Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Neo-liberalization and The Restoration of Class Power

The argument placed by David Harvey on the process of neo-liberalization as a restoration of class power couldn’t be more true now than ever. The “Occupy Wall Street” protests in the United States and its subsequent spread to other neoliberal states provides a stamp of approval on Harvey’s argument. Though we did not see the similar protests in China, it may be absolutely wrong to assume the absence of class power.

At present, though China may have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, it has also become one of the most unequal societies. Urban incomes that averaged just $80 a year in 1985 soared to over $1000 in 2004, while rural incomes rose from around $50 to around $300 in the same period (Harvey, 2005). The differences in incomes over the years provide a good indication on the rapid increase of gap between the rich and the poor. Moreover, the residential permit system ossified the increasing income gap between the urban and the rural. According to the World Bank, as of 2005, the rate at which China’s income gap increased over the last two decades was the fastest in the world (Fan, 2006).

In addition to urban vs. rural, there are income gaps between Eastern China and Western China, and Northern China and Coastal China. The prime indicators of income gaps between Eastern China and Western China may be the race and political instability. The majority Han Chinese generally settled in the Eastern China while ethnic minorities such as Tibetans, Mongolians, and Uighurs (to some extent) generally settled in the Western China.  Moreover, these minorities have incessantly raised their voices against the Chinese government for justice, freedom, and the rule of law. Because of the different race and political instability, businesses and corporations were often reluctant to start business in the Western China.

Though the neo-liberalization of China propelled many Chinese women to unimaginable corporate and government positions, it also brought the sex industry, largely in urban cities. In 2008, Shen studied the transnational intimacy between Taiwanese businessmen/employees and sex workers in Chinese Economic Zones. Though her study interviewed only Taiwanese businessmen/employees, it did help to provide a portrait of Chinese women who were supposedly working in Karaoke bars to entertain the sexual need of these transnational businessmen/employees. Based on her study, a conclusion may be drawn that Deng’s economic reforms in China brought not only wealth and power, but also social problems such as the sex industry and income inequalities.

Despite China’s eleventh and twelfth five-year plans focus on closing the widening gaps between rich and poor, it may not succeed until and unless China takes bold initiatives on reforming its domestic policies such as the residential permit system, taxes on peasants, and its economic policies including the land acquisitions, workers’ right, and subsidies on businesses. If China fails to react soon, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests may soon spiral into Shanghai, Beijing, and other parts of the country.

Neoliberalism as the ruling order in China?

With the collapse of Keynesian market and employment theory during the economic recession of 1970s, economists proposed a new free market theory with emphasis on privatization and deregulation. Though they did not call it neoliberalism, it did give the start that also earned the Washington Consensus.  One of the big changes that came along with neoliberalism was: neoliberalists tend to favor governance by experts and elites while pushing aside the role of government (Harvey, 2005).

With Washington Consensus, neoliberalism received the much-needed support from the economic giant and superpower of the world. Subsequently, changes were made in the laws and regulations of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. What does that means – there was no alternative for underdeveloped and third world countries to receive monetary assistance such as loan from these two organizations unless they adhere to the theory of free market, deregulation, and privatization. Thus, neoliberalism as the ruling order was imposed upon by the ruling elites of the world. In 1980s, poor China was no exception.

With neoliberalism as the ruling order, it not only affected the economic realm but also the social and cultural sphere of the Chinese people.  Chinese, particularly youth, started to take interest in Western music, movies, lifestyles, clothing, cultures, and most importantly, ideologies. As Dr. Ning from Shanghai University posited, Chinese youths consider traditional culture as “not cool”. However, Chinese government use the popular culture to press its legitimacy on the people of China.

In the early 1950s and 1960s, Mao used the media to depict the happy China with pictures of happy peasants on huge billboards. Now, with the improved and accessible technologies, Chinese government takes interest in the popular cultures by means of controlling what Chinese should and should not watch, read, or hear. For instance, many movies on China were banned in China; sometimes with the fear of creating instability. However, whether Chinese people had their consensus built on the neo-liberalist reform may be complicated question to answer. Right now, with checks on popular culture, it may seem there are consensus of Chinese people on the neo-liberalist reform because many Chinese only see the opportunity provided by the economic growth of the country.

The check on popular culture may not reap the benefits Chinese government intends to in the long run. For instance, when the Jasmine revolution erupted in the Middle East, many Chinese dissident used social networking sites to show their support via simple gestures such as a picture of the Jasmine flower. Some Chinese even anonymously shouted on the social networking sites to organize similar revolution in China. They did organize in Shanghai but the People Liberation Army quickly controlled the group with arrests. Finally, the popular culture is sometimes defined by public figure such as Ai Wei Wei, one of the designers for Beijing Olympic Bird Nest stadium. His recent arrest (and release) may have triggered dissatisfaction among proponents of popular culture such as art, dance, and music, among others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Is the Tibetan Freedom Movement Entering a New Phase?

Since His Holiness the Dalai Lama's March 10 statement on his decision to devolve political leadership of the Tibetan government-in-exile to a democratically elected leader, a major question has been circulating among Tibetans, Chinese, and their supporters: Will the Tibetan freedom movement enter a new phase?  Looking at recent events in Chinese-controlled Tibet and in exile, that question seems to be echoing much louder.

First, Tibetans in Chinese-controlled Tibet have taken unprecedented non-violent actions by self-immolating themselves to voice their anger against continued Chinese repression as well as restrictions including the religious freedom.  So far, eleven Tibetans have self-immolated and six of them died in doing so.  Recently, there were few self-immolation attempts by exile Tibetans in Kathmandu, Nepal and New Delhi, India.

The newly elected Tibetan leadership-in-exile does not encourage self-immolations or protests inside Tibet.  However, they have not issued any statement requesting Tibetans to stop the practice.

Second, Tibetans living in exile have resorted to desperate acts to seek international attention regarding the self-immolations such as the recent storming of the Chinese embassies in Vienna, Austria and Paris, France, during which the Chinese national flag was torn down.  What might these unprecedented actions mean to China as well as to Tibetans?

