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Full Transcript of Exclusive Interview with Dalai Lama by Shirong Chen, BBC China Editor

Shirong Chen

2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the Uprising, but the world's attention seems to be attracted by something else - the rioting in Xinjiang province. It has claimed more than 190 lives and more than 1600 wounded. What's your view on the events in East Turkistan (Xinjiang)?

Dalay Lama BBC-Tibet and East Turkistan Problem

Dalai Lama

These are very sad and also today quite a lot of Han brothers and sisters suffered. I think firstly, any violence is wrong. Secondly that kind of riot no help to solving the problem.

Shirong Chen

So are you saying you condemn the violence in East Turkistan?

Dalai Lama

Yes, I fully disagree (with the violence). The word is condemnation - usually people use that word. Last year, one Xinhua reporter asked me 'you didn't condemn the Tibetan demonstrations in Tibet'. And I told him I firmly believe in non-violence. Condemn, this word as far as I know - of course my understanding of this English word is limited - but still I think condemnation is something very harsh and negative attitude. So I usually avoid using that word. SO I totally disagree with their violent activities.

Shirong Chen

That refers to both sides - whether it refers to the Uyghur rioters and Han Chinese or the local police?

Dalai Lama

Yes of course. As far as human life is concerned - (there are) no differences, on the basis of racial or religious belief.

Shirong Chen

But in terms of racial, ethnic or religious differences, what do you think are the root causes for the troubles in Xinjiang? Is it similar to what happened in Tibet?

Dalai Lama

Yes, (there are) similarities. Here we really need research, thorough objective study. Then we can get a clear picture of the reality. As the world noticed, totalitarian system usually is just the one-sided presentation about anything like that. So if the government side send some people for the investigation, the report may not be true or objective. Anyway I think it is a clear indication that now nearly 60-year's policy regarding the minorities is a failure, I think. Not only people from China but also the former Soviet Union.

Although Lenin emphasised the importance of the right attitude towards the minorities/different nationalities, even Soviet constitution also mentioned, they also have the right to become independent, but in real action (reality) - too much centralisation. So this is the same problem in China as well.

Shirong Chen

But one politburo member, Wang Yang, clearly said that they need to review the ethnic policies in China, so it shows part of the Chinese leadership is aware of the problem. Don't you agree?

Dalai Lama

Yes that is very good. You know I have a feeling of optimism that the Communist Party of China has the ability to act according to the new reality. I mean, when I look at the history of the last 60 years, the Mao's era, the Deng Xiaoping era, the Jiang Zemin era and now Hu Jintao's era. SO, during these four eras, their thinking or policy from time to time change. In Mao's era, emphasised on the importance of pure ideology. Deng Xiaoping's era - don't care about ideology, importance is money or economy so that creates a new reality. So according to the new reality, former president Jiang Zemin created new idea of Three Represents. So then that created some gaps between rich and poor and some other sorts of divisions. Therefore, Hu Jintao emphasises the importance of harmony. These are realistic approaches according to the new reality, they act accordingly.

Shirong Chen

Your Holiness seem to agree with what the Chinese leaders have been doing about adapting to new reality? Does that apply to what has happened to Tibet Autonomous Region?

Dalai Lama

(Laughs) The Autonomous Region of Tibet, and East Turkistan as well!! Not that kind of realistic approach. I think basically there are fear and distrust. So therefore when they think about the different nationalities and autonomous regions, they always look from only one angle - how to keep, how to control. Only that angle! They don't care about what the local people are feeling.

Shirong Chen

But from the Chinese government point of view, they're saying without economic development, you can't really talk about improving people's lives and living conditions. In other words, what the Chinese government has been saying in terms of its policy towards Tibet or East Turkistan is economy first.

