Simple truths: the Resolve Tibet Act

Truth is the only antidote to lies. That is the heart of the bipartisan Resolve Tibet Act currently under consideration by Congress.

It is no secret that a hallmark of the People’s Republic of China is trafficking in falsehoods thus fulfilling a primary pillar of totalitarian regimes—not the control of facts per se but the erasure of the distinction between truth and lies. This is a defining element of totalitarian regimes because every inch of a society must serve the leader’s ideology and the political utility of the moment.

A proven tool to achieving this phenomenon is repetition. Today, this is an increasingly effective and efficient methodology in a global environment of rapid media cycles, social media networks, and China’s enormous capacity and investment in controlling physical and digital information flow. A deep analysis of Beijing’s internal and external use of propaganda is both beyond the scope of this piece and unnecessary. Like so many truths, the reality of China’s actions are irrefutable: transnational harassment, and an unrelenting and blatant denial of the facts.

The case of Tibet

China has spent seven decades erecting a bulwark of propaganda to hide the truth of its occupation and crimes against humanity in Tibet.

Beijing’s relentless disinformation and only argument for its occupation is that Tibet has been part of China’s domain since “antiquity,” making its invasion under Mao Zedong in 1950 a “liberation.” Here we witness an assertion so easily punctured as to be laughable. In fact, Chinese records, legal analysis and archaeological evidence confirm Beijing’s claims are counterfactual.

More than anything, however, common sense belies any such statement. Simply put, if Tibet had been owned by China since antiquity, why was it necessary to inflict the wave of destruction following its takeover? If the motive was freedom, why did 1.2 million human beings lose their lives? Why were thousands of monasteries demolished and plundered? Why were book burnings prevalent, nuns raped and citizens disappeared?

Perhaps most significantly, why are 6 million Tibetans still suffering in an open-air prison while crimes against humanity are regularly inflicted on the society at large? It would seem genuine “liberation” and subsequent “benevolent” rule would not require these mounting excesses.

This brings us to what the United States can do now to confront Beijing’s attempts to rewrite history, condemn its brutality and codify that US support of Tibet will never waiver until the facts on the ground demonstrate the cessation of acts so gruesome as to approach genocidal, and genuine self-determination for the Tibetan people is reached.

A first step is to remember the oft-cited adage that insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results. Currently, this seems to be the United States’ approach in a nutshell.

This is not to say that the United States is ignoring Tibet. That is not the case and should never be construed as such. The United States often has led the world in chastising China for its inhumane actions and led the way by passing its own important laws, including the Tibetan Policy and Support Act and the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.

That said, when it comes to countering Beijing’s long-term Tibet stratagem the United States must take the next logical step in bolstering its stance. Specifically, no longer allowing China to simply stonewall any attempt to cement a resolution by abandoning the negotiating table, as it did 13 years ago, leaving potential solutions on the cutting room floor.

We must recognize what China’s refusal to continue talks means. The PRC has telegraphed repeatedly that after the eventual passing of the current Dalai Lama, it intends to install a patently false, handpicked “Dalai Lama” it assumes it can control to serve its political agenda.

Certainly, such a possibility is as transparent as it is recognized. And through six presidential administrations, the United States has called upon China to resume dialogue with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Here we come to the crux of the matter and return to our famous adage.

China isn’t listening. It is time for the United States—and the global community—to respond accordingly. A starting point is busting China’s myth that “there is nothing to see here.” Which is what the Resolve Tibet Act is all about.

The Resolve Tibet Act

Introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, in the House and Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Todd Young, R-Ind., in the Senate, the bipartisan Resolve Tibet Act strikes at the core of China’s Tibet strategy in five main ways.

First, it states in unambiguous terms that the situation in Tibet is not yet resolved. This is self-evident, as no agreement between Tibetan leadership and the Chinese government has been reached. This is irrefutable because if an agreement were in place, Tibetan leadership would acknowledge it since negotiating a peaceful solution has been His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration’s stated goal for decades.

We must recognize that China’s waiting game is keyed to the passing of the current Dalai Lama. To counteract this, the global community must make crystal clear its policy is to protect the institution of the Dalai Lama and Tibetans’ right to freely choose their religious leaders, no matter what the particular circumstances.

