‘A group of Tibetans were arrested in western China after public calls for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama’, the BBC Internet reports on 3 August 2007. ‘The incident took place on 1 August at a festival in Litang town in western Sichuan’, Radio Free Asia and the International Campaign for Tibet said. A local resident was arrested after asking festival-goers if they wanted the Dalai Lama back.
People protesting at his arrest were also detained. The crowd had gathered in what is a traditionally Tibetan area to attend horse races. The man Runggye Adak snatched a microphone from a Chinese official. He called for the Dalai Lama to return and for the Chinese authorities to free the Panchen Lama, the second holiest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, who has been detained by the Chinese authorities since 1995, when he was six years old.
There is reason to believe the story that the child was snatched by China. Websites such as ‘Free Tibet’ – www.freetibet.org – and ‘International Campaign for Tibet’ – www.savetibet.org – and elsewhere all report this. It is clear why the Chinese authorities would want to arrest the child and nip any and all dissent in the bud. Tibetans believe firmly that the Dalai Lama is the direct representative of God and the child (the Panchen Lama) has a similar status. The Dalai Lama is also the head of state. So any call for the return of the Dalai Lama is a call for independence. The Dalai Lama lives in exile in India, but the child was still in Tibet. If you don’t control the child, you can’t control the political situation and the Tibetan people would soon rise up.
So the question really is whether Tibet should be an independent country, yes or no. The answer is yes, because Tibet was illegally annexed by China in 1949. China’s claims that Tibet was part of China are flimsy and belong in the dustbin. Now, of course, we all know China is a military power ruling the people with an iron fist. There is no freedom of speech and there are no free multi-party elections. That is why China has been able to hold on to its claim for so long. Nobody dares to effectively challenge China on this. It would cause a World War and who wants that?
The Dalai Lama’s divine right to power
To a certain extent China holds on to Republican principles here. And in this respect they do have a point. Although we back Tibet in its quest for freedom and independence, the Dalai Lama holds on to the principle of the divine right of Kings to political power. This thinking in its pure form is at odds with democracy.
The concept of the divine right of kings (or priest-Kings such as the Dalai Lama) is still prevalent in a number of European countries as well, although it has to a large extent been undermined there. It was crushed by the French and American revolutions. So in this respect the US speaks with two tongues when it backs the Tibetan call for independence. Independence OK, but how about democracy?
Social Change by Peaceful Means
Now apparently the Dalai Lama has made up his mind to re-constitute Tibet as a constitutional monarchy (like Britain and the Netherlands). This constitutes a high degree of democracy, held on a thin leash by the divine King (or Queen as the case may be). A constitutional monarchy is a big improvement, if democracy is the standard (which for us it is). But it is not a Republican democracy. It is a credible first step on the road to full democracy.
However this may be, we have great respect for the patient and peaceful way the Dalai Lama is propagating independence for Tibet. Peace is the only possible way, both from a practical and a spiritual viewpoint. Any other way would only lead to massive bloodshed. It is practical, because nothing is permanent, except change. Opportunities will eventually present themselves. A just cause and faith has a lot of power of and by itself. Tibetans have both.
Our daily video is a peaceful protest by a Tibetan calling for independence near Mount Everest. Together with two friends they unfurl a banner reading: One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008. We applaud the peaceful nature of their protest and we agree that Tibet should be free. All countries should be free. China too.
We recommend our readers also to view the video: ‘Tibet. The Story of a Tragedy’ on youtube. It is a 55 minute video, but worth the effort.