Home > Opinion, politics > Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California excoriates TGIE’s Lobsang Sangay

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California excoriates TGIE’s Lobsang Sangay

Given that the Dalai Lama and the TGIE are funded by the U.S. government, wouldn’t it be interesting if their communications are somehow transparent such that we could see the nature of the relationship? Are their interests aligned? Who calls the shots? Patrick French in an Op-Ed in 2008, advising the Dalai Lama to instead negotiate in good faith with Chinese authorities and abandon his Hollywood strategy, wrote:

The International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington, is now a more powerful and effective force on global opinion than the Dalai Lama’s outfit in northern India. The European and American pro-Tibet organizations are the tail that wags the dog of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Remember, French was a former director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign. Interestingly, in this recent letter made public from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California to Lobsang Sangay, we get a glimpse of what French wrote about. Rohrabacher excoriates Sangay and his ‘cohorts’ for allegedly tampering with the Tibetan language version of Radio Free Asia. He wrote:

The 75 Tibetans who have self-immolated did not do so for the right to become a minority group within Communist China; the policy you are advocating. They are killing themselves for their right to freedom and self-determination and the end of the illegal Chinese occupation.

Friends of Tibet within the US Congress support their goals, mourn their sacrifice and praise their bravery. Accordingly I will not tolerate any machinations by you or your associates to deprive the Tibetan people of the joys of open debate and the free exchange of information that Radio Free Asia has provided. I will also be closely scrutinizing the recipients of American aid within and outside Tibet to ensure that it goes to those who it was intended and is spent in a manner that supports American interests.

Rohrabacher of course takes a separatist stance on the Tibet issue. In that first paragraph above, Rohrabacher fears the TGIE is not taking the same stance and therefore the displeasure expressed in his letter.

Basically, Rohrabacher believed Sangay and the TGIE were behind the recent departure of long-time editor, Jieme Napo, from Radio Free Asia. Bear in mind, RFA is funded by the U.S. Congress and is frequently jammed by China.

In terms of “free exchange of information” the Congressman alluded to in the second paragraph, Voice of America (VOA), another U.S. government funded media organization, gave a bit which completes the picture for us:

Rohrabacher suggested in a press release that Ngapo irked the Tibetan government-in-exile by encouraging open discussion about various options for Tibet’s future, including outright independence. The Dalai Lama and his Tibetan followers, hoping for an eventual accommodation with China, speak only of autonomy.

Since the U.S. funds the TGIE, it’s unsurprising who expects to call the shots on how the funds ought to be used.

So, is French right, that the Dalai Lama and the TGIE should and are finally agreeing with the strategy to not agitate separatism and hoping for “eventual accommodation with China?” That in turn has caused consternation from the more strident American politicians?

The story takes an interesting turn with the TGIE deciding to defend itself in an open-letter to President Obama and other key American political leaders:

November 28, 2012 12:48 pm
Hon. Dana Rohrabacher
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Committee on Foreign Affairs
November 23, 2012


With reference to your letter addressed to the democratically elected Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan Parliament in Exile wish to express the following concerns:

1. The United States of America as an advanced democratic nation is someone that all other democratic countries around the world look up to as an example and inspiration for its democratic functioning and practices. Therefore we were deeply saddened by the denigrating and unparliamentary language that a person of your stature has used in the letter.

2. We are also taken aback by your action to publicize the content of the letter, which are clearly based on insinuation and hearsay even before the Sikyong could respond to your allegations. This has caused much speculation amongst Tibetans both within and outside Tibet, and caused unwarranted damages to the integrity and credibility of the Central Tibetan Administration.

3. Concerning the internal matters of Radio Free Asia, we would like to assure you that we have neither in the past nor will we ever in the future interfere in its functioning. However, keeping in view the objective of the Radio service, we have expressed our opinion and concerns in and outside the Tibetan Parliament in Exile regarding contents of some programs of Radio Free Asia in the past and we shall do so in future as well, which we consider is well within our democratic rights. (We will be happy to provide transcript of the debate in the parliament.)

