Dialogue between Tibetans in exile and the Chinese government
"[W]e do believe that dialogue is the best way in which the longstanding differences that have existed are addressed… We will continue to encourage and to urge and to ask strongly that the Chinese government continue these dialogues. "
Chinese intransigence in the dialogue process
"[W]e see that they [Chinese officials] are quite reluctant at this point to engage in these dialogues, and we do believe that being able to have the opportunity to negotiate and to have a substantive dialogue is the way in which some of these areas can be addressed, and we deplore some of the other means of addressing these issues, which are, as you well know, creating the level of frustration among Tibetans that are leading to self-immolations and to other acts of, really, desperation."
Regarding Beijing's notion that Tibet is strictly an "internal affair"
"We don’t believe that we are ‘meddling’ in any of the affairs of any country; we believe that this is really part of the way in which we engage with other countries, and that we engage in our own diplomacy."
On why the Tibetan self-immolations have taken place
"Some of my staff have traveled into the eastern part of Tibet, have met with monks… and the only way that they see themselves being able to respond to the restrictions that they are feeling and to the repression that is now becoming stronger and stronger is to take on these acts of desperation."
Regarding Beijing's questioning of the Dalai Lama's sincerity
"[W]hen one listens to him [the Dalai Lama] talk about his own position, you note that the accusations that are made about what he is attempting to carry out, really, are just not the case. You can listen to his words, and you can listen and watch his deeds, to be able to understand that this is the way that he is proceeding."
Dictation — US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero Interview [VOA]
Otero: My Pleasure.
Otero: That’s correct... That is so, so interesting, because from the time that I was born, La Paz always talks about Tibet, and my uncles used to say, “Ooh, we’re just like Tibet!” so it seems only just that I am now the Special Coordinator of Tibet, and that hopefully I’ll be able to visit Tibet at some point.
Otero: That’s right… The mission that we have, and I think as you know, Congress, the United States Congress, has been not only involved in this, but also mandating the Department of State to be able to have an office on Tibet and to be able to provide the support and help insure that religious, cultural, educational freedoms are made available to the Tibetan people, and so our work is to really help that process move forward, including helping advance a dialogue between China and Tibet. We have an office that is staffed with three people that work full-time on this effort, and our effort is to really advance those areas; I mean, our success is based on that effort. To put it in context, these are the kinds of freedoms that we look at around the world, and so most of the countries where I work, these are the kind of conversations that we have—the freedoms that citizens need to be able to have in order to have a full life.
Otero: That’s right... Well, we do believe that dialogue is the best way in which the longstanding differences that have existed are addressed, and that issues that have to do with the livelihood of Tibetans, the education of Tibetans, can also be addressed effectively, and so we will continue to address this as one mechanism, to be able to have the situation in Tibet improve. We will continue to encourage and to urge and to ask strongly that the Chinese government continue these dialogues. There’s no question that there has been frustration; the last dialogue was in January 2010, and we have seen, certainly, in the last few years, a real deterioration of the human rights situation in Tibet. So, you can see why the representatives of the Dalai Lama would find themselves frustrated at not finding any success in this area. And so we see that that is one of the areas which we will continue pushing, but which is, as you’ve noted, not meeting with much success.
Otero: We would certainly like to think that they are; yet, we see that they are quite reluctant at this point to engage in these dialogues, and we do believe that being able to have the opportunity to negotiate and to have a substantive dialogue is the way in which some of these areas can be addressed, and we deplore some of the other means of addressing these issues, which are, as you well know, creating the level of frustration among Tibetans that are leading to self-immolations and to other acts of, really, desperation.
Otero: Well, the response is that we will continue to make this point, and we will continue to make it at the highest levels of government. In fact, in some of the meetings that I have participated in, where I have been with Secretary Clinton, and she has been meeting with high-level officials from the Chinese government, this is an issue that she brings up and that she will continue to bring up. We know that President Obama has also addressed this. We believe that the freedom of people to be able to carry out their own religious beliefs, their own culture, their own art, their own tradition is an important set of freedoms that we believe need to be available to the Tibetans. So we will continue addressing this. We don’t believe that we are ‘meddling’ in any of the affairs of any country; we believe that this is really part of the way in which we engage with other countries, and that we engage in our own diplomacy.
