 
Serf 's Emancipation Day, which is a brand-new holiday which 
Tibetans will be coerced by every means possible to celebrate. 
The authorities in Tibet have many means to make people go 
along with such events as these. They have neighborhood 
committees. They will require one person from each family to 
attend. They will require anyone who has any relationship with 
the government, which means almost everyone, to attend. They 
will have all of the song-and-dance troupes that will be 
required to perform, both in person and on TV.
    In other words, it will be hard to avoid, so you can 
expect, if you are following this issue, a lot of Chinese 
propaganda on the day of March 28. But in the lead-up as well, 
there has been a tremendous amount of propaganda, testimonies 
of so-called former serfs, and a museum exhibition in Beijing, 
a new film about the sufferings of the serfs, and all of this 
kind of thing.
    The Tibet revolt in Lhasa that began on 10 March 1959 
actually originated in eastern Tibet in 1956, when the Chinese 
instituted what they called ``democratic reforms.'' It 
gradually spread to central Tibet, where the same reforms had 
not been instituted. The Dalai Lama fled on the 17th of March.
    On the 28th of March, China dissolved the former Tibetan 
government. On the 31st of March, the Chinese authorities 
organized public demonstrations of Tibetans in Lhasa, Shigatse, 
and in many other cities, supposedly spontaneous rallies to 
support the government and support the repression of the 
revolt, and to support the People's Liberation Army.
    The Tibetans who worked for the government produced similar 
statements on this day, praising the party and denouncing those 
who had rebelled, saying that they had only rebelled because 
they were opposed to reforms, even though the reforms had been 
delayed in central Tibet, so there was no immediate reason for 
them to revolt for that reason. The reason for the revolt was, 
as Elliot said, a matter of nationalistic Tibetan interest.
    The democratic reforms in Tibet were only actually 
announced in July. On the 3rd of July, local officials said 
that they would begin democratic reforms, which meant 
distribution of land and class divisions. Class divisions would 
then lead to class struggle. You have struggle sessions in 
which people are required to denounce each other and proclaim 
their support for the government. What this was, was a means to 
identify those who were willing to go along and those who were 
going to be resistant.
    So it was far from being what it sounds. China now wants 
Tibetans to celebrate this, but in fact it was part of the 
repression of the revolt because it allowed the Chinese 
authorities to identify any potential opponents and to repress 
them. Class divisions already identified those of the upper 
class who were scheduled for repression unless they happened to 
be some of the few well-known collaborators.
    But the reason China has chosen March 28 to celebrate Serf 
's Emancipation Day instead of in July when it was actually 
started, is because it is a counter propaganda thing. As Elliot 
said, they want to counteract the effect of last year's riots 
and demonstrations and they want to counteract the annual 
commemoration of March 10.
    So they wanted to have a new celebration that will 
basically celebrate their theme about what Tibet is really 
about instead of what Tibetans think it is really about, and 
their theme is that it's all about the liberation of the serfs. 
This is China's favorite theme about Tibet and it is one that 
fools more foreigners because there are legitimate questions 
about the nature of old Tibetan society. But that is not the 
issue of Tibet. The issue of Tibet is China's right to rule 
over Tibet, or Tibetan self-determination. But China, as long 
as they can confine the discussion to how horrible was old 
Tibet, then they win because then nobody really talks about the 
real issue.
    So this is the reason that they are having this celebration 
in March instead of July, so that they can have a large 
propaganda demonstration and make a lot of publicity about it 
to counteract worldwide Tibetan demonstrations on the day of 
March 10.
    I want to say something about--the first part of my paper 
is about the Serf 's Emancipation Day. Then the second part is 
China's current policy and new diplomatic offensive. Whenever 
Chinese foreign ministers or any other officials these days are 
asked any question about Tibet, they reply that Tibet is not an 
issue of human rights, ethnicity, or religion, but it is a 
fundamental issue of China's sovereignty over Tibet. What this 
means is that they do not believe that the Dalai Lama has 
really given up independence.
    The premise of the Dalai Lama's Middle Path policy is that, 
by accepting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, he has eliminated 
that issue and therefore then you can talk about issues of 
autonomy, such as human rights, ethnicity, and religion.
    What the Chinese are saying is that the Dalai Lama has not 
really given up independence. The autonomy he wants, they 
describe as independence, semi-independence, or independence in 
disguise. They think the autonomy he wants and the area in 
which he wants to have it, are all means by which he will 
return to Tibet and then he will drum up Tibetan resistance, 
and then they will--because they already have this legal status 
as something separate from fully a part of China, they will 
build upon that and they will eventually demand national self-
determination in international law.
    What China is also saying when they say that Tibet is not 
an issue of human rights, ethnicity, or religion, but it is a 
fundamental issue of China's sovereignty over Tibet, they are 
saying that human rights, ethnicity, and religion or autonomy 
are, in fact, incompatible with Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.
    In the recent dialogues, they have basically told the 
Tibetans this: we will not talk about autonomy. Tibet already 
has autonomy. We have our own system we have set up. We 
liberated Tibet. We emancipated the serfs. Tibetans have full 
human rights, they have freedom of religion, they have autonomy 
based upon their ethnicity, and therefore what the Dalai Lama 
wants cannot be those things. It must be that he really wants 
independence. Or sometimes they go as far as to say that what 
he wants is the restoration of the feudal serf system.
    So last year after the March riots, it seemed that there 
was so much international interest in, and support for, Tibet. 
Several world leaders threatened to boycott the opening 
ceremonies of the Olympics, and many world leaders told the 
Chinese that they should dialogue with the Dalai Lama, or with 
his representatives, and they did so. They had two meetings, 
one in May and one in July, with no results.
    A lot of pressure was put on China because of the 
demonstrations during the Olympic torch relay. But then there 
was the earthquake in May, I believe--April--which gained a lot 
of sympathy for China, and they exploited that to the greatest 
degree possible, leading to, once they had said that they were 
willing to dialogue, world leaders, such as French President 
Sarkozy, saying, okay, we believe you, you are willing to 
dialogue, so now we withdraw our threats to not attend the 
Olympics, the final result being that China thinks that it had 
a successful Olympics. It thinks it won the propaganda battle 
about Tibet that began in March.
    You could see this after the next dialogue meeting in 
November. They came out, as Elliot has said, with scornful 
rejection of dialogue, even going back and saying, you know, 
these demands you have given us are the same things you were 
talking about in the early 1980s. We rejected them then, so why 
do you keep bringing them up?
    Since then, there have been statements from the Chinese 
press saying that China has a new diplomatic strategy. They 
will define Tibet as their core interest. They initiated this 
with French President Sarkozy, again, and also in November when 
he met with the Dalai Lama, not even in France, but in Poland, 
on the sidelines of a Nobel Prizewinners' meeting, thinking 
that that would not be too offensive to the Chinese.
    They responded by canceling a very important economic 
summit meeting of all European leaders with China, which was 
really astounding because they were saying, we have upgraded 
the importance of this Tibet issue in our international 
relations; they are saying that there will be a price to pay if 
you meet with the Dalai Lama. There have been some recent 
statements. They are saying that Western nations should 
recognize that Tibet is an inalienable part of China, and stop 
interfering if they want to remain on good terms with China.
    They have a new strategy of coercion. It is going to be 
hard for any country in the world to resist this new strategy. 
I suggest at the end of my paper that China has said that it 
will not dialogue with the Dalai Lama about Tibetan autonomy.
    This might be the time to shift away from a policy of 
continually trying to promote dialogue, because they have said 
that they will not dialogue, and going to a more defensive 
strategy to try to counteract what is going to be a major 
Chinese attempt to prevent anybody anywhere from meeting with 
the Dalai Lama.
    Thank you.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you, Warren Smith.
    We are now going to turn to the audience for questions. I 
know many of you have tremendous expertise or experience inside 
Tibet and China.
    Before we go to the audience, I want to introduce our 
Senior Advisor on Tibet, Steve Marshall. He is also the CECC's 
Prisoner Database Program Director. I encourage all of you to 
go to our Web site and see the PPD, Political Prisoner 
Database, in operation.
    Steve, please, first question?
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Smith appears in the 
    Mr. Marshall. I've enjoyed every word that you've said. 
Very interesting and very timely. If anyone was looking at the 
paper this morning, you may have noticed that Wen Jiabao said 
today, in China, that the door is still open to dialogue with 
the Dalai Lama, but the Dalai Lama has to renounce separatism. 
It would seem that no matter how many times the Dalai Lama says 
that he is not seeking any form of independence for Tibet, 
disguised or not disguised, the Chinese leaders keep saying 
this to him.
    Now, in the November memorandum that the Dalai Lama's 
envoys handed over to Communist Party officials, they made a 
very interesting change, a revision in wording. Instead of 
saying that they are seeking unification of ``traditional 
Tibet'' to be autonomous, the memorandum specifically states 
that they are seeking the unification of the areas that China 
already identifies as Tibetan autonomous.
