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Is Dalai's "govt-in-exile" secular?

(2009/08/28)

    Samdhong Rinpoche's recent remarks that the "Tibetan government-in-exile" is a secular one are ridiculous and fully expose the Dalai Lama clique's attempt to conceal its nature as a politico-religious one.

    To avert possible censures, the chief Buddha of the so-called "government-in-exile", defended his stance in an interview with Deutsche Welle, a German international broadcaster on Aug 12, by arguing that his "government" is independent of religious intervention in its process of administration despite it being a combined spiritual and political rule.

    It is well known that any secular administration should have an unambiguous demarcation from a politico-religious one, whose daily affairs are largely managed and dominated by the Buddhist group.

    So, how can the "Tibetan government-in-exile" be called a secular one, because, according to the "exiled chapter", the government is defined as spiritual and political governance? The religious forces, led by the 14th Dalai Lama and Samdhong, have long dominated the affairs of the "government-in-exile". Also, exiled Tibetan monks still enjoy voting powers in the elections to its "Parliament-in-Exile". Since the late 1990s, the disputes over whether the privileged Buddhist monks should be deprived of their political privileges have come to nowhere, indicating the strong influences of this group among overseas Tibetans.

    Past experience is an indication that the powerful political influence and intervention of the Dalai Lama has long been an insurmountable hurdle for Samdhong's "Tibetan government-in-exile" in its so-called steps towards a secular government.

    The organizational structure of the "Tibetan government-in-exile" shows that the Dalai Lama's political influence is deep-rooted. It is known that after he fled to India following a failed uprising against the Chinese central government in 1959, the Dalai Lama began to organize a so-called "exiled government" in the South Asian nation. The "exiled government" is made up of the Secretariat, a government and a so-called "people's congress". Among them, the Dalai's Secretariat, also called the Office of the Dalai Lama, is entrusted with the mission of safeguarding the leadership role of the Dalai Lama, his political authority and international status. It also serves as the most core decision-making and power organ of the "Tibetan government-in-exile".

    With such a government structure and system, any administrative order issued by the "government-in-exile" would be difficult to implement among exiled Tibetans without a final nod from the Dalai Lama. And, the exiled Tibetans always felt reassured if they had some message from their so-called spiritual leader at any time when they decided to hold a gathering or rally. This is fully demonstrated by the fact that the Dalai Lama always delivered a speech every year in March on the eve of activities to be held by overseas Tibetans to commemorate the Lhasa riot on March 10, 1959.

    Take last year's "Exiled Tibetan Congress" as an example. The so-called "Congress" session was completely orchestrated by the "Tibetan government-in-exile" under the guidance of the supreme Dalai Lama. The next day after the conference, the Dalai Lama met with delegates and held a press briefing confirming its achievements. As an article in the Wall Street Journal put it, the "Congress" was a move to test the Dalai Lama's long-established political positions among Tibetans at home and abroad. Under these circumstances, the "Tibetan government-in-exile" can by no means extricate itself from the Dalai Lama's political influences no matter how hard it pushes for development of a secular model or Western-style separation of powers (of the legislature, executive and judiciary).

    Also, the "Tibetan government-in-exile" has been financially dependent on the Dalai Lama for its overseas survival. As is the notorious "Tibetan Youth Congress", a radical Tibetans' organization which has long been dominated by the ideology of "Tibet Independence". Facts prove that the lion's share of the funds for the "government-in-exile" in recent years has mainly come from international aid bodies; and, the Dalai Lama has played a key role in securing the funds.

    How can a regime, that is inseparable from the Dalai Lama either materially or in spirit, be called a secular one?

    More important, without assistance from the Dalai Lama, the authority of the "government-in-exile" would be seriously discounted among Tibetans. Even Samdhong himself acknowledges that Tibet would not accept "democracy" without the Dalai Lama's influence.

    These hard facts prove again and again that the essence of the Buddhist-manipulated "Tibetan government-in-exile" will by no means change in the least if the Dalai Lama continues to wield influence over it.

    The author is deputy director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.



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