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The real Tibet issue is the matter of “invasion”

By Sakai Nobuhiko,

The real Tibet issue is the matter of “invasion”
Sakai Nobuhiko, former professor of the University of Tokyo
What is the “Tibet issue”?
Early this March, a movement calling for independence was reignited in Tibet. It was the first large-scale protest in nearly twenty years — since 1989. In sync with worldwide demonstrations against the Olympic torch relay planned by the host of the 2008 Beijing Games, an old problem has attracted global attention, especially this time. In Japan the torch relay was conducted in Nagano, where quite a tumult was caused by the conflict between pro-Tibet protesters and a huge number of Chinese students mobilized from all over Japan to counter-demonstrate for China.
Thus, the Tibet problem has once again become a global issue. However, as one having been involved in the Tibet problem for many years, I cannot help but feel a grave concern about the way the issue is being addressed. I should point out that the Tibet problem is being discussed solely as a human rights issue and that almost everyone seems to believe its solution rests on dialogue between the Tibetan Government-in-exile and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.
Is the essence of the Tibet problem a human rights issue? Can the problem be solved through dialogue?
I would now like to frankly state my own views.
Clearly a Chinese invasion
The essence of the Tibet problem is not an issue of human rights violation, but issues of independence for the Tibetan people and the invasion by the Chinese. This is clearly seen if one objectively studies world history. As a rule of progress in world history, we have principles of self-determination and independence. According to these principles, after World War I, eight independent nations were simultaneously born, while many Asian and African countries became independent after World War II. Moreover, since the 1990s, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have dissolved and split, and many independent nations have thereupon emerged.
Essentially, Tibet is a nation with a history that is as old as Japan’s. Though there were times when Tibet became a part of large Chinese empires such as the Yuan and the Qing, their rule was extremely benign. Tibet was totally independent during the Republic of China period after the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. However, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China after the People’s Republic of China came into being at a time when wave after wave of national independence movements swept the
globe after World War II. The Tibetans fought against the Chinese invasion, only to lose 1.2 million people, one-fifth of its entire population. Furthermore, Tibetan Buddhist temples, the core of Tibetan culture, were plundered of their cultural assets and almost totally destroyed. If Chinese rule of Tibet is not an act of invasion, then there can be no such thing called “invasion” anywhere else on earth.
Interestingly enough, however, it was not by following Communist ideology that the Chinese invaded Tibet, as is often misunderstood. Sun Yat-sen, who established the Republic of China, made it clear that the ROC had inherited the entire land and territory of the Qing Empire, not allowing the Tibetans and Mongols to become independent, and thus created the plausible ideology that soundly justified the invasion. This is the nationalist doctrine that forms the basis of the famous “Three Principles of the People,” or more accurately, it should be referred to as “Chinese ethnocentric doctrine” or “Chinese invasion doctrine.” While the Chinese were ambitious enough to invade, they were not powerful enough to actually carry out the invasion.
The Dalai Lama’s policy of abandoning independence
One of the major reasons why the Tibet problem is totally misunderstood is the fact that the Dalai Lama’s attitude and stand on the Tibet problem have great effects on the issue. That is, his middle-of-the-road policy line: instead of seeking complete independence, he calls for “substantial autonomy,” and in order to bring about this autonomy, he will continue to negotiate with the Government of the People’s Republic of China through dialogue. World leaders as well as civilian pro-Tibet supporters fully agree on this policy. In my opinion, however, this middle-of-the-road policy of the Dalai Lama is totally wrong.
First, it is extremely odd that the abandonment of independence is linked with nonviolence principle. The Dalai Lama’s credo of nonviolence has a role model in, needless to say, Gandhi of India. It is true that Gandhi advocated nonviolence, but we must not forget the historical fact that Gandhi never gave up the idea of winning independence for India from Great Britain. If one learns anything from Gandhi, it is that one should stick with seeking independence until the very end. I feel that there are people who are intentionally referring to those who are against abandoning independence and trying to seek independence as a group of militants. Moreover, the Dalai Lama is often said to have firmly and consistently stood nonviolent, which is a sheer lie. Up to 1972, the United States backed the Tibetan guerrillas and the Dalai Lama himself approved the scheme.
