T!betans the world over are coming together in Dharmsala this week to discuss how to proceed in their dealings with the Chinese government. The meetings have taken on greater significance for two reasons, following the March riots in T!bet the calls for independence (and even violence) among some T!betans are louder than ever, and beyond that there is the pressing question of who will take over after the DL (abbreviated to avoid the Great Firewall).
The major issue is what comes after the DL? I talked about this a little in March after the riots and I still think this is critically important. If the T!betans hope to reach any kind of agreement with the Chinese government, it must happen while the DL is still in power. If they fail to do so, it's going to be a lot harder than they thought, why?
One thought is that the Chinese are convinced once the DL is out of the picture, they'll be able to name his successor and be able to slowly placate those who are in T!bet. Another possible line of thinking is that the DL is such a strong symbol of T!bet, a Nobel Prize winner famous the world over, but his successor won't be able to cultivate the same strong cult of celebrity.
The Chinese can be equally confident they don't need to be concerned about radical T!betan youth attempting to push for independence. As long as the DL is alive, the majority of T!betans will follow his "middle way" path, which was confirmed by their decision at the conference. The funniest part of an NY Times article on the conference states:
An independence movement, he [Jamyang Norbu, a T!betan writer in the US] said, would unite the exile community, keep T!bet in the headlines and increase pressure on the Chinese government. Supporters would organize economic boycotts of China. Young T!betans in the West would go door to door explaining the cause.What? Economic boycotts of China will be impossible to organize except among some of the most ardent T!betans and some wacko leftists and will have no effect. They'll also fail miserably at getting much news coverage and creating any pressure on the Chinese. But the best part is the idea of monks going door to door in the US. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, the club of crazies, that's the club you want to join?!? I always pictured Tibetan buddhism as far more noble.
However, what's more laughable are the radical T!betans, basically terrorists, who are calling for violence against the Chinese. Not only does that go against everything they purportedly believe in as Buddhists, it will quickly get them denounced around the world, as well as quickly crushed by the Chinese.
An agreement must come while the DL is still alive, or else the Chinese will have little patience for negotiations. Without the DL, China will be under even less international pressure than the marginal pressure they're under now and they'll also be able to split the domestic T!betan community.