The political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile expressed his admiration for Taiwan’s democracy on Tuesday.
However, Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, who arrived in Tokyo on Sunday, said he was not sure whether a democratic Taiwan could serve as a catalyst for China to implement democratic reforms.
Citing the example of Hong Kong, Sangay said many people had predicted that the former British colony would be able to influence China through what he described as the territory’s “free system.”
“But it turned out to be just the contrary, with China exercising far-reaching influence over Hong Kong as evidenced by the just-concluded election of the chief executive of Hong Kong,” he said. “Therefore, it’s hard to say at the moment which one — Taiwan or China — will have more effect on the other.”
Sangay said he would be happy to visit Taiwan if such a visit were permitted by Taiwanese authorities, although he said a visit is unlikely because it would definitely be blocked by Beijing.
Regarding the idea of “one country, two areas (一國兩區),” floated by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) with regard to cross-strait relations, Sangay said the adoption of such a policy should be determined by the Taiwanese people.
Asked about reports of recent self-immolations by Tibetan monks, Sangay said he initially considered them a way for Tibetan monks to express the “hopelessness” of their futures.
“But I finally came to understand that the immolations were strong messages beamed out by the Tibetans about their suffering and bitterness under the iron-hand suppression of China, as well as their desire for their spiritual leader — the Dalai Lama — to return to Tibet,” he said.
If Beijing were to discontinue its oppressive rule of Tibet, then no more immolations would take place, Sangay said, adding that Beijing should take responsibility, communicate with the Tibetan government-in-exile and stop demonizing the Dalai Lama.