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A Tibetan RevolutionaryThe Political Life and Times of Bapa Phuntso Wangye$

Melvyn Goldstein

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520240896

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520240896.001.0001

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A Comment by Phünwang

A Comment by Phünwang

(p.311) Epilogue A Comment by Phünwang
A Tibetan Revolutionary

Melvyn C. Goldstein

Dawei Sherap

William R. Siebenschuh

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

Phüntso Wangye agreed to Melvyn Goldstein to give statements for the epilogue of this book. First, in the decade up to and including 1949, there was a struggle to achieve progress and development for the Tibetan nationality, social reforms in Tibet, the happiness of the Tibetan people, and the reunification and liberation of the entire Tibetan nationality. Second, during Phüntso's life he was in charge of launching the Tibetan communist movement and establishing relationships with the Chinese Communist Party, the Soviet Communist Party, and the Indian Communist Party. The Dalai Lama is the main effective factor upon which the Tibetan issue depends. There is no reason to have suspicions regarding the intentions of the Dalai Lama, and no reason to distort his sincere, selfless thought or attack his incomparable character. To the contrary, as Mr. Wang Lixiong has said, he is the key to settling the Tibet issue.

Keywords:   Phüntso Wangye, Tibetan nationality, social reforms, Tibetan communist movement, Chinese Communist Party, Soviet Communist Party, Indian Communist Party, Dalai Lama

In 2002, Melvyn Goldstein asked Phünwang if he would be willing to write an epilogue for this book. Two days later, Phünwang gave him the following statement.

You asked many questions about my life, and I have tried to answer them. Now, at your request, I will make a few points to sum up.

First, in the decade between 1939 and 1949, we struggled to achieve progress and development for the Tibetan nationality, social reforms in Tibet, the happiness of the Tibetan people, and the reunification and liberation of the entire Tibetan nationality. Although we did our best, under the prevailing historical conditions, we failed to make much progress.

After the new China was founded in 1949, I continued to work unwaveringly for the progress and development of the Tibetan nationality through new channels, in new ways, and with new methods under the new historical conditions.

As is known to all, the constitution of the new China and the fundamental policies of the Communist Party of China clearly stipulate that all those systems in the old China that were designed to oppress minority nationalities must be abolished and that all nationalities, big or small, are equal and should cooperate with one another so they can prosper together. Therefore, I believe that under today’s historical conditions, Tibetans and other minority nationalities should unite with (not separate (p.312) from) the powerful Han nationality for their mutual benefit. This has been my basic point of view since the founding of the new China.

After the Third Plenary Session repudiated the Cultural Revolution in the early 1980s, the party stipulated new guidelines and policies for working with nationalities. Based on this, I repeatedly emphasized that our Han brothers should treat their brother nationalities with sincerity and allow each of the fifty-five minority nationalities to have a relatively compact homeland in which they can truly be their own masters and carry out their own reforms and development. Only in this way will the interests of the nationalities and the country be united, and only in this way will the thoughts of dissension and discord be eliminated and true national unity and stability be realized. However, many obstacles and difficulties have been encountered due to the influence of traditional Han Chauvinist thoughts, feudalism, and hegemonism. The new guidelines and policies stipulated by the Central Committee have not been thoroughly carried out. Continuous effort is still needed to realize them.

Second, during my life I was in charge of launching the Tibetan communist movement and establishing relationships with the Chinese Communist Party, the Soviet Communist Party, and the Indian Communist Party. Because of this, I was expelled from the Guomoindang’s school by Chiang Kaishek and pursued by the Guomindang police. Then I was deported from Tibet by the Tibetan government.

After this, I was a participant and witness to the Seventeen-Point Agreement, which brought Tibet back to the big family of new China. I worked hard for the liberation of the Tibetan nationality and for national unity in the new China. I was the interpreter when the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the traditional spiritual leaders of the Land of Snow, talked with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and other leaders of the central government. But I was later held in solitary confinement and cruelly tortured for eighteen years in the Communist Party’s Qingchen Prison.

Nevertheless, as Liu Zongyuan of the Tang dynasty once said, “Everyone knows the harm enemies can do, but not how much benefit they can bring.” I have a profound understanding of those words. After I was released from prison, Deng Xiaoping told me, “You have suffered a lot!” Indeed, the hardship of solitary imprisonment is beyond description. But, on the other hand, if I had not been sent into Qingchen by those leaders, I might have taken my last breath long ago during the chaotic Cultural Revolution. Fortunately, I am a Khampa who grew up on barley, beef, and mutton, and I managed to overcome unendurable difficulties though my extremely strong will. I survived Qingchen. Beethoven (p.313) said, “I will seize fate by the throat. It won’t lay me low.” That is what I believe I did. I did not let my suffering lay me low. I did not disgrace my dear parents, countrymen, and the Tibetans of the Land of Snow.

