In November, I was able to experience the culture of one of these minority groups when I traveled to Jiuzhaigou County, an area in the northern Sichuan province heavily influenced by the Tibetan autonomous region. On one occasion, we attended a Tibetan evening festival complete with Yak butter tea and performances of traditional Tibetan songs. The dinner was designed for Chinese tourists, so they mainly sang revolutionary songs from the Mao Ze-dong era. These songs seemed out of place next to what I had learned about the tension between Tibet and mainland China.
He chose to flee.
Expelled in India ever since, the Dalai Lama has led the “Tibetan Government in Exile” until his recent renouncement of the title. Although his decision seems to suggest Tibet’s surrender to the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama’s decision is actually advantageous to the future of the region. As the Dalai Lama reaches his 80s, China is prepared to strategically choose a successor that can undercut Tibet’s efforts for greater autonomy. Giving up some power of the Dalai Lama’s power, however, takes away the extent of influence this successor could potentially use to coerce the Tibetan people to fully accept the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama’s choice to instead remain as a focal point for religious and cultural autonomy in the region suggests that he still plans to strive for gain greater autonomy in the future. His potential success and China’s subsequent reaction will be telling for other minority groups wishing to achieve the same religious freedom under a government that at times takes its idea of “holistic human rights” to the extreme.