Why, then, is the Dalai Lama’s policy of abandoning independence wrong? As long
as the essence of the Tibet problem is over the issue of national independence for the Tibetan people on one hand and the Chinese invasion on the other, to give up efforts for winning independence means to automatically accept the Chinese invasion. And this is fundamentally wrong in two important aspects. First, it is a complete breach of the principles of self-determination and independence as basic tenants of world history. Second, it justifies the Chinese invasion and enables further invasions. Not only that, it also acknowledges Chinese ethnocentrism and invasion strategy. If the crime of invasion committed by the Chinese were to be approved, we would certainly have to face a darker world with no justice and evil having everything its way.
The Dalai Lama’s misconception
In the first place, does the Dalai Lama, a single individual, have the right to decide the fate and future of the entire Tibetan people? Whether within the People’s Republic of China or from outside, what the Tibetan people truly want from the bottom of their hearts is nothing but independence. Considering the tragic history and harsh reality the Tibetan people have endured, there is not a shred of doubt about their long-cherished yearning for independence. To bury their sincere hope of independence under the pretext of blindly worshiping the Dalai Lama himself, this is utterly against democratic principle. It is not the Tibetan people alone that have suffered Chinese invasions. East Turkistan and south Mongolia have also been invaded and put under Chinese rule. If the Dalai Lama’s policy of abandoning independence should be realized, dreams of independence for the Uygurs and Mongols would be mercilessly crushed into pieces.
During the recent turmoil in Tibet, the Dalai Lama, having been decried as a demon by the People’s Republic of China, said that he was not a demon but a human. I surely agree with him. The Dalai Lama is not a demon but a human. However, the Dalai Lama’s being only human implies that he is neither God nor Buddha. So long as he is human, the Dalai Lama cannot be free from erring. His assertion of the middle-of-the-road policy, preferring to abandon independence, is surely a big mistake. The worship of the erring Dalai Lama as if he were an error-free saint of the day is nothing less than an utterly deplorable cult of personality.
Why, then, is the Dalai Lama making a wrong assertion? I think it is because the Dalai Lama has been acting in accordance with the intentions of European and American powers, and in this sense, the United States in particular. During these past twenty years, the United States and the People’s Republic of China have forged extremely close relationship, emphasizing good economic relations. Objectively speaking, it is highly unlikely that the United States will adopt policies toward China as 3
it once did in trying to contain the Soviet Union. America has not the least intention of waging war against China. In this apparently friendly atmosphere, the only prickle left and the biggest problem between the two countries is the Tibet issue.
As I mentioned earlier, the United States extended military assistance toward armed guerrillas in Tibet up until 1972. When President Nixon visited China, America promptly cut out such aid. Such was America’s past. The United States would like to see a soft-landing of the Tibet issue and to “solve” it noncommittally. A reflection of American intentions is the very middle-of-the-road line the Dalai Lama has been advocating: to abandon independence and call for solution through dialogue. Subsequently, the recent Tibetan uprising was loudly dealt with as a human rights issue, while the fact that the true nature of the Tibet problem lies in Tibetan independence and the Chinese invasion was most deliberately concealed.
Dialogue cannot solve it
The solution through dialogue is repeatedly and emphatically advocated: a dialogue to be held between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Tibetan Government–in-exile. How can it be possible to hold a meaningful dialogue between the two parties whose powers most widely differ? It is simply impossible. If you imagine the case of having a dialogue between an organized-crime gang and ordinary citizens, it is easy to see the difficulty. There have actually been rounds of dialogue between the two intermittently over the past twenty years, during which the Government of the People’s Republic of China would not take the Government of Tibet-in-exile as an equal partner.
If there is ever any solution possible through dialogue, the result will be nothing but unilateral obedience to the stronger by the weaker. However cunningly one may outwardly embellish and disguise it, this cannot be a true solution to the Tibet problem, and will only make the issue all the more vague, eventually disappearing. Then the world will in effect openly acknowledge the clear and indisputable Chinese invasion as just.
Incidentally, the American response to the recent Tibetan incident is surprisingly cool and indifferent to Tibet. President Bush made his comment on the matter only two weeks or so after the incident and he rarely referred to it afterwards. Instead, President Bush was very keen on attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. This kind of indifference is basically shared by most of the European powers. French President Sarkozy, who had been remarkably eager at first on the Tibet issue, is now faltering in making remarks. On the other hand, among the countries that clearly stated
that they would not attend the Olympic opening ceremony were Poland, Czech and Estonia. These countries were themselves victims of invasions committed by Germany, Austria, Russia and other powers. This very fact clearly indicates that the essence of the Tibet problem is the issue of ethnic national independence and invasion.
