By Patrick Boehler, South China Morning Post
The founder of Tibet’s Communist Party has pleaded with the Chinese central government to allow the return of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to his homeland in an autobiography soon to be published in Hong Kong.
New Century Press, which published disgraced Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang’s autobiography, is set to release Bapa Phuntso Wangye’s autobiography A Long Way to Equality and Unity on Friday.
In it, the 92-year-old, also known as Phunwang, asks the Beijing government to compromise with Tibet’s exile government in Dharamsala, India, and allow the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.
Phunwang appealed to former President Hu Jintao and several members of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee to “allow the hundreds of thousands of exiled Tibetan compatriots headed by the Dalai Lama to return home, live and work in peace,” he wrote in the book, adding that his advice has been ignored.
The publication coincides with the first annual plenum of the National People’s Congress in Beijing under Xi Jinping’s presidency and follows a knife attack by Xinjiang separatists in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, which left 29 dead last Saturday.
Phunwang in his book accuses the central government of having exacerbated tensions between China’s Han-majority population and ethnic minorities. In a chapter titled “We cannot walk the road towards a Chinese Empire”, he warns the government in Beijing that it should not rely on violence and economic development to cement its rule over its Tibetan population.
“It is significant that someone who has spent his whole life working with the Central government shows this kind of dissatisfaction with its policies,” said Bao Pu, the book’s publisher.
The critique comes from the guerilla leader who founded Tibet’s Communist Party in the 1940s before merging it with Mao Zedong’s in 1949. He assisted Mao in his early negotiations with the Dalai Lama but was incarcerated in 1958, a year before the Dalai Lama fled to India.
Phunwang was only rehabilitated after Mao’s death and Deng Xiaoping’s rise to power in 1978. He has since lived in Beijing.
Bao said Phunwang had been working on the book for three years. The book is in Chinese as the former guerilla leader’s health is deteriorating quickly. “He couldn’t proofread the book anymore, this is why we have to publish the full version of the book as it is,” the publisher said.
In 2006, three scholars published an English-language biographical account of Phunwang’s life under the title A Tibetan Revolutionary, which foreshadowed the scathing criticism of the current situation in his autobiography.
“The PRC considers itself a multiethnic state in which all groups have equal rights and power,” anthropologist Melvyn Goldstein wrote in the preface. “Phunwang suggests it really operates too much like a Han Chinese state.”
The Dalai Lama, 78, left Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959 and has since lived in exile, travelling the world campaigning for Tibetan spiritual autonomy. On Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is expected lead the opening prayers at the US Senate.
China has blamed the spiritual leader and his government in-exile for inciting more than 120 self-immolations by Tibetans demonstrating against Chinese rule as ethnic tensions have continued to increase in recent years.
UPDATE: One day after this article was published, Dicki Chhoyang, the minister for Information and International Relations of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, shared the following statement with theSouth China Morning Post:
“We welcome Mr. Phuntsok Wangyal’s candid comments on how the Tibetan people are treated by the Chinese government. The concerns expressed by someone of his political stature will hopefully be seriously considered by the Chinese leadership. He is someone who is equally committed to the welfare of the Chinese State as well as the survival of his people and their distinct identity.”