A row over the internationalisation of Tibet issue (1987-1990)

Sep 1987: On 21 September 1987, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus and unveiled his Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet. The five-points are:

  1. transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace;
  2. abandonment of China?s population transfer policy;
  3. respect the Tibetan people?s fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms;
  4. protection of the Tibet?s natural environment and abandonment of the use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste; and
  5. earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet.

Sep 1987: On 23 September 1987, Beijing rejected His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s proposal outright. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said, “We are opposed to Dalai?s engagement and activities anywhere and in any form aimed to split China”.

Sep 1987: The Chinese official media strongly criticised His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s address to the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus. The criticism enraged the Tibetan people in Tibet and served as the immediate cause of anti-China demonstration in Lhasa on 27 September 1987. The Chinese police arrested all those who took part in the demonstration.

Oct 1987: On 1 October 1987, another large-scale demonstration broke out in Lhasa to demand the release of arrested monks and to show solidarity with His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet. The Chinese authorities reacted to the demonstration with violence. A commentary in the Communist Party Newspaper, People?s Daily, blamed His Holiness the Dalai Lama for instigating the demonstrations and described them as serious political incidents stirred by “few splittists”.

Oct 1987: His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed grief at the loss of lives and persons injured during the demonstrations. In his press statement issued on 3 October 1987, His Holiness said, “I am glad that the Chinese government have found in me a scapegoat for the Tibetan people?s demonstrations in Tibet, just as they blamed the ?Gang of Four? for the madness and chaos of the ?Cultural Revolution?. I appeal to all human rights groups to prevail upon the Chinese government to stop the executions and to release those imprisoned”.

Oct 1987: The Kashag formally denied the Chinese accusation that the demonstrations had been provoked by outside forces. In its press statement issued on 3 October 1987, the Kashag said that the demonstrations were a direct result of the Chinese policy of apartheid and their state-sponsored transfer of countless Chinese into various parts of Tibet with an aim of reducing the Tibetans into an insignificant minority in their own country and eventually wiping out Tibet as a nation.

Oct 1987: Gyalo Thondup arrived in Beijing on 2 October 1987, a day after the second demonstration erupted in Lhasa city. Thondup delivered a copy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet to the Chinese leaders and refuted the Chinese criticism that His Holiness the Dalai Lama initiated the demonstration in Lhasa.

Oct 1987: On 17 October 1987, Yang Minfu, Director of the CPC?s United Front Work Department, gave Gyalo Thondup a five-point memorandum, which said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama should bear the responsibility of the consequences of the incidents in Lhasa and reiterated that there was no change in the central government?s ‘Five-Point Policy towards the Dalai Lama’.

Dec 1987: On 17 December 1987, the Kashag rejected the allegations made in Yang Minfu?s memorandum in a fourteen-point reply and urged the Chinese leadership to positively consider His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet. This reply was delivered by Gyalo Thondup during his visit to Beijing in December 1987.

Dec 1987: The US President Ronald Reagan signed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (1988-89) on 22 December 1987. The act stated that the “United States should make the treatment of the Tibetan people an important factor in its conduct of relations with the People?s Republic of China” and that the “United States should urge the Government of the People?s Republic of China to actively reciprocate the Dalai Lama?s efforts to establish a constructive dialogue on the future of Tibet”.

Mar 1988: His Holiness the Dalai Lama appealed for international support to the Tibetan people?s non-violent struggle. In his official statement on 10 March 1988, His Holiness said: “I have always felt that violence breeds violence. It contributes little to the resolutions of conflicts. I, therefore, renew my appeal to all freedom-loving peoples to support our non-violent struggle for the survival of our national identity, our culture and our spiritual traditions, and to persuade the Chinese government to abandon its oppressive policies.”

Apr 1988: On 5 April 1988, the Chinese government announced, “If the Dalai Lama publicly give up the goal of independence, he can live in Tibet rather than in Beijing”.

Jun 1988: His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced a detailed framework for negotiations with Beijing in order to secure genuine autonomy for Tibet. In his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 15 June 1988, he said: “The whole of Tibet, known as Cholka-sum, should become a self-governing democratic political entity founded on law by agreement of the people for the common good and protection of themselves and their environment, in association with the People?s Republic of China.” The proposal went on to state that although Beijing could remain “responsible for Tibet?s foreign policy”, Tibet should maintain international relations “through its Foreign Affairs Bureau…on non-political activities” and “decide on all affairs relating to Tibet and Tibetans”. The proposal further stated that “the regional peace conference should be convened to make Tibet a genuine sanctuary of peace through demilitarization” and that “Beijing could maintain a restricted number of military installation in Tibet for defence purpose”.