What do these actions say to China?

As repeatedly noted by Tibet experts, the acts provide a clear message to the Chinese government that its policy of repression in Tibet is not succeeding in making Tibetans happy.  Therefore, China may have to formulate new and more relaxed policies to meet the primary needs and aspirations of ethnic minorities in general, and of the Tibetan minority in particular.

The self-immolations within and outside Chinese-controlled Tibet may be a massive warning sign for China.  Until now, the acts have remained non-violent. However, they also indicate the potential for violent activities from Tibetans who may be willing to sacrifice their lives.

Further, these acts indicate that the Tibetan freedom struggle will continue far beyond the life of the present Dalai Lama.

The Chinese government may have to reassess their stand and policies on resolving the Tibet issue while the Dalai Lama is still alive.  Though His Holiness may no longer be a political leader, he could still provide the leverage that could benefit both China and Tibet in peacefully resolving the situation.

What do these acts say to Tibetans?

Tibetans are often romanticized as the sacred people of Shangri-La and upholders of peace, compassion, love, and non-violence.  In the realm of international politics, Tibetans are generally sympathized with.  However, the sympathy and support of governments, organizations, and individuals may weaken if Tibetans resort to such desperate acts as storming the Chinese Embassy.

These acts not only discomfit the host country but may also impact the future inflow of Tibetans into other countries - provoking restrictions on visas or the granting of asylum and subsidies.

Moreover, irrespective of whether individual Tibetans stand for complete independence or genuine autonomy, they may need to show some degree of sensitivity towards the general feelings of the Chinese masses.

Accommodation of those feelings may one day prove the biggest gain for the Tibetan freedom movement.  That being the case, Tibetans may have to resist tearing up the Chinese national flag and consider reassessing some of their protest slogans.

Conclusion

In conclusion, with the devolution of the Dalai Lama's political power, it is logical to see some changes in the Tibetan freedom movement.  However, it may be too early to say whether the Tibetan freedom movement is entering a new phase.

Considering the recent spate of desperate acts, the Chinese government and the Tibetan people may not have the luxury of time.  If they do not respond to these acts soon, the chances of the Tibetan political movement entering a new phase may be high - a new phase that may be beyond the reach of the present Dalai Lama.


Also read:
and




Sunday, November 13, 2011

Individual Freedoms in China

“Chinese government realizes that if left unchecked, the individual freedom to pursue private objectives can spill beyond the business realm to include critiques of state power”. Before I share my views on this statement, it may be important to do some background check.

Though Chinese leadership may not agree, there is no doubt that China is a neoliberal state. According to the theory, the neoliberal state should favor strong individual private property rights, the rule of law, and the institutions of freely functioning markets and free trade (Harvey, 2005). In this theory, businesses and corporations are also regarded as an individual. And individual freedom dictates the protection of freedom of action, expression, and choice.

Besides economic, individual freedom was also tied to politics. Halper (2010) noted, “the idea of a market society wasn’t just an economic theory; it laid the basis for a comprehensive political-economic philosophy. The power of the marker lay in the economic freedom, but economic freedom could only exist in the context of political freedom, where individual was free to choose how to live, what to buy, and what to produce”.

Washington also shared this view when it shook hands with Deng in 1980. Within Washington, there was a popular view that international engagement with China would encourage political liberalization inside the country (China). Though this popular Washington view may have remained a “view” so far, Chinese government however seems to fear the Washington view as it restricts the individual freedoms.

Relying on this background check of individual freedom and China, I own two views. First, it is clear that there is a lack of individual freedom in China. One good example may be to look at the conviction rate of Chinese courts i.e., 99 percent (Gifford, 2007). Another may be its firewall, regulations, and armies. However, the check on individual freedom is increasingly getting ineffective, as people find ways to crack the firewall with codes, to contest the laws and regulations with independent journalists and barefoot lawyers, and to challenge its armies with peaceful protests. Also, it may not be possible to write, say, or read “Tibet will be free” in proper China, however, it is possible to have them engraved the same on iPod Touch or other products manufactured in China. It seems individual freedom of corporations are defining the Chinese government’s interpretation of individual freedom.

Second, the Chinese populace will not be content with the individual freedoms they are allowed by the Chinese government. Gifford (2007) shared a beautiful opinion on the power of “choice” in his book on China. He shared, “To my mind, one of the key things is choice. Whatever our own prejudices, we simply cannot deny that there is more choice in China than there used to be. And I am of the opinion that where there is a choice, there is often change for better, and that includes the possibility of political change…. Its not happening tomorrow, but I think that once you allow people to choose their pizza toppings, sooner or later they are going to want to choose their political leaders”.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

When you hear “Socialism with Chinese Characters”, two questions may ring your ears: first, how this catchword originated? And second, is it different from other socialism? Though there may be several other ringing questions, this piece attempts to explore only these two underlying questions. At present, the world seems interested in this catchword primarily because of the fast growing economic, power, and influence of China across the globe. To put it little differently, the export-led economic growth reshaped China as the  world's factory.

Looking back at China’s history, the present economic growth of China may be largely credited to its past leader, Deng Xiaoping who pronounced a stream of economic reforms in 1978. Unlike Mao, Deng believed, “To get rich is glorious”. Deng focused on four modernizations: agriculture, industry, education, and science and defense (Lai, 2011). With these four (and subsequent) modernizations in the last three decades, particularly industry (my emphasis), the social and economic dimensions of Chinese society generally started to see a sea change. And gradually, these changes evaporated high enough in the sky that it starts to nullify the fundamental principles on which Mao laid the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and his Communist Party. Beginning with Deng’s economic reforms, Mao’s vision of proletariat and classless society changed slowly and dramatically over time. If Mao is alive and visit today’s China, he may not recognize it. He may hardly see a socialist China.