Dalai Lama

(Laughs) I think from my viewpoint, of course I totally agree with the importance of economy. But ... human beings are not like animals. (For) animals, just provide food, shelter and no immediate disturbances, then OK. But we are human beings, even though economy poor, mentally happy and free. If you ask groups of people, - one group make available food, shelter, clothes and everything, but no freedom, the other (group) not fully provided with these things, but complete freedom - I think most probably better educated people would choose this one (the latter).

Shirong Chen

Are you suggesting people or people in Tibet will prefer relative poverty rather than more wealth?

Dalai Lama

No. I mean relatively poorer conditions but full freedom. ... Quite a number of Tibetans, as far as economy is concerned, if some have opportunity to work inside Tibet, then their facilities are much better than remaining in the refugee community. But quite a number of people prefer that (staying in Darussalam) because there is freedom.

Shirong Chen

But what about schools, hospitals, roads and railways? People would need that. If Tibetan people look toward the developed parts of China and say, 'Look, people in Shanghai and coastal areas who have their own cars and modern convenient facilities, but we don't have anything here,' then they would again say this is not fair,.

Dalai Lama

When central government - then President Jiang Zemin - announced the construction of the railway link, I welcomed it. I really feel that's part of the economic development, most welcome. At that time some Tibetans and Indian friends had very negative views about that. The very reason why we are not seeking separation, and fully committed to a solution within the framework of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, is economic interests. Tibet is backward, materially very much backward. Therefore we also want more material development, so as far as material development is concerned, remaining within People's Republic of China we get greater benefit. Provided we need freedom - freedom of religious expression or religious practice, and also the freedom of expression.

Shirong Chen

That actually brings us to my next question. I understand there have been 8 or 9 rounds of talks with the Beijing government since 2002, but the dialogue seems to be in deadlock. What are the sticking points?

Dalai Lama

I think basically suspicion and distrust, as I mentioned earlier. They always look from one angle, how to keep their power, their control. They don't care about the environment, about education, religious freedom and all these things. So therefore WE are seeking mutually beneficial and mutually agreeable solution. Their side, they don't care about our basic rights. And then mainly distrust.

I remember in February 2006, at that (fifth) meeting the Chinese official acknowledged that now it is clear that the Dalai Lama side is not seeking independence. But soon after, around April/May 2006, they intensified their accusation of me as a splitist. So that means, you see, they have certain sort of their plan, certain policy.

Shirong Chen

They read and analysed your proposal delivered in the US congress and elsewhere in Europe. And they listed five points from your proposal about your 'meaningful autonomy', but they say it's impossible to accept. Are there any middle grounds?

Dalai Lama

When I made statement of my five point proposal at the US Congress, I mentioned the five points, then also at Strasburg I made another proposal. (The) timing when I made these things: there were direct contacts with the Chinese central government since 1979 till early 1990s that (the contact) ceased. Already in the mid-80s, their attitude much hardened. At the time Hu Yaobang was dismissed, then their whole thinking became hardened. (During) such period I appealed, I made this proposal, then right from the beginning (I made) very clear that the defence and foreign affairs should be looked (after) by the Central Government, but the rest of the affairs should be handled by Tibetans themselves. These are the essence (of the proposal). Then also I expressed one idea eventually Tibet should create zone of peace.

Shirong Chen

These are exactly the points that the Central government couldn't agree with you!

Dalai Lama

Once we started 2002 serious discussion, (our) basic point, as I mentioned earlier, 'within the Constitution, mutually agreed solution', we very much stick to even today. Even now, we are fully committed.

It is quite sad the Chinese side always tried to pick up the negative side and forget about the positive side. That's a mistake. That's not a scientific way or objective way to look.

Shirong Chen

Given the situation, are you still in contact with Beijing?

Dalai Lama

NO.

Shirong Chen

So there is no hope of restarting the talks?

Dalai Lama

We are simply waiting. All the points which we want, write down as a memorandum, give them. Then immediately, they (did) not reject point by point, but just say this whole memorandum is a disguise for independent movement, so totally reject.