Second, allowing any ambiguity in the United States policy position and how it is relayed to the public risks, at least partially validating Beijing’s relentless assertions that whatever happens in Tibet is “an internal matter” and any criticism is due to “outside agitators.” Once again, we encounter the totalitarian regime’s need to control all aspects of society—no matter what level of denial it requires. In the case of Tibet, clarifying that the United States does not consider the Tibet crisis settled will only underscore that not only is China’s strategy in Tibet unjustifiable, but its actions also violate international law, which clearly states that crimes against humanity must be condemned and efforts made to halt them wherever they occur.

Third, the legislation defines Tibetans as a people deserving of the human right to self-determination. In truth, this policy provision should never have to be put forward. Without doubt, the Tibetans have shared a common history, language, culture, religion, language and DNA for several thousand years. It is hardly tenable, therefore, to make any assertion otherwise. And once again, international law and basic ethics provide that a people have the right to define their future, i.e. self-determination.

Fourth, the legislation provides a new means to counter China’s lies by mandating that the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues actively refute propaganda regarding Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Considering the scale of China’s disinformation campaign and hypersensitivity to matters related to the Dalai Lama, this is yet another essential tool in combating Xi Jinping’s increasingly totalitarian methodologies.

Finally, the bill validates that Tibet’s boarders are defined by proven history, not the artificial carving up of an occupied sovereign state, a well-worn strategy of conquerors and colonialists to isolate communities and disrupt cultural continuity. Below is a map depicting historic Tibet and the segmentation imposed by China over the years. The conclusion is self-explanatory and reinforces the need to state clearly that the status of Tibet is far from resolved.

Tibet map


The point of this exercise is more than demonstrating the import and relevance of the Resolve Tibet Act to the future of Tibet, which is obvious. It also is a challenge to our elected leaders, from Congress to the administration to our international partners, to embrace the truth. Part of that is realizing that what is happening in Tibet is a microcosm of Xi Jinping’s totalitarian goals and transparent agenda to dismantle a world order based on democracy, human rights and free will.

Or in the words of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.”

In the end, it’s not very complex. The world must not permit the Xi Jinping regime to turn truth inside out. We cannot afford to imitate China’s cherry picking of what is and isn’t factual based on political expedience.

After all, the truth shouldn’t be so hard to say, should it?

A Look at the New Provincial Level Tibetan Leadership

Che Dalha and Lobsang Gyaltsen who have been “re-elected” to their posts in the Tibet Autonomous Region during the meetings in January.

Every year, the Chinese governance system mandates the holding of the meeting of the “Two Sessions” in the provincial level administrative divisions around this time. The two sessions are those of the People’s Congress (the local version of the National People’s Congress) and the People’s Political Consultative Conference (state-level Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, CPPCC).

In theory, the People’s Congress is the Parliament and sets the policy for the region while the PPCC is an advisory body. The People’s Congress appoints the administrative leader, who is the governor/chairman of the Region/Province. There is much fanfare about the “election”, including the usage of the “secret ballot” system, of new leadership by the two sessions. Spoiler alert: it is still the Chinese Communist Party that decides on who is elected or not, not to speak of the fact that the Party decides the overall policy in the region.

Be that as it may, the provincial level two sessions have been held, and this is an initial attempt to look at the outcome in terms of Tibetan personnel changes.

In Lhasa, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) People’s Congress took place from January 24 to 30, 2018, while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place between January 23 and 29, 2018. In Qinghai, the People’s Congress took place from January 25 to February 1, 2018, while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place between January 24 and 30, 2018. In Sichuan, the Provincial People’s Congress session took place from January 26 to February 1, 2018 while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place between January 24 and 29, 2018. In Gansu, the Provincial People’s Congress session took place from January 24 to 30, 2018 while the People’s Political Consultative Conference took place from January 23 to 29, 2018.

These meetings were in advance of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, scheduled to begin in Beijing on March 5 and 3, 2018 respectively. The Beijing sessions will also lead to the formation of the Government, including reappointment of Xi Jinping as the President.

To begin with, all four Tibetan members of the 19th Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee (full and alternate) obviously find a place in the new leadership line-up. While Lobsang Gyaltsen is re-elected chair of the TAR People’s Congress, Che Dalha is re-elected chair of the TAR Government. The two Alternate Members, Norbu Thondup and Yan Jinhai have become Vice Governors, of TAR and Qinghai Province governments respectively.