4. Above all we are alarmed at the serious allegations that you have made regarding misuse of US funding assistance for the Tibetans. We wish to state in unequivocal terms that any assistance by US received through the Central Tibetan Administration are accounted and audited through proper democratic mechanisms with full transparency and accountability. We welcome scrutiny by any US agency on this matter.

5. The position of the Central Tibetan Administration in resolving the Tibetan Issue is unanimously approved by the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and US government has stood firmly behind us. We have nothing to say on your personal position on the Tibet Issue.

Your letter coming at a time when we are going through the darkest period of our history in view of the extremely grave situation on Tibet of Tibetans being driven to self immolations, your letter was most unfortunate.


Tibetan Parliament in Exile

(Unanimous decision taken by the Standing Committee of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile)

Cc: 1. H.E. President of United States of America

2. Hon’ble President of Senate

3. Hon’ble Speaker, House of Representative

4. Respected Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

5. Respected Secretary of the State

6. Special Representative for Tibet

7. Respected Members of Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

8. Broadcasting Board of Governors

9. Ms. Libby Liu, President of RFA

10. Hon’ble Sikyong, CTA, Dharamsala

11. Office of Tibet, New York

So, are we seeing a shift in the TGIE’s strategy? Officially, the U.S. recognizes Tibet as a part of China. So, where does Congressman Rohrabacher’s position fit in all this?

  1. December 2nd, 2012 at 23:39 | #1

    The Dalai Lama can put a dramatic end to these immolations if you wants simply by denouncing them. He refused to do that. His “reasoning” is that prohibiting them will be “taking sides”.

    These self-immolators kill themselves out of religious fervor and not because they are “oppressed”. One only needs to read their self expressed motives and protestations to see this. They are not Palestinians or even minorities within the US. They are religious fanatics.

  2. jason
    December 3rd, 2012 at 03:00 | #2

    Rohrabacher’s was a staunch supporter of the Taliban and as well as Iranian separatists. He says in 1996 that “the Taliban are devout traditionalists, not terrorists or revolutionaries, and, in contrast to the Iranians, they do not seem intent on exporting their beliefs. ” http://wonkette.com/470655/congressman-dana-rohrabacher-r-the-taliban-gets-no-respect-from-afghanistan

    Twisted and warped mind.

  3. N.M.Cheung
    December 3rd, 2012 at 04:13 | #3

    The problem for Dalai Lama is the nature of mortality. he resigned as head of TGIE to give himself some flexibility in rapproachment with China. He may be immortal, but his rebirth may be controlled by China which will defeat the whole purpose. That’s why he has been floating with different ideas such as ending the Dalai Lama or appointing his successor ahead of time but which all contradict the traditional idea of reincarnation. The 14th Dalai Lama is a well educated man, but he’s between a rock and a hard place, between medieval theocracy and modernity. He can stop the self immolations or at least remove the fig leaf of some of the sucides by proclamation and stressing the tenet of Buddhism as life affirming. He didn’t expect that China has the patience and determination to wait him out. The market force of Capitalism is presently changing the face of Tibet for better or worse as it has been doing to all native cultures in the rest of the world. Modernity has arrived in Tibet with the railroads and airports. Time awaits no man or even god.

  4. N.M.Cheung
    December 3rd, 2012 at 05:01 | #4

    I know some Tibetan exiles still harbor unrealistic expectation of independence and refuse to accept reality of Tibet as part of China. I will not argue here about history, but more of pragmatism. I recently read a book in Chinese titled “Tibetan Water Saves China” which was reissued. In the book it sketches the water problem Northern China has not including the climate warming effects, the dropping water tables in central China plains, silting of the Yellow River, pollution of eastern Chinese rivers, advances of the Gobi Desert south and dust storms. it purpose solution by damming the Yarlung Zangbo River before it turn south at 4,500 meter toward India and force water to north by a series of dams and tunnels and combining other rivers to divert 4-6 times the annual flows of Yellow River to double the flow of Yellow Rivere and other waters to Gobi and northern China to Beijing and Sinkiang. It requires tremendous amount of manpower and capital, yet it will solve China’s water problem and cause desert to bloom. For water is the most important resourance in the coming century and don’t expect China to give that up.

