Chinese Tibetologists on Thursday responded to the Dalai Lama's criticism of the Qinghai-Tibet railway by accusing him of instigating conflict and encouraging violence. Tibetologists were referring to the Dalai Lama's reported claim that the Qinghai-Tibet railway "is causing cultural genocide in Tibet".
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the first to link Tibet to the rest of China, starts in Xining in northwest China's Qinghai Province and ends in Lhasa, capital of Tibet. It started operations on July 1. Song Guoyou, a Ph.D student with the International Affairs Studies Institute in Shanghai, said the Dalai Lama's criticism of the railway was based on incomplete statistics that show that many Chinese from other parts of China ride the railway to Tibet and stay there. "Actually, official figures show that there are more people coming out of Tibet than entering the region on the new railway," Song said. Citing figures from the Tibet transport authority, he said that in 100 days from July 1, 212,000 people traveled out of Tibet but only 65,000 people went in. "Most commentators have praised the railway's contribution to improving people's living standards, but the Dalai Lama has chosen to ignore that," Song said.
In an interview with an Indian TV channel in April, the Dalai Lama said he has accepted Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but wants greater autonomy, not independence, for his predominantly Buddhist homeland. Chinese Tibetologists refuse to give any credence to the Dalai Lama's statements. "The Dalai Lama is once again provoking activists," said Di Zhankun, a Qinghai-based Tibetologist, claiming that the 71-year-old Dalai Lama is preparing to usher in "an era of violence." According to Di, "non-violence" and "dialogue" are tricks the Dalai Lama uses to deceive the international community.
"Does the image of a benevolent monk preaching tolerance and compassion tally with the reality?" questioned Di. Ren Xiao, professor of international affairs at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the Dalai Lama's support for "greater autonomy" in Tibet could cause conflicts among the different ethnic groups in the region.
A Tibet with "greater autonomy" would incite pro-independence Tibetans to sideline Han Chinese and force them to leave the Tibet Autonomous Region and neighboring regions, where for a long time different ethnic groups have peacefully cohabited, Ren said. "If this happens, it will be a tragedy for Tibet," Ren warned.
Chinese experts say that the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama do not disagree on issues such as the preservation of Tibetan culture or environmental protection. They accuse the Dalai Lama of pushing a political agenda.
"If the Dalai Lama truly wants to protect Tibetan culture, then he should work with the Chinese government," said Zhao Gancheng, a research fellow with the International Affairs Studies Institute in Shanghai. Tibetan culture is a crucial component of the entire Chinese culture and people all over China cherish Tibetan Buddhism as a precious cultural heritage, Zhao said. Chinese people are eager to see Tibet prosper and expect the Dalai Lama to play an active role in developing the country, he said.
Discounting the Dalai Lama's recent remarks, he insisted that the Dalai Lama has not changed his position on "independence for Tibet".