In terms of ethnicity of the elected leaders, the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region is a Tibetan and so are seven of the 14 vice chairs. The Chairman of the TAR People’s Congress is a Tibetan and so are six of the 13 vice chairs of the PC. The Chairman of the TAR People’s Political Consultative Conference is a Tibetan, as are 12 of the 15 vice chairs. In fact, Phakpalha, who has been re-elected, is the longest serving Tibetan official under the Chinese administration, having been serving as Chairman of the TAR PPCC intermittently since 1993.

In Qinghai, the Governor as well as the Chair of the People’s Congress of the Province are non-Tibetans, but one of the vice-governors and vice-chairs of the People’s Congress are Tibetan. The Chairman of the Qinghai People’s Political Consultative Conference is a Tibetan and there are three Tibetans among the nine vice chairs.

In Sichuan, one of the vice-governors is a Tibetan. It does not look like a Tibetan finds a place in the provincial PC and CPPCC standing committees.

In Gansu, two lamas have secured positions: one as a vice chair of the provincial PC and another as a vice chair of CPPCC standing committees. I am not able to see any Tibetan in the Gansu government leadership.

From the Yunnan list, it is not clear whether there are any Tibetans in the provincial leadership.

Overall, a majority of the leaders are those who have already been holding similar posts during the previous year, an indication that the Chinese authorities have stuck to the familiar and the trusted. The top three positions in the TAR (except for the Party Secretary, which is the highest) goes to the same Tibetans who were there last year. In Qinghai, Dorjee Rapten has taken over from fellow Tibetan Rinchen Gyal as the chair of the Political Consultative Conference. In Gansu, two prominent Tibetan lamas continue to maintain political positions.

It is interesting that Penpa Tashi does not seem to figure among the leadership in the Tibet Autonomous Region. He is a rising star, and was in the TAR Party Committee heading the Party Propaganda Department. He was also a vice chair of the TAR Government. I should say that his name continues to appear among “TAR leaders present” at public events even after the two sessions. In any case, it could be that he might move to a position in Beijing, a possible replacement to fellow Tibetan Sithar, who seems to have retired. Sithar was a Vice Minister in the Central United Front Works Department.

The new Leadership in the Tibetan areas

The following are the Tibetans who find a place in the government, the People’s Congress and the People’s Political Consultative Conference of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu.

Tibet Autonomous Region People’s Congress
Chairman: Lobsang Gyaltsen (Losang Jamcan)
Vice Chairmen: Dothok, (Duotuo); Tenzin Namgyal (Danzeng Langjie); Samding Dorje Phakmo Dechen Choden (Samding Dojepamo Deqenquzhen); Woeser; Chime Rigzin; and Nyima Tsering.

TAR Government
Chairman: Che Dalha (Qi zhala)
Vice Chairmen: Norbu Thondup; Chakra Lobsang Tenzin (Gyai’ra Losang Dainzin); Dorje Tsedup; Gyaltsen; Zhang Yanqing (former mayor of Lhasa); Luomei; and Jamphel

TAR People’s Political Consultative Conference
Chairman: Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal
Vice Chairmen: Tenkho (Danko); Drupkhang Thupten Khedup; Tsemonling Tenzin Thinley; Lobsang Gyurme; Zonglo Jampa Khedup; Salunphulak (monk); Sonam Rigzin (Suolan Reng zeng); Ngawang; Jigyon Ngapo; Sangye Dakpa; Dolker; and Tashi Dawa

Qinghai Government
Vice Chair: Yan Jinhai

Qinghai People’s Congress
Vice Chairmen: Nyima Dolma (Neima Zhuoma)

Qinghai People’s Political Consultative Conference
Chairman: Dorjee Rapten (Doje Radain)
Vice Chairmen: Rinchen Namgyal (Renqing ‘anjie), Zong Kang, Zhang Wenkui

Sichuan Government
Vice Governor: Dorjee Rapten (Yao Sidan)

Gansu People’s Congress
Vice Chair: Jamyang Shepa Lobsang Jigme Thupten Choekyi Nyima (Luosang Jiumei Tudan Queqi Nima), a high-level lama

Gansu People’s Political Consultative Conference
Vice Chair: Alak Dewatsang (Jamyang Thupten Gyatso?) Dewacang Jayangtudain Gyaincog