On the 50th anniversary of Tibet’s “autonomy,” China vows to crack down on the Dalai Lama and his supporters

Zheping Huang
QUARTZ
September 08, 2015

Let's just get this out of the way. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar)

Let’s just get this out of the way. (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar)

China vowed to fight the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, at a grand ceremony on Tuesday (Sept. 8) celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Yu Zhengsheng, China’s top political advisor for religious groups and ethnic minorities, said (link in Chinese) that “the Dalai clique,” along with “foreign hostile forces,” have been constantly conducting separatist activities—but Chinese people of all ethnic groups have always thwarted them. “[We] will, in accordance with laws, deepen the battle against separatism, crack down on all kinds of separatist activities, and resolutely safeguard national unity and stability in Tibet,” he said.
Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950. In 1951, the Tibetans signed an agreement affirming China’s sovereignty over Tibet, on the condition of an autonomous administration led by the Dalai Lama.

In 1959, after an uprising against Chinese rule failed, the Dalai Lama fled to India where he established the Tibet government-in-exile. The Chinese government officially established the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965.

A paramilitary policeman unfurls a Chinese national flag at the celebrations event on Sept. 8.(Reuters/China Daily)

A paramilitary policeman unfurls a Chinese national flag at the celebrations event on Sept. 8.(Reuters/China Daily)

Yu addressed his speech to thousands of Tibetans dressed in their ethnic costumes in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, according to state media reports.

Yu led a delegation of 65 central government officials to Tibet on Sept. 6 to attend the celebration. On Monday (Sept. 7), he visited representatives of the Chinese army, police, and judicial staff in Tibet and warned them of a long fight against “the Dalai clique.” State-run media Xinhua pledged a “deepened war” against separatists. The Dalai Lama has not responded.

The leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile said before the celebrations that there was “nothing to celebrate in Tibet.” Tibet is “still under occupation and Tibetans are still brutally repressed,” Lobsang Sangay said in a statement.

A few days ahead of the ceremony, China issued a white paper about Tibet’s economical and social development under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. “Tibet is now in its golden age,” it said, while condemning the Dalai Lama for “plotting towards Tibetan independence.”

Tensions between Beijing and the Dalai Lama have risen after the Dalai Lama said last year he might not reincarnate—Tibetan Buddhists believe their spiritual leaders will be reborn after death. The Chinese government hopes to guide selection of the next Dalai Lama in order to instate a spiritual leader that accepts China’s rule in Tibet, as the New York Times noted.
Decades ago, the Dalai Lama named a Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, but he has not been seen publicly for 20 years. Instead, Beijing selected a new Panchen, who is reviled by many Tibetans as a fake. On Monday, a Tibetan official said at a press conference for the 50th anniversary ceremony that the vanished Panchen Lama is “living a normal life” and “does not wish to be disturbed.”

The government, not the Dalai Lama, that has the final say in reincarnation, the official stressed.

The first casualty of China’s vowed war on the Dalai Lama supporters appears to be Bon Jovi. The US rock band’s two concerts next week in Beijing and Shanghai have been cancelled after Chinese authorities discovered that they included a picture of the Dalai Lama in a video backdrop during a concert in Taiwan in 2010, the FT reported (paywall) citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.