  5. pug_ster
    December 3rd, 2012 at 06:36 | #5

    I take this with a grain of salt. The US government basically metasticze this whole TGIE movement now is coming back to bite them. Besides, the US government is too busy trying to screw china on the South China sea thing.

  6. December 3rd, 2012 at 08:05 | #6

    Yep, Whorebacher is a terrorist sympathizer and once was the backer of the Taliban. Many US politicians seem to have a love affair of terrorist groups so long as they terrorize people they don’t like.

  7. December 4th, 2012 at 00:54 | #7

    This thing about Tibetan independence puzzles me. Is it not at least arguable that China technically became part of the Mongolian-Tibetan empire, and not the other way round? Present day China is only trying to maintain this forced historical merger, and not wanting independence! I do think the self-immolators should be considered for the Nobel Prize though (after all, Obama got one, so why shouldn’t they?) unless the more appropriate Darwinian Award accepts nomination of supposedly celibate monks.

  8. December 4th, 2012 at 13:27 | #8

    Not to trivialize the matter but not all immolations are politically related, many of those are “regular” suicides. I am not saying that it is ok there are suicides but China does have the highest suicide case in gross number, melekteus did an article on suicide in China awhile back.

    Saying that China annexed Tibet in 1959 is like saying that the US annexed Hawaii in the same year! It is simply a malicious lies that is being presented as the gospel among TGIE supporters. The TGIE is in fact being used as a pawn in a power tussle but they themselves never realized they have been played. One the foreign backer stop the flow of support they will just end up like Manchuko. That’s a true tragedy for them.

  9. Mulberry Leaf
    December 4th, 2012 at 15:38 | #9

    Your article asks, “So, is French right, that the Dalai Lama and the TGIE should and are finally agreeing with the strategy to not agitate separatism”? The answer is no: here you just have extremists trying to out-extreme each other. First of all, although the Dalai Lama has said an ideal solution would involve “Tibet” staying within China, this withdrawal of the independence demand is always tied to certain demands that the Chinese government will never consider, variously the creation of a Greater Tibet; the expulsion of all Han people from Greater Tibet; the institution of a liberal democracy that could vote itself independent, and so on.

    Second, China has its own preconditions to negotiation, which includes the Dalai Lama foreclosing the opportunity to again reassert a desire for Tibetan independence by affirming that Tibet is historically a part of China. He has always dodged this easy thing to say, as well as dodging an acknowledgement that Taiwan is a part of China (which he would have to say if he were to become a PRC politician again after a rapprochement). In other words, the Lama has never seriously considered the solution that he proposes.

    Obviously, Lobsang Sangay is pulling strings to ensure that critics of the TGIE/CTA don’t get too much airtime on Radio Free Asia. Unfortunately, all of the criticism of CTA is from the right-wing Tibetan-militant side, which makes allegations that the CTA is softer on China than they really are. The Tibetan Youth Congress, a big “critic” of the CTA, was in fact established by the Dalai Lama and used by him in order to make his demands seem more reasonable, more moderate in comparison.

    I don’t like to speak of “the Dalai Lama and the TGIE” now. The Dalai Lama has tried to de-link himself formally from the TGIE, to try to force China to negotiate with Mr. Sangay as some sort of “democratic” representative of Tibetans. China sees through this ruse and will only negotiate with DL directly, since he’s the one with influence in Tibet, not Sangay. So it doesn’t really matter what this faux-representative Mr. Sangay thinks.

    @Guo Du
    When did this “Mongolian-Tibetan empire” ever exist? In other words, when did Tibetan officials ever exercise jurisdiction over the Han heartland? I’m going to guess, “never”.

  10. Mulberry Leaf
    December 4th, 2012 at 16:17 | #10

    Guo Du’s regurgitation of Tibetocentric historiographical tropes reminds me of how much I hate them. Let’s talk about how the Qing dynasty administered Tibet. According to the CTA, the relationship was that of “priest and patron”, as if the Chinese Emperors just went to Lhasa every summer to get a blessing from that independent domain.

