Sam Kay, Editorial Editor Emeritus

The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is visiting Miami University soon. The issue of the status of Tibet is an emotional issue for many Chinese, Tibetans and Westerners. You may feel threatened by his presence or be unwilling to listen to him. For the sake of the future of your country, I urge you to listen to what the Dalai Lama has to say and be willing to adjust your views of him and Tibet.

I studied in China for two months this summer, and I have an understanding of and appreciation for the Chinese viewpoint. I am currently studying alongside Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, India, so I am familiar with Tibetan views as well. I believe China and Tibet can have an amicable relationship beneficial to both peoples, but mutual understanding is desperately needed.

Centuries of conflict make discussion of Tibet highly contentious, so I will deal only with the present circumstances, in particular one undeniable fact — most Tibetans are not happy under Chinese rule. The Chinese government reasons this is due to the interference of malicious outside forces, the exiled Dalai Lama and his allies in the west. Given the extremely limited access the world has to the flow of information into or out of Tibet, this is highly unlikely. After 60 years of controlling the politics, economics, law and culture of Tibet, the Chinese central government and the communist party have failed to win over the hearts and minds of Tibetans. Even after decades of re-education and forced economic re-organization, the overwhelming majority of Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile do not identify themselves as Chinese and want some form of true autonomy or independence.

The Chinese government is currently carrying out the only policy it feels can pacify Tibet, massive migration of Han Chinese into ethnically Tibetan areas. In Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, Tibetans are already outnumbered. Infrastructure projects such as new roads and a railway linking Lhasa with Beijing, supposedly built for the benefit of Tibetans, are actually instruments of Tibetans’ cultural and linguistic undoing. Thousands of Chinese migrate to Tibet daily, leading to the degradation of Tibetan language, culture and religion. After suffering at the hands of imperialism for more than a century, China is doing much the same thing to Tibet.

China already plays a central role in the global economy. In the coming decades, Chinese influence will be felt more throughout the world. What kind of a superpower will China be and how will China be viewed by the world? Until it is resolved, the Tibet issue will continue to be a thorn in China’s side.

The bottom line is this: the Tibetan government in exile has abandoned calls for independence. Since the 1980s, the Dalai Lama has only called for autonomy for Tibet. He is willing to say Tibet will henceforth be a part of China and Tibet’s defense and foreign policy be conducted by the Chinese central government. If true autonomy is granted to Tibet and the Dalai Lama is able to return, the deep ill will felt by Tibetans will dissipate. Further destruction of culture, however, will alienate Tibetans and increase the animosity between Tibetans and Chinese.

Challenge your views. Analyze what you have been told by your leaders, teachers and parents. You have a duty to learn about the world and formulate your own opinions. Perhaps you would enjoy some of the freedoms and liberties being called for by Tibetans for yourself. With an open mind and critical thought, we can bring positive change to China. Be willing to stand up to authority and question accepted facts. Remember the words of Deng Xiaoping — be willing to “seek truth from facts.”