In addition, the role of Communist Party evolved from Mao’s great leap forward to Deng’s economic reforms to Hu’s harmonious society. In the present neoliberal China, the Party began to abandon the farmers and proletariat, and ally itself with the new moneyed classes, the entrepreneurs and businessmen, the urban elite, for whom the farmers are just migrant factory workers (Gifford, 2007). Today’s China is riding high on the neoliberalist agenda of free market, privatization, and decentralization of central powers to counties and provinces. Because of these neoliberalist agendas, China now has two classes of citizens: rich and poor, urban and rural, residents and migrant workers, entrepreneurs and underemployed youth, and businessmen and peasants, among others. This is where socialism with Chinese characters meets its unidentifiable shadows – shadow that fails to identify Mao and his socialism.

Though some may associate “socialism with Chinese characters” with the neon-like glittery side of China’s economic growth and development, it may not be justifying the real meaning of socialism and how it was initially established in China. The initial view of socialism, that helped the rise of Mao and his Communist Party, was generally grounded on the Marxist socialism that embraced a classless society and power to the peasants. As noted earlier, this meaning of socialism hardly make any sense in the present China despite the Chinese leadership’s expression of peaceful rise and harmonious society. This may be the reason behind the need of identity “socialism with Chinese characters” because it no longer associates with China’s past socialist ideals.

If you look at China now, you will see more of capitalism in action. Some did call China as a socialist capitalism. Whether China is an authoritarian state or a socialist capitalist, it seems the socialism has lost its feet and ground in China. For instance, there are cases of land grabs from the peasant, poor, and underprivileged Chinese to make way for business centers, Olympics, manufacturing units, and residential apartments (Broudehoux, 2007). Migrant workers are generally considered as nuisance to the urban elites. The sex industry is booming in China. Peasants are suffering because of high taxes. These are few examples of how socialism may not be working in China. Indeed, it’s socialism with Chinese characters.


Note: This piece is not not-all inclusive. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dr. Sangay's 10,000 Tibetan Professionals: A General Survey

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“Education will be our number one priority... We will strive to reach 10,000 professionals among 150,000 in exile and appeal to Tibetans inside Tibet to reach 100,000 in the next two decades”
- Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay in his Inaugural Speech, Dharamsala, India.


The need of professionals for any given society is undisputable. The election of Dr. Lobsang Sangay for the post of Kalon Tripa (chief executive) of Central Tibetan Administration confirms the general agreement of Tibetan people on the need of professionals. Undoubtedly, this need was clearly reflected in the inaugural speech noted above. The policy of producing 10,000 Tibetan professionals (hereafter the policy) received wide spread support across the Tibetan Diaspora. This piece therefore takes a general survey of the policy by examining few of the critical aspects of Tibetan professionals. This piece may also benefit the forthcoming Tibet Policy Institute to envision, develop, and execute the policy. In this piece, first, I discuss the definition of a professional followed by a critique on the role of Tibetan professionals in Tibetan communities. Finally, I share my two recommendations.



Definitions of Professional

Generally, Governments are often criticized for the vagueness in its policies whether it is Chinese Twelfth Five-Year Plan or the US foreign policies. Vague policies are sometimes created with a number of positive as well as negative intentions. The vagueness in the above policy may not be an outcome of negative intentions. However, the term “Professionals” is vague with no clear definitions.

As any individual, the first destination to look for a definition of any words is the dictionary. In Oxford and Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a professional is a person engaged or qualified in a profession. This definition in no way helps to define a professional. Next, lets look at how Global Tibetan Professional Network (GTPN) defines a Tibetan professional. GTPN is the most prominent Tibetan professional organization that provides a platform where Tibetan professionals from diverse backgrounds can network with each other and find creative ways of contributing to the community (Empoweringvision.org). GTPN defined a professional as “a person who is into a body of knowledge which requires a certain skill-set and which has been acquired through, either academic qualification or experience over a period of time”. This definition makes you wonder, “Am I a Tibetan professional?”. Interestingly, a Tibetan can register himself as a professional on the GTPN Website. Furthermore, I looked at several North American and Indian Professional Organization’s Websites for a more definite look at the term professional. My endeavors result in the same conclusion i.e., no clear definition of “a professional”.

Tibetan Professionals Role-play

Though the definition of a professional may be unclear, the Tibetan communities including Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has been identifying Tibetan professionals in general from a person’s academic background. However, the role assigned to Tibetan professionals, especially in CTA, is often criticized for its lack of flexibility as well as professional support. The rigid Central Tibetan Administrative Service rulebooks and the feeling of “on-the-wrong-job” often shy away many current and future professionals from the Tibetan jobs.

However, the role assigned to Tibetan professionals by the GTPN seems attractive minus pragmatic. The forum (GTPN conference) promotes the idea of a 'virtuous circle', or mentoring system, and defines the collective power of Tibetan professionals as a weapon in the "struggle against Chinese government and efforts to save unique cultural heritage". Beyond its economic and professional programs, it also aims to tackle political and social issues, and so help to build "a new type of Tibetan society and a new generation of Tibetans in diaspora and inside Tibet" (TheTibetpost.com, in Tibetan Professionals Develop Global Vision). It’s attractive because it covers social, economic, and political dimensions of the Tibetan people. However, it’s less pragmatic with visions such as saving unique cultural heritage and building a new type of Tibetan society.

Recommendations

The definition of a professional in general may not be clear in the literature. However, Central Tibetan Administration needs to define “a Tibetan professional” to not only help draw a plan of action for the next two decades but also to help evaluate (measure) the success of the policy periodically. In addition, the need of a precise definition is important for two reasons: first, if we go by the GTPN’s definition of a Tibetan professional, the Tibetan exile community may already have 10,000 Tibetan professionals; and second, a clear definition will help to focus/provide the required resources and support to achieve the magical number of 10,000 Tibetan professionals.

Second, the policy of producing 10,000 Tibetan professionals is as important as the question of how these professionals will contribute to Tibet and Tibetan people. Central Tibetan Administration, for example, may institute an official internship/training opportunities for professionals, relaxed rules and regulations for professionals, professional freedom, and project-oriented and grant-based jobs. Moreover, I see a need of a professional unit within or outside CTA such as Institutional Review Board for Research on Tibet and Tibetan (IRBRTT). This institute may administer all human and non-human related research on Tibet and Tibetan in exile. This not only helps to obtain professional research works but also to connect with scientists (high level professionals).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Disturbing Incidents: Where Are You?