    Yeah, no. If we’re going to accept such self-serving interpretations of history like that, we might as well say that the Ming Dynasty had complete control over Tibet, by virtue of its selection of Tibetan rulers. Since everybody’s obsessed about “sovereignty”, let’s talk about who laid down the law with the guns, which is a very modern idea of internal sovereignty.

    One unfortunate byproduct of the Xinhai Revolution was that the Qing’s process of centralizing control over Tibet, was disrupted. By the 19th century, Chinese military officials like Zhao Erfang were already blazing through western Sichuan and kicking ass, dislodging the local feudal chiefdoms by which China indirectly administered Tibet, and replacing them with a county and prefecture system like the normal provinces. This process was simultaneously going on in Yunnan, Xinjiang, and even more extensively in Inner Mongolia by the Republicans.

    The very unfortunate existence of an independent Mongol state today, a sole byproduct of Soviet Russian duplicity and sinophobia, has helped Tibetan history-distorters argue that the Yuan Dynasty was not a legitimately Chinese state, but simply a part of “the Mongol empire”. Actually, since the other Mongol successors, the Ilkhanate and Chagatai Khanate, were embraced by the Iranians and Central Asians as genuine national states, due to the inevitable assimilation of the minority administrators to the local customs, why can we not say the same about the Yuan and China?

    Perhaps the Han Chinese had a less than prestigious position in the Yuan. Perhaps they did also under the Qing; elites frequently amplify the appearance of ethnic strife in order to gain power for themselves. Even under the Communists, Han chauvinism is suppressed, because the Communists know that this is the only ethnic nationalism that could truly break up China. Russian nationalism did the Soviet Union in; is the pure Russian state more prestigious now than it was in Soviet times, as the Falun Gong nutters say that China will be after the Communists, and presumably the flight of all the ethnic minorities and their territories? Give me a break. The balkanization of China will only cause shame, strategic encirclement and economic irrelevance for the Chinese people.

    The above argument does not address the unique circumstances of hypothetical Tibetan secession. The most explosive issue within such a proposal would be the Sino-Tibetan border, a disagreement about which tanked the Britons’ 1914 desire to negotiate Tibetan independence with the Qing. All historical arguments about Tibet being independent from China, or being just loosely administered under non-Han emperors, are completely and utterly blown away if we consider any land north and east of the Dangla mountains as “Tibet”.

  11. December 4th, 2012 at 19:19 | #11

    @Mulberry Leaf
    Thanks Mulberry Leaf. I was just being facetious as usual 🙂

    I’m no historian, and mainly had in mind the irony of how China’s huge and complex multi-cultural community was shaped over a very long period of coming and going, like the opening sentence in the novel “Three Kingdom” (三国演义). The ethnic regions that are being goaded by others to become “independent” have consistently, over many centuries, fought to become part of “China” (thinking that they would rule over it forever, of course). Eventually, some succeeded through force. Then time and a natural integration process took over. This “melting” process was one of slow simmering rather than forging, and may never be 100% complete. The CCP has probably facilitated this melting process more proactively than anyone before, for reasons you pointed out.

    My “interpretation” of “China’s part of these regions” was therefore meant to be sarcastic and ironic. The core of imperial China was mostly preoccupied with keeping everyone out rather then to colonise, until forced to merge. So, isn’t it ludicrous for anyone to agitate “separatism” now? “Hey, they worked very hard to be IN”.

    You’re right, Tibetans never “ruled” over the Chinese heartland. I was thinking of the famous Princess Wen Chang marriage in the Tang Dynasty, when Tibetan penetration was the most frequent and active. I thought they ruled Chang An for a brief period but having just checked, my memory was evidently wrong. I am also under the impression that Tibet became more “officially mainstream” by piggybacking on the Mongolians during the Yuan Dynasty. This I have not checked again. To study Chinese history carefully, one needs a very long life without the distraction of a job.

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