    Now, to specifically recognize the areas that China has 
already identified as Tibetan autonomous, and have that status 
Chinese sovereignty, that is not separatism. I would welcome 
comments from all of you on this. Does a change in key wording 
reflecting Tibetan territory, would that make any progress 
toward satisfying the Chinese leadership's demand that the 
Dalai Lama not be a separatist? Or will they simply continue to 
dismiss whatever he says, no matter what he says? Thank you.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. This is a great question. I would ask our 
panelists to respond in simple language, because it is a very 
complex question. Elliot, take a crack, please.
    Mr. Sperling. Okay. Well, there is a lot there, so excuse 
me if I speak very quickly so I can get in as much as I can. 
But this whole business that the Dalai Lama has to renounce 
sovereignty, he has to renounce separatism, rather, again and 
again--I have said this in many places, and I will just repeat 
it here: you have a process whereby the Dalai Lama says, I 
accept that Tibet is a part of China, I don't want to separate 
it, I don't want independence, et cetera, and the Chinese 
Government says, no, the Dalai Lama is not sincere. As Warren 
said, they term it ``disguised independence,'' or whatever.
    The Dalai Lama then comes back and says, China doesn't 
understand me, and he makes it clearer and clearer and clearer. 
This is a Chinese policy which has basically served to 
undermine the Tibetan position, and I think it's a great 
policy. If I were a member of the Chinese Government, I'd be 
all for it.
    What it does is, it undermines the legitimacy of 
nationalist sentiment in Tibet by having the Dalai Lama become 
the premier spokesperson against Tibetan independence, against 
Tibetan nationalism. And so the Chinese Government says that 
the Dalai Lama has to say this sincerely, and he goes to Bill 
Clinton, he goes to George Bush, he goes to Tony Blair, Angela 
Merkel, and he says, I don't want independence, I don't want 
independence., And he's basically undercut that notion and made 
it seem like a very extreme position, even though when you look 
at the demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations, you see that 
this nationalist sentiment is out there.
    So when the Dalai Lama says China doesn't understand, I 
really don't want independence, they do understand. I have said 
this before. There are, I guess, thousands of people working 
either in the foreign ministry or working on nationality 
affairs within China. They parse every word that the Dalai Lama 
    If I can put it into accessible language, China knows what 
the meaning of the word ``is'' is when it comes to the Dalai 
Lama. So the idea that they just don't understand what he's 
saying, and that he has to renounce separatism: this is just 
another in this string of moves which drags it all along, 
because China is waiting. The policy is to wait for the Dalai 
Lama to pass away. So, these are measures to buy time.
    That was the problem with the whole dialogue process. In 
other words, the dialogue process was entered into as a means 
of dragging it all out, walking a proposal to death, if you 
will. I'm not against dialogue, people talking, but it was 
clear, many years ago, that this was not a dialogue that was 
being entered into sincerely by both parties; rather, on the 
part of one party it was a tactic to drag things out to 
irresolution until the Dalai Lama passes away. As you know, 
he's in his seventies now. I find it hard to believe that 
anything is going to come of it when China seems to be so close 
to the goal. I will stop with this and let the other panelists 
jump in.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you.
    Tseten Wangchuk, please.
    Mr. Wangchuk. I think in many ways I agree with Professor 
Sperling, that what the Dalai Lama says may not make much 
difference right now. The reasons, really, that China is not 
able to come to some sort of a realization about having an 
alternative policy toward Tibet is, by and large, determined by 
the Chinese political system right now, by the political 
atmosphere in China.
    At that particular time, I think it was a matter of what 
the Dalai Lama said. China will not let him come back. He said 
he didn't want anything. ``I just want to come to Beijing, just 
visit. I don't want anything. I'll give up everything,'' he 
said. I don't think that China will accept even that.
    Related to that point, I think when we are looking at 
Tibetan issues, I think we tend to always look at how the Dalai 
Lama is interacting with the Chinese Government. The Chinese 
Government encourages that, too. This is ``the'' Tibetan issue. 
I think we have to realize that this is a ``part'' of the 
Tibetan issue.
    There is another part of the issue that is very important--
in some ways much more important--and that is the politics 
within Tibet, and how China manages those Tibetan places. Why 
were there demonstrations? Of course, there is the nationalist 
Tibetan sentiment. Of course, there is the Dalai Lama, and 
related issues. But also you have to see the economic policies 
that have an impact in Tibet, and you have to see, if you look 
really closely, that the people who staged those demonstrations 
in Lhasa are the people who are really marginalized. They are 
the weak groups. You can see many instances like this in China.
    This, combined with the Tibetan nationalist sentiment, and 
all those other matters, when they are combined together, this 
is becoming what we call ``the Tibet issue.'' People, both 
outside and inside of China, and China's Government, tend to 
ignore that aspect of it. It seems that the government instead 
blames everything on the Dalai Lama.
    We also tend to see as the only solution the talks between 
the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government, whether the talks 
will succeed or not. I think you really have to see that China 
has to manage Tibet--with or without the Dalai Lama. If the 
government is not able to effectively manage Tibet, and to give 
Tibetans at least some dignity, then the problem is always 
going to be there.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you.
    Did you want to say something really quickly?
    Mr. Smith. The answer to Steve's question is no.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. I like that: simple. That's good.
    Mr. Smith. It will not make any difference that they have 
more accurately defined now the territorial limits of what they 
mean by the Greater Tibetan Autonomous Region. Before, in the 
past, it has been rather vague what Tibetans were talking 
about, because there was a map produced in Dharamsala that 
includes everything, all parts of the Tibetan empire of the 7th 
century, which is very expansive.
    This is what China says when they say the Dalai Lama claims 
25 percent of Chinese territory. It is only logical, if they 
ever got to actual talks, that the Tibetans would define what 
they meant as just the boundaries of the already-designated 
Tibetan Autonomous Region and Districts. So I am glad to see 
that Dharamsala has clearly defined that at last, but I don't 
think it's going to make any difference. As everyone else has 
said, you can see the different reasons that China uses to 
claim that the Dalai Lama has not met their conditions, and 
therefore they will not dialogue with him. In May, I think it 
was, their demands were called ``The Three Stops'': the Dalai 
Lama should stop instigating violence in Tibet, he should stop 
sabotaging the Olympics, and he should stop all his separatist 
    So then when they had the meeting in July, the Dalai Lama's 
representative said, okay, we stopped all those. So then the 
Chinese side came up with the ``Four Non-supports'' policy; 
that he should not support anybody else who might instigate 
violence in Tibet, or sabotage the Olympics, or do any 
separatist activities, and he should not support the Tibetan 
Youth Congress. That was the fourth.
    So it got redefined from what he himself might do to what 
he might support, and therefore anything anybody did, they 
would accuse him of having supported it because they assumed 
that he has the authority to tell anyone what to do.
    So now it is just a means to say that--in the meeting in 
November they said, ``Well, there were demonstrations all over 
the world on the beginning day of the Olympics, so you didn't 
adhere to our conditions that you stop all that.'' So there's 
always an excuse. Then they very frankly just say, ``No, we're 
not going to dialogue. We never intended to dialogue about 
anything but the Dalai Lama's personal status in the first 
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you.
    Elliot, do you have a few brief remarks?
    Mr. Sperling. I just wanted to add something with regard to 
this business of including all of these autonomous units from 
other areas in a Greater Tibetan Autonomous Region. They are 
delineated and you can find them on maps as Tibet Autonomous 
Prefectures and Tibetan Autonomous Counties. Outside the Tibet 
Autonomous Region they are contiguous, but the dispute over 
including them also highlights differences in understanding on 
the part of the Tibetans and on the part of China.
    At the very beginning, the Tibetans said that all of these 
areas should be included in Tibet because they are inhabited by 
Tibetans. They are one people. After all, the Chinese have even 
given special privileges to Hong Kong in which all are Chinese; 
here you take an area which is Chinese and you give them 
special privileges.
    The lack of understanding on the part of the Tibetans in 
this is that in China, there have been many changes over the 
last several decades and there have been theories, 
pronouncements, and explanations which account for these, 
starting with Deng Xiaoping's, ``To Get Rich is Glorious,'' 
``It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white, it's whether 
it catches mice,'' et cetera. These have helped change economic 
circumstances and situations: substitute theories.
    Nothing has really come about to change the rationale for 
the control of Tibet beyond old, if I may say, Paleo-Maoist 
ideas about the inevitable course of history and about history 
developing along socioeconomic lines of development in which 
the national identity of people is superficial while it is 
their socioeconomic circumstances that count. So even though 
the people in Hong Kong are Chinese, they have a different 
socioeconomic history and therefore that is what is more 
important. Their class society is more important. This is an 
old, again, Paleo-Maoist idea.
    The fact that the area that is the TAR, the Tibet 
Autonomous Region, was under the Dalai Lama's government and 
these other Tibetan autonomous units were not, makes them 
different in terms of class society and economics, and 
therefore they should not be combined together. This is an old 
idea. Nothing has come along to replace it. So with regard to 
Tibet and nationality policy, sometimes you feel like you are 
going into a time warp. You feel like you are in a China that 
has advanced beyond simple Maoist models of socialism; yet you 
still find the very simplistic theories that relate to 
nationalities being applied in these areas.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Terrific. Thank you very much.