I read widely when I was in prison. Einstein said, “Philosophy is the source of all scientific research.” I believe that dialectics, the highest form of thinking in philosophy, is the crystallization of human wisdom and the science of sciences. For centuries, philosophers have thought that everything is changing according to different rules. Proceeding on such an assumption, I developed a new theoretical system of dialectic reasoning that incorporates the logical formulas of the structures of everything in terms of their spatial extensionality, the cyclical law of their movements in terms of temporal continuity, and the law of dialectically stratified differentiation. I carefully recorded my thoughts about these matters in what might be said to be my dissertation—completed after eighteen years at the “Qingchen Party School.”

After I was released from prison, I wrote New Exploration of Dialectics, which deals mainly with social structures and is about eight hundred thousand characters long; Water Exists in Liquid Form on the Moon, which is about two hundred thousand characters long; and Further Exploration of Natural Dialectics, which is about six hundred thousand characters long. The scientific conclusion that I came up with for the first time—that liquid water exists on all the planets, including the moon—was verified several times by NASA in the United States. Overall, Qingchen Prison did me more good than harm.

Third, in 1980, I was invited to a meeting convened by the Society for the History of Marxist Philosophy in Luoyang at which, at their request, I made some comments. I said, “When I was in prison, I had time to read several times through all the classic works of Marxism, as well as other works on modern science and technology. Other people might not have had this opportunity. I am not saying that I am erudite because of that. On the contrary, I feel ignorant. However, I feel I have the right to make two comments. First, if they were alive today, Marx and Engels would negate some of their past viewpoints and proclaim that they had shortcomings and were imperfect. And second, they would amend and perfect some others, although the fundamental philosophical dialectical and economic viewpoints would be upheld. All theories are generalizations and summaries of social practices, and thus are subject to the constraints of the times. If Marx and Engels were still alive, they would proclaim that the policies and actions of communists all over the world today, including the Chinese communists, are not always in accordance with their (p.314) thoughts and principles. When Marx was alive, he announced more than once to those who claimed to be Marxist organizations and parties that they were not what he would call Marxists.”

When I said this, hundreds of Chinese experts and scholars—who had just gone through the hardships of the catastrophic ten-year Cultural Revolution, during which they had proclaimed that Marxism and Mao Zedong’s thought had reached its “acme”—applauded warmly.

Marxism is meant to emancipate the human race, lead to universal harmony in the world, and establish a just, reasonable, and healthy social system in which there is no exploitation of man by man or oppression of weak nations by powerful ones. It has progressive thoughts that support the lofty cause of human beings.

However, as Deng Xiaoping emphasized, practice is the sole yardstick of truth. Under the guidance of this thought and under the third generation of leadership, with Jiang Zemin at the head, China has experienced new changes daily and has attracted the admiration of the world. But the relationship between Han and Tibetans, as well as that with other minority nationalities within the borders of China, needs to be improved.

A few years ago, General Secretary Jiang Zemin talked to me for about two hours [on Tibet]. During this time, I handed him a letter I had once written to the Central Committee about the importance of nationalities work in light of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many people who have been involved in nationalities work for a long time and have a broad vision are concerned by the fact that while things superficially look harmonious in China, there are actually numerous points of conflict between the Han and Tibetans (as well as other minority nationalities). They are dissatisfied with various actions that are irresponsible, such as focusing on short-term rather than long-term goals, treating symptoms but not real causes, reporting good news but not bad, and even fabricating facts, telling lies, and achieving personal gain at the cost of the public interest.

There is hope that the Central Committee, after twenty years of reforms and the opening up of China to the world’s economic structure, including joining the World Trade Organization, will [now] carefully analyze the relationships among the various nationalities, learn from the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and develop new policies and guidelines with regard to the work on nationalities, as it did in the early 1980s. As a result, it is to be hoped that the areas inhabited by minority nationalities will be granted rights to political, economic, and cultural autonomy, so that relationships between the Han and other nationalities (p.315) will be fundamentally improved and genuine national unity, as well as true social peace and stability, will be achieved.

I often worry about the future and fate of the Tibetan nationality (as well as other sibling nationalities). When General Secretary Hu Yaobang met with me twenty years ago, I made many suggestions, one of which was that Lhasa should never change. It has been the sacred city of the Tibetans of the Land of Snow for hundreds of years, playing a role for Tibetans like the one Mecca plays for Muslims. If the Potala Palace were ever to be shouldered aside by new high-rise apartments and large numbers of Chinese-speaking residents, the Chinese government would have made a historic mistake with serious consequences. Since the Central Committee is now responsible for the Tibetan people and their history, I hope it will think carefully about its responsibility and reverse any policy with such [negative] consequences. However, I am disturbed that after twenty years, the situation is not improving. I founded the Tibetan Communist Party in the early 1940s and feel I have a historical responsibility to pay attention to this issue. Engels once said, “History will eventually put all the incorrect and abnormal phenomena back on the right track.” I believe his words apply to national and ethnic relationships.

