Recently Tibetans have been debating the advantages and disadvantages of the Middle Way path promoted by the Dalai Lama. The Middle Way involves foregoing Tibetan independence in favor of autonomy within China. Considered more realistic by the Dalai Lama and many others, there has been a backlash from other groups who see it as far too great of a compromise. Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan writer, has posted an article about new Tibetan prime minister Lobsang Sangay’s recent comments. He seeks to set the record straight, and concludes that:
I must admit that criticizing a Tibetan prime minister before he even started his job is unfair. But one must also admit that it actually depends of the gravity of the offense and whether the criticism might be beneficial for the Premier’s tenure. Moreover, taking into account the political uncertainty brought by the recent constitutional changes and by the decision of the Dalai Lama not only to devolve his political power but also to put a definitive term to the Tibetan government, the need for scrutiny is higher than ever.
Lobsang Sangay, anyhow, deserves a chance. Even if I didn’t support his candidature, I believe that he will need the support of all of us to carry successfully his task of Premier and to make the best out of this mess. After all, we all strive to end Chinese tyranny in Tibet. This support is, however, reciprocal. The new prime minister cannot expect to rally all Tibetans and friends to his command simply on the basis that he secured 55 percent of the votes cast by exile Tibetans. If Lobsang Sangay seriously wishes unity, then he will have to make an extra effort to accommodate different opinions, in particular when it comes to the restoration of Tibet’s independence. Contempt is definitely not the best recipe.
The outgoing prime minister, Samdhong Rinpoche, has sparked a great deal of controversy and bitterness by launching a wide-scale crusade against supporters of independence. I hope Lobsang Sangay won’t fall in the same trap. On the contrary, I hope he will publicly keep a declaration of independence as an option if Beijing persists in not showing any interest at negotiating within the first year of his tenure.
This sounds extremely reasonable to me. I suspect that the Middle Way is probably overall still a more realistic goal, but if China refuses to negotiate in good faith then it would behoove the Tibetan exiles to keep their options open. They’ve invested decades in pursuing the Middle Way- it’s time to get serious about whether or not it’ll bear fruit.