    Now to the audience. Please stand if you would like to ask 
questions. State your professional affiliation, if you would 
like. If you don't, that's fine. And please, just direct your 
question to one panelist so we can increase the volume of 
questions from the audience.
    Susette Cooke from Australia. We're very lucky to have you 
    Ms. Cooke. I'm Susette Cooke, China Research Centre, 
University of Technology, Sydney.
    First of all, thank you very much to the panelists for your 
incisive comments. I feel very lucky to be here to hear you 
today. My question really----
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. For one person.
    Ms. Cooke [continuing]. --relates to Tseten Wangchuk's 
testimony. You've already raised these matters, but I was 
hoping you might expand a little more on them. Given the core 
importance to Tibet's future of decisions made by the Chinese 
leadership, are there really seriously divergent views within 
that leadership about how to handle Tibet, the Tibetan 
question, into the future? If there are, could you expand a 
little more on what some of those views might consist of, and 
also what might be influencing them?
    Mr. Wangchuk. Well, I don't think anybody outside really 
knows exactly what kind of conversation they're having inside. 
I don't think anybody knows. But what I understand is what I 
would call something like two factions having a debate. Since 
last year there is something new about the sort of people who 
relate to Tibet. This is because the Tibetan issue has become 
such an important issue that more people outside of the Tibetan 
field, people in charge of Tibetan-related issues, those 
additional people have started asking a lot of questions about 
Tibet. Combined with them are other people who really have a 
lot of influence on China's minority policy, including some 
scholars. They have started airing their differences on Tibetan 
    For example, there is one scholar who has raised the issue 
that China may be over-emphasizing the role of sovereignty in 
all these issues. Perhaps we should be minimizing this, and 
instead be looking into economic issues and the religion issue.
    There's another scholar from Beijing University, his name 
is Mai Lung, who is very influential. He is one of the three 
most influential Chinese scholars on minority policy. He 
recently published an article. He thinks that China has to 
depoliticize Tibetan issues, and instead emphasize citizens' 
rights. Views like these are different; they are counter to the 
current policy, as you can see. I have heard that a lot of 
people are really critical of, for example, the Communist Party 
sector in the TAR. Some instances of criticism like that really 
do happen. But I don't think they have enough power to have 
real impact on the policy right now.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Okay. Great. Thank you.
    Please? Thank you. We are very honored to have you.
    Mr. Dorje. My name is Kharma Dorje.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Kharma Dorje from VOA.
    Mr. Dorje. No, Radio Free Asia.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Radio Free Asia.
    Mr. Dorje. I just have a comment and a question. Now, 
Tseten Wangchuk said that the Lhasa, in 2008, were the peaceful 
protests. Can you hear me?
    Mr. Wangchuk. Yes.
    Mr. Dorje. He said it's a little different from the past. 
But I just want to respectfully differ a little bit from that. 
The protests that took place in 2008, starting from March 10, 
were very different in many ways. One issue which Tseten----
    Mr. Wangchuk. Just to clarify, I'm saying they were 
different in how the Chinese treated the demonstration.
    Mr. Dorje. Right. Exactly.
    Mr. Wangchuk. Yes. Not the demonstrations themselves.
    Mr. Dorje. That is the one issue--definitely. That's one of 
the major issues, how they took advantage of the situation.
    But in terms of, if you look in the past--for example, in 
1989, there was a protest in Tibet, too. But in terms of the 
number of participants, in terms of areas covered by the 
protest, in terms of the age variety of the participants, in 
terms of how they express and how they protest, kind of spread 
slowly from Lhasa, then to the outskirts of Lhasa, and then it 
went all the way to Amdo, then to Kam.
    Now, Elliot made a reference earlier, saying that there is 
a kind of an understanding that the TAR, which has been under 
the control of the Dalai Lama, and outside is not exactly under 
the control of the Dalai Lama. But this time, like because of 
2008, the protest by the Tibetans inside Tibet, had completely 
broken out this kind of notion that the Tibetan areas outside 
of the TAR are not a part of Tibet. That is completely broken, 
no matter how China tried to portray an impression that Tibet 
is only the TAR. So that impression is completely broken down. 
This is just a comment.
    My question is, I think the main issue, the issue for the 
debate, is: is China really promoting stability in Tibet? So, 
now, the question of stability is something--I can define how 
China looks at stability, how the Tibetans look at stability.
    Now, for the Chinese, when they say stability, it means 
when the Tibetans don't protest, when Tibetans don't create any 
problems, when they say everything's okay, everyone's happy. So 
that's what stability--I guess that's what they will 
    But for the Tibetans, stability is very different because 
what we say is, Tibetans need a share in economic activities, 
Tibetans need a role in maintaining the Tibetan culture, they 
want a say in political issues.
    So these are two different definitions of stability. So I 
just want to ask to all panel members, if they can address 
whether really China managed to promote stability in Tibet?
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Can one of you take that question?
    Mr. Smith. Yes. The stability question, that's the question 
of this roundtable. I think the assumption is that stability 
can't be created without autonomy. I think it's just the 
opposite. I think the Chinese have decided that autonomy is the 
problem. They have history to back them up on this. They 
allowed a little bit of autonomy in the policy in 1957, and 
they believe that led to the revolt in 1959. They had a policy 
of allowing a little autonomy in the 1980s, and they believe 
that led to the demonstrations and riots from 1987 to 1989.
    They see that autonomy allows for some Tibet culture, all 
of which is connected to Tibetan national identity and all of 
which eventuates in Tibetan separatism. So they see autonomy as 
something that they can't have. For China, stability does not 
mean making Tibetans happy. I don't think they care a bit about 
whether or not Tibetans are happy. What they want, is access to 
the Tibetan territory and they think they can create stability 
by means of repression, by denial of autonomy, and ultimately 
by economic development, which is facilitated by, and supports, 
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thanks.
    Todd Stein, please? Do you want your professional 
affiliation--International Campaign for Tibet--used.
    Mr. Stein. Thanks, Charlotte.
    My question is for Dr. Sperling. You have criticized U.S. 
policy for seeing Tibet too much as a religious freedom issue 
and not recognizing enough the underlying forces. The dialogue 
that has been going on for the last six years has sort of been 
deemed a dead end, if I can say that, by the commentators, 
certainly by the Chinese officials who made clear it is back at 
square one.
    In the final paragraph of your statement, you say that the 
State Department, Secretary Clinton, should commit to a 
forceful human rights agenda and continue to make the Chinese 
uncomfortable about the abuses going on there.
    I wondered if not focusing enough on the nationalist 
aspect, which is another way to stay focused on Tibet as a 
political issue, is that recommendation for Secretary Clinton 
sufficient to address the political issue? If the dialogue as 
currently constructed should not be pursued, how does U.S. 
policy address in the medium term, let's say, or even short 
term, the underlying nationalist causes of the unrest?
    Mr. Sperling. All that I'm saying--and again, I want to 
stress this--it is the policy of the Dalai Lama, most 
importantly, to keep Tibet as a part of China, and therefore 
that is the policy of the U.S. Government. So all I am saying 
is, with regard to these nationalist sentiments, that Tibetans 
have every right to express them peacefully.
    When Tibetans express those sentiments peacefully and are 
detained, arrested, imprisoned, and certainly tortured, the 
U.S. Government must speak out forcefully against that at every 
opportunity. I am looking at things that can be done which I 
think are feasible, because all too often we make demands--and, 
you know, these are very serious issues--we make demands that 
something be done, and as a result, our political leaders then 
make threats on which they are simply unwilling to follow 
through. I think what I am saying is just a basic prescription, 
in line with our own principles, that we need to follow.
    Now, if you are asking, is that going to accomplish 
anything, I think China is actually very sensitive and remains 
very sensitive to foreign criticism, and has gone to great 
lengths to counter it. In fact, the sort of arguments you get 
about Tibet now sometimes seem actually rather highly emotional 
and almost irrational in that sense, and I think they reflect 
China's discomfort over the Tibet issue. I think this is 
something that we can certainly work with.
    Mr. Stein. Thank you. If I may just very quickly follow up, 
yesterday the statement from the White House said that 
President Obama had--well, I don't have it. It basically cited 
the lack of progress in the dialogue with the representatives 
of the Dalai Lama. Do you see that as still within the confines 
of the dialogue, but do you see, given that it was with the 
foreign minister, see that as causing at least a sufficient 
level of discomfort in the current environment?
    Mr. Sperling. I'm somewhat torn about that, because I think 
that the dialogue process has basically been used as a sop. In 
other words, whenever you get criticism like that, generally in 
response to it--and we have seen this over the last two years--
there's some sort of meeting. The Tibetans, ever hopeful, often 
come out at the end of the meeting saying, well, it was very 
good because we got to express our opinions, or something along 
those lines: ``We made our views very clear, we had an 
understanding of where they stand, where we stand, and this is 
all very good.'' But this has been going on for 30 years.
    So I think in terms of being aware that there is a terrible 
situation in Tibet, that's fine, but it's not enough. The 
dialogue process itself, again, as I said, has been used by 
China as a means of forestalling such criticism. So when there 
is this criticism, then there will be a meeting and everybody 
will say, ``We are very glad that China is meeting with the 
Dalai Lama's representatives,'' and then nothing happens, and 
another year, and another year goes by and the Dalai Lama gets 
older--there is an awareness of the Dalai Lama's health 
problems--and China simply bides its time.
