Professor Colin Mackerras spoke at a lunch organised by the Australia-China friendship Society at Adam’s Oriental Restaurant South Brisbane on Sunday 1st August 2010.
Prof. Mackerras is a Chinese speaker and frequent visitor to our northern neighbour.
He spoke mainly about Tibet and specifically about a visit to Dharamsala in India in April 2010. Dharamsala is the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile.
A group of nine people (including Prof Mackerras) attending a conference on Tibetan studies held in Delhi met the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama (DL) is the Tibetans’ leading political ﬁgure in exile. Mackerras said that the DL is revered by Tibetans as being god-like. The group met the Dalai Lama talking with him for over an hour.
Mackerras said that he found the Dalai Lama to be a sincere and genial man, politically naive surrounded by a group of minders. Mackerras described the influence of these he called the ‘Dahlai Lama clique’ as being ‘evil’. Mackerras said that Tibet is seen from the West predominantly as a country that has been invaded by China and from China as a country that has fallen under the spell of the Dahlai Lama clique. He spoke about the pressure applied by the French President Sarkosy at the time of the Beijing olympics for the Chinese government to negotiate with the Dahlai Lama.
Mackerras analysed the proposals put forward by what he calls the DL clique.
He voiced concern about the Norwegian groups like Human Rights House, the Norwegian Tibet Committee and Worldview Rights that are giving financial support to the DL.
He said that the proposals from the DL clique can be found on the Dahlai Lama’s website.
The proposals I found were called a peace plan and is at http://www.dalailama.com/messages/acceptance-speeches/nobel-peace-prize/nobel-lecture. It is slightly different to the one that Colin Mackerras referred to at the talk.
Over the years there have been many 5 point peace plans put forward by the DL.
Mackerras stressed that the demands are getting bigger all the time.
The proposals I found on the DL’s website were:
- Transformation of the whole of Tibet, including the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo, into a zone of Ahimsa (nonviolence);
- Abandonment of China’s population transfer policy;
- Respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental rights and democratic freedoms;
- Restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment; and
- Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese people.
Regarding point (1) Mackerras said that the DL clique wish to claim 1/4 of China as Tibet. He said that they want Qinghai, parts of Sichuan and Yunnan.
In contrast it was Mackerras’s view that Tibet had been part of China for many years. He said Tibet is recognised internationally as part of China. He said that the DL clique is undemocratic and their demands are unreasonable and politically impossible.
Mackerras advocated negotiations take place on lesser proposals around culture, religion, and the environment. He doubted the wisdom of giving the DL control of the education system because Mackerras said it would be used to turn Tibetans against the Chinese government. He said that the demand for withdrawal of Chinese troops should not be left solely to the DL and his clique.
When asked what was the difference between US troops being in Afghanistan and Chinese troops in Tibet Mackerras said that the difference was that Tibet is part of China. A follow up question was put to the professor asking what gave the Communist Party of China the right to stop Tibetans from choosing a return to feudalism. Mackerras said that China should not allow modernization of Tibet to be stalled. He said that it would lay the Chinese government open to the charge that it held back education and development of the Tibetan people.
The talk by Prof Mackerras was interesting because you do not often hear an academic express such a strong point of view. A debate of the more contentious aspects of his talk would be well worthwhile.
Report by Ian Curr, August 2010