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?