Exiled Tibetans have therefore turned their attention to CCP’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping. As the number of self-immolations rise, maintaining stability in the restive Tibetan areas will be a key test for China’s next leader, and Tibetan activists have already challenged him to take “immediate steps towards a just and lasting resolution to the occupation of Tibet, or face greater international condemnation and domestic instability.”
For his own part, the Dalai Lama suggested he is optimistic when he recalled Xi Jinping’s father during an interview with Reuters, describing the elder Xi as, “very friendly, comparatively more open-minded, very nice.” Additionally, Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, is a Buddhist herself and hosted the first World Buddhist Forum in China. The Dalai Lama went on to say he was “encouraged” by recent meetings he had with Chinese delegates who claimed they were close to senior Chinese officials.
At the same time, many analysts have cautioned that it is far too early to suppose the incoming leadership will take any bold initiatives on Tibet.
Elliot Sperling, an expert on the history of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations at Indiana University told The Diplomat, “In the short term the Chinese leadership is unlikely to loosen its harsh policies in Tibet. Especially when there’s a leadership change occurring, it is incumbent on the incoming leaders to show strength with regard to what are called China’s core interests, one of which is Tibet.”
Still, many in the exile Tibetan community remain hopeful that Beijing could make changes under the new leadership. “These acts of self-immolations directly challenge the leaders in Beijing, telling them that they would rather die than live under such intolerable circumstance when the very survival of Tibetans is under threat. The Chinese policies are worse than the pain inflicted by self-immolation, it is time China take responsibility for this and urgently come forward to stop the situation from getting worse,” says Lobsang Wangyal, an exiled Tibetan entrepreneur living in India.
Saransh Sehgal writes about Tibet and geopolitics in the Himalayan region. He is currently based in Dharamsala, India and Vienna, Austria.