Jun 1988: As a gesture of goodwill, Kalon Tashi Wangdi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Representative in New Delhi, gave an advance copy of the statement to the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on 14 June 1988, a day before His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced it in Strasbourg. In a meeting with Bei Chanyi, the Embassy Charge d?Affairs, and his colleagues (Wangdu and Yonten), Tashi Wangdi asked the Chinese government to start the talks soon.

Jun 1988: On 23 June 1988, China?s Foreign Ministry, at a regular press briefing in Beijing, said that it rejected “independence, semi-independence or even independence in disguised form” for Tibet. On the same day, the Chinese Embassy in Berne, Switzerland, issued a press statement saying that “China?s sacred sovereignty over Tibet cannot be denied” and that “it would not bow to foreign pressure”.

Jul 1988: The first open condemnation of the Strasbourg Proposal came from the Chinese mission in Washington, D.C. The mission?s spokesperson, Zheng Wanzhen, said that the Dalai Lama?s proposal “distorts history, twist reality, negates Tibet as an inalienable part of China and denies the Chinese government?s sacred sovereignty over Tibet”.

Jul 1988: On 27 July 1988, the Tibetan Administration-in-exile issued a press statement, naming the members of the proposed Tibetan negotiating team. The statement said that the negotiating team would be headed by Tashi Wangdi, Kalon for Information and Security, and Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, Deputy Kalon for Culture, Religion and Health. Other members included Jigme Lhundup (Alak Jigme Rinpoche), Deputy Kalon for Security; Wangdu Dorjee, Former Kalon; Sonam Topgyal, Secretary of the Office of Information and International Relations; and Lhamo Tsering, Former Additional Secretary of the Security Office. The statement said that the team would be assisted by Pema Gyalpo, His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Representative in Tokyo; Kelsang Gyaltsen, His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Representative in Geneva; and Michael van Walt van Praag as legal adviser.

Aug 1988: In August 1988, the Beijing Review denied that the Chinese government had ever received any formal letter, cable or oral statement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama demanding discussions with the central government.

Sep 1988: On 21 September 1988, the Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, Zhao Xizeng, met with Kalon Alak Jigme Rinpoche and Migyur Dorjee, Secretary of the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, and conveyed a message from the Chinese government to them which was released to the press on 23 September. The Embassy?s press release said: “We welcome the Dalai Lama to have talks with the central government at any time. The talks may be held in Beijing, Hong Kong, or any of our embassies and consulates abroad. If the Dalai Lama finds it inconvenient to conduct talks at these places, he may choose any place he wishes. But there is one condition, that is, no foreigners should be involved.”

Sep 1988: On the same day, i.e. 23 September 1988, the Tibetan Administration-in-exile responded formally to both the verbal communications of 21 September and also to the subsequent press statement of 23rd. The Tibetan press statement said, “Though we have different views and stands on many issues, we are prepared to discuss and resolve these through direct dialogues”.

Oct 1988: On 25 October 1988, the Tibetan Administration-in-exile in a communication to the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, proposed Geneva as the venue and January 1989 as the date for the talks. This information was also released to the press in New Delhi in the afternoon of the same day. While delivering the message, Kalon Alak Jigme Rinpoche told the Chinese Embassy?s Counsellor that the message was in response to the Chinese offer of 21 September 1988.

Oct 1988: Towards the end of October 1988, Gyalo Thondup visited Beijing. He met Yang Minfu, Director of the CPC?s United Front Work Department, and his colleagues, Song Yi-dang and Ren Ring, on 28 October.

Nov 1988: On 18 November 1988, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi formally presented Beijing?s response to Kalon Tashi Wangdi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Representative in New Delhi. It rejected six members on the [Tibetan] negotiating team and refused to accept “the Dutch person in the team”. It also said, “The Strasbourg Proposal cannot be the basis of talks.”

Nov 1988: The Tibetan Administration-in-exile was disappointed by this communication, as it was inconsistent with the earlier public statements and official communications received from Beijing. On the same afternoon, Kalon Tashi Wangdi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Representative in New Delhi, handed a memo to the Chinese Embassy. The memo stressed that it should be the prerogative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to appoint whomsoever he chooses to negotiate on his behalf, and said, “Dr. Michael van Walt van Praag is not a member of the negotiating team. He is only a legal advisor. It is an international norm to arrange such legal counsel.”

Dec 1988: On 7 December 1988, the New York Times reported that the liberal minded “TAR” Party Secretary, Wu Jinghua, was sacked. Wu?s demotion came just a day after the statement of the Panchen Lama that the price paid by Tibet for its development over the last 30 years was higher than the gains.

Dec 1988: Hu Jintao, a Chinese Han national, succeeded Wu Jinghua as a “TAR” Party Secretary.

