Tibetan leaders struggle to speak for split populace
The government in exile is popular but faces pressure from moderates and radicals.
As a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, Pema Jungney is increasingly finding himself caught in the middle.Skip to next paragraph
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With rioting in Tibet and young radicals at home pushing for a harder line against Chinese rule, he's under pressure to explain his government's support for the Dalai Lama's "Middle Path" of dialogue and reconciliation.
Then again, the last time parliament tried to review the Dalai Lama's Tibet policy, protesters gathered at the steps and declared a hunger strike.
In the past 20 years, the Dalai Lama has transformed the Tibetan government in exile from the semitheocracy he brought from Tibet to a relatively independent democracy. In doing so, he has invested it with more responsibility.
Now, the government must struggle with how to bridge the growing generation gap, finding its own voice while also paying due reverence to the Dalai Lama, whom most Tibetans worship as a god.
It has successes upon which to build. Even critics praise its work on behalf of the Tibetan refugee community – managing 80 schools and 40 refugee settlements across South Asia as well as holding orderly elections on three continents.
But among the 110,000 Tibetan refugees worldwide – many of whom follow Dharamsala as their true government, though it is not recognized by any nation – the government-in-exile will be judged upon how it handles the Tibetan issue, where frustrations are mounting.
"It will be very difficult for the Tibetan government," says Mr. Jungney. "Right now, the direction is toward violence."
Keeping the Tibet issue alive
Since rioting against Chinese authority broke out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 10, the government-in-exile – officially named the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) – has sought to be a mouthpiece for disgruntled Tibetans in China. It has repeatedly contested the official Chinese version of events, suggesting that more than 140 Tibetans have been killed in the crackdown.
Here in Dharamsala, where the CTA's collection of weather-worn buildings clings to a pine-studded spur of the Himalayas, autopsy photos of dead Tibetans stretch above narrow, potholed streets like gruesome prayer flags – commemorating those allegedly killed by Chinese law enforcement.
For its part, the Chinese government has dismissed as "totally fake" a list of 40 victims released by the government-in-exile two weeks ago.
With China refusing to deal with either the Dalai Lama or the government-in-exile, the best the government can hope for is to keep the issue of Tibet alive globally. The list is a part of that, as are embassy-like missions in 13 cities from New York to London to Tokyo. Officials are there to lobby governments and "gather support for the issue of Tibet," says Thubten Samphel, secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations.
Violence is no part of that mission, say government officials. Mr. Jungney, of the parliament, says his emergency committees are coming up with nonviolent ways to protest when the Olympic torch comes to New Delhi later this month – acting out scenes of Chinese torture, for example.
Chinese officials dispute that assertion. They say the "Dalai clique" – which includes the government-in-exile – is masterminding the riots in the Tibetan heartland and that 22 people died in the initial protests in Lhasa.