The aspirations of the Tibetan people are neither anti-Chinese nor anti-China, but rather anti-oppression. – His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama
The authors of Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region, Barry Sautman and June Teufel Dreyer, caution: “The subject of Tibet is highly controversial, and Tibet, as a political entity, is defined differently from source to source and audience to audience.” [B7]
While true, their statement can be easily extended to any aspect of Tibet beyond the political entity, which makes writing about any topic of Tibetan past, presence, and future an extremely complex and exhausting task. Any work on Tibet is ultimately flawed, if not outright fabricated in the eyes of a myriad of experts, and this series of articles on The Panchen Lama Controversy is, by any means, no exception.
My initial intention was to document the Panchen Lama controversy open-mindedly and objective to a fault, a version that would (hypothetically) neither offend nor please the Central Tibetan Administration or the Government of the People’s Republic of China but, at the same time, deliver sufficient information for a lively discussion. However, one cannot close their eyes toward the ongoing violations of Human rights in Communist China. Another aggravating factor is the Chinese government’s information policy that continues to defy common sense and raise suspicions in regards to their credibility, a system where reality and rhetoric are at odds. Living in the United States of America makes it difficult, if not impossible, not to side with the Tibetan, and ultimately the 14th Dalai Lama’s view of the current situation.
Nevertheless, without denying Tibet’s problems with Chinese occupation, I spent great efforts not to engage into patriotic laments that would weaken the credibility of facts and views. In case there are any ever-so-slightly political comments in this book, they are, going with the 14th Dalai Lama’s quote, neither anti-Chinese nor anti-China but rather anti-oppression. I do take the liberty, though, of using the term “His Holiness” when referring to the current Dalai Lama, a term disputed by Chinese government officials.
Another flaw of this series of articles, which might turn out to be its ultimate strength, are the “superficial” references to Tibetan history, culture, religion, and political system. The fact is that numerous works have already been written on these topics, and it makes no sense to repeat their content beyond referencing them. Far too many books, even those by some of the most reputable scholars, lose their appeal quickly by explaining Tibetan history in great detail before addressing the actual topic and elaborating on it within only a few pages.
In regards to the Panchen Lama controversy, it is certainly possible to summarize the subject in a single article, and that has been done multiple times in the years since 1995 when the controversy began. Without acceptable background information any such article certainly attracted experts on the topic but, at the same time, failed to stir the attention of the larger audience it deserves. After all, the Panchen Lama controversy effectively jeopardizes the legacy of one of the most admired icons in the world: His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.
This series of articles keeps a focus on its topic and provides background information that is sufficient in reference to the Panchen Lama controversy. For everyone, who is interested in a broader description of the past and current Tibetan situation, I have included a list of books on related Tibetan topics at the end of each chapter. All resources used in this series are referenced in each chapter and listed in appendixes.
Last, but not least, let me admit that nothing in this series is based on first-hand experience, and I don’t call myself an expert on Tibetan topics or politics but rather a data collector. In the same sense, unlike most reputable scholars, I don’t write for experts who are already familiar with the subject. This series of articles is a compilation of information available to all of us, may it be from books, newspaper articles, or online references.
My mere intention was to assemble the information, package them into a readable format, and present them to the interested reader. The objective is to stir interest and discussions on the issue of the Panchen Lama Controversy.
Wilfried F. Voss