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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3946


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12:06): Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dharamsala is the seat of the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the eight Tibetan exile communities in India. To establish their refugee status in India, each of the 180,000 Tibetans there is given a personal audience with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Over the last decades, many young Tibetans, starved of their culture and facing repression by the communists in Beijing, have trekked across the Himalayas to India. This process was anecdotally recorded in the documentary The cry of the snow lion, in which mountaineers witnessed the Chinese Army's interception and murder of a 17-year-old Tibetan woman in one of the groups fleeing across the snow from Tibet. This tragic process of defection was also illustrated to a delegation of Australians who organised to meet the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharamsala, where 2,800 children live, mainly aged six to 10 years. They have been cared for and educated there—sent by their parents to India, often without hope of seeing them again.

Tibetans everywhere are agitated about the recent crackdown at the Kirti monastery, where authorities have enforce a so-called patriotic re-education campaign and imposed an indefinite ban on religious activities and 300 monks have been 'removed'. On 21 April a large group of Tibetans stood guard at the monastery to prevent the Chinese from removing the monks. The crowd was dispersed by police using indiscriminate force. Two elderly Tibetans were beaten to death.

At Dharamsala, the Central Tibetan Administration replicates all of the functions of a state, including the Kashang, the Tibetan elected parliament; the Tibetan education system; state archives; medical institutes; and the Norbulingka Institute of Art, where 400 sponsored artists keep up the traditions of their ancient civilisation. As the Dalai Lama withdraws from frontline leadership—he is 75—the Tibetans have plans to ensure their political future. Recently the Guardian reported the election of the new Tibetan Prime Minister. Tibetans all over the world have voted for a Harvard law professor as their political leader in their first election since the Dalai Lama announced he would be giving up the political leadership. The new Prime Minister, Lobsang Sangay, is 42 years old and a Harvard law professor. He was declared the third Kalon Tripa, which is part of the wider Tibetan community's plan to survive outside Tibet in the event of the death of the Dalai Lama.

The new Kalon Tripa has previously hinted that he might move beyond the Dalai Lama's moderate 'middle way' policy of negotiating autonomy for Tibet from China. His Holiness, when we met him, acknowledged to our delegation that this moderate third way, which sought Tibetan autonomy within a Chinese federation, had not been successful. But the uprising in Tibet in March 2008 showed that the Chinese had to deal with the issue. He told us that the crackdown at the Kriti monastery may have been part of the Chinese leadership's fear of the implications of the jasmine revolution in the Middle East and that mistrust underlines the communist regime. Of course, we have seen other examples of that fear of the jasmine revolution with the unprecedented arrest and disappearance of China's leading artist, Ai Weiwei, and many other examples, including the bizarre disappearance of a 9.5-metre statue of Confucius from Tiananmen Square overnight. His Holiness claimed that the Chinese budget for internal security was more than its budget for external security. Since we know that the budget for external security is immense, that is a very concerning development.

What is the future for the Tibetans? After the Chinese government disappeared the five-year-old Panchen Lama, the second most important Tibetan religious figure, 15 years ago, they now say that they have to approve all reincarnations of living buddhas or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism, including the next choice of the Dalai Lama. I wonder what Karl Marx would say about an allegedly communist regime appointing the head of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Tibetan exiles expect that when the Dalai Lama dies the Chinese will try to control the discovery of his successor, which is traditionally what the Panchen Lama does, so that the next Dalai Lama will be under their control as the Panchen Lama is now. The Tibetan plan is to develop new forms of leadership, outside Chinese control, designed to circumvent this. Both Tibetan institutions in Dharamsala and the reinvigorated Tibetan political leadership are part of the Tibetan exiles' plans to outlast the Chinese occupation of their country. The Dalai Lama's alternative plans for a successor as spiritual leader shows that the old fox, His Holiness, has a multilevel strategy to outlast the seemingly awesome powers of the Chinese communist party.