    As I said before, if I were a member of the Chinese 
Government, I would think that was a great policy. 
Unfortunately, the Tibetans--the Tibet government in exile, 
that is--have also gone along and tried to pin their hopes on 
this dialogue process. I think they have over-sold it, so in a 
sense they are partly the authors of this problem as well.
    That's where I think you have this shock on the part of 
people who have listened to the Dalai Lama's March 10 statement 
who say, ``Well, this is so different from what we've heard 
before.'' I think there's a realization at least on the part of 
some people in the Dalai Lama's exile administration, that 
they've been led down a rosy path.
    Mr. Stein. Thank you.
    Mr. Sperling. Sure.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Rules are made to be broken. Tseten 
Wangchuk wants to add something.
    Mr. Wangchuk. I just want to mention two things. First, in 
a way, I agree with Professor Sperling that China has an 
overall strategy to wait the Dalai Lama out, to keep talking to 
the Tibetan representatives, and just drag out the timeline. 
But as we know here in Washington, politics have never been 
very clear and clean, and the process is always complicated. 
The impacts are very complicated and complex.
    As soon as the Chinese invited the Dalai Lama's 
representative to Beijing in 2008, I think the impact inside of 
Tibet, domestically, was huge. The Chinese Government knows 
that, too. In some ways the fact that the Dalai Lama's 
representative came to Beijing, no matter what they were 
talking about, even if they were not talking about anything, it 
still sent out a message to Tibet--and particularly to the 
Tibetan Party cadres who work for the Chinese Government.
    Before that, the Chinese Government had clarity on policy. 
As soon as the government was talking to the Dalai Lama's 
representative, no matter what they were talking about, the 
Tibetan cadres lost their clout, and they knew that. They 
calculated those things. So it's much more complex than whether 
someone is cheating, or whether someone is so naive that they 
didn't understand at all.
    Another thing, a point for the U.S. Government, and I say 
this for a lot of people. I, myself, always say this to people. 
We are always asking the Chinese Government to talk to the 
Dalai Lama. Talk to the Dalai Lama. This is very important. The 
U.S. Government has to encourage that. If there is a way, then 
encourage the Chinese Government to listen to the Tibetans 
inside Tibet. The 
Tibetans are supposed to be China's citizens. But right now, 
the government criminalizes Tibetans' grievances, criminalizes 
their requests. Tibetans are not allowed to say anything. This 
is the cause of the core problem. I think that if the Chinese 
Government would listen to the Tibetans inside Tibet, they 
would find that Tibetans have legitimate grievances, legitimate 
reasons to say these things.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you.
    Yes, sir. Can you stand up, please? Can you come to the--
I'm sorry. It's just hard to hear you.
    Audience Participant. As a historian, where does, in your 
view, old Tibet actually fit into contemporary Tibetan national 
consciousness, and how, if at all, might we see that expressed 
in resisting the Serf 's Emancipation Day?
    Mr. Wangchuk. You mean, Tibet as a whole?
    Audience Participant. Well, I guess you haven't used the 
term Tibetan national consciousness, Mr. Sperling has.
    Mr. Wangchuk. Yes.
    Audience Participant. So, I understand. I might be 
directing this to the wrong person. But if you do envision 
something like that----
    Mr. Wangchuk. Okay. Yes. I grew up in Tibet. Strangely 
enough, I must say that a few years ago when I went back, I 
found the sense of Tibetanness is really much stronger than 
ever before, at least stronger than I have ever seen. I think, 
in some ways, the Chinese Government is responsible for that. 
They've identified all of us Tibetans--you have to sign your 
name, you have to identify yourself as a Tibetan. Tibetans may 
have different dialects, and some of the dialects--we don't 
understand each other. But now Tibetans really have a sense of 
    Another thing is that, finally, in the past couple of 
hundred years, there is a sense of ``pan-Tibetan.'' We've 
always had this religion, this pan-Tibetan religious sense of 
being Tibetan. But now there's a popular culture with songs, 
music, and everything. This has happened because of DVDs, 
because of the I-Pod, because of the cell phone, and all those 
things. They have really connected all the Tibetans together. 
Before, you couldn't go to places on the edge of Tibet, like 
Tung Ding, which is where my father came from 100 years ago--
and I know that place--but you can go there now and see these 
people are starting to build Tibetan buildings, listening to 
Tibetan songs from Lhasa or Qinghai. I think this is much 
stronger than ever before.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. That's very interesting.
    Doug, did you want to ask something?
    Mr. Grob. I'd just like to follow up on one point you 
mentioned, but direct the question to Professor Smith because 
it ties in with something that he said earlier. Two parts. On 
the dialogue, we have not really dug into the dynamics on the 
other side. If you could comment on the role of the United 
Front Work Department, and also on what role the politics 
between the central- versus local-level departments may play in 
creating a particular dialogue dynamic, that would be 
illuminating because I think that showed through a bit, at 
least in our reading of the protests, last year.
    In a more general sense, all of our panelists implicitly 
have hinted at a second question. The title of this roundtable 
incorporates the question ``Is China promoting stability in 
Tibet? '' I wonder if some of your comments suggest, rather, 
that the core question should be, ``Does China intend to 
promote stability in Tibet? '' In other words, from the Chinese 
Government and Party's perspective, is there some ``optimal'' 
level of instability, in the way that we hear economists 
sometimes speak of an ``optimal'' level of unemployment?
    Mr. Smith. I think China has always had a strategy for 
creating stability in Tibet, but it hasn't involved autonomy. 
Autonomy in Marxist theory and then Chinese Communist practice 
has always been a temporary tactic until you can achieve 
control, and then you begin an assimilative process.
    Mao actually said openly to Tibetans that Tibet had 
territory and resources, China had people, and this seemed to 
him to be the ingredients for a swap that would be mutually 
advantageous. He said, you give us your territory and your 
resources and we will give you our people. He said this openly 
in meetings with Tibetans in the 1950s. Without any 
consciousness that Tibetans might not think that was a good 
deal. So that's always been the Chinese consciousness about 
    I think now they tried autonomy a few times. It didn't 
work. They always intended that Tibet should be integrated and 
assimilated. It's just taking much longer than they imagined 
because Tibetan identity is much stronger than they imagined. 
But they have always had the solution. It's the traditional 
frontier solution in Chinese politics, and that is, first you 
create colonies and you establish local potentates as your 
rulers that you actually control, and then you begin a system 
of colonization and assimilation.
    The Tibetans are one-half of 1 percent of the Chinese 
population, but their territory is 20 or 25 percent. I think 
that 20 percent figure is much more important to the Chinese 
than that one-half of 1 percent. They have the ability to 
create stability in Tibet by means of repression and they have 
the people to achieve the ultimate solution, which is 
colonization. I think that was always the plan. It's not a new 
plan that's come up because of Tibet resistance, it's just 
Tibet resistance has delayed that plan.
    And as for the United Front and whatever their strategy is, 
what you read now, coming out of the Chinese spokespersons, is 
that their new offensive--I think Todd from ICT should--this is 
directed at you, that you should understand that China has 
mounted a new offensive on Tibet. They have completely changed 
their policy on Tibet. They think that they have countered the 
Tibetan offense. They have pretended to dialogue and it has 
worked, and now they are going on the offensive.
    So I think you cannot back off on your policy of promoting 
dialogue because that's the Dalai Lama's policy, but you're 
going to have to try to counter China's new offensive to try to 
prevent any meetings with the Dalai Lama, and it won't be 
directed first at the United States. It was directed first at 
Germany, and then at France. But the word is out that you will 
pay a very heavy price. They will first exact this price from 
European countries and other countries, and the United States 
will be the last country they try this tactic on, and you'd 
better see it coming.
    Audience Participant. [Off microphone] [Inaudible].
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Matt Nelson from Senator Feinstein's 
office, and then we'll go to you.
    Mr. Nelson. Warren, as the person that has said that 
basically--and you just said it again--the shift in policy 
should be toward a more defensive posture, what does that mean 
for Congress, and specifically the framework that Congress has 
enacted, the Tibet Policy Act? Doesn't it need to be updated? 
If so, how would you propose that it needs to be updated?
    Mr. Smith. That's a question for Todd and the ICT. I don't 
know. It's going to be difficult to resist this kind of 
coercion. In my paper, I said it depends upon the economics, 
how dependent this country is upon China for economic reasons, 
how bad the financial crisis becomes and how much China is 
affected by it. I think you just have to hold the line, in that 
we will not be coerced. We have the right to meet with the 
Dalai Lama. But you can see, it's going to be very difficult to 
do. I mean, it's only last year when George Bush presented the 
Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. That was the first 
official meeting. The same thing happened in Germany. It was 
the first time that the Dalai Lama was received officially.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Not officially. Publicly seen with 
    Mr. Smith. Okay. And before when the Dalai Lama was met in 
the White House, they did what they called ``the drop-by.'' He 
was received by the Vice President, and then the President 
would drop by, or some such arrangement. I think you will see a 
tendency to go back to that kind of thing. Just like Sarkozy 
did when the Dalai Lama was in France in August and Sarkozy 
didn't meet with him then. He sent his wife to meet with him. 