Recently, I came across two very disturbing incidents in our exile community. These disturbing incidents truly help to postulate that Tibetan society or community is not as compassionate and peace loving as it's been romanticized by many outsiders and accepted as such by Tibetans in general. Moreover, many a times, Tibetan tries to hide or ignore social evils (and doers) in our society as if it jeopardizes this romaticization. These act remains a giant barricade that cramps the door for open discussion of these rare yet recurring social evils.

Moreover, most evil doers remain at large with less or no fair trial of the crime they committed. Their crimes are generally resolved by the respective Tibetan Settlement/Welfare Office with little or no fair verdict. Though it is not advisable to visit Indian judicial courts for all cases, I believe many wrong doers should be put on trial before the Indian Judiciary System.

Before I talk on these two incidents, it is important to know that I only heard of these two from my friends. As such, I have neither the first-hand nor the complete information.


First Incident
Where: Tibetan Children's Village Suja, Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India
When: Few weeks ago

Ama Jetsun Pema la has been widely praised for bringing an end to corporal punishment in the Tibetan Children's Village Schools. However, the recent death of a student at one of her old school may have disheartened her the most. Or it may not have as this death involves not a teacher or a staff but a school prefect/group leader. Some may simply say the school prefect/group leader is the wrongdoer. However, if you look at the incident with your heart and mind, its not the school prefect/group leader but the school system - the ultimate culprit.

if you remember, a minor girl was also recently abortioned under the same school system. The role of the Tibetan Women Association in helping this girl continue her studies was commendable. However, these social evils in Tibetan schools remain a problem that has so far been only acknowledged at the surface level and not at the policy level.

With the new Tibetan Kalon Tripa's top priority on education, will these Tibetan schools see a change or will the new administration stress more on maintaining the status quo on these invisible policies? Should we wait and hope? Or should the public act? There are many unanswered questions.


Second Incident
Where: Tenzingang Tibetan Settlement, Arunachal Pradesh, India
When: A week or two ago

A young Tibetan lady was stripped naked in public for her illicit romance with a married man. There is no doubt this lady will not pass the fair test. However, the question here is on the nature of penalizing her on her illicit romance. Do Tibetans own the right to take the law into hand? Are they still holding onto the primitive method of punishment? Have we grown up or just grown old? Again, many unanswered questions.

This case was later resolved by the local Tibetan Settlement Office with a verdict that favors the victim less. As a concerned citizen, you and me can write to the Tibetan Settlement Office for more information on this case with a copy of the same to the Secretary, Department of Home, Dharamsala; President, Tibetan Women Association, Dharamsala; Kashag Secretariat, Kashag, Dharamsala; and Speaker, Assembly of Tibetan People Deputies.

On this incident, I again put a question mark on the sleeping role of the Tibetan Women Association. They fail to act where they should.

Similarly, the role of Tibetan press and media has been very irresponsible in terms of addressing the ins and outs of the so-called nice and simple Tibetan society. They failed continuously on their social responsibility role i.e., to bring these social evils into the limelight for debate and discussion.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Charter Redrafting Committee Report and the Kalon Tripa

Old Article in the Charter for Tibetans in Exile
None

New Article in the proposal:
Title: Article 21 - Election of Kalon Tripa
"In accordance with the Rules and Regulations of the Election Commission, finalized by the Tibetan Parliament in-Exile, the Kalon Tripa shall be elected by the Tibetan people via the general election. Tibetan people shall have the right to exercise their vote and the elected Kalon Tripa shall accept the position".

This is not a perfect translation from the original Tibetan version. However, the essence of what I will be trying to communicate shall be good enough from the above not-so-good but doable translation.

Earlier, I was in the belief that everything on Kalon Tripa's election comes under the purview of the Tibetan Election Commission's specific rules and regulations. I did communicate with the current Chief Election Commissioner a while ago on the same matter that I will be focusing below. However, with this new proposal in the charter, I see a new hope in bringing a fundamental change in the Kalon Tripa's future election.

In the past three Kalon Tripa's election, all elected Kalon Tripa received a simple majority (i.e., 51%  of the total votes casted). We can democratically say, "Kalon Tripa is a choice of the Tibetan people". However, if we wish to continue to say this, I see a need for change in the report.

While skimming the report, I sensed a conflict in the Kalon Tripa's administration i.e., a conflict to consider it as a prime ministerial style of administration or presidential style of administration. If my perspectives on the report are correct, I sensed that when it comes to responsibility, Kalon Tripa tends to lean more towards prime ministerial style of administration. However, when it comes to power, Kalon Tripa tends to lean more toward presidential style of administration.

Coming back to the election of Kalon Tripa, the new article in the report doesn't align well with either prime ministerial style of government or presidential style of government. For instance, in India, a coalition party, to form a government headed by Prime Minister, needs to win the general election with a simple majority in the house of parliament. In the United States, a presidential candidate needs a simple majority in the primary election to win the presidential post. However, very strangely, Kalon Tripa needs no simple majority to win a general election (Simple majority = 51% of the total votes casted).

Now, let me put it in another way with an example. Election Commission announces six candidates for the Kalon Tripa's final election based on the results of preliminary election. All six candidates stand for the final election. Candidate A receives 20% of the total votes casted, candidate B-18%, candidate C-12%, candidate D-19%, candidate E-23%, and candidate F-8%. Under the present charter (and rules and regulations of the EC), in this scenario, candidate E wins the Kalon Tripa election with a mere 23 percentage of the total votes casted. Now, is Kalon Tripa a choice of the Tibetan people? Can Kalon Tripa be a choice of the majority? Isn't majority of voices the voice of democracy? There are many more questions to ask about. For me, this is fundamentally unacceptable.

