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Tibet in the Year of the Tiger

Pointing out that the democratic West led by the United States, and branded by China as a ‘paper Tiger’, does not have a great record of being able to defend freedom and democracy when it comes to the crunch while China has wielded its ‘Magic Weapon’ of the United Front Work Department to great effect every time, Phuntsog Wangyal* asks Tibetans to unite and fight for a common objective by keeping this in mind as they usher in their Year of Tiger.

(TibetanReview.net, Feb25’22)

Tibetans are now celebrating Tibetan New Year (3rd March). End of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to reflect on questions once again raised on what Tibetans could or could not do for their ’cause’ and how China managed to overcome their adversaries. To understand what I am referring to, I suggest you view two outstanding documentaries, one made by the BBC, referring to the United Front Works Department (UFWD) as “China’s Magic Weapon” (available on BBC Iplayer). The UFWD was first created during the Chinese Civil War. Later “United Front” became an important policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to co-opt and neutralise sources of potential opposition to the Party.

And other film is “The Sun Behind the Clouds”, a White Crane Films production. This is a film about Tibet’s struggle for freedom. You may view it on the link: https://nobeijing2022.org/iwillnotwatch/? 

Phuntsog Wangyal in Lhasa, picture from the Second Fact Finding Tibetan Delegation, 1980.

This Tibetan New Year is the Year of the Tiger. I would like to share with you a slogan “PAPER TIGER” that I first heard in the early 1950s in Lhasa when I was a student in a Chinese school. During one of my visits to Lhasa University some 30 years later I discovered that the school was a “Chinese Cadres’ School”. I don’t remember how I got admitted into it. 

The story is about a slogan, “America is a Paper Tiger”. We students had to march often in streets waving red flags and shouting slogans like “We support the people of Chaoxian, Imperialist America is a paper tiger, Victory to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)”, etc. At that time, we had no idea what ‘Chaoxian’ (Korea in Chinese) meant and where America was in the world either. But we knew tiger, one of the symbols of power we often see in Tibetan prayer flags. What the Chinese meant was that America is like a Tiger drawn on a piece of Paper. It looks fearful – but it is just an image that has no real strength.

Looking at the victory by the PLA in the Korean War, America’s defeat in Vietnam and Afghan wars, America’s inability to defend the People of Hong Kong in its recent turbulent history, all raised once again the question if America is truly as powerful as we like to believe in a situation the people within the countries in question lack sufficient confidence and determination to defend their positions. Can anybody, including Tibetans, really rely on America for its support without people standing up with a clear objective and determination?

The Year of the Tiger is an ideal time for the West to prove that they are real Tigers that could stand up against the Chinese Dragon or the Russian Bear to defend freedom and democracy, and for the Tibetan people and their leadership to stand up united with a clear objective.

Monk in Gadhan, picture from Tibet Foundation documentary, “Getza – Helping others”.

Another question is, do we really realise how the CCP works effectively through its “Magic Weapon”. We should remember how China’s Magic Weapon succeeded in making the Chinese Nationalists join the Communist Party fighting against Japan. That in the end led the Nationalists losing power to the Communists. How the Magic Weapon succeeded in making Americans choose the People’s Republic of China and offering them a seat in the Security Council. That in the end facilitated China to be able to grow in power posing a great threat to Western Democracy. How the Magic Weapon misled the Tibetan Administration choosing not to fight for independence. That in the end consolidated the Chinese claim over Tibet as a part of China, thus making any matter related to Tibet an internal issue. And similarly, no matter how hard Tibetans individually and personally struggle as so many are already doing even sacrificing their lives, the Magic Weapon continues to be able to create confusion in the minds of Tibetans on what they are to focus on fighting their adversaries.

“The Sun Behind the Clouds” clearly illustrated that until Tibetans and their leaders together are able to unite to fight for one objective, resolutely and united they are just playing in to the hands of the CCP who are waiting for the Tibetan Sun to set, while clouds of doubt and confusion over the whole Tibetan issue continue covering the Light of the Truth.

* Phuntsog Wangyal is a former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a former Member of the Tibetan Parliament at Dharamsala

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