He only met with him later in Poland, thinking that this would 
be okay. Well, it wasn't okay. So you're going to see countries 
trying to do this.
    There was a really positive movement by several countries. 
Canada gave him honorary citizenship. There was a strong 
movement of countries to receive him at a much higher level 
than ever before. China did not fail to notice this. They first 
singled out Germany for economic sanctions and favored France. 
Then France fell afoul and then they singled out France for 
sanctions and gave advantages to Germany. So, they are going to 
play this kind of strategy. I think you are just going to have 
to really try to hold the line on, we have the right to meet 
with the Dalai Lama officially, but there's going to be a price 
to pay.
    Audience Participant. Can I just follow up and say that 
this--for the congressional staff and administration people in 
the room, His Holiness is coming to Washington in October. So, 
put that on your radar screen for how he's received.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. When there's cohesion among parliaments, 
inter-parliamentary coordination, when governments, the 
European Union, the United States, talk to each other about 
these issues, the more likely they are to stand firm.
    Mr. Smith. That is exactly why they singled out just one 
country, they singled out Germany first and then France, 
because they know they can't take on everyone.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Right.
    Mr. Smith. They made France pay such a price.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. What was the price though, seriously?
    Mr. Smith. Well, it's hard to know.
     What you read from the Chinese press now, is now they 
think they have more power than before.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Right.
    Mr. Smith. They think they have the advantage. They think 
they will survive this economic crisis because of their 
different political system. They will survive better than we 
will. So they really think that now is the time, and they 
really have more ability to coerce than ever before.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. I'm sorry. Then we'll close with you, 
sir. But Elliot, do you want to just jump in? Then we'll----
    Mr. Sperling. Okay. Just very briefly. They know that they 
have the advantage. They feel that after the successful 
Olympics, after the attention that is being shown to China in 
the wake of the global financial crisis--and again, I would 
refer back to Secretary of State Clinton's remarks--they have 
the leverage and they are coordinating their policies toward 
various countries together. This is not haphazard, one country 
at a time. Warren is absolutely right, this is very well 
thought through.
    What might be optimal, but I don't know if this is a 
possibility, is for the United States and members of the 
European Union and other countries that are susceptible to this 
to have talks at some level. This is not major, but talks at 
some level aimed toward coordinating responsive policies as 
well, because this is going to be an issue that is going to be 
brought up to all of them. So I think some sort of coordination 
is useful. If I may say so, as a public advocacy organization, 
ICT does have offices in various parts of the world and perhaps 
this might be something that it could put on its agenda.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Todd, I think you should leave the room 
because you've got a lot of work to do. [Laughter.]
    Mr. Sperling. But it should be coordinated. I don't know if 
that's feasible.
    Mr. Stein. Coordinated.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Todd, you've got a lot of work to do. 
Excuse me. Thank you.
    Mr. Tannen.  I'm Sean Tannen. I'm with the APF News Agency, 
a journalist. I wanted to get your perspective on the events of 
this past week, the Chinese foreign minister comment on the 
congressional resolution on Tibet, and the meeting with Obama, 
and the foreign minister. This question might be directed best 
toward Dr. Sperling. Is this also in the history of what you 
see as empty gestures, empty threats on the part of the United 
States, trying to get Tibet on the radar screen or to try to 
pressure China on that? And what is the sense you get from the 
administration vis-a-vis Tibet? Has there been a change from 
the last administration?
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Thank you. Did they hear the question? 
You want me to repeat it real fast?
    Mr. Sperling. Yes. No, no.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Oh, you got it? Okay.
    Mr. Sperling. I don't think that there were any specific 
threats that were made, so I don't see empty threats here. 
These are expressions of sentiment more than anything else. 
Just very briefly, in terms of where the administration is, I 
was somewhat puzzled by the way in which the State Department 
statement came out. It seemed to have been released at a very 
odd hour and not given much publicity.
    So I'm starting to wonder if any real work within the 
Department of State on the Tibet issue has taken place and if 
people are not at the moment just trying to tread water until 
they get something in place. We don't have a coordinator for 
Tibetan affairs and I don't think we even have an assistant 
secretary for DRL, for Democracy, Rights, and Labor, yet. So I 
think this is all very preliminary at the moment, and I'm 
hesitant to say anything definitive about it.
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. As you mentioned, the DRL position hasn't 
been filled. The special coordinator for Tibet hasn't been 
filled. So, I agree with you.
    Mr. Sperling. I think they're looking for somebody who's 
paid their taxes. [Laughter.]
    Ms. Oldham-Moore. Good luck in this town. It's a hard 
challenge to pass the Administration's very vigorous vetting 
    Thank you so much for coming. On behalf of Senator Dorgan, 
who is Chairman of the Commission, I am very grateful to you 
all for joining us, and to Steve Marshall, for putting this 
roundtable together. You did a fabulous job.
    The Commission's reporting on Tibet will continue over the 
month. On March 26, the Serf 's Emancipation Day, we will 
continue to post analysis on our Web site, as well as the 
transcript from this roundtable. We appreciate your joining us, 
and we hope to see you again. We'll have another roundtable the 
first week of April. Thank you.
    [Whereupon, at 11:31 a.m. the roundtable was concluded.]
                            A P P E N D I X


                          Prepared Statements


                 Prepared Statement of Elliot Sperling

                             march 13, 2009
    I would like, at the outset, to express my gratitude to the 
Congressional-Executive Commission on China for inviting me to appear 
before you today. I have addressed this commission before on the basis 
of my work on Tibet's history and Tibet's historical and contemporary 
relations with China. In addition to serving on the faculty of the 
Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and I have 
also served as a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee 
on Religious Freedom Abroad (1996-1999).
    Over the last several weeks there has been a buildup of tension in 
Tibet, set against the background of Chinese security measures meant to 
maintain order and stability. The question before this hearing is 
whether or not China has established stability in Tibet. The short 
answer is at this moment by and large yes. But that needs to be 
qualified by pointing out that the stability in question has been 
established at the cost of imposing an effective lockdown on Tibet, as 
some observers have termed it. In addition to the ongoing detention, 
according to Human Rights Watch, of hundreds of prisoners who have been 
held since last year, we have reports this year of monasteries 
blockaded and internet and cell phone use cut over large areas of the 
Tibetan Plateau. The security presence in Tibetan areas is reportedly 
high and very visible. So yes, there is stability, but at the price of 
severe security measures and a population subject in places to severe 
restrictions on movement and communication.
    Part of the measures designed to secure Tibet are also related to 
the imposition of political education, inside and outside monasteries, 
meant to reaffirm China's narrative of Tibet's historical place within 
the Chinese state. This is tied to the fact that discontent in Tibet 
inevitably centers on the legitimacy of China's presence there. The 
fact that March 10, which Tibetans observe as an effective national 
day, is the day on which massive protests began last year (and which 
was the targeted day for the lockdown this year), with protestors 
commonly using the forbidden Tibetan flag as their symbol, attest to 
the nationalist content of Tibetan resentments and grievances. This is 
not to downplay the other areas of repression; but it is to assert 
something that this commission should bear in mind. The U.S. Government 
often likes to view the Tibet issue as largely one of religious or 
cultural freedom. While there are certainly religious and cultural 
issues at play, there needs to be some acknowledgement of the 
underlying nationalist sentiment. We may wish the Tibetans were saying 
something else, but they're not, and if we wish to understand what's 
going on in Tibet we need to pay attention to what they are saying.
    The Tibetan sentiments I've described need to be seen as a 
rejection of China's decades-long efforts to control the interpretation 
of Tibet's history, asserting both for domestic and foreign audiences 
that Tibet has been a part of China since the 13th century without 
break, and that claiming otherwise is a distortion of Tibetan history. 
But the distortion lies elsewhere: Chinese writers did not make such 
claims until after the 1950s. The general trend in the first half of 
the 20th century was actually to claim Tibet only since the 18th 
century. But more to the point, those claims were not that Tibet had 
been an integral part of China, but rather that it had been a vassal 
state; i.e., a subject state within an empire. It's hardly surprising, 
that Tibetans view the end that China put to Tibet's independence as an 
act of unprovoked aggression. At a minimum we too have to acknowledge 
that history contradicts modern Chinese assertions.
    Given these facts, we may better understand that we are now seeing 
a contest over historical time in Tibet. Last month we saw a struggle 
over celebration and commemoration vis-a-vis Tibetan New Year. A mass 
movement to demonstrate respect and mourning for those who lost their 
lives in the protests a year ago by not celebrating the New Year (which 
fell this year on February 25), rippled successfully across the Tibetan 
Plateau and the Tibetan exile community. China tried to cajole and 
force celebrations, but largely without success.
    Now March is with us, and the struggle is between the Tibetan 
adherence to marking March 10 as a national day (which is precisely 
what precipitated the mass demonstrations and protests last year) and 
China's determination to purge the month of any such significance by 
instituting instead a new holiday: March 28, Serfs Emancipation Day. 
