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Strategies of Attrition (I)

[See also Strate­gies of Attri­tion (II) and Strate­gies of Attri­tion (III).]

(Own report) — The Ger­man chan­cel­lor is rein­forc­ing Berlin’s spe­cial rela­tion­ships to Chi­nese sep­a­ratists, in spite of Bei­jing’s mas­sive protests. The Dalai Lama had talks in the Ger­man Chan­cellery, for the first time, Sun­day, Sept. 23. He is the leader of a self-pro­claimed Tibetan exile gov­ern­ment, with its head­quar­ters in India, which is call­ing for the seces­sion of Tibet from the Peo­ples Repub­lic of Chi­na or at least spe­cial rights in accor­dance with the Ger­man mod­el of “auton­o­my.” The Dalai Lama is a west­ern ally, help­ing to weak­en Bei­jing and ham­per its rise to the sta­tus of world pow­er. For decades he has been enjoy­ing the cross-par­ty sym­pa­thy in Ger­many and is receiv­ing sup­port from con­ser­v­a­tives, lib­er­als and Greens alike. Still his meet­ing with Angela Merkel has been met with crit­i­cism, because busi­ness cir­cles fear retal­ia­to­ry actions on the part of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment will have a neg­a­tive effect on their busi­ness. Ger­man strate­gies of attri­tion against Bei­jing, their his­tor­i­cal pre­cur­sors in the first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry and the scenes of cur­rent mea­sures, are the themes of a series of arti­cles that german-foreign-policy.com began Mon­day Sept. 24.

With his vis­it to the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor, the Dalai Lama crowned his sev­er­al weeks of tour­ing Europe. Sub­se­quent to his stops in Spain and Por­tu­gal, the self-ordained Tibetan Exile ruler met with the chan­cel­lor of Aus­tria. Over the past few days he has toured sev­er­al of the Ger­man fed­er­al states. In Mun­ster (North Rhein West­phalia) he was award­ed the hon­orary doc­tor title of the Uni­ver­si­ty. In Hesse he met with the state’s prime min­is­ter, Roland Koch. As with his pre­vi­ous vis­its — the last being in July in Ham­burg — the Dalai Lama was greet­ed with cross-par­ty expres­sions of sym­pa­thy. He is expect­ed to return to Ger­many for sev­er­al major events in May 2008.

Indi­cat­ing the effects of Ger­man behav­ior, Bei­jing has respond­ed to the trip of the Dalai Lama, and par­tic­u­lar­ly to his audi­ence with Chan­cel­lor Merkel. The Tibetan dig­ni­tary leads an exile gov­ern­ment, based in Dharam­sala (India) and lays claim to con­trol over Chi­nese ter­ri­to­ry (“Greater Tibet”). Even though orig­i­nal­ly the demand was for Tibetan nation­al sov­er­eign­ty, the Dalai Lama, in the mean­time, claims to also be sat­is­fied with com­pre­hen­sive rights of auton­o­my. “These Tibetan demands for reli­gious and cul­tur­al auton­o­my are sup­port­ed by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment” con­firmed Thomas Steg last Friday.[1] Bei­jing points to its rights of sov­er­eign­ty and reserves for itself — in accor­dance to its own dis­cre­tion and with­out the inter­fer­ence of for­mer colo­nial pow­ers — the grant­i­ng of auton­o­my for minori­ties with­in its bor­ders.

Ger­man Mod­el
The role mod­el for the rights of auton­o­my, that the Dalai Lama is demand­ing from Bei­jing, is pat­terned on the Ger­man eth­nic mod­el “Volks­grup­pen­rechte” (the rights of eth­nic minor­i­ty groups). In the North­ern Ital­ian autonomous region of Trenti­no-Alto Adi­ge (South Tyrol) this is in force and has done noth­ing toward end­ing efforts toward seces­sion. Already in 1993 an assis­tant of the Euro­pean Acad­e­my Bozen, in Alto Adi­ge, con­tact­ed the “for­eign min­is­ter” of the Tibetan exile government.[2] This acad­e­my, that has an ad hoc “Volks­grup­pen­recht”, Insti­tute was found­ed with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the for­eign min­istry of Germany.[3] The Dalai Lama per­son­al­ly vis­it­ed Bolzano in 1997. Still dur­ing the 90s, the Tibetan exile gov­ern­ment began con­sul­ta­tions with the Euro­pean Acad­e­my on the ques­tion of “Volks­grup­pen­recht”. “South Tyrol has def­i­nite­ly the char­ac­ter of a role mod­el for Tibet” explained the Tibetan exile ruler dur­ing his sec­ond vis­it to Bolzano in 2005.[4]

Nation­al Flag
The Dalai Lama, whose demands for auton­o­my and seces­sion could per­ma­nent­ly weak­en the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, is enjoy­ing cross-par­ty sup­port in Ger­many. The Green Par­ty was among the first to take up the Tibetan cause in the polit­i­cal are­na. It was the first to put pres­sure on Bei­jing with a res­o­lu­tion on “human rights vio­la­tions in Tibet” in the Ger­man nation­al par­lia­ment (Bun­destag) (Octo­ber 15, 1987). Two years lat­er, on April 20 to 21, 1989, the Greens orga­nized an inter­na­tion­al hear­ing on “Tibet and Human Rights” that was held in the SPD con­fer­ence room in Bonn and received wide atten­tion. Roland Koch (CDU), who, today, is the prime min­is­ter of Hesse has also been engaged in the cause for Tibet since the mid 1980’s. In 1995, he orga­nized the Dalai Lama’s first appear­ance in the Hesse par­lia­ment. Ten years lat­er, as the Tibetan dig­ni­tary received the Hesse Peace Prize, the Tibetan nation­al flag, which is not rec­og­nized, was fly­ing at the fed­er­al state chan­cellery in Wiesbaden.[5]

