August 11, 2011

Washington calls Beijing's bluff

August 10, 2011 10:18:47 PM

B Raman


The House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked the Obama Administration not to allow China to open any more Consulates till such time the US is allowed to open a Consulate in Lhasa. India should emulate this strategy as we have stronger reasons for a Consulate in Lhasa

The Chinese, who have already been annoyed by the meeting of US President Barack Obama with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House during the former’s recent visit to Washington, DC, have reasons to be further irritated and concerned over the directive on July 20 by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee to the Secretary of State that China should not be allowed to open any more Consulates in the US until Beijing allows the US to open a Consulate in Lhasa.

The Foreign Relations Authorisation Act Fiscal Year 2012 passed by the Committee said: “The Secretary shall seek to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, to provide services to United States citizens travelling in Tibet and to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet, including Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces and, until such consulate is established, shall not permit the establishment in the United States of any additional consulate of the People’s Republic of China.”

There is reportedly a pending request from the Chinese Foreign Office for permission to open Chinese Consulates at Atlanta and Boston. Now, these two may not materialise unless and until Beijing allows the US to open a Consulate at Lhasa.

India should emulate the US and should not allow Beijing to open any more Consulates in India until it permits India to open a Consulate in Lhasa. We have a much stronger case than the US for a Consulate in Lhasa.

Non-Governmental supporters of His Holiness in the US have organised an exhibition in the US to educate the public about the Panchen Lama. They also intend to start a movement to ensure that the Chinese do not disregard the Tibetan traditions in imposing their own Dalai Lama on the Tibetan people when His Holiness is no more. The Chinese interference in the traditional religious practices of the Tibetans in order to impose their own Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama on the Tibetan people could become an important issue in the future interactions between Washington and Beijing relating to Tibet and His Holiness.

While passing the resolution on a US Consulate in Lhasa, the House Foreign Affairs Committee also expressed serious concerns over the increasing suppression of religious freedom in Tibet and directed representatives of the US Government to call for a cessation of all interference by the Government of the People’s Republic of China in the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism during exchanges with officials of the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

The Panchen Lama nominated by the Chinese authorities after arresting the Panchen Lama selected by the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was to tour in Tibet during July to attend functions held in Tibet to mark the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. According to latest reports from Tibet, he did not undertake the tour which was deferred indefinitely without giving any reasons.

The Nepalese Police arrested on August 5, Thinley Lama, the new volunteer coordinator of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in Kathmandu, after he had held a news conference in which he called for the protection of the human rights of the Tibetan refugees living in Nepal. There has been intense pressure on the Nepalese Government by Beijing to ban what is projected as the anti-China activities of the refugees. In the first week of July, the Nepalese Police, under pressure from the Chinese Embassy, tried to prevent the refugees from celebrating the birthday of His Holiness. Thinley Lama is a Nepal resident and acts as the representative of His Holiness in Nepal.

Human Rights groups have condemned the action of the Nepal Police in detaining Thinley Lama and appealed to the international community to intervene to stop the persecution of Tibetan refugees by the Nepalese authorities under pressure from Beijing.

They allege that the Chinese Embassy has been more aggressive in urging Nepal to take action against Tibetan refugees since last month when a new Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Yang Houlan, assumed office. China says there are no Tibetan “refugees”, but only illegal immigrants.

It has been reported that as a quid pro quo for curbs on the activities of the refugees by the Nepalese authorities, Beijing has offered financial assistance for the development of the tourist infrastructure in Nepal, including for the development of the infrastructure at Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha.

In the meanwhile, reliable reports from Tibet say that the Chinese authorities refrained from taking any action against about 5,000 Tibetan monks, who defied the orders of the authorities and held a meeting at Lithang Gonchen in the Sichuan Province from July 15 to 24, for discussions to promote Tibetan cultural values and national unity. Initially, the Chinese authorities tried to prevent the meeting, but when the monks expressed their determination to go ahead with it, they did not intervene.

All the proceedings were held in the Tibetan language and all the participants were required to dress typically like Tibetans. There were discussions not only on religious, social and cultural issues, but also on the need to preserve the Tibetan language and the unity of Tibetans living in Tibet’s traditional three provinces of U-Tsang, Kham, and Amdo — all now occupied by China. The monastery of Lithang Gonchen, which hosted the meeting, had sent invitations to over 100 other monasteries — both in Kardze and in neighbouring prefectures — to take part. About a half of them participated.

Representatives also came from the Kirti monastery, in Kardze, from where about 300 defiant monks were arrested and moved to re-education camps in March this year following an incident of self-immolation by a young monk to protest against the Chinese rule. The Chinese have continued to reject requests from international human rights organisations for permission to visit the detained monks of the Kirti monastery.

-- The writer, a former senior officer of R&AW, is a strategic affairs commentator.

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