Some believe that if Kalon Tripa fails to receive a simple majority, then, the whole re-election is a pain. Since Tibetans directly elect Kalon Tripa, I did a little research on the presidential election of the United States and I really liked it. There is a no need for re-election. In the United States, if no presidential candidate receives a majority of electoral votes (i.e. 51%), the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 presidential candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each State delegation has one vote. In our case, it could be members of the parliament.

Therefore, what I wish to see in the new proposed article in the report is something that ties the election of Kalon Tripa with the need of a simple majority of the total votes casted in the general election.

Again, I may be wrong. Please feel free to correct me. I highly encourage everyone to at least read the report once. If time permits, I will be rereading it again and will jump in with a note if I found anything to discuss with you. Lets make our charter a charter of the people. :)


*To read my earlier note on the same report, go to this link http://tenyeshi.blogspot.com/2011/05/three-things-to-think-about-in-charter.html

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Three Things to Think About in the Charter Redrafting Committee Report

Following are three things in the report, submitted by the Charter Redrafting Committee to the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, that failed to pass the thread of my logic:

Tenure of Kalon Tripa

The committee proposed a change in the tenure of Kalon Tripa from the present restriction of no more than two consecutive terms to no tenure restriction. I do not understand why the committee proposed this change that goes against leadership principles of many great democratic constitution. Tibetans do not and will not wish for a leader like Egypt's Mubarak to rule for more than thirty years. I believe the present restriction of no more than two consecutive terms stay well with the logic of "Change" and "New Administration" for the Central Tibetan Administration. However, it may be right to have no tenure restrictions on individual Kalons if Kalon Tripa decides to nominate him or her in the Kashag.

Approval of New Kalons

Earlier, New Kalons, nominated by Kalon Tripa,  have to have a simple majority from members of the parliament to induct him or her in the new Kashag. However, the current proposal from the committee withdrew the need of an approval for nominated Kalons from the TPiE. The present proposal seems to give all power to the elected Kalon Tripa to form his Kashag without any debate or discussion on new Kalons. First, this change seems to lack the logic of check and balance in a democratically formed administration. Second, God forbid, in case if Tibetan elects a wrong Kalon Tripa, then, the whole Kashag will be wrong too. That will be a huge blow to the Tibetan struggle as well as exile administration.

Relinquishing Kalon Post

Under the current proposal, an individual Kalon has to resign if asked to by the Kalon Tripa. This proposal will make all Kalons as Chelas to Kalon Tripa and will definitely hinder the debate, discussion, and decision of the Kashag. In any public administration, a power should not be vested in one individual. Instead, it should be democratically aligned over top people in the administration. Therefore, to relinquish any Kalon from the Kashag, I feel it should not be only Kalon Tripa but the Kashag who should forward it to TPiE for two-third majority to relinquish any Kalon from the Kashag.

These three caught my eye in the report. There may be many. Feel free to drop in. Also, feel free to correct me if I am wrong here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life is a million dots...

My life is a million dots
Dots that are spread out
Spread out in East and West
West is the dream
Dream that embraces individualism
Individualism outpace collectivism
Collectivism is/was my root
Root that received minimal waters
Waters no more quench my thirst
Thirst leads me nowhere
Nowhere seems the destination
Destination that lies in the cloud
Cloud, when will you burst?
Burst is all you can do to quench
Quench, is that what I want?
Want is where I lose my dots
Dots that fail to connect
Connecting the dots is my dream
Dream that may end my hope
Hope is all I owned by birth
Birth itself created the first dot
Dot that says I am a born refugee
Refugee, am I?
I prefer a Stateless
Stateless is a state of mind
Mind that keeps creating more dots
Dots seem my only possession
Possession no one likes to own
Ownership of dots: beautiful or ugly
Ugly except on a pointillist's painting
Painting is what I closely relate
Relationship of Tibetan and others
Others admire you on the wall
Wall that restricts human touch
Touch believes to spoil the painting
Painting that is rarely admired
Admiration comes the most
Most when the artist dies
Dying, is that when the dots will connect?
Connect, connect, connect...
Connecting the dots
Dots are my life
Life on a pointillist's painting
Painting that continues to….

Monday, April 4, 2011

Proposal for changes in the Election Commission's rules book



*COPY OF AN EMAIL SENT TO EC ON APRIL 1, 2011


Election Commissioners
Central Tibetan Administration
Gangchen Kyishong
Dharamsala, India


Sub: Proposal for changes in the Election Commission's rules book.

Dear Election Commissioners,

Tashi Delek!

Being an avid follower of the 2011 Kalon Tripa (Head of the Central Tibetan Administration) and Chitues (Members of the Tibetan Parliament in-exile) preliminary and final election, I felt the obligation to share some of my personal understandings that may help draft a proposal to the Tibetan Parliament in-exile for bringing much-needed changes in the existing rules and regulations.

Following are my eight proposals. If any of these proposals seem legitimate, I hope you will put forward a proposal to the new members of the Tibetan Parliament in-exile in their upcoming first session at Dharamsala in September/October 2011.

