Strategies of Attrition (I)

BEIJING/LHASA/BERLIN (Own report) - The German chancellor is reinforcing Berlin's special relationships to Chinese separatists, in spite of Beijing's massive protests. The Dalai Lama had talks in the German Chancellery, for the first time, Sunday, Sept. 23. He is the leader of a self-proclaimed Tibetan exile government, with its headquarters in India, which is calling for the secession of Tibet from the Peoples Republic of China or at least special rights in accordance with the German model of "autonomy." The Dalai Lama is a western ally, helping to weaken Beijing and hamper its rise to the status of world power. For decades he has been enjoying the cross-party sympathy in Germany and is receiving support from conservatives, liberals and Greens alike. Still his meeting with Angela Merkel has been met with criticism, because business circles fear retaliatory actions on the part of the Chinese government will have a negative effect on their business. German strategies of attrition against Beijing, their historical precursors in the first half of the 20th century and the scenes of current measures, are the themes of a series of articles that began Monday Sept. 24.

With his visit to the German Chancellor, the Dalai Lama crowned his several weeks of touring Europe. Subsequent to his stops in Spain and Portugal, the self-ordained Tibetan Exile ruler met with the chancellor of Austria. Over the past few days he has toured several of the German federal states. In Munster (North Rhein Westphalia) he was awarded the honorary doctor title of the University. In Hesse he met with the state's prime minister, Roland Koch. As with his previous visits - the last being in July in Hamburg - the Dalai Lama was greeted with cross-party expressions of sympathy. He is expected to return to Germany for several major events in May 2008.


Indicating the effects of German behavior, Beijing has responded to the trip of the Dalai Lama, and particularly to his audience with Chancellor Merkel. The Tibetan dignitary leads an exile government, based in Dharamsala (India) and lays claim to control over Chinese territory ("Greater Tibet"). Even though originally the demand was for Tibetan national sovereignty, the Dalai Lama, in the meantime, claims to also be satisfied with comprehensive rights of autonomy. "These Tibetan demands for religious and cultural autonomy are supported by the German government" confirmed Thomas Steg last Friday.[1] Beijing points to its rights of sovereignty and reserves for itself - in accordance to its own discretion and without the interference of former colonial powers - the granting of autonomy for minorities within its borders.

German Model

The role model for the rights of autonomy, that the Dalai Lama is demanding from Beijing, is patterned on the German ethnic model "Volksgruppenrechte" (the rights of ethnic minority groups). In the Northern Italian autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige (South Tyrol) this is in force and has done nothing toward ending efforts toward secession. Already in 1993 an assistant of the European Academy Bozen, in Alto Adige, contacted the "foreign minister" of the Tibetan exile government.[2] This academy, that has an ad hoc "Volksgruppenrecht", Institute was founded with the participation of the foreign ministry of Germany.[3] The Dalai Lama personally visited Bolzano in 1997. Still during the 90s, the Tibetan exile government began consultations with the European Academy on the question of "Volksgruppenrecht". "South Tyrol has definitely the character of a role model for Tibet" explained the Tibetan exile ruler during his second visit to Bolzano in 2005.[4]

National Flag

The Dalai Lama, whose demands for autonomy and secession could permanently weaken the People's Republic of China, is enjoying cross-party support in Germany. The Green Party was among the first to take up the Tibetan cause in the political arena. It was the first to put pressure on Beijing with a resolution on "human rights violations in Tibet" in the German national parliament (Bundestag) (October 15, 1987). Two years later, on April 20 to 21, 1989, the Greens organized an international hearing on "Tibet and Human Rights" that was held in the SPD conference room in Bonn and received wide attention. Roland Koch (CDU), who, today, is the prime minister of Hesse has also been engaged in the cause for Tibet since the mid 1980's. In 1995, he organized the Dalai Lama's first appearance in the Hesse parliament. Ten years later, as the Tibetan dignitary received the Hesse Peace Prize, the Tibetan national flag, which is not recognized, was flying at the federal state chancellery in Wiesbaden.[5]


The Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, closely affiliated to the German liberal FDP party, began its extensive Tibet activities in the early 1990's. Since 1991 it has been counseling the Tibetan exile government "on all questions of political education".[6] Together with the exile government, whose headquarters is in India, the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation organizes international conferences on Tibet. The second conference, held in Bonn in 1996, led to diplomatic fallout, culminating in the closing of the foundation's Beijing office. It has yet to be reopened. The last conference took place in Brussels last Mai. At the invitation of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, more than 300 participants, arriving from over 50 countries, discussed "human rights" and "strategies of Tibetan exiles'".[7] According to the foundation, it was "the most political" conference on Tibet ever: "This was also due to the opportunities that the Olympic Games, to be held next year in China, open to the Tibetans and which were also examined in Brussels."


The German Chancellor's offer to hold talks with the Dalai Lama is obviously one such "opportunity". This invitation caused hefty discussions in the Foreign Ministry and provoked resentment in business circles. German businessmen fear a loss of business, because of China's self-assured retaliation. As an initial reaction, Beijing called off negotiations on patent protection for German goods. Other retaliatory measures are expected. According to the Director of Research for the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Chancellor Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama is a "serious foreign policy faux-pas in a subordinate conflict".[8] In Berlin it was a rule that the chancellor visits Beijing with business delegations, and contacts to Tibet are maintained below the highest political levels. Chancellor Kohl's visit to Tibet, in 1987, is exemplary. He defied "human rights" demands and followed the course of German export interests. Accompanied by numerous businessmen, he met the Chinese governor in Lhasa - only a few weeks after the US-Congress had passed a strongly worded Tibet resolution and amid strong protest of an anti-China public.

Powder Keg

In meeting the Dalai Lama, the Chancellery is taking a major risk. As one hears in Berlin, Beijing is probably avoiding any conflict with Germany and German firms, immediately preceding the Olympic Games. The opportunity for intensifying support for Tibetan separatism without risks are therefore growing. And this, it is said, is quite desirable. As Roland Koch, the prime minister of Hesse, is said to have learned during his trip to Tibet last July, the chances are growing to intensify the pressure on the People's Republic of China and Beijing is worried that if the Tibetan dignitary (72) dies, rebellions could break out in Tibet and in other national minority areas. According to Koch, Chinese government circles are speaking of the danger of Tibet becoming a "powder keg" [9] with serious consequences. "If it doesn't work out good there (in Tibet, the author) it could have repercussions in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia" rejoices the Dalai Lama with the two other potential secessionist regions in mind: "after all, these three autonomous regions stretch over half of the Chinese territory".[10]

In the following issues, will report on how German foreign policy, in 1930's and 1940's, through evoking so-called rights of autonomy and other means of pressure, sought to create a Tibetan-Mongolian federation, under German Japanese hegemony.

[1] Regierungspressekonferenz vom 21. September
[2] Endzeit am Dach der Welt; ff. Südtiroler Wochenmagazin 28.07.2005
[3] see also Minderheitenrechte
[4] Dalai Lama in Bozen: "Südtirol als Autonomie-Modell"; 31.07.2005
[5] see also Reisefieber and Druck ausüben
[6] see also Die Tibetfrage
[7] Dalai Lama sagt ab - Gerhardt kritisiert Belgien;
[8] Krise zwischen Peking und Berlin; Süddeutsche Zeitung 21.09.2007
[9] Roland Koch rechnet mit Gesprächen zwischen der chinesischen Regierung und dem Dalai Lama; Focus 22.07.2007
[10] "China mischt sich auch in Deutschlands Angelegenheiten ein"; Süddeutsche Zeitung 21.09.2007