Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tibet & China..

I wrote about how China ought to honour its own socialist constitution and ensure autonomy in its fullest for Tibetans and also about how that this critique is independent of the "hypocritic" support that is given to the Dalai Lama by the West.

Is China living upto its own constitutional pledges? :

Quoting one paragraph from the constitution:

"Article 4. All nationalities in the People's Republic of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority nationalities and upholds and develops the relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China's nationalities. Discrimination against and oppression of any nationality are prohibited; any acts that undermine the unity of the nationalities or instigate their secession are prohibited. The state helps the areas inhabited by minority nationalities speed up their economic and cultural development in accordance with the peculiarities and needs of the different minority nationalities. Regional autonomy is practised in areas where people of minority nationalities live in compact communities; in these areas organs of self- government are established for the exercise of the right of autonomy. All the national autonomous areas are inalienable parts of the People's Republic of China. The people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs."

Well. Real News has some videos that show how the recent unrest in Tibet has been treated by the Chinese law enforcers. The videos do not tell us enough about whether the Chinese government is committed to its constitution. But it certainly makes a case for more open-ness and guaranteed constitutional rights in Chinese society especially vis-a-vis the minority nationalities, part of China, as much as there should be open-ness and constitutional rights in Indian society vis-a-vis Kashmir or in Nagaland.


Mahesh Panicker. said...

agree with many points in both the original article, and the related one on 'Enlightenment in Himalayas'.
but I am not sure about judging everything on the universal scale of modern rationality. communities do have different norms, and it should be up to the Tibetans themselves to decide their structure of governance. imposing a modernist framework, that too in today's world that believes in celebrating difference rather than homogenization. you have advocated preservation of Tibetan culture, but within a modernist framework. but I believe that part of the judgment should be left alone to the Tibetans themselves.
on a 2nd note, you seem to readily agree with the Chinese claims regarding the teritorial control over Tibet. Tibet always had a culture of its own, and has not been part of the Chinese empire before the Maoist era. precisely after 1950, when China send in troops that it became part of China. so its not just an issue of China sticking to its constitutional ethic. and expecting them to stick to those lofty principle, I believe is stretching one's imagination far too much, as their credibility record in that respect comes with the bagage of a tainted past, which is a bloody one, cultural revolution to Tianenman.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Few clarifications on the factual errors you make:

a) Tibet was a Chinese suzerain before the imperialist cutting of the Chinese melon.

b) Nominally independent Tibet between 1913 and 1950 was probably the most feudal theocratic state on earth in existence.

c) I advocate a positive liberty framework for the Tibetans providing them rights and cultural freedom to practise their own unique customs and "spirituality". One cannot endorse negative freedoms such as giving up the sovereign to a man (Tenzing Gyatso) and giving him untrammelled power in both the temporal as well as the spiritual. That would be turning the course of history in the reverse.

In essence, I believe in the maxim, "With the people, ahead of the people".

The socialist constitution of China endorses this view, but it has not really taken complete effect in China as a whole. Part of it is the Dengist "Capitalist roader" line taken up in China, which has invited contradictions between imperialism and socialism in the country. One hopes that imperialism is defeated and the "new left" which promises a more participatory democracy and a harmonious welfare socialist state is reinstated.

Mahesh Panicker. said...

"c) I advocate a positive liberty framework for the Tibetans providing them rights and cultural freedom to practise their own unique customs and "spirituality".
we don't disagree on that front. however, what happens in Tibet is a state sponsered demographic transition, where the ethnic Hans are settling down in large numbers, so as to alter the very demography of the area. surely that is not the way to go about 'Possitive Liberty'? again, this is not the crux of my disagreement with your position. my idea is that there should be the right to self determination. it is not up to me, or you or the Chinese to decide the position of the Dalai Lama. that decision should be made by the people of tibet. we have absolutely no right whatsoever to take a decision for them. there are examples of people throwing off many a yoke, which were dominent. the case of Turky in 1924 makes it clear. previously the British had atempted institutional change, and you know its impact all over the Islamic world, and even outside. so let the Tibetans decide if they want the Dalai Lama or not, if they want to stay within the Chinese order.
Chinese control over Tibet before 1913 itself is a disputed question, and there are different versions, and I don't think there are any factual positions on the matter.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Absolutely. Han Migrations to Tibet has been a policy level response by China to integrate Tibet into the mainland through the means of rapid integration with the mainland economy. This is severely problematic and doesn't consider the importance of the term "autonomous".

As for self-determination, I agree with you. The nationality question in a socialist state has to consider the right to secede, if required. The only problem is that, China says that a right to secede can only be granted if there was a union established between two sovereign states. In the Chinese understanding of Tibet being a suzerain of the Chinese before imperialist intervention of China therefore, the right to secede does not exist. And the Chinese also have an instrumental argument (that made by the CPI(M) also) that any ethnic based sovereignty in Tibet would invite many such calls in the multi-ethnic Chinese state (of Uiyghurs for example or the Xinjiang inhabitants).

So whatever must happen, must happen incrementally. First China, should recognise it's own constitutional duties and provide for sufficient autonomy as in the socialist constitution. The Tibetan government in China should be given a chance to determine its own set of socioeconomic goals within the framework of the Chinese socialist constitution. If indeed there is a total incompatibility in the norms and values as espoused by the Tibetan autonomous government and the Chinese state, and a variance from the constitution, then, a plebiscite can taken up..and things can go on from there.

But the situation now is a clear contradiction between forces of imperialism (& thier supporters in China) and socialism. That is why the West supports a revanchist Dalai Lama and provides him with material and covert support (through the front orgs of the CIA for example). Mutual trust between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama is a first to be achieved as must be real autonomy. Immediate calls for self-determination is a surefire case of balkanisation of China and the world's most populous country will never accept that.

Mahesh Panicker. said...

agreed with most of the things.
but your belief in a constitutional settlement is something that I can't share. the Chinese communists have never shown any respect to constitutional principle. already they have seen 3 different constitutions, 1954, 1975, and the present one 1982. cultural revolution, and the terror of the gang of 4 took place during the first one, and the tinanmen happened right under the noses of the very people who were expected to protect the letter and spirit of the constitution. the present brutalities in Tibet is not the right way to even consider the possibilities of talks. if at all talks have to start, the Chinese government have to come up with steps to gain the confidence of the Tibetan people, and the first of these would be to stop the on going crack down, and then stop the policy of filling up Tibet with ethnic Hans.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Ab initio exceptions can't be enough to say that the constitutions are a failure. If thats the case, one would say that the Emergency in India means that the Constitution is a dead letter document. Which is obviously not the case and those very same standards should hold to the Chinese too.

Next, you mention recent "brutalities". The important point to note is that the brutalities have been committed by the Tibetans themselves, hurling themselves in wanton violence against Han Chinese by banging heads against rocks, burning houses and trading centres/ shops and what not. Any self-respecting state governance unit will deal with this brutality in the legal way, which includes police crackdown (as much as it is encouraged all over the world to counter riots). So, ab initio again, your premise is wrong.

In my personal opinion, the Han migration is not a conscious response by the Chinese, but a fallout of its own reliance on neoliberal economics, again a violation of its socialist constitution, which takes us back to the same point of advice for the Chinese: Get back to the socialist constitution and build an inclusive China not just for the Hans and the Mandarin-speaking, but for all other minority nationalities within the nation-state.