Finally, Mr. Wang Lixiong, a well-known Han author who has been to Tibet seventeen times and has traveled to every corner of the region, wrote a book entitled Sky BurialThe Fate of Tibet. He knows the truth of Tibet and the feelings and thoughts of the Tibetan people, and his book has attracted intense attention both at home and abroad. Recently, he also wrote an article for the benefit of both Tibetans and Han people, particularly the Han, which was entitled “The Dalai Lama Is the Key to the Issue of Tibet.” This article has been translated into English and Tibetan and has been widely acclaimed.

A famous foreign writer said to me that Wang’s work was very well written, but if a Tibetan had written what Wang did, the Han Chinese would certainly have said many things in disapproval and, at the minimum, would have thought it was biased. Similarly, if a foreigner had written it, the Han Chinese would have disapproved of it and, at the least, would have claimed that he failed to grasp the situation in Tibet correctly. However, since it was written by a well-known and knowledgeable Han writer, what can they say?

The Tibetan people living on the roof of the world have for many years combined their own culture with the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism that flourished in India, merging them like water seamlessly mixing (p.316) with milk. The ensuing unique culture of Tibet greatly influenced the Tibetan people, so they strongly opposed the harm and destruction caused by the wrongful line of “Leftism” in the late 1950s (after the PRC was founded). Furthermore, they also strongly opposed the wounds caused by the disasters of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and the remnants of the Cultural Revolution still existing in Tibet.

Therefore, most people in Kham, in [Central] Tibet, and in Amdo miss their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, from the bottom of their hearts. They trust and rely on him and ask him to grant favor to them and pray for them.

As all of you know, from ancient to modern times, the historical record inside the country and abroad has proven that the victory or loss of political power depends on the way people think. Therefore, Wang Lixiong’s article has great significance for how to think about settling the issue that concerns all Tibetans.

In the past, Comrade Deng Xiaoping put forward a correct principle regarding Tibet when he said, “Outside of independence, we can talk about all the other matters.” Similarly, the Dalai Lama has also declared repeatedly, “We don’t want independence; we want genuine autonomy.” One side wants the unification of the nation, and the other side wants autonomy. These two positions do not contradict each other and therefore are absolutely compatible. This basic viewpoint is very clear.

Mr. Wang Lixiong wrote a new book in 2002 entitled A Conversation with the Dalai Lama. In this book, he summed up his four visits with the Dalai Lama:

I have three points to tell the political power holders:

First, after visiting the Dalai Lama and investigating the issue, I can declare that he sincerely wants to take the middle path [autonomy], and I can repudiate the viewpoint that his talking about “the middle path” is merely an evil trick.

Second, the Dalai Lama is very healthy. Consequently, those people who are thinking that the physical and mental condition of the Dalai Lama is declining day by day and are trying their best to delay the settlement of the Tibetan issue until his death should reconsider.

Third, in Western society, the Dalai Lama is regarded as a great and famous person. Therefore, whoever puts the Dalai Lama into the position of his enemy [let alone becoming the opponents of the Tibetan people inside the country], they become the opponents of the Western world.

Based on these three points, Wang said that the Dalai Lama is the key to the issue of Tibet. If China would talk with the Dalai Lama and they

A Comment by Phünwang (p.317) were able to settle the issues that concern all Tibetans, then the central government would at last be able, with a single stroke, to achieve a tremendous success [regarding this issue].

In the past, an intellectual said, “A viewpoint based on bias and prejudice is further from the truth than one that is simply factually mistaken.” Thus, there is a big difference in the impact of speech and ideas, depending on whether the person is prejudiced or just mistaken. On the issue of Tibet, the prejudiced view consistently held by the relevant parties must be considered in this light.

Here I have to clarify one thing. Today, we should recognize that the Dalai Lama is the key to the issue of Tibet; he is the main effective factor upon which [the Tibetan issue] depends. Therefore, it is extremely important to investigate the trends regarding the Dalai Lama and his position.

History has proven that the separation of religion and politics was an inevitable trend of society. Likewise, it has shown that there is an inevitable trend for political feudal autocratic systems lasting more than three hundred years to develop into democratic modern societies. Similarly, the system of having reincarnations like the Dalai Lamas is also like that.

Regarding this, the Dalai Lama himself has repeatedly spoken out. He has said that if the middle path [not wanting independence, but only genuine autonomy] that he adheres to was realized, and if there was a genuine democratic autonomous government of a united Tibetan nationality within the big family of the PRC, then he would leave political life and become a simple monk concentrating on his religious activities.

Consequently, there is no reason to have suspicions regarding the intentions of the Dalai Lama, and no reason to distort his sincere, selfless thought and attack his incomparable character. To the contrary, as Mr. Wang Lixiong has said, he is the key to settling the Tibet issue.