Shirong Chen

But the Beijing government says the door for negotiations is always open. And you are saying you are waiting for the other side to give the signal.

Dalai Lama

Yes. Send us a message. We're ready to send (a delegation).

Shirong Chen

Have you noticed the CCTV station screened the documentary 'One Year in Tibet' last week - the BBC commissioned documentary? Do you take this as a positive signal?

Dalai Lama

I think the best thing is - we have human language - so best thing is, should send a message, should send a letter rather than just some (indirect) signal here and there.

And secondly, the Chinese government considers our problem as domestic problem. And we also. You see, until 1965, we approached the UN. The last UN resolution regarding Tibet was passed in 1965. Since then, we prefer (dealing with China) - (even when) China was still in Cultural Revolution there, but we felt approaching the UN may not be a realistic way, so better to communicate directly. Then we already made up in our mind the Middle Way approach, finalised in 1974. Until end of 1978 we never received any signal. Then some verbal message from central government, mainly Deng Xiaoping, through some official in Hong Kong to my elder brother. Then we immediately responded.

Shirong Chen

So you're waiting for a signal. In your position as the 14th Dalai Lama you are taking the Middle Way approach. But time is ticking, time is running out. Are you concerned things are not moving as fast as you would like? In other words, do you feel an urgency to come to a deal with Beijing?

Dalai Lama

Urgency, in terms of the situation inside Tibet. Now there're really constant threats, always fear, some kind of rule of terror. Very much so there. So that I really feel that creates some sort of urgency. But as far as myself, in the last 50 years, I, often described as a homeless person, found a very happy new home. And then my life also, getting older, but Tibet issue is an issue of an ancient nation, their rights. This is nothing to do with my life. If I die, soon, very very soon, I do not feel some worry, because the Tibetan spirit - at least more than 2000 years - Tibetan spirit there. So in future the Tibetan spirit will remain.

Shirong Chen

But you are practical as well. You see the younger generation of Tibetans, they may not be that patient, and they may not take that Middle Way approach.

Dalai Lama

Yes. There are growing signs of frustration among Tibetans, not only outside but inside also. That sometimes I'm a little worried. A few years ago (I think 6 or 7 years ago), I met one Tibetan. He was a Party member working in one department. He told me his age (was) around 40. He mentioned that people aged 60, 70, 80 - because of their past sort of too much terrified experience - they feel they cope OK with the present situation. The younger generation, below 30-40, they see, they feel the situation is very bad for them, too much resentment. However, till Dalai Lama remain, they have to follow Dalai Lama's wish or instructions and non-violence. After Dalai Lama (is) gone, then "we (young people) should have a free hand", that kind of expression I received. It is quite serious.

(Over Shirong's interruption) If some violence involved, Tibetans will suffer, Chinese government will feel much embarrassment. No benefit and no help to solve the problem.

Shirong Chen

Do I understand you correctly when you say it's not easy to solve the Tibetan issue and you can't see a solution in the near future?

Dalai Lama

Wait. The answer for that, when I look at the Tibetan issue locally (at local level), it is almost hopeless. But since the Tibet problem is not due to civil war, or some kind of internal problem among Tibetans themselves, but because of the so called Liberation Army came and everything controlled by force (laughs), that's the problem. So therefore it is related to the situation in mainland China itself. So, when I look from a wider perspective as I mentioned earlier, four eras, some change. I think today's China compared with 30-40 years ago, much changed, much more opportunities to access the reality.

Shirong Chen

Would it include the Tibetans?

Dalai Lama

I mean mainly the Chinese brothers and sisters. Therefore, when I look more holistically or from a wider perspective, I'm very much optimistic, hopeful.

Shirong Chen

Let's end on the optimistic note here. Thank you very much Your Holiness.

Dalai Lama

Thank you.

From BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/chinese/simp/hi/newsid_8190000/newsid_8193800/8193898.stm


Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Shirong Chen
This article has been read 3350 times.

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