So, then, I cannot help but think it quite dubious to address the Tibet problem as a human rights issue, which is the popular view often expressed after the recent Tibetan incident. Are the United States and other European developed countries serious and eager enough to tackle worldwide human rights issues? Take the crackdown on the demonstrations calling for democracy in Myanmar last year, for instance. Immediately after the incident, European countries and the United States harshly condemned the military government. The United States went as far as having the First Lady play an active role. However, nothing followed the initial fuss and fever.
How about North Korea, with which Japan has the abduction problem yet to be solved? Without question, North Korea is among the most systematic violators of human rights in the world. Although the United States often voices eager cooperation to solve the abduction problem, it never places North Korea’s human rights violations on the agenda.
How can the Americans squarely tackle the human rights issue in the People’s Republic of China, while they are so reluctant to address the human rights issues in North Korea and Myanmar? In fact, immediately before the Tibetan incident broke out, the United States Department of State had ranked the People’s Republic of China “better than before” in terms of “the most systematic violators of human rights” in the 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, on account of improvements in the human rights situation in China.
Heavy responsibility rests upon America
Considering what I have just summed up, mainly regarding the Tibet problem, I must conclude that the world today has become quite corrupt and degenerate. Some may refute that I am too pessimistic to bear such groundless fear. But, I am very much worried that the sense of justice has become almost extinct in the present world. In contrast, it seems that the past was more sensible in having due respect for human values such as freedom and equality. Speaking of equality, this means minimizing the disparity between the rich and the poor in this world. However, in reality, the world is moving toward the opposite direction. In Japan, the difference between the haves and the have-nots is getting bigger and bigger, posing a serious national concern. This disparity phenomenon is taking place all over the world and not just in Japan. 5
Under these circumstances, the responsibility the United States should bear as the only superpower in the world is extremely heavy. It may be justifiable to think that the United States has produced the disastrous situation the world is now facing, rather than just as an onlooker who just sat and watched the world go by. Presently, all commodity prices are skyrocketing, from oil to food, and people are having a hard time throughout the world. Why, then, are prices going up so high? The answer is simple: there is just too much money. With the privilege of the standard currency, Uncle Sam will print more and more dollars for himself and randomly distribute them across the globe. Thus, surplus dollars finding nowhere else to go, cause drops in the value of the dollar and increases in prices. It’s a very simple principle. The American elites have become so selfish and self-centered that they just don’t care how much the rest of the world suffers, so long as they can secure what they want. President Bush himself was in the oil business, and so, I suppose, he is making a lot of money from the recent hyper-high oil prices. None of the governments of the European countries or the People’s Republic of China, let alone the Japanese Government, have expressed regrets toward the American way. There must be a kind of interest-sharing relationship between the elites of the U.S. and other countries.
The world today is clearly “confused.” It has plunged into the Dark Ages, with the sense of justice neglected, and the strong preying upon the weak.
Asia is left suffering without help
One can clearly see that the essence of the Tibet problem lies not in the human rights issue, but in ethnic independence, and that Tibet can perfectly claim legitimacy for its independence, when one looks back upon Japanese history. During the time when Japan called itself Imperial Japan, Korea and Taiwan were part of Japan. On March 1, 1919, the 3/1 pro-independence campaign occurred in Korea. It is said that the crackdown on the pro-independence campaign resulted in several thousand victims. What happened many times in the past in Tibet and what has just happened is the same phenomenon as the 3/1 incident, an uprising calling for independence. Unfortunately, however, those Japanese who are sincere and bent on reflecting, regretting and apologizing for past deeds are all the more friendly to China, turning a completely blind eye toward the Tibet problem, even as a human rights issue, let alone as a Chinese invasion issue. I feel it is doubtful whether these people, including organizations like Asahi Shimbunsha and Iwanami Shoten, and individuals like Kono Yohei (Speaker of House of Representatives) and Oe Kenzaburo (Nobel Prize winning novelist), rightly reflect Japan’s past. If they truly reflect and regret, then it is impossible to ignore the fact that
the Chinese, as invaders, have been brutally treating the Tibetan people. After all, they are complacent and intoxicated with moral vanity, feeling that they are conscientious people, indeed. This is nothing but hypocrisy. What is alarming is that this kind of hypocrisy is rampant among the leaders of our country and not just the leftist circles.