There is no doubt that March 10, which came and went three days ago, 
was stifled, with tremendous effort by the Chinese authorities. But the 
manner in which it was done must certainly have nurtured further 
resentments and grievances. Indeed, the arrests and deaths of Tibetans 
in previous March 10 incidents (including last year's) only serve to 
strengthen the resonance of the struggle that the date represents and 
link later generations to the history of March 10, 1959. As for the new 
holiday, there is no question that it will only be realized by coercive 
government dictate.
    The creation of this new holiday is relevant to our understanding 
of the collapse of talks between The Dalai Lama's representatives and 
the Chinese government in November. Many understood that those talks 
were long-doomed; meant only to drag on until the Dalai Lama's death, 
when China would select its own Dalai Lama and, so it believes, resolve 
the Tibet issue. After these last talks ended the Tibetan delegates 
returned to India, vowing to make no statement before a Special Meeting 
convened in Dharamsala. But there was no need for them to speak. Within 
days, their Chinese counterparts held a press conference and said the 
talks had gone nowhere. They rejected any compromise with the Dalai 
Lama on any of his proposals about the nature of autonomy within Tibet 
and stated that, while the door was open for him to return, he would 
have to recognize the errors of his ways. After almost thirty years of 
contacts China signaled that they had never advanced beyond square one.
    Significantly, in 1981 Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang 
asserted to the Dalai Lama's brother, Gyalo Thondup, that ``There 
should be no more quibbling about past history, namely the events of 
1959. Let us disregard and forget this.'' And in its dealings with the 
Dalai Lama's exile government China operated under that premise. 
China's decision to recognize and commemorate March 28, 1959 as Serfs 
Emancipation Day put 1959 back on the table and signaled that the talks 
really are at a dead-end. But that was already clear.
    So what might the United States do in these circumstances? We are 
all aware of Secretary of State Clinton's February 21st statement that 
human rights concerns about China ``can't interfere with the global 
economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security 
crisis,'' While such comments are unhelpful, the feckless policies and 
empty threats over Tibet that have been made in the past are the real 
problem. Under Bill Clinton, revocation of Most Favored Nation trade 
status (or PNTR) was periodically threatened to no effect, while George 
Bush, for his part would not even make the symbolic gesture of skipping 
the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
    The fact is, Secretary of State Clinton simply articulated the real 
nature of U.S.-China policy. The Obama administration certainly cannot 
be expected to act on the nationalist sentiments of Tibetans, 
especially when the Dalai Lama's and U.S. policy has long been to 
recognize Tibet as a part of China. The Secretary of State could 
continue making the empty gestures of advocating simple religious 
freedom and urging more talks; or she could adopt the cynical position 
advocated by Nicolas Kristoff, that Tibetans should accept one-party 
Communist rule and some sort of ``cultural autonomy,'' leaving 
democratic aspirations out of the picture. These two options are hardly 
    What she and the administration absolutely mustn't do is add to the 
history of empty threats over Tibet. But they can address Chinese 
abuses in Tibet in every reasonable forum, strongly and without 
apology. Secretary of State Clinton can make China deservedly 
uncomfortable without the unrealistic threats; but she has to commit to 
a forceful human rights agenda. She should not fool herself that the 
issue is simply a religious one. She has to understand what it is that 
motivates Tibetan protest, and even though the administration might 
wish Tibetan aspirations were not nationalist in nature, it must 
support, in absolute terms, the right of Tibetans to voice their 
aspirations peacefully. These are things she can do. Or, she can 
reiterate once more, if anyone didn't hear it the first time, that 
human rights in China will not be treated seriously until the crises in 
global warming, finance and security are solved.

                 Prepared Statement of Warren W. Smith

                             march 13, 2009
    The Tibetan revolt that culminated in Lhasa on 10 March 1959 began 
in eastern Tibet in 1956 in response to China's so-called Democratic 
Reforms instituted there but not in Central Tibet. The Lhasa revolt 
resulted in the flight of the Dalai Lama on 17 March 1959 and China's 
dissolution by proclamation of the former Tibetan Government on 28 
March. On 31 March the Chinese organized a ``spontaneous 
demonstration'' of Tibetans in Lhasa to condemn the revolt and to 
support the ``people's government.'' Similar rallies ``spontaneously'' 
occurred at several other places in Tibet at the same time and 
expressed unanimous themes of condemnation of the rebels and support 
for the PLA. ``Patriotic and progressive'' Tibetans parroted CCP 
slogans emphasizing the class rather than national nature of the revolt 
and the interests of Tibetans in preserving their ``national unity'' 
within China. Also praised were the forbearance of the people's 
government in tolerating, against the actual wishes of the people, the 
upper strata's opposition to social reform, and the PLA's restraint in 
quelling the revolt.
    These rallies were intended to counteract the popular 
demonstrations in Lhasa accompanying the revolt, particularly the 
organization of a ``People's Assembly'' on 10 March that had declared 
Tibet's independence and a ``Women's March'' on the 12th. ``Democratic 
Reforms,'' by means of which the Tibetan serfs were supposedly 
emancipated, were not initiated until July. Nevertheless, the Chinese 
Government has decided to celebrate 28 March, the date that the 
``Tibetan local government'' was dissolved, as ``Serf Emancipation 
Day.'' The fact that 28 March was chosen, rather than 2 July, the day 
that the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region 
announced the Democratic Reforms, indicates that Serf Emancipation Day 
is intended as counter-propaganda to the uprising of 2008, as the 31 
March 1959 demonstrations were counter-propaganda to the uprising of 
    Serf Emancipation Day was announced as a celebration intended to 
``strengthen Tibetans' patriotism and expose the Dalai clique.'' The 
Democratic Reform by which the serfs were supposedly emancipated was 
said to be ``the people's revolutionary movement, in which the Party 
led the one million Tibetan serfs to topple the dark rule of the serf 
owner class.'' The emancipation of the Tibetan serfs was also equated 
with the emancipation of the slaves during the American Civil War. 
Other commentaries hailed the liberation of the Tibetan serfs as ``a 
milestone in the world history of human rights.'' The event was put 
into the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which 
says, ``All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and 
rights.'' By recalling the past and comparing it with the present 
Tibetans were supposed to see ``a sharp contrast between the evil 
history of old Tibet when the human rights were trampled on and today 
when every one is entitled to equal rights.'' The celebration was 
preceded by many testimonies by former serfs as well as other 
propaganda, including a film on the suffering of the serfs and an 
exhibition in Beijing intended to show ``the darkness andbackwardness 
of old Tibet and the development and progress of new Tibet in a 
touching and tremendously convincing display.''
    Such propaganda has long been a prominent part of Chinese policy on 
Tibet. Some of the most notorious examples of this type of propaganda 
are the famous film, Serf, and the museum exhibit in Lhasa, ``The Wrath 
of the Serfs.'' The Serf film, produced by a PLA film company in the 
1960s, paints a dark picture of suffering serfs before liberation by 
the PLA, whom they supposedly called the ``Army of Bodhisattvas.'' It 
was shown all over China and had a significant influence on Chinese 
audiences in the formation of their opinions about Tibet and the 
Chinese role there. It was in many cases the only source for many 
Chinese in forming their impressions about Tibet.
    The ``Wrath of the Serfs'' museum exhibit was created in Lhasa in 
the early 1970s by Chinese art students. It contained a series of 106 
life-like clay sculptures of serfs in all of their sufferings. The 
exhibit lasted only until the reform period began in 1979, but during 
the 1970's it was required viewing for all Tibetan school children. 
There were smaller museums in other places, particularly in the former 
dungeon of the Potala, the old Lhasa jail and at several former manor 
houses in rural areas. All had examples of torture implements used on 
the serfs and photos of serfs and beggars in poor condition. Another 
propaganda tactic was the public recitations of former serfs of their 
sufferings. Some former serfs, their stories suitably elaborated, 
became semi-professional performers who were taken around to almost all 
Tibetan villages and towns.
    The popularity of the evils of the serf system theme for the 
Chinese is explained by the fact that it obscures the other issue of 
Tibet, the political issue of the legitimacy of Chinese rule over 
Tibet. China claims that there is no such political issue, Tibet having 
``always'' been a part of China. The popularity of the serf issue for 
the Chinese is not only because it obscures the political issue but 
because it is one of the fundamental tenets of Communist liberation 
ideology. Marx held that economic conditions determined political 
consciousness, or, in other words, that class issues were predominant 
over national issues and proletarian internationalism would prevail 
over nationalism.
    In the PRC the class theory of nationalism was taken to the point 
that a slogan, attributed to Mao, ``the national issue is in essence a 
class issue,'' characterized the most leftist periods of PRC history 
and the periods when assimilation of nationalities was most openly 
pursued. According to this ideology the interests of the working class 
of any nationality should reside with the multinational proletariat 
rather than with its own exploitative upper class. In Tibet, the serfs 
should identify with their liberators, the Chinese workers represented 
by the CCP, rather than with their own aristocracy, feudal government 
or religious establishment. The Chinese Communists seem to have 
imagined that this would really happen, that the Tibetan serfs would 
support the CCP in overthrowing their own ruling class. Some former 
serfs who were elevated to high positions without power did so. 
