Reading Notes of “the Tibetan Government-in-Exile”

05 9月

Recently I have read the book the Tibetan Government-in-Exile by Stephanie Roemer, a Ph.D in Free University in Berlin. Besides the material in public domain, she also got access to Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala and interviewed several ministers/spokepersons of TGIE(now CTA).

The main thread of the book, is to use systematic theory of government in exile/exile organizations by Yossi Shain, to study and exlain TGIE. Shain’s theory has two folds: firstly, the relationship for exile organization to all its people, the insider, the outsider and the diaspora community; secondly, the internal arena for exile organization, the host and home countries of the exile, and while international community. I am not familiar with this but it is interesting to apply the general theory to TGIE in particular.

The book assemblies lots of facts and findings in the Tibetan in Exile community, which I am more interested in. Here are some of the reading notes:

In the very beginning of exile life, the traditional social stratification was still in existence. As Dawa Norbu remembered, “the sons and daughters of Tibetan aristocracy and wealthy Tibetans, studying in colleges of working around Darjeeling, did not come to help us. Perhaps they were ashamed of us”.

While GOI tried to scatter the Tibetans in different locations to discourage any unifying political activities initially, in practice, GOI gradually delegated authority over all settlements in India to the CTA under leadership of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Historically, Tibetan in exile community is not always peaceful without conflicts. In 1960s, Gyalo Thondup and his followers tried to strengthen and unified all exile Tibetans with similiar ideals as Chinese communists. Their plan consisted of three main points: confiscating of private money, neutralization of traditional Tibetan class differences and unification of all religious sects. Tibetans from Kham opposed the reform and setup a “13 settlements” organization, they also disagree the plan because traditional difference between eastern and central Tibetans. GOI interfered per request of CTA and stopped the reform. The leader of “13 settlements” was assassinated which is never solved, but believed the murder came from exile Tibetan community. Kham exiles even refused to pay the annual ‘voluntary freedom tax’ till 1980s. (David: the 16th Karmapa entered to similar conflict against 14th Dalai Lama’s plan to merge the four sects.)

After early-1980s contact between China and Dalai Lama, Chinese leadership invited 14th Dalai Lama to return for good, which he rejected in mid-1980s. (David: Chinese scholar Zhirong Zhang 张值荣 also recorded the event and blamed Dalai Lama to break promise and miss the opportunity.)

Until mid-1980s the CTA focused exclusively on an independent Tibet in the borders of Cholka Sum. In 1987 and 1988, Dalai Lama officially set autonomy instead of independence as a goal with “Five Point Peace Plan” and “Strasbourg Proposal”. Autonomy plus non-violence became the pillars of the famous “middle way”. But the CTA/Dalai Lama didn’t stick to middle way strictly, they adjusted it from time to time. In Sep 1991, the Strasbourg Proposal was withdrawn by a newly elected cabinet of the CTA and with the Dalai Lama’s approval because of a lack of ‘sincere commitment’ from PRC. According to Barry Sautman, in 1993, Dalai Lama focused again on an autonomous Tibet but at the same time he affirmed that an independent Tibet remained the goal. One year later, the exile Tibetan leader defined future Sino-Tibetan relations as federation, whereby China would be responsible for foreign affairs and defense. In 1995, CTA organized a referendum, showing 66% participants voted for “middle-way”; but the referendum is boycotted by TYC. Since then, middle-way became the official position in negotiation with China and campaign of the world.

The goal change generated considerable confusion among ordinary exile Tibetans. For the majority, the official change was not in line with the wish to free and return to the homeland asap. To overcome the dilemma, the exile political elite uses different languages. For instance, Dalai Lama uses the English when he talks about ‘autonomy’ and ‘federation’, while Tibetan is used for the term ‘independence’ (rangzen) (Sautman 2000). One interesting point, the ‘green book’, its Tibetan name is “rangzen lakhdeb” (independence/freedom tax).

In end of 1959, at the founding meeting of CTA in Bodh-Gaya, new officials showed their loyalty to the Dalai Lama through an oath of allegiance and a prayer for his long life. The vows contaned, for the first time, the Tibetan term Bo Cholka Sum(Tibet of three regions/provinces). Tsering Shakya (1999) wrote, “although “Bod Cholka-sum enjoys universal support among the exile community, it has no recent historical base and it is difficult to assess the extent of support it might enjoy inside Greater Tibet.”

