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A Secret Visit and Sino-Tibetan Dialogue

posted Jan 1, 2018, 6:25 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
Issues to consider while waiting for the Sino-Tibetan ‘Godot’.

(AP Photo/Ashwini Batia)

Credible sources have confirmed that Samdhong Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan leader, recently visited Gyalthang (redubbed as Shangri La recently), his hometown in Yunnan province of China. According to the source, the purpose of the visit was to meet his family. In all likelihood, the visit took place sometime in November; specifically mid-November, according to the article in The Wire that first broke the news about the visit. Earlier, on November 6, the Dalai Lama appointed Samdhong Rinpoche, along with Sikyong Lobsang Sangay (the current president of the Central Tibetan Administration, or CTA, in Dharamsala) as his trusted “representative” or “personal emissary” for an indefinite period.

Samdhong Rinpoche preceded Lobsang Sangay as head of the CTA and played an instrumental role in pushing for the Dalai Lama’s middle way approach (MWA) during his tenure as president. It was during his leadership of the CTA that Sino-Tibetan talks resumed in 2002, after almost a decade of impasse. He also has a close bond with the Dalai Lama; Samdhong Rinpoche’s residential quarters are located within the premises of the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala.

So, given Samdhong Rinpoche’s recent trip to China, is a formal Sino-Tibetan meeting in the offing? Is it possible for China to take up the Tibet issue so promptly just after the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party? For a long time, many of the Tibetan leaders in exile have held the belief that Xi Jinping was waiting for his second term to initiate a major change in Tibet policy. The 19th Party Congress is now over and Xi has more or less reigned supreme, with Xi Jinping Thought now comfortably enshrined into the Party Constitution. Xi was already designated as a “core” leader at the sixth plenum of the 18th Party Congress in October 2016. Further, his pet project, “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) or the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that he announced in 2013, too made it into the Party Constitution. Xi also sought to redefine the “principal contradiction” facing the Party, which had been done by none other than Mao Zedong himself. Notably, Xi refrained from designating a successor by limiting the entry of sixth generation leaders, who could have been eligible to succeed him in 2022, into the Politburo Standing Committee.

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