However, the failure of the ``Tibetan masses'' to support the Chinese 
was obscured with propaganda that they actually did. Thus, in regard to 
the suppression of the revolt and institution of ``Democratic 
Reforms,'' Chinese propaganda claims that this was all done by the 
Tibetans themselves who had ``stood on their own feet'' and achieved 
    Where the Chinese Communists miscalculated was in underestimating 
the strength and persistence of Tibetan culture and national identity. 
The Communists' ideology told them that nationalism was a phenomenon of 
a former period of history that would be superseded by the advent of 
Socialism. They believed that their nationality policies, perfected by 
Lenin and Stalin, would defuse nationalities' resistance until they 
could be seduced by the attractions of Chinese culture and the 
advantages of the socialist system. And they had a typically Chinese 
chauvinistic opinion of Tibetan culture, which they regarded as really 
no culture at all. They therefore had little understanding why any 
Tibetans would want to retain or preserve their ``barbaric'' culture, 
and they could imagine no reason for the persistence of Tibetan 
national identity or nationalism except as manipulated by foreign 
influences. China miscalculated the ease with which it would be able to 
annex and assimilate Tibet. Propaganda was used both to promote 
assimilation and to conceal its failures.
    In order to justify the ideology that foreign rule is preferable to 
self-rule by its own upper class, the Tibetan ``feudal serf system'' 
has to be portrayed in the worst light. Thus, Chinese propaganda 
resorts to the most negative depictions of the ``Hell on Earth'' that 
they claim was old Tibet before ``liberation.'' Chinese propaganda 
depicts the sufferings of the ``serfs and slaves'' as unrestricted by 
any rules or traditions and unrestrained by any religious morality or 
human compassion. Chinese depictions of the absolute evils of old Tibet 
are so fantastic as to be preposterous. Certainly they do no accord 
with an image of Tibet consistent with the ideals of Buddhism or with 
the accounts of those travelers who reached Tibet before 1950. Several 
foreigners undertook heroic and lifelong attempts to visit Tibet and 
those who were successful usually wrote accounts of their travels. In 
none of these is Tibet pictured as the ``Hell on Earth'' of Chinese 
    The Italian scholar and Buddhist, Guiseppi Tucci, travelled 
thousands of miles, mostly on foot, across Tibet during eight visits 
between 1927 and 1948. During this period almost no Chinese travelled 
so extensively in Tibet. Tucci was the founder of Tibetan academic 
studies and is uniquely qualified to comment on what Tibet was like 
before the Chinese invasion. He wrote:

          On a likely estimate, 30 percent of the landed property 
        belonged to the state, 40 percent to the monasteries, and the 
        rest to the nobility. Usually, the relation between the 
        landlord and his dependents was fairly humane. Caste did not 
        exist in Tibet, and in religion all found that equality which 
        poverty or social customs denied them. Monastery life was open 
        to all, and even if the love of all living creatures and the 
        spirit of sacrifice for the suffering, inculcated by Buddhism, 
        remained generally theoretical, a fundamental humanity governed 
        social relations throughout the country.

    Chinese depictions of the events of March 1959 are similarly 
distorted for propaganda purposes. The Tibetan revolt was not a 
``revolt of serf owners,'' who were against reforms. In Central Tibet 
the reform program had been postponed by Mao in 1957; therefore, the 
serf-owners had no reason to revolt at that particular time. The 
Tibetan serfs were not demanding ``Democratic Reforms'' nor did they 
rise up in revolt against the feudal serf system. Democratic Reforms 
were also not what the Chinese claimed. The main principles of 
democratic reforms were redistribution of wealth and class divisions 
leading to class struggle. Redistribution of wealth involved the 
division of feudal estates, with the serfs acquiring title to the land. 
Class divisions and class struggle were intended to liberate the serfs' 
mentality from the class oppression of the feudal system. However, the 
lands the serfs acquired were soon confiscated again under the rubric 
of ``socialist transformation'' and collectivization. Class divisions 
and class struggle were employed to identify and repress all opponents 
to Chinese control. Tibetans were forced to endure intensive 
investigative processes to ascertain their loyalties and opinions and 
they had to denounce each other as exploiters or reactionaries or 
counterrevolutionaries, which allowed the Chinese to turn Tibetans 
against each other and to identify those willing to cooperate and those 
less than willing. It was this repressive aspect that was revealed by 
the CCP's characterization of Democratic Reforms as part of the 
repression of the revolt and Tibetan resistance.
    An aspect of the redistribution of wealth during Democratic Reforms 
was that all property now theoretically belonged to ``the people.'' 
Tibetans were told that ``the people'' were Han and Tibetan without 
distinction. Thus Tibetans had to support the Han in Tibet.Tibetans 
also had to support the people in other provinces who were suffering 
from famine due to the Great Leap Forward of 1959-61. Grain was 
exported from Tibet even though thousands of Tibetans also died of 
starvation at this time, as was described by the Panchen Lama in 1962 
in his petition to the Chinese leaders. One of the most culturally 
destructive effects of Democratic Reforms was also the result of the 
``redistribution of wealth'' principle. In the three years of 
Democratic Reforms almost all temples and monasteries were closed. Some 
were closed due to their participation in or support of the revolt. 
Many monks and nuns fled to India, further depopulating the 
monasteries. Virtually all of the remaining monks were forced to 
secularize under the ``freedom of religion'' aspect of Democratic 
Reforms, meaning that monks and nuns whom the Chinese claimed had been 
forced into a religious life now had the freedom to leave.
    As monasteries were depopulated and closed they were systematically 
looted by Chinese state agencies. The most valuable artifacts were 
identified by art experts and metallurgists in advance. Then, the 
relics of each monastery were removed and trucked to China. The most 
valuable articles were taken first and then all articles of metal were 
taken to China where they were melted down. Many of the most precious 
and valuable Tibetan sculptures and paintings disappeared, only some of 
which ultimately reappeared on the international art market. All of 
this was justified according to the principle of redistribution of 
wealth to all of the people. The wealth of Tibet belonged not just to 
the Tibetan people, for whom it was the expression of their national 
culture, but to all the Chinese people, of whom Tibetans were claimed 
to be a part. The Chinese Communist Party claimed that it represented 
the people; therefore, it felt justified in confiscating the wealth of 
Tibet for its own purposes. Under the rubric of Democratic Reforms, 
Tibet's national wealth was looted for the benefit of the Chinese state 
and Tibet's culture was irreparably damaged. The magnitude of this 
disaster for Tibetan culture was increased because of the fact that 
almost all Tibetan artistic and cultural expression was devoted to 
Buddhist art; Tibetan cultural wealth and wisdom was devoted to 
Buddhist scholasticism, all of which was destroyed.
    Far from being the emancipation of the Tibetan serfs, Democratic 
Reforms were the means by which the Chinese enforced their control over 
Tibet, identified and repressed any opponents and significantly 
destroyed the symbols of Tibetan culture and national identity. Now 
China insists that Tibetans must celebrate the day that their self-
constituted government was dissolved as the day of their emancipation, 
and it will use all its coercive powers to make them do so.
    China's declaration and celebration of a ``Serf Emancipation Day'' 
is, like many aspects of Chinese policy in Tibet, intended for 
propaganda purposes, both to ``educate'' Tibetans and to propagandize 
the outside world. The class theme of China's justifications for its 
rule over Tibet has become the most fundamental of its arguments. It is 
China's denial of Tibetan self-determination that the class argument is 
employed to obscure. If Tibet before ``liberation'' can be depicted as 
an orgy of suffering, then perhaps Chinese rule can be justified. 
However, in order to achieve this, the evils of old Tibet have to be 
exaggerated to the point of absurdity. No society could have been as 
awful as Tibet is portrayed by the Chinese. And no one but the Chinese, 
few if any of whom had any knowledge of Tibet before 1950, describes it 
in this way. The Chinese motive in denigrating Tibetan society in such 
terms is obviously to justify the ``liberation'' of Tibet and the 
imposition of Chinese rule over a non-Chinese people. This is China's 
favorite argument because it obscures the real issue and it is founded 
upon real inequalities in old Tibetan society. If China can confine the 
argument to the question of what old Tibet was really like then China 
thinks it can win the debate about Tibet.
          china's current policy and new diplomatic offensive
    China's current policy on Tibet, as invariably expressed by its 
officials and spokespersons, is that Tibet is not an issue of ``human 
rights, ethnicity or religion,'' but rather a fundamental issue of 
China's sovereignty over Tibet. What this means is that China does not 
believe that the Dalai Lama has really given up independence. The Dalai 
Lama's Middle Path policy, by accepting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, 
assumes that other issues of Tibetan autonomy, like human rights, 
ethnicity and religion, can then be discussed. However, the Chinese 
maintain that the Dalai Lama really wants independence or ``semi-
independence'' or ``independence in disguise.'' His proposal for 
``genuine autonomy'' and a ``greater Tibetan autonomous region'' are 
the means by which he denies Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and intends 
to eventually seek Tibetan independence under the principle of national 
self-determination. China says that Tibetans already have autonomy 
based upon their ethnicity and they have human rights and freedom of 
religion; therefore, these are not subjects for discussion. These 
issues have already been resolved by Tibet's ``liberation'' and 
``democratic reforms.''
