The China Daily on Friday published an article by Huo Wei, professor of Tibetology at Sichuan University, on the Dalai Lama's claim that he represents all the Tibetans. Following is the full text:
Why Dalai Lama can't represent all Tibetans
The debate on the Tibet issue is once again centered on the international and domestic media and public opinions abroad. Many reports and comments in the Western media, however, fail to grasp the basic facts and concepts of a nation such as China. Such baseless reports have created a misunderstanding about China and its Tibet autonomous region among Western readers and viewers. Thus it is necessary to clarify the basic facts on and about Tibet.
China has always been a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural civilization, and Tibet its integral part. Among the various ethnic groups that call China their home are the Hans and 55 ethnic minorities. So it's wrong for the West to regard only the Han people as Chinese. This is a distortion of basic facts, which in effect would leave the 55 minority groups without a homeland.
China has a history as a cosmopolitan society. Right from the days of dynastic rule, people from many ethnic, cultural, and religious groups have lived together as citizens of China irrespective of whether the emperors were ethnic Han, Mongolian or Manchurian. The dynasties and kingdoms founded by ethnic minorities, such as the Yuan dynasty of the Mongols and the Qing dynasty of the Manchus, were all Chinese authorities.
The Tibetan region came under the direct rule of the Chinese central government as early as the Yuan dynasty (AD 1271-1368). The Yuan rulers set up Xuan Zheng Yuan (Policy Annunciation Bureau) to administer the region. During Qing dynasty rule, the emperors sent a Tibetan minister to Tibet, who was in charge of financial, military and diplomatic affairs.
But the power of central government, or the imperial court, was not restricted to those affairs only. The reincarnations of the Dalai Lama had to be approved by the central government and only after that were they conferred the title and status. The emperor had the authority to reject the reincarnations if their authenticity was in doubt. This means that without the support of the imperial court, the Dalai Lama could not only lose the title, but also his power. In other words, the Dalai Lama was only as good as a local governor, appointed by the central government.
This evidence proves the power that the Tibetan local government exercised was granted by the central government and that it never had an independent status. After the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, the Tibet autonomous region remained a part of China and the Tibetan local government continued to depend on the central government. Hence, the so-called "Chinese invasion in Tibet in 1951" is a myth.
Another myth propagated by the Dalai Lama and circulated by the Western media is that the central government has been encouraging Han people to settle in Tibet. What they tend to forget is that in a multi-ethnic country like China, people of different ethnic groups have been living together since pre-historic times. Tibetans, like other ethnic groups, have been living alongside Han, Hui, Mongol as well as ethnic groups for ages. And if more people from other ethnic groups have been settling in Tibet in recent years, they are doing so out of their own free will - to seek jobs or run businesses - and have not been encouraged or coerced by the government to do so. This makes the Dalai Lama's demand that all Han and other non-Tibetan Chinese be expelled from Tibet ring hollow, for it's intended at driving away people from the region and is against the basic human right of freedom of movement within one's country.
People who know China's history are outraged at the Dalai Lama's assertion of a "Greater Tibet", which adds up to a quarter of China's territory and never existed. In fact, the Dalai Lama was always a local leader and used to run the administration only in the eastern half of what is the Tibet autonomous region (the other half was run by the Panchen Lama). The Dalai Lama had no jurisdiction over areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces where ethnic Tibetans are settled and which he claims are part of the so-called "Greater Tibet".
Some people in the West have taken the Dalai Lama's claim at face value and have wrongly accused the central government of carrying out "cultural genocide" in Tibet. This is ridiculous. Tibetan culture is part of the culture of China, and it has been well preserved. The central and the Tibet regional governments have done everything possible to maintain the distinct identity of Tibetan culture, protect its relics and heritage, promote the Tibetan language, and nurture local talents. The central leadership is proud of the multi-cultural identity of China and has always tried to preserve the distinct features of these cultures.
The problem is that the Western media generally sees the Dalai Lama as the spiritual and political leader of all ethnic Tibetans, which is against historical facts. Tibetan Buddhism is an amalgamation of several denominations, with the Dalai Lama being one of the two living Buddhas (the other being the Panchen Lama) of the Gelugpa sect, the largest among Tibetan Buddhists. This, coupled with the fact that he never ruled over all the areas where ethnic Tibetans are settled, makes him ineligible to represent the entire gamut of Tibetan Buddhism and ethnic Tibetans.
The Dalai Lama lives in exile. His followers in Dharamshala, India, come mainly from exiled upper-class lamas and aristocrats, and their descendants, who account for a tiny minority of Tibetan society. Before the 1959 democratic reform, the three major ruling classes - local administrative officials, aristocrats and upper-class monastery lamas -accounted for only 5 percent of Tibet's population. Hence, the Dalai Lama's support base is too narrow for him to proclaim himself as the "leader" of all ethnic Tibetans. We have to hear the voices of the liberated serfs, the vast majority in pre-1959 Tibet, and their descendants, who prefer to live peacefully with other ethnic groups in a prosperous and harmonious multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society that is China.
(Xinhua News Agency March 27, 2009)