Otero: That’s right…Clearly, the self-immolations that we are seeing are not only desperate acts, but they are desperate acts that are born out of the frustration and the despair the people feel as they see increased violation of human rights, the increased restrictions under which the monasteries are operating, the increased levels of control that they are seeing on their own lives, and their inability to be able to continue living that way. There have been 39 self-immolations, now there are 2 more that we also hear about today, and we believe that these are not only very sad events, but they are also the way in which Tibetans are responding to what we see as being an increasing level of control that we are seeing, not only in the monasteries, in Kirti monasteries, the one that is best known, but also throughout the Tibetan communities. We are seeing increased Chinese officials being in monasteries themselves, we see the restriction of freedoms, we see the controls that are being placed, and all of these things are the response that the Chinese are giving to this issue, rather than addressing it in a way that would be productive. Some of my staff have traveled into the eastern part of Tibet, have met with monks, have addressed some of these issues, and clearly, these are not outcasts, you know, these are not people that are operating in an unusual way; these are people that are committed to their way of life, that see the life in a monastery as a real reflection of the beliefs of the Tibetan people, and the only way that they see themselves being able to respond to the restrictions that they are feeling and to the repression that is now becoming stronger and stronger is to take on these acts of desperation.
Otero: Well, the Dalai Lama… It’s just, uh, just a wonderful thing to be around him, and to meet him is such a, really, an honor, and a privilege to listen to his articulation of the most important beliefs of the Tibetan people and also of his vision of what he is looking for, because he is always looking for that autonomy that will enable the Tibetan people to carry out their religious beliefs, to preserve their culture, to preserve their traditions, to preserve their art, and that in no way is he talking about an independent Tibet. And so when one listens to him talk about his own position, you note that the accusations that are made about what he is attempting to carry out, really, are just not the case. You can listen to his words, and you can listen and watch his deeds, to be able to understand that this is the way that he is proceeding. On the self-immolations, we know that he has disassociated himself from these events, and he has also made statements about how these are not really a Buddhist practice, and they are not a part of the way in which Buddhism is carried out, and so the self-immolations really have to be seen as individual sacrifices in a situation of repression that is so strong. But the Dalai Lama, we know him, and our president meets with him, as one of the world’s most important religious leaders, and his influence and his words have great impact, and it’s very clear why that is.
Otero: There is no reason why Tibetans, like any other people, should not be able to have access to these freedoms, and be able to practice them in order to preserve those pieces that constitute a society, a community, and that are very important.
Otero: Well, as you’ve noted, some Tibetans have been in Nepal now for three generations, and so one does have to acknowledge that Nepal has been generous in opening its doors to Tibetans, enabling them to reside in that country, and to live in a way that allows them to continue carrying out their own beliefs, and their own activities, their own religion. But at the same time, we know that Nepal has pressures put on it, and we do know that even under those pressures, they have continued making an effort to maintain a relationship with the Tibetans that are living there, that are manageable, and that enables them to live. We have met with Nepalese authorities, we have, in order to be able to discuss issues that have to do with some regulations, issue of identity cards, other factors that can facilitate even more the way in which Tibetans are living in that country.
Otero: We also are working, as I said, with the Nepalese government to be able to address some of these issues, and, as you know, there’s also many Tibetans that come into Nepal’s refugee centers, and so part of the work is also working with our refugee center and insuring that the humanitarian agencies are working in this area. And the US has had a resettlement program for Tibetans that has been part impartial of what we have been doing, and I should say in that context that the resettlement work that the United States does involves Tibetans, but it also involves people from other countries, whether it’s Iraq, or, uh, Bhutan, and other countries, and so, within that context, of course, this will continue.
Otero: Well, my sense is that, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and his expression of both the beliefs that the Tibetans have and his own vision of the world, and his religion have been factors that have really contributed to the level of interest in this country. There may not be many Tibetans, but there are quite a number of Buddhists in the United States, so that when His Holiness arrives in Washington and does a teaching or does an event, he fills an arena that is usually for a basketball game, and most of the people there are Americans who practice the religion and who see him as their holy leader. So this is also one of the factors that contributes to the level of interest that there is, and that includes members of Congress, that includes influential people, and those individuals themselves also take leadership in helping insure that the repression of Tibetan people in their own land can be overcome. And so this is the interest of the United States, which emerges from people’s religious beliefs, but also interest in democracy and in human rights values.
Otero: You’re very welcome, thank you, thank you.
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