    What the Dalai Lama really wants, then, is the restoration of the 
feudal serf system and his own rule. What China does not want is any 
real autonomy in Tibet, under the Dalai Lama or not, because autonomy 
would allow for the survival of Tibetan culture and national identity 
upon which Tibetan separatism is based. China's experience has been 
that whenever it has allowed even minimal autonomy it has led to a 
revival of Tibetan separatism. China believes that its retrenchment 
policy in 1957 led to the 1959 revolt and its liberalization during the 
1980s led to the riots of 1987-89. In contrast to foreign critics who 
wonder why China does not realize that autonomy is in China's best 
interest, and that only autonomy can create real stability in Tibet, 
China knows that autonomy is not in its best interest. China knows that 
autonomy only creates instability and therefore cannot be allowed. 
China cannot allow the existence of a separate nationalentity within 
its national territory. The solution to the Tibet issue is not autonomy 
but the traditional Chinese solution of repression of Tibetan national 
identity and economic development accompanied by colonization.
    China has clearly indicated that it will not dialogue with the 
Dalai Lama about Tibetan autonomy. The March 2008 uprising produced 
international pressure on China to dialogue, which it pretended to do 
in May and July. This was sufficient to defuse threats of some 
international leaders to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony. Since 
then, after another meeting with the Dalai Lama's representatives in 
November, Chinese officials have scornfully rejected any dialogue about 
Tibetan autonomy and chastised the Tibetans for bringing up the same 
issues that had been rejected since the early 1980s. China clearly 
imagines that it won the propaganda battle about Tibet that began in 
March and it has since begun an unprecedented diplomatic offensive.
    This offensive is based upon the belief that Western countries do 
not really care about Tibet and are only exploiting a non-existent 
issue in order to denigrate China and prevent its rise to its rightful 
status as a great world power. Since Western countries do not really 
care about Tibet, and anyhow they do not really know the ``truth'' 
about Tibet, these countries will not jeopardize their diplomatic and 
economic relations with China for the sake of Tibet. Tibet has always 
been an issue of extreme sensitivity for China, perhaps even more 
sensitive than Taiwan because it involves the question of Chinese rule 
over a non-Chinese people. However, the uprising of 2008 and the 
protests against the Olympic torch relay aroused a strongly 
nationalistic reaction among the Chinese government and people. In the 
past, China has often imagined that the Tibet issue was resolved and 
has reacted with surprise when Tibetans reveal that they are still not 
reconciled to Chinese rule and that they still revere the Dalai Lama. 
They were surprised again in 2008. The difference this time is that 
China feels it has the economic and political clout to mount an 
offensive of its own to coerce international acceptance of its position 
on Tibet.
    China has always reacted strongly to the Dalai Lama's international 
travels and world leaders' meetings with him. However, it has typically 
made angry statements about ``hurting the feelings of the Chinese 
people'' but has not allowed any such incidents to damage its relations 
with other countries. This situation began to change in 2007 when 
several important countries' leaders, including those of Austria, 
Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States met with him 
officially for the first time. In the United States he was awarded the 
Congressional Gold Medal and in Canada he was made an honorary citizen. 
China singled out Germany for economic pressure and demanded that 
Germany apologize in order to restore good relations.
    France was the next subject of China's ire after French President 
Sarkozy threatened to boycott the Olympic opening and Paris was the 
site of one of the worst protests against the Olympic torch. Sarkozy 
declined to meet with the Dalai Lama in August when the Dalai Lama was 
in France, but he did so in November at a meeting of Nobel Prize 
winners in Poland. Sarkozy perhaps thought a meeting in another country 
on the sidelines of a meeting with a different purpose might not be too 
offensive to the Chinese. However, China reacted in an unprecedented 
manner, canceling an already scheduled and important economic summit 
with European leaders.
    China's cancellation of the European meeting may in the future be 
seen to have been the first move in its new offensive on Tibet. 
Tibetans and their Western supporters thought that the 2008 uprising 
put them on the offensive. But China's belief that it won the 
subsequent propaganda battle and that its successful Olympics marked 
its emergence onto the world stage as a new economic and political 
power apparently convinced the Chinese leaders that they could take a 
more aggressive position on Tibet. China now seems to be willing to 
demand that other countries adhere to its position on Tibet at the risk 
of damaging their good relations with China. The financial crisis in 
the United States and other capitalist countries has also seemed to 
give China the impression that its own economic and political system is 
superior and that it can be more demanding in its international 
relations. The manifestation of this new attitude has been new demands 
that its critics cease their complaints about Tibet.
    Recent articles in the Chinese press have suggested that not only 
must other countries not criticize China about Tibet but they must 
revise their beliefs about the issue. This is very typical of the 
Chinese political and cultural mentality. It reflects a type of thought 
control that is a characteristic of Chinese political history and a 
specialty of Communist regimes. China now feels that it is in a 
position to demand international conformity to its version of the 
reality of Tibet, much like the ideological conformity the CCP demands 
of the Chinese people. The precedent for this new strategy is China's 
coercion of almost all countries in the world to adhere to its ``One 
China'' policy in regard to Taiwan. China often interprets the ``One 
China'' policy to apply to Tibet and demands statements from other 
countries of recognition that Tibet is an inseparable part of China. 
China's recent propaganda indicates that it will similarly require 
conformity to its view on Tibet as a price for good relations and it 
will use its political and economic power to enforce this demand.
    A 5 March China Daily article was explicit about China's strategy 
to coerce conformity in regard to Tibet:

          Some Westerners long harboring ill intentions toward China 
        have taken advantage of the Tibet issue in an attempt to force 
        their misconceptions upon China. It is known that the Tibet 
        issue is in essence not an issue of ethnicity, religion or 
        human rights, but one of several Western infringements on 
        China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and core national 
        interests. Western nations should recognize that Tibet is an 
        inalienable part of China and stop interfering if they want to 
        remain on good terms with China. . . .
          Relations between China and the rest of the world have 
        experienced a historic transition. China's development is now 
        tied to the world's, while the rest of the world also needs 
        greater cooperation with China. It is impossible for any 
        Western country to not interact with China. However, it is 
        impossible for the West to cooperate with China unless it 
        develops an objective and unbiased stance on Tibet.

    Another China Daily article on 12 March called on China to develop 
its own diplomatic doctrine. The ``China Doctrine'' would make clear to 
the world that China claims the right to have its own say in the 
international community. The world should be made clear about what are 
China's core interests and bottom lines. The article said that the 
world did not yet understand that Tibet was one of China's core 
interests. It quoted Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's statement that 
China would make it a core interest that other countries not interfere 
in China's internal affairs by entertaining the Dalai Lama. At a news 
conference summarizing diplomatic achievements in the past year, Yang's 
countenance was said to have ``suddenly stiffened'' when he urged the 
international community ``to not allow the Dalai Lama to visit their 
countries'' and ``to not allow him to use their territories to separate 
Tibet from China.'' Refusing visitations by the Dalai Lama should 
become one of the ``basic norms of international relations'' of any 
country cultivating ties with China, Yang said, ``clinching his hand 
into a fist.'' Clearly, China Daily said, the foreign minister was 
``erecting a post'' to delineate its bottom line on Tibet, as a part of 
its diplomatic doctrine.
    China was successful in its campaign to coerce conformity to the 
``One China'' policy, often from countries for which this policy had 
little or no meaning. Now, it clearly imagines that this is also the 
solution to the Tibet issue, an issue the existence of which it denies 
except as invented and exploited by ``hostile Western forces.'' China 
believes that its international critics have no real interest in Tibet 
and will abandon the issue if the alternative is bad relations with 
China. The tone of the new White Paper on Democratic Reforms and much 
of recent Chinese propaganda reveals a confidence that China now has 
sufficient economic and political power to coerce international 
conformity to its position on Tibet. China perhaps expects that it will 
not be too many years before it will have representatives of Western 
countries at its annual celebrations of ``Serf Emancipation Day.''
    China has gone on the offensive about Tibet. Western countries 
previously supportive of Tibet may be vulnerable to China's coercion. 
Much will depend upon the future ``correlation of forces,'' as the 
Soviets used to say, especially on the economic front. China has 
resisted the offensive mounted by Tibetans and their supporters to 
convince it to dialogue with the Dalai Lama. China has countered with 
its own offensive, and supporters of Tibet may have to go on the 
defensive to oppose China's coercive strategy. China has said clearly 
and bluntly that it will not dialogue with the Dalai Lama about Tibetan 
autonomy. It has openly revealed its new strategy on Tibet. Tibet's 
supporters, including those in the United States, may have to 
contemplate a shift in their own strategy from the futile attempt to 
put pressure on China to dialogue to a defense against China's new 
diplomatic offensive.

10 March 2009

    Any opinions expressed in this statement are those of the author 
and not of Radio Free Asia.