AS Tibetans across the globe marked the 56th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising of 1959 on 10 March, the Chinese government used its political and economic clout in neighbouring India and Nepal to keep the protests as low-key as possible.
Unlike previous years when the uprising anniversary was marked with protests, the Tibetan community in Kathmandu marked this year’s celebration with prayer and song after the Nepali government banned any gathering that could be ‘anti-China’.
‘Any activities against neighbouring countries by refugees will not be tolerated,’ said Ganesh KC, spokesperson for the Nepal Police.
In New Delhi, armed police officers broke up a protest, and detained around one hundred Tibetans for demonstrating outside the Chinese Embassy.
While India has historically allowed Tibetan refugees a political space within its territory, the Tibet issue has become a tricky situation for the government which sees China as an important economic partner.
Trade between India and China rose significantly in the past decade and is now valued at $70 billion. China is now India’s largest trading partner.
China’s growing economic and political presence has forced a number of countries, including the United States and South Africa, to shy away from inviting the Dalai Lama for an official visit.
Bucking this trend, a number of European leaders have continued to speak against the violation of human rights in Tibet.
On 6 March, former French Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, Vice President of the German Bundestag, Claudia Roth, and former Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, signed the Paris Declaration ‘On the Freedom Struggle of the Tibetan People’.
The document will be presented at ‘Europe Stands with Tibet’ march in Paris tomorrow (14 March).
A number of European leaders and the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile Lobsang Sangay are expected to attend the event.
Roth, who travelled to Dharamshala, India to take part in the 10 March protests, urged the Chinese government to resume dialogue with Tibetan authorities. She also backed the Dalai Lama’s ‘middle-way approach’.
In 2008, the Dalai Lama presented the Chinese Government with the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, which outlined the middle-way approach.
The proposal builds on the Dalai Lama’s two decade long stance for ‘high-level autonomy’ in ‘Greater Tibet’ within the framework of People’s Republic of China.
‘The envoys of the Dalai Lama are ready to engage in dialogue with their Chinese counterparts any time and any place,’ said Sangay at the rally on 10 March.
Talks between Tibetan leaders and China have been deadlocked since January 2010.
Any hopes for détente were dashed after Zhu Weiqun, head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body, asked the Dalai Lama to ‘forsake his evil ways and return to the good’.
‘We hope the Dalai Lama can abandon his separatist stance and his deceptive "middle way" approach,' said Weiqun on 11 March.
Relations between the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Chinese government suffered further setbacks after officials of the CPC called the Dalai Lama 'a blasphemer'.
The Dalai Lama, the 79-year-old spiritual leader of Tibet, had stated that he was against the continuation of the reincarnation system merely ‘for political ends’. He also hinted that his title could end with him.
Tibetan Buddhists believe the soul of a ‘Living Buddha’ is reborn after death of the Dalai Lama and gets transferred into a ‘soul boy’.
However, the Chinese government insists that the selected ‘soul boy’ must be approved by the central government in Beijing.
Padma Choling, the governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region and an ethnic Tibetan, accused the Dalai Lama of blasphemy for undermining the sacred tenets of reincarnation in traditional Tibetan Buddhism.
‘The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should follow strict historical conventions and required religious rituals of Tibetan Buddhism and should also be approved by the central government,' said Choling according to the state-sponsored Xinhua news agency.
Tibet’s struggle for freedom has reached a nadir. Even supporters in Europe now call for ‘regional autonomy’ rather than independence.
In an interview with the Xinhua, Maxime Vivas, French author of Dalai Lama: Not So Zen said that people in Europe do not understand the real issue in Tibet.
He said, ‘Tibet will never be independent. It is already an autonomous region of China, and it will enjoy more and more freedoms.’