Jan 1989: On 28 January 1989, the Panchen Lama suddenly died, aged 50, reportedly of a heart attack, at his seat, Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet.

Feb 1989: On 7 February 1989, the Chinese Government requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit Beijing to attend the funeral ceremony of the late Panchen Lama, which was scheduled on 15 February. The invitation letter, dispatched in the name of China?s Buddhist Association, was delivered to Gyalo Thondup, who was in Beijing at the time of the Panchen Lama?s death. Since the invitation came at a very short notice, His Holiness the Dalai Lama could not make this visit.

Feb 1989: The Tibetan Administration-in-exile proposed to send a ten-member Tibetan religious delegation to Tashilhunpo monastery in Shigatse and other areas of Tibet, such as Lhasa, Kumbum and Labrang Tashi-kyil for the purpose of offering prayers and performing a Kalachakra ceremony for the late Panchen Lama.

Feb 1989: On 19 February 1989, the Chinese authorities in Tibet banned the annual Monlam prayer festival in Lhasa.

Mar 1989: On 3 March 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised Gyalo Thondup to formally deliver in person his response to the China?s Buddhist Association?s invitation. His Holiness the Dalai Lama also advised Thondup to tell the concerned Chinese officials that he would like to accept Yang Mingfu?s suggestion for a meeting. But such meeting, His Holiness said, could only be arranged when the Sino-Tibetan talks start.

Mar 1989: On 5 March 1989, Lhasa witnessed the largest demonstration against the Chinese rule since 1959. For three days, the Chinese police battled with demonstrators, killing a substantial number of Tibetans and wounding many more. The situation almost went out of control as demonstrations starting spilling over to adjacent areas outside Lhasa.

Mar 1989: On 8 March 1989, the Chinese government declared martial law in Tibet in order to bring the situation under control. On the same day, Kalon Tashi Wangdi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Representative in New Delhi, visited the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi and handed over the Tibetan Administration?s memorandum, expressing shock and serious concern with the latest incidents in Tibet.

Mar 1989: On 10 March 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote to China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, asking him to immediately lift martial law and stop repression on the Tibetan people. He also asked for the early start of talks in Geneva to resolve the issue peacefully. His Holiness the Dalai Lama also wrote to the leaders of the United States, Russia and Japan requesting their support to persuade the Chinese Central leaders to lift martial law.

Mar 1989: In his official statement on 10 March 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: “I am deeply saddened to learn that there has been further bloodshed in Lhasa only days before making this statement. The loss of innocent lives saddened us very much… Nevertheless, as the Chinese have, unlike before, become more realistic these days, I remain hopeful that the Chinese leaders will see the wisdom of resolving the issue peacefully by negotiations.”

Apr 1989: On 4 April 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a press statement asking for the world leaders and international community to impress upon China to find a peaceful solution to the Tibetan issue and to bring early end to the sufferings of the Tibetan people.

Apr 1989: On 12 April 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama released a press statement through the Tibetan overseas Offices of Tibet and said that the People?s Republic of China had recently made a number of one-sided statements regarding the negotiations that he had proposed. Citing the need for the Tibetan Administration-in-exile to set the record straight, the statement said: “On numerous occasions, we have conveyed to the Chinese government, through its Embassy in New Delhi, that:

  1. The framework for negotiations, as proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, refers specifically to the positive notion of association with the People?s Republic of China;
  2. The Tibetan negotiating team has been appointed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and it is within his right to appoint whosoever he considers competent to represent him;
  3. There is no foreign third party participation in the negotiating team. There are both Tibetan and non-Tibetan advisors to the team. It is quite natural to seek advice from qualified persons regardless of their nationalities.”

Aug 1989: On 25 August 1989, the Chinese authorities issued a press statement in Lhasa, saying that the Chinese government would select the 11th Panchen Lama “according to China?s Constitution and within China”. The Tibetan Administration-in-exile immediately condemned the announcement through a press statement issued by the Department of Information and International Relations and said, “The reincarnation of a high lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has never been restricted to any place… In the Tibetan tradition, lamas are never selected and appointed but discovered by following certain set tradition.”

Dec 1989: On 10 December 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was conferred the Nobel Prize for Peace. While delivering his Nobel lecture at Oslo?s University Aula on 10 December 1989, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “I believe the plan [Five-Point Peace Plan] provides a reasonable and realistic framework for negotiations with the People?s Republic of China. So far, however, China?s leaders have been unwilling to respond constructively. The suppression of the Chinese democracy movement in June of this year, however reinforced my view that any settlement of the Tibetan question will only be meaningful if it is supported by adequate international guarantees.”