Despite exile elite’s relative high education, they had only limited knowledge about political system apart from Tibetan and Chinese political systems. In the early year, the exile officials copied some forms of the Chinese political practice, such as monthly meeting of self-criticism. According to Jamyang Norbu, early Western travelers to Dharamsala who were mainly Hippies and considered Mao’s PRC to be a progressivie state also contributed to the implementation of communist ideology. Even a Tibetan dance and drama show was invented, which was also remembered by Norbu from Chinese propaganda.

While GOI and international aid organization tend to rely on CTA monopoly to deal with exile Tibetans, there are also a few cases that international authorities questioned CTA. Dawa Norbu mentioned the Swiss Red Cross and Canadian immigration authorities, sent their own officials to India to select Tibetans who were suitable to live in their countries. They refused to follow the recommendation of the CTA.

Western democratic concepts were introduced into the exile Tibetan political system by Dalai Lama on a top-down initiative. One issue in the exile political structure is the highly involvement of yabshi family(David: traditionaly, yabshi family sit in high political layer but didn’t involve in government politics) Lobsang Sangay reveled that in every cabinet between 1991 and 2001, at least one minister came from the Dalai Lama’s family.

In exile, the traditional aristocrat political elite gradually phased out in CTA. Now, even a peasant can become a official through his dedication to the exile Tibetan struggle, a fact that was, impossible in the traditional Tibetan context.

There are also discussion on non-violence concept, a large fraction of exile Tibetans considers the usage of violent acts to reach the final goal. In this regard, the CTA encountered considerable problems within the exile community. Later, the 14th Dalai Lama emphasized he will resign the moment the Tibetan freedom movement took a violent turn. (David: Tibetan Buddhism’s definition of violence is broader than general concept. For example, Dalai Lama in fact opposed the self-immolation, which is also regarded as violence.)

In the whole democratization process, exile Tibetans actually asked Dalai Lama repeatedly not to renounce his role (David: as we saw recently on his political retirement). In 1985, when Dalai Lama urged his compatriots in exile to discuss the issue of an elected Tibetan leader, no solution was found. When 1991 Charter was drafted and was proposed to limit Dalai Lama’s political power by himself, the redrafting committee resisted his appeal.

The book discussed the Anti-Fur campaign, and concluded: Because of the Dalai Lama’s divine personality, he is a unifying symbol for all Tibetans and remains an unquestioned leader, despite his present exile status. His authority underpins the legitimacy of the CTA as a continuation of the central government in Lhasa. (David: this gave a big question to current administration led by Lobsang Sangay).

In FY2003/2004, Dalai Lama private office granted 12.63% of annual CTA revenue; The annual voluntary contribution of all exile Tibetans took 28.07%. The largest fraction, 44.56% is from grants of the Tibetan cabinet, while there is no data about the sources and kinds or total amount of the cabinet revenues.

There are many Tibetans who live in better conditions than the local Indian and Nepali population. According to a study on exile Tibetans in northern India, 25.29% characterized themselves as previously very rich, 20.0% as rich, 40.0% as middle, 14.71% as lower middle, none thought of themselves as poor. (Grunfeld) Such economic self-perception causes a loss of credibility of the Tibetan plight among the host population but also among the Western visitors of the exile Tibetan communities.In this regard, the exile Tibetans fall theoretically victim to their wealth by not fitting into the anticipated picture of displaced people or refugees. This causes a certain degree of skepticism among Western visitors and agents regarding the demanded aid by the exile Tibetan community.

For FY 2003/2004, political related affairs is the biggest expenditure of CTA, or 33.05%, then administration 24.03%, education 14.86%, social welfare 12.62%. Health is only 6.53% and 3.83% is used on religious affairs.


Posted by 于 九月 5, 2011 in 雪狮与龙


One response to “Reading Notes of “the Tibetan Government-in-Exile”

  1. Boris Xiao

    九月 14, 2011 at 1:31 下午

    Now I have furthe runderstanding of the whole affair, a independent unified Tibet is the dream of His Holiness Dalai Lama, not the reality, and he already in a process to acheive it in several session of his life. During serfdom Tibet, the controversial interest from different part of tibetan area is the major headache for His Holiness Dalai Lama, and he have to rely on Qing government to balance in the past. When CCP come to power in 1949, His Holiness Dalai Lama first think CCP will help him in achieve this goal, even during the process to crack down the social structure in different Tibet Area, which before is the major obstacle, but soon he found CCP has their own plot. But now things is much more simplified, to achieve this dream only need to negotiate with Chinese government, all previous obstacles do not exist any more. Maybe the answer will rely on a vote from tibetan in Tibet and nearby perfecture, county.



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