*Thubten Samphel is director of the Tibet Policy Institute, a research center of the Central Tibetan Administration. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the TPI.
In the summer of this year, Tibetan NGOs in exile held two meetings here in Dharamshala. One was a meeting of Tibetans who advocate independence for Tibet. The other was a meeting of Tibetans who support the Middle-Way Policy, of Tibet enjoying genuine autonomy within the scope of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. These two meetings made Zhu Weiqun go into a furious trance to issue doom and gloom prediction.
Zhu Weiqun, a former reporter, was previously the vice-minister of the United Front. From this post, he engaged the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a series of negotiations from 2002 to 2010. Now he is the director of the ethnic and religious commission of China’s top advisory body. Zhu Weiqun has started once again to ramble about the Middle-Way Policy. On 17 July on an obscure Chinese language website called opinion.huanqiu.com, Zhu Weiqun contributed an opinion piece titled The Drama of the Middle-Way is Approaching Its End.
Whether the Middle-Way Policy comes to an end or not will be decided by the collective will of the Tibetan people and not by an obscure bureaucrat eking out a living in the bowels of China’s vast bureaucracy.
Zhu Weiqun wears many hats. Unofficially he is the head of China’s ‘anti-splittism’ bureaucracy, whose careers will go up in smoke once the issue of Tibet is resolved to the mutual benefit of the Tibetan people and China. The ‘anti-splittism’ bureaucracy in the army, party and government consists of a little less than a half a million cadres who depend on ‘anti-splittism’ to advance their careers. A speedy and just resolution to the issue of Tibet will see their careers crumble under their feet. So it is in Zhu Weiqun’s vested interest to constantly fume about the Middle-Way. Otherwise, what skills and talents he has to remain relevant and employed by the Party?
Zhu Weiqun wears another hat. He is the chief operating officer of the United Front’s continued financial support and encouragement to the Shugden group, a virulent sect that considers the Gelug school superior to the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. A Reuters’ report of 21 December 2015 identified Zhu Weiqun as the key Chinese official directing the Shugden group in its anti-Dalai Lama activities.
The third hat Zhu Weiqun wears is the approver of ‘Living Buddha’ titles. ‘Living Buddhas’ is the Chinese term for the reincarnate lamas of Tibetan Buddhism. China’s claims of sovereignty over Tibet’s spiritual space are put into paper. On 19 January 2016 Global Times, a nationalist paper controlled by the Party, declared that the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) and the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) have compiled a database of 870 Tibetan reincarnate lamas ‘approved’ by the Party. On this datatbase, Zhu Weiqun, as quoted in the Global Times, has this to say, “The system will strike a heavy blow to the Dalai Lama, as he has been utilizing his religious status to ratify Living Buddhas at will – which is against religious tradition – in an attempt to control Tibetan monasteries and divide the country.”
The Tibetan people and the worldwide Buddhist church will not accept, leave alone believe in, any lama appointed by the administrative diktat of an atheist Party. The Tibetan people’s belief and trust in any Tibetan lama comes from the spiritual sanctity bestowed on him by the recognition given to him by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who the Tibetan people and people who come under the orbit of Tibet’s civilization believe is the incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.
In 2015, a self-appointed ‘Living Buddha’ in Hong Kong ordained a Chinese actor Zhang Tielin as a ‘Living Buddha.’ In a CCTV interview, Zhu Weiqun brushed aside the question on this incident — on the production of fake ‘Living Buddhas’ — but went on to rail against ‘fake’ Tibetan lamas who use donations from followers to support ‘separatist’ activities in Tibet.
There are Chinese whispers in Beijing that Zhu Weiqun financially benefitted from his silence on the ‘enthronement’ of the actor Zhang Tielin. Other Chinese whispers say his wife’s financial activities are also under a cloud.
This prompted a sharp and unprecedented rebuke from Jamphel Gyatso, a former colleague of Zhu Weiqun and a respected Tibetan scholar based in Beijing who used to serve as an interpreter for Mao Zedong and other top Chinese leaders. The Tibetan scholar wrote, “What I want to say here is that no matter what, in the past when discussing the Tibet issue and nationality and religion issues, Comrade Zhu Weiqun has always been able to speak clearly and succinctly to express his opinions. But this time it was completely different: he was stammering, hesitant, evasive, ambiguous and vague, as though he had something he could not bring himself to discuss, as though he was trying to hide something.”
In short, Jamphel Gyatso accused Zhu Weiqun of putting legitimate Tibetan concerns about language, environment, rampant and unprotected mining and increasing restrictions on Tibetan Buddhism into the “basket of anti-splittism.”
According to the website of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), savetibet.org, “There has been an outpouring of support for Jamphel Gyatso’s comments by netizens in postings monitored by ICT since the article was published online, revealing scarcely-veiled anger and resentment towards party policy on Tibet, the CCP position on the Dalai Lama and fears for the future of Tibetan Buddhist institutions and practice. Directing comments at Zhu Weiqun, one netizen wrote in Chinese (translated into English by ICT): “Do not manipulate the struggle against ‘Tibetan separatist’ and transform it into a struggle against the Tibetan people! This in itself is the worst separatism.”
The responsibility of any Party functionary like Zhu Weiqun is to solve problems and not avoid them by raising the flag of ‘separatism’ on any Tibetan activity.
As for his pulpit denunciation of the Middle-Way Policy, it is riddled with contradictions and blatant distortion. He makes his usual hashed and rehashed arguments. His argument is that the Middle-Way Policy is Tibetan independence in another form. Knowing that the Middle-Way Policy is Tibetan independence, does this mean that by meeting with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from 2002 to 2010 in Bejing, Zhu Weiqun is implicitly conceding the Tibetan people’s right to independence? If the Middle-Way Policy is Tibetan independence in “disguise”, why bother to meet them at all?
In his second argument, Zhu Weiqun writes, “the ‘middle way’ seeks to extend the Dalai clique’s rule in all Tibetan areas.”
On this issue of the ‘Dalai clique’s rule’ in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has explained time and time again that the Tibetan people’s just struggle is not a civil war, Tibetans pitted against Tibetans. Once the issue of Tibet is resolved to the reasonable and just aspiration of the Tibetan people, the Central Tibetan Administration will be dissolved and Tibet will be run by Tibetans who are running it now, not that China is allowing them to run Tibet fully, not even in the “Tibet Autonomous Region.”
Distorting other people’s sincere intentions is an act of irresponsibility and deserves careful attention and vigilant scrutiny by the highest leadership in Beijing.