U.S. Officials Hoped Chinese Liberalization Program for Tibet in Early 1980s Would Bring Significant Improvements
Declassified Embassy Cables Assess Rationales for Beijing's Short-Lived Policy and Reasons for Its Collapse
China's Proposed Inducement – to Elect the Dalai Lama to the Chinese Legislature – "is not to be compared with being a living god in Lhasa," U.S. Embassy Wrote
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 414
Posted - February 28, 2013
Edited by Robert A. Wampler, PhD
Washington, D.C., February 28, 2013 – U.S. officials had hopes thirty years ago that a political liberalization and economic reform program China had initiated in Tibet could lead to real improvements in that country, according to declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive.
The documents describe a path diametrically at odds with the one Beijing has pursued in recent years – suppressing violent protests, arresting scores of ethnic Tibetans in the Qinghai province, which borders Tibet, sentencing one to prison for 13 years, and renewing accusations that the Dalai Lama is encouraging anti- Beijing actions (despite the fact that the Tibetan exile government has specifically urged protesters not to engage in them). In part due to this crackdown in China, the protests, including self-immolations, have spread to other countries, with the most recent occurring in Nepal's capital, Katmandu.
As the number of self-immolations since 2009 recently climbed over 100, the documents raise questions about whether Beijing's pursuit of a more flexible policy toward Tibet could have mitigated the downward spiral in that country's wretched political and economic conditions.