  1. Prior to the preliminary election, a detail official announcement from the Election Commission (EC) seems essential to notify all-important dates related to the upcoming election (I know the EC did make an announcement but I am proposing for a comprehensive one). For instance, among the dates, I see a need for a "day" or "timeframe" for Tibetan organizations to nominate or endorse their candidates of Kalon Tripa or Chitue. In this election, it may be naive to negate the influence of the National Democratic Party of Tibet, Dharamsala's nomination of its three Kalon Tripa candidates, which eventually resulted in the same three candidates for the final election. These untimely organizational nominations might not be an issue if it did not lessen the chances or prospects of later candidates. Likewise, the EC should spell out a "starting date" for candidates to launch their campaigns. These two dates seem necessary to ensure fair and balanced opportunity-window for all candidates. Earlier, I wrote a personal reflection on the preliminary election (read the section on Election Commission for details on this subject). Here is the link of the piece published in the Tibetan Political Review Website October 2010 http://sites.google.com/site/tibetanpoliticalreview/project-updates/personalreflectiononthekatriprimaryelection.
  2. Election Commissioners should have an authority to delegate the task of election-result-announcement to its respective regional election officer. This delegation of authority will help resolve the issues concerning the seeping of election results from several polling regions, among other benefits.
  3. There should be an alternate provision at times of emergency such as the voting problem in Nepal and Bhutan.
  4. An open period of 60 days (from the nomination of final candidates to the final election day) was too short and thin for campaigning. The Tibetan Diaspora is unique as well as complicated with registered voters spread across many borders and oceans. Therefore, the 60 days timeslot definitely seems at least not enough for Kalon Tripa campaigning.
  5. On the day of final election, Kalon Tripa and Chitue candidates should cast their vote separately or prior to the opening of voting booth to the general public. Candidates voting with public may cause tension/distraction in the future with or among supporters.
  6. To signify a majority choice of the Tibetan electorates, a candidate should have a minimum of 51% of total votes casted to win the Kalon Tripa election. The subsequent amendment should be on the acceptance of a joint campaigning for Kalon Tripa by no more than two candidates. For instance, two candidates can form an alliance as Kalon Tripa and deputy Kalon Tripa or Kalon.
  7. There is a need for some form of “statutory declaration” for candidates to sign at the time of accepting and filing their nomination to the EC. Among the terms in the statutory declaration, there should be a pledge to disclose present (and future) campaign Websites, campaign financing, etc.
  8. Finally, the EC should distribute detail biographic information of all final candidates to the general public via fliers, social networking sites, press, media, and other appropriate mediums.

Please feel free to disregard any or all of the eight proposals if it doesn’t make sense to you. As noted earlier, I am submitting this proposal purely out of my concern for the sound growth of our nascent democracy.

I copied this email to the Tibetan Parliament in-exile’s Speaker and Deputy Speaker for information. This copy was sent not to disregard your position but to make certain that all concerned officials are well informed before you submit a proposal, in case.

You are more than welcome to write me if there is anything unclear or needs more elaboration.

Sincerely,


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Response to TYC's appeal letter to members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile

Following is the copy of an email that I sent to the editors, The Tibetan Political Review in response to their coverage on TYC: An Appeal letter to the members of the members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. The piece can be accessed at http://sites.google.com/site/tibetanpoliticalreview/project-updates/tycanappeallettertothemembersofthemembersofthetibetanparliament-in-exile.


Dear Editors,

This is in response to the Tibetan Youth Congress's appeal to the members of the Tibetan Parliament in-exile (TPiE). I agree with TYC's appeal supporting complete retirement for His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the Tibetan polity. However, I fail to understand the double standard of TYC on this appeal. The Dalai Lama's statement provided an opportunity for the TYC to lead by an example before writing such an appeal to the TPiE.

Here is my rationale. One particular aims and objectives of TYC has always been in conflict with what they stand for i.e., complete independence for Tibet. Among the four, the first aims and objectives of TYC states, "To dedicate oneself to the task of serving one’s country and people under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Spiritual and Temporal Ruler of Tibet". Did they followed the guidance of the Dalai Lama on Middle Way Approach? I believe every Tibetan has an answer to this. You can access TYC's aims and objectives on this link http://www.tibetanyouthcongress.org/aboutus.html.

The TYC should have changed/nullified this particular aims and objectives before appealing to the TPiE. How can they appeal to another Tibetan organization when they themselves are sticking to the old guns? Does it make sense? For me, NOT. Its high time for Tibetan organizations such as TYC to take more responsibility on what they say/write to the general public as well as to the Tibetan government in-exile. If Tibetans have to stand without the Dalai Lama, they have to stand responsibly.

On a side note, if the TPiE accepts Dalai Lama's proposal, then, the Charter for the Tibetans in-exile should have some say on Tibetan Non-Governmental Organizations such as Tibetan Youth Congress. For instance, these NGOs (or NPOs in the United States) should file a copy of their income-tax or audited financial statements to the Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala. Moreover, the Central Tibetan Administration should have an authority to invalidate any Tibetan NGOs (and its executive members) who act against the national interest of the Tibetan people. These are two immediate changes that I see as important.

Lastly, I hope I am not wrong to ask these from one of the biggest Tibetan organizations in-exile.

Regards,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Findings of the Online Opinion Poll on 2011 Kalon Tripa Final Election



Introduction

In democratic societies around the world, there often are opinion polls conducted by media, press, political parties, or organizations to measure opinions of their electorates on candidates running for various electable positions such as president, members of parliament, senate, governor, mayor, and other local leaders. Irrespective of whether these opinion polls measure the election result accurately or closely, the opinion poll seems an integral part of many electoral processes. This personal-initiated opinion poll was expected to fill this gap in the final/primary election of the Kalon Tripa (Tibetan Prime Minister).

Unlike other opinion polls, this opinion poll does not have a constituency, a state, or a country. Tibetans are electing prime minister in-exile; they are spread across the globe and so are their voting booths. Considering the Tibetan diaspora and the eminent lack of electorates’ contact records, an online opinion poll was deemed most suitable and appropriate at this juncture of the nascent Tibetan democracy in-exile.

Before the launch of this poll, a planning document was distributed on Dec 29, 2010 (via Tibetan news site, personal blog and Facebook note) welcoming Tibetan organization or volunteers to explore the possibility of one-to-one interview with electorates who do not feel comfortable or educated enough to participate in this online poll. Unfortunately, there was no response from any quarters for this initiative on one-to-one interviews (for more on limitations, see later part of the study).

For the first time, Tibetans felt and experienced the heat of democratic election via numerous talks, debates, and discussion on Kalon Tripa candidates. Generally, Tibetans saw, heard, read, and spoke at length about their interest and choice of candidates, sometimes overly passionate. One such evidence of the Tibetan interest in the Kalon Tripa election was a large pool of writings that came out in the Tibetan News portals, blogs, and social networking sites. Sometimes, it was an overwhelming task to keep track of the candidates and their campaigns as writings, videos, debates, talks, and discussions on Kalon Tripa kept rolling from all corners of the Tibetan diaspora.