The Friedrich-Nau­mann-Foun­da­tion, close­ly affil­i­at­ed to the Ger­man lib­er­al FDP par­ty, began its exten­sive Tibet activ­i­ties in the ear­ly 1990’s. Since 1991 it has been coun­sel­ing the Tibetan exile gov­ern­ment “on all ques­tions of polit­i­cal education”.[6] Togeth­er with the exile gov­ern­ment, whose head­quar­ters is in India, the Friedrich-Nau­mann-Foun­da­tion orga­nizes inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences on Tibet. The sec­ond con­fer­ence, held in Bonn in 1996, led to diplo­mat­ic fall­out, cul­mi­nat­ing in the clos­ing of the foun­da­tion’s Bei­jing office. It has yet to be reopened. The last con­fer­ence took place in Brus­sels last Mai. At the invi­ta­tion of the Friedrich-Nau­mann-Foun­da­tion, more than 300 par­tic­i­pants, arriv­ing from over 50 coun­tries, dis­cussed “human rights” and “strate­gies of Tibetan exiles’ ”.[7] Accord­ing to the foun­da­tion, it was “the most polit­i­cal” con­fer­ence on Tibet ever: “This was also due to the oppor­tu­ni­ties that the Olympic Games, to be held next year in Chi­na, open to the Tibetans and which were also exam­ined in Brus­sels.”

The Ger­man Chan­cel­lor’s offer to hold talks with the Dalai Lama is obvi­ous­ly one such “oppor­tu­ni­ty”. This invi­ta­tion caused hefty dis­cus­sions in the For­eign Min­istry and pro­voked resent­ment in busi­ness cir­cles. Ger­man busi­ness­men fear a loss of busi­ness, because of Chi­na’s self-assured retal­i­a­tion. As an ini­tial reac­tion, Bei­jing called off nego­ti­a­tions on patent pro­tec­tion for Ger­man goods. Oth­er retal­ia­to­ry mea­sures are expect­ed. Accord­ing to the Direc­tor of Research for the Ger­man Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions (DGAP), Chan­cel­lor Merkel’s meet­ing with the Dalai Lama is a “seri­ous for­eign pol­i­cy faux-pas in a sub­or­di­nate conflict”.[8] In Berlin it was a rule that the chan­cel­lor vis­its Bei­jing with busi­ness del­e­ga­tions, and con­tacts to Tibet are main­tained below the high­est polit­i­cal lev­els. Chan­cel­lor Kohl’s vis­it to Tibet, in 1987, is exem­plary. He defied “human rights” demands and fol­lowed the course of Ger­man export inter­ests. Accom­pa­nied by numer­ous busi­ness­men, he met the Chi­nese gov­er­nor in Lhasa — only a few weeks after the US-Con­gress had passed a strong­ly word­ed Tibet res­o­lu­tion and amid strong protest of an anti-Chi­na pub­lic.

Pow­der Keg
In meet­ing the Dalai Lama, the Chan­cellery is tak­ing a major risk. As one hears in Berlin, Bei­jing is prob­a­bly avoid­ing any con­flict with Ger­many and Ger­man firms, imme­di­ate­ly pre­ced­ing the Olympic Games. The oppor­tu­ni­ty for inten­si­fy­ing sup­port for Tibetan sep­a­ratism with­out risks are there­fore grow­ing. And this, it is said, is quite desir­able. As Roland Koch, the prime min­is­ter of Hesse, is said to have learned dur­ing his
trip to Tibet last July, the chances are grow­ing to inten­si­fy the pres­sure on the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Chi­na and Bei­jing is wor­ried that if the Tibetan dig­ni­tary (72) dies, rebel­lions could break out in Tibet and in oth­er nation­al minor­i­ty areas. Accord­ing to Koch, Chi­nese gov­ern­ment cir­cles are speak­ing of the dan­ger of Tibet becom­ing a “pow­der keg” [9] with seri­ous con­se­quences. “If it does­n’t work out good there (in Tibet, the author) it could have reper­cus­sions in Xin­jiang and Inner Mon­go­lia” rejoic­es the Dalai Lama with the two oth­er poten­tial seces­sion­ist regions in mind: “after all, these three autonomous regions stretch over half of the Chi­nese territory”.[10]
In the fol­low­ing issues, german-foreign-policy.com will report on how Ger­man for­eign pol­i­cy, in 1930’s and 1940’s, through evok­ing so-called rights of auton­o­my and oth­er means of pres­sure, sought to cre­ate a Tibetan-Mon­go­lian fed­er­a­tion, under Ger­man Japan­ese hege­mo­ny.

[1] Regierung­s­pressekon­ferenz vom 21. Sep­tem­ber

[2] Endzeit am Dach der Welt; ff. Südtirol­er Wochen­magazin 28.07.2005

[3] see also Min­der­heit­en­rechte

[4] Dalai Lama in Bozen: “Südtirol als Autonomie-Mod­ell”; www.stol.it 31.07.2005

[5] see also Reise­fieber and Druck ausüben

[6] see also Die Tibet­frage

[7] Dalai Lama sagt ab — Ger­hardt kri­tisiert Bel­gien; www.fnst-freiheit.org

[8] Krise zwis­chen Peking und Berlin; Süd­deutsche Zeitung 21.09.2007

[9] Roland Koch rech­net mit Gesprächen zwis­chen der chi­ne­sis­chen Regierung und dem Dalai
Lama; Focus 22.07.2007

[10] “Chi­na mis­cht sich auch in Deutsch­lands Angele­gen­heit­en ein”; Süd­deutsche Zeitung 21.09.2007


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