There is an important historical background leading to the 3/1 pro-independence movement in 1919. That is, the Paris Peace Conference was held the same year, concluded by the Versailles Treaty for the settlement of World War I. As I mentioned previously, following the principle of self-determination, eight independent states were born instantly in Eastern Europe. However, the principle of self-determination was not applied to Asia. Asia was discriminated against and ignored. In Beijing, under the regime of the Republic of China, on May 4 of that year, the 5/4 incident broke out for the same cause as the Korean 3/1 incident.
However, no one seems to pay much attention to the fact that the same historical contradiction that happened in 1919 is now taking place — history repeats itself, as they say. In Europe, in the early 1990s, the Soviet Union broke up to become more democratic, and subsequently Eastern Europe was also democratized. The Soviet Union broke apart into 15 independent states, while Czechoslovakia disintegrated to become the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Yugoslavia followed suit, forming 7 independent states. In spite of the drastic changes in Eastern Europe, East Asia was left out of the democratic movement and gained nothing from the collapse of the Cold War World system. The only exception is the case of Mongolia, which was a satellite of the Soviet Union and became a democratic republic. Other Asian Communist states like the People’s Republic of China, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Vietnam and Laos have survived the democratic wave, and, especially within the People’s Republic of China, many ethnic peoples have had no chance to realize their independence. After all, the advanced European countries and the United States have helped to make progress in Europe, which is their important turf, while they neglected the welfare of Asia. Surely, they use a double standard, and it is amazing what hypocrites they can be.
The next target is Japan
As I mentioned before, if the Dalai Lama’s middle-of-the-road policy leads to a solution of the Tibet problem, here a solution means to erase the problem, then it follows that the world is to acknowledge the actual invasion by the Chinese, completely ignoring the principle of progress in world history. At the same time, Sino-centrism is also to be allowed, which is none other than a cover for ethnic-cleansing and whose
horror is only equaled by Nazism. To European countries and the United States, this may be none of their business, for they are at geographically safe distances from China. But Japan, as a neighbor, cannot be free from China’s tremendous influence. Without any doubt, the Chinese will implement all-out invasion onto our soil. Tibet today, Japan tomorrow.
For that matter, mental invasions or invasions in the form of mental maneuvering have already reached final operation stages. The point was made perfectly clear by the Olympic torch relay in Nagano and Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Japan immediately after the Nagano incident. During the torch relay, many Japanese and Tibetan protesters were arrested, while none of the Chinese who actually resorted to violence were arrested. During President Hu Jintao’s visit, former Prime Minister Abe only once referred to the Tibet problem, all too briefly. These examples show that the attitudes of flattery and slave-like obedience toward the Chinese have been effectively forged among the leaders of our country.
The next step of the Chinese invasion of Japan is population influx. This trend has already started and will rapidly accelerate in volume. That is for sure. And Japan has been preparing to cope with it. Plans have been announced lately: a plan to establish the Immigration Agency and another plan to welcome 300,000 Chinese students to study in Japan, etc. Ultimately, China will militarily invade Japan to incorporate it into China. I can hardly guarantee that the United States will stand for Japan in the face of such Chinese aggression. In order to justify its invasion and annexation of Japan, China will incorporate the Japanese people or Yamato people as a Chinese ethnic minority group. I have been repeatedly ringing the bell of warning for more than fifteen years now, but alas, my warning has never been heeded.
If Japan wants no Chinese invasion and wants to survive as the land of the Japanese people, all that we must do is to fight against the Chinese invaders. To fight, I do no mean fighting with fists or exchanges of gunfire. Rather, it is an intellectual war and a war of speech. The Chinese have long been waging such wars of stealth against Japan with all of their might. Japan has never tried to fight back or even resist against the Chinese.
The Japanese people have done more than enough thinking and regretting the past and offered sincere apologies to the Chinese people. Japan has been providing economic aid in lieu of compensation. Now is the time to charge and condemn Chinese aggression. Invasion is not a domestic issue. It is clearly an international issue.
Recently, a documentary film entitled Yasukuni, directed by Li Ying, has attracted much public attention. Director Li stated in a full-page advertisement put in the evening
edition of the Asahi Shimbun of April 2, “It is an act of love to point out not only good things but also wrong things about the person. Let your heart speak eloquently and true friendship will grow.” Surely, our efforts will result in true Sino-Japanese friendship, that is, our efforts to stop the grave sin of aggressions the Chinese have been committing, as quickly as possible. To those feeble Japanese who are still reluctant to speak up, I would like to present the following encouraging words from Mao Zedong: “No quarrel ventured, no friendship gained.”
Note: First published in quarterly magazine Kokoro No.87, published in July 2008 in Japanese.