Professor Nawang Phuntsog* and I are united in wanting maximum freedom for Tibetans to determine what sort of country they wish to live in. We differ only in how we think this may be achieved. May I make three points in response to the professor’s comments:
Professor Phuntsog praises MWA as “innovative and visionary” as a way to “end Tibet’s on-going agony”. But surely the point is that MWA hasn’t made one iota of progress over the last thirty years since it was first proposed. That was one of my points. MWA only works if BOTH PARTIES are reasonable and willing to compromise. If only one side is reasonable that amounts to defeat.
The professor admits that “every single Tibetan would like an independent Tibet more than anything else in the world”. We agree. Then why not say this publicly instead of pretending that Tibetans are happy to be sub-ordinated to China? The CCP regularly accuses Tibetan negotiators of “lacking sincerity” when the world knows the opposite is true. But this pretence that genuine autonomy will suffice when really all Tibetans want independence just makes the CCP’s claims of Tibetan “insincerity” appear justified.
Lastly, professor Phuntsog believes that the MWA initiative elevated the Tibet issue to “international prominence”. I have argued elsewhere that support for Tibet in the West has declined over the last thirty years – ever since the Strasbourg Proposal, in fact. When Tibetans wanted to return to independence their supporters knew clearly what they were supporting. It is harder to argue for more “autonomy” if Tibetans themselves see this as essentially an internal problem for China. I contend that Tibet’s status is an INTERNATIONAL issue.
— John Billington**
Former Chairman of the Tibet Society UK and Former Goodwill Ambassador of the Tibet Foundation