The situation in Tibet is disheartening but not without hope. Realistically, I think the best chance Tibet has is for the emergence of a Chinese Gorbachev or de Gaulle, a member of the ruling elite who recognizes the need for granting autonomy to colonized regions within the empire. What are the chances of that? Better than one might think. The Chinese political elite, while corrupt and authoritarian, is also very technocratic, and thus open to suasion. Although this fact doesn’t get reported much, China is alive with intellectual ferment. Particularly hopeful is the emergence in the last fews decades of a Chinese New Left (centered around the Journal Dushu), which is very critical of rising inequality. Dushu is arguably one of the most important magazines in the world, although for those of us who can’t read Chinese are only starting to get a glimmer of its impact.
The New Left Review in particular has been doing a good job covering Chinese intellectuals (see here for a good history of Dushu).
And for the issue of Tibet, it’s very much worth reading this article by Wang Lixiong, a Chinese writer who makes some concessions to Tibetian claims (albeit in the framework of a Chinese nationalism). Tsering Shakya, the leading Tibetian historian, responds to Wang Lixiong here. The entire exchange is worth reading to get a sense of the parameters of dissent in China, and how the Tibetian exile community might respond to overtures from Chinese reformers (should those reformers come to power). Ultimately, if there is going to be a just settlement of this issue, it will probably follow the lines rehearsed by Lixiong and Shakya.
It should be added that whatever criticism one may have of Lixiong, he’s writing in China and has suffered much government persecution. His bravery, and the bravery of his wife, the poet Öser, is beyond praise.