Though the interest of general Tibetan populace is a good indicator of an emerging democratic society, there also are concerns shared by some writers. For instance, Bhuchung K. Tsering shared his concern on the growth of fanatics, and few others shared on the negative campaign tactics. This online opinion poll was therefore initiated with a purpose to gather inputs from the general Tibetans to assess such concerns, among others.


Purpose of the Study

The primary purpose of this poll, as with other opinion polls, was to generate statistics based on participants’ inputs/responses. These statistics were expected to help achieve two primary goals.

First, with growing interest and discussions on the Kalon Tripa candidates and election, there are some prevailing assumptions and concerns shared among the general Tibetans (two such cases noted above). The first goal therefore was to examine the validity of these assumptions or concerns.

Second, this poll was aimed at providing an open platform for general Tibetans to share their opinions on the Kalon Tripa election and candidates.


Methods

Based on my earlier experiences of the Online Opinion Poll on 2011 Kalon Tripa Preliminary Election, a planning document was shared with readers on Dec 29, 2010 to improve participations from India and Nepal. This planning document however resulted in no response from India and Nepal.

Later, with the help of my Facebook friends, I finalized on a flier, among the two I created for this online poll, for distribution to all major Tibetan-concentrated areas across the globe. Likewise, on Jan 23, 2011, I tested the survey questionnaire items with my Facebook friends to ensure the validity of the items. On the same day, I notified the Election Commissioner, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala via an email on this personal online poll initiative.

Following the testing of survey items as well as official announcement of the final three candidates by the Election Commissioner on Jan 19, 2011, I launched the Online Opinion Poll on 2011 Kalon Tripa Final Election on Jan 26, 2011 with March 10, 2011 as the poll closing date. The poll duration was stretched to ensure participations from far flung Tibetan-concentrated areas in India and Nepal. All major announcements, related to this poll, were published in the Tibetan Political Review Website, The Tibet Post International Website, Phosamosa Website, my Facebook account, and my personal blog. The author did send a publication request to other major Tibetan news portal but with no success.

A clear information were provided on the survey launch commentary such as participant’s anonymity, survey duration, survey link, qualifying participants, closing date, my contact information as well as the opportunity for one-time participation. This online survey was designed to read the IP address so that a person using a computer can only participate once in the poll. This was generally intended to reduce the duplication of opinions/inputs.

The online poll consisted of 13 questionnaire items with two qualifiers, four on Kalon Tripa, six on demographic, and one concluding item. Participants were requested to provide their personal opinions. Out of the 13 items, one was open-ended. Weekly reminders were shared to my Facebook friends, and their friends with wall postings. The snap shots of each questionnaire items and its raw data can be assessed on my Facebook page.


Results

On the poll closing date March 10, 2011, there were a total of 400 participants. The total male participants were 288 (73%) as compared to total female participants of 105 (27%). Seven skipped this item. Majority of the participants were from North America (198) followed by India (121) and Nepal (30). Surprisingly, there were 10 participants from Tibet. Of total participants, 77 percent were in the age range of 18 to 40 and remaining 23 percent were above 40 years of age.

For the two qualifier items, 387 were Tibetans and 6 non-Tibetan; 352 were registered voters while 41 were not. Seven participants skipped both these qualifier items.

A total of 56% of participants said experience, 53% vision, 33% integrity, and 27% trust when asked to select what best describes their choice of Kalon Tripa for the final election. Self-reliance with 10% and tried & tested with 18% were the two that received a lowest number of responses.

As of marital status, 44% were single, 53% married, and only 1% monk or nun. Moreover, a total of 69% of the participants have at least completed a bachelor’s degree while 32% were working for private employer or organization, 16% student and 13% self-employed.

A concluding question, “as a result of the entire Kalon Tripa electoral process, do you believe we, as a Tibetan, are more divided now that before?” received 57% “No”, 25% “Yes”, and 18% “Don’t know” responses. Earlier, I wrote a piece on this response. You can access this piece by clicking on this link, “Tibetans’ Nascent Democracy in Exile: Writers Play Active Role”.


Findings

Of the total 400 responses, 341 were valid. Using statistical software SPSS, the data (341 responses) were analyzed using descriptic statistics and cross tabulations. Some of the key findings are described below with the help of charts and a table.


Figure 1.

The figure 1 shows that a majority of the participants were male. Also, the support for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la was higher and evenly spread across both male and female as compared to other two candidates. However, this chart fails to provide opinions of monks and nuns who shares significant vote counts in the Tibetan diaspora. For your information, in the above and following figures, green bar indicates a number of responses for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, blue for Lobsang Sangay la, beige for Tashi Wangdi la, and pink for undecided voters.


Figure 2.

The figure 2 provides information on the number of responses each Kalon Tripa candidates received from several major locations. It was clear that a majority of the participants were from North America followed by India and Nepal. The high-rise green bar on North America and India indicates that the Tibetan electorates in these two locations prefer Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la as the next Kalon Tripa. In other locations, blue and green bar were spread across in proportion. However, the possibility of a skewed result cannot be denied in this chart (and study) as the largest Tibetan electorates still resides in India.

Figure 3. 


The figure 3 depicts the total number of responses each Kalon Tripa candidates received based on participants’ age. Of the total participants, 77% were in the age range of 18 to 40 and only 27% were above 40. This is understandable with an online opinion poll which tends to favors the younger generation who are savvier towards internet and computers. This chart helped to answer one of the common assumptions i.e., younger generations support Lobsang Sangay la. However, the study and above chart showed no evidence to support this assumption.






KT8 (Preliminary choice of Kalon Tripa candidates)
Total

Did Not Vote
Gyari Dolma
Lobsang Sangay
Others
Penpa Tsering
Tenzin Namgyal Tethong
Tashi Wangdi
 KT6 (Choice of candidate for final election)
Lobsang Sangay

9
2
67*
0
3
4
1
86
Tenzin Namgyal Tethong

19*
2
36*
10*
2
101
9*
179
Tashi Wangdi

4
1
12
6
2
7
29
61
Undecided

3
0
3
6
1
2
0
15
Total

35
5
118
22
8
114
39
341
Table 1. Cross Tabulation KT6*KT8











Table 1 shows the result of a cross tabulation analysis that helps to examine differences in participants’ change of Kalon Tripa candidate’s choice with that of their earlier choice in the preliminary election. This table may be one of the key findings of this study that helps to provide some understanding on the effects of campaigns, among others.

From the table, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la gained votes while Lobsang Sangay lost some. A total of 118 participants voted for Lobsang Sangay la in the preliminary election while only 86 chose him for the final election. Similarly, 114 for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la for preliminary while 179 chose him for the final election; 39 for Tashi Wangdi la for preliminary while 61 chose him for the final election. It seems clear that Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la gained the most of votes followed by slight gains for Tashi Wangdi la. However, Lobsang Sangay la lost the most votes to other two candidates.

Let’s take a look at details on “who gained what” by matching participants’ preliminary choice of Kalon Tripa candidates with that of their final choice. As for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, he gained 36 votes from Lobsang Sangay la, 19 from “who did not vote” in the preliminary election, 10 from others, 9 from Tashi Wangdi la, and 2 each from Gyari Dolma la and Penpa Tsering la while losing only 13 (114-101) from his total count of preliminary votes.

As for Lobsang Sangay la, he gained 9 votes from “who did not vote” in the preliminary election, 4 from Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, 3 from Penpa Tsering la, 2 from Gyari Dolma la, and 1 from Tashi Wangdi la while losing 51 (118-67) from his total count of preliminary votes.

Finally, as for Tashi Wangdi la, he gained 12 votes from Lobsang Sangay la, 7 from Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la, 6 from others, 4 from “who did not vote”, 2 from Penpa Tsering la, and 1 from Gyari Dolma la while losing only 10 (39-29) from his total count of preliminary votes. This gain for Tashi Wangdi la provides an evidence for another assumptions i.e., Tashi Wangdi la will split Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la votes. However, Tashi Wangdi la gained more of Lobsang Sangay la’s votes (12) as compared to Tenzin Namgyal la’s votes (7).

In addition to the above three figures and a table, none of the other analysis provides new or different understanding on the general Tibetan opinions. Throughout the analyses, it was clear that the support for Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la was uniform and spread evenly across the scales.

Finally, an open-ended question was asked to participants asking for additional comments on 2011 Kalon Tripa final election, candidates, or campaigns. Patterns and themes were examined on a total of 111 responses. Excluding the general comments, some of the common patterns and themes were: the need of experience; the push for change; concerns for negative campaigning and character assassinations; and calls for province-less or sectarian-less election. Three comments were directed to the Election Commission: simplification of the voter registration process; consideration of Tibetan voters in Nepal; and the need of extra security in all the polling booths. It was not clear what it means by extra security.


Limitations of the Study

Online surveys are not without limitations. Some major limitations of this online opinion poll are:

1.              This poll failed to collect opinions/inputs of Tibetans with no computer and/or English language skills.
2.              With IP settings of one-time restricted participation, only one member of the family (owning one computer) was able to provide his or her opinion on behalf of the family.
3.              With the Tibetan electorates spread across the globe, it seems impossible to adopt a good sampling technique. Therefore, the study’s finding cannot be termed as statistically significant.
4.              With low participation rates from India, the generalization of the study’s findings may not be appropriate.


Discussion and Conclusion

Despite the limitations, the study succeeded in providing useful information on the general opinions of the Tibetan electorates concerning the Kalon Tripa election and candidates. A brief closing analysis of each Kalon Tripa candidates is provided for better connection to the study’s purpose.

Tenzin Namgyal Tethong
He is clearly the winner of this opinion poll. It is however not clear if his win in this poll was a result of his campaigns that started after the preliminary election. The poll’s finding suggests his success in gaining votes. However, the margin of gains, from his preliminary vote counts of 12,314, needs to be seen. To conclude, he seems to have emerged out of the preliminary election as an opponent to a close contender to Lobsang Sangay la in the final election.

Lobsang Sangay
The findings from this poll are definitely a concern for Lobsang Sangay la. He lost a large count of votes to other two candidates while gaining a little. The poor show of Lobsang Sangay la in this poll begs a question on his later campaigns. Or is it because of the campaigns from the other two candidates? The effect of lost votes on Lobsang Sangay la can only be known on the day of the election results. However, Lobsang Sangay la’s loss of votes may provide a close race between Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la and him in the final election.

Tashi Wangdi
Though he gained voters’ supports in this poll, the gains were not significant enough to count him as a contender for the next Kalon Tripa. His total votes in the preliminary election were 2,101. However, it needs to be seen how his presence as the third candidate will influence the final voting tally of the two leading candidates.

A total number of registered voters were around 82,000. By assuming 75% voter turnouts on the Election Day, the total voters may be around 61,500. As per the electoral rules, any candidates should have at least 33.4% of the total votes to win the election, which means a total of at least 20,541 votes to win. This winning number begs several questions such as will Lobsang Sangay la’s preliminary votes of 22,489 enough to win the final election? Or will Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la gains enough votes to reach this magic number? Or will Tashi Wangdi la play a major role in who wins this election?

On a final note, this poll succeeded in presenting what it was intended for i.e., to generate statistics based on participants’ inputs or responses. However, the accuracy or legitimacy of the study’s findings can be known only on the day of the Kalon Tripa final election’s result announcement.

Acknowledgements

This online opinion poll was made possible with helps from several dedicated individuals. First, I would like to thank the Tibetan Political Review, The Tibet Post International, and the Phosamosa.com for providing space on their Websites for the poll. Second, I am thankful to my Facebook friends who provided valuable suggestions and supports for this poll especially with the flier postings. Finally, to all the participants - without you, I would not have this final poll analysis.



PS: This study is written purely based on the participant’s inputs and responses. The author (or the survey administrator) has no affiliation with any of the Kalon Tripa candidates. Neither do the author endorse any of them. The author tried to be as short and objective as possible throughout the analysis. Further analyses of the results are more than welcome.