His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama has said that we should look to the future, instead of going back to the past, in order to find a lasting solution to the Tibetan issue. He was responding to a question by Voice of America’s Chinese service on the preconditions that Beijing has set on talks on Tibet.

The Dalai Lama told Voice of America that by committing himself to a solution for Tibet without seeking independence he was essentially meeting the conditions. Concerning Tibet’s status in history, the Dalai Lama said,

“But then in the past, that’s up to history. Of course there are different views. So that history is past. Nobody can change history. Sometimes Communists try to change it, but ultimately fail. Look at the Soviet Union. So therefore, the past history is not a political decision. That’s up to historians, and up to legal experts. But my belief is that the real political decision is about the future. As far as the future is concerned, I am fully committed to not seeking independence.”

Given below is the full text of the Voice of America’s interview with the Dalai Lama.

Interview with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Conducted by Zhang Jing, VOA Mandarin Service
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Washington, DC

Zhang Jing: Your Holiness, your envoys have paid two visits to China in the past two years, and they’ve described this as the beginning of a long process of dialogue with China. Do you have a roadmap or timetable for this process? You have an idea of when you want to see what to happen?

Dalai Lama: Obviously, our ultimate aim is that Tibet should have meaningful self-rule. That is actually the best guarantee for preservation of Tibetan culture and environment. In fact, I feel that is also the best guarantee for Tibet to always remain within the People’s Republic of China. So that’s our ultimate goal. Then of course, it’s not easy to achieve that. I think we need more patience, more determination. Then our Chinese brothers’ and sisters’ side needs more awareness of the reality. Deng Xiaoping’s slogan, “Seeking truth from facts,” is very scientific, very good. But then, facts should be genuine facts. Unfortunately, in a communist sort of society, or rule, they create false facts. Then certain policies are adopted according to false facts. I think, in the Tibet case, since the 1950s, I think the government creates new reality, something not true. So, accordingly, they carry some policy. That’s the problem.

Zhang Jing: Is there any specific thing you want to see happen in Tibet? As a step-by-step approach, do you have any idea for what you want to see happen at what time?

Dalai Lama: That’s difficult. It depends on many other factors. Mainly, on how much the willingness of the Chinese government is to give us.

Zhang Jing: You have said you will only return to Tibet if the conditions in Tibet improve. What are the specific things you are talking about? What are the Chinese policies you want to see changed before your return to Tibet?

Dalai Lama: Certainly more freedom. Freedom of exchange, freedom of speech. My recent representatives visited two areas in Tibet, one in the autonomous region of Tibet in Lhasa, and one outside the autonomous region in the province of Yunnan. In one part, there are Tibetan ethnics there, so they also visited there. In their visit to Lhasa, they had no chance to meet Tibetans. (laughs) So I do not want to go like that. Of course, there has to be more freedom to meet people and all. Certainly, a few years ago, one can mark my former statement. I expressed I can use my moral authority to persuade those Tibetans who are seeking or who really feel that we should get independence. I can persuade these people. In the long run, we should think more in terms of mutual benefit, not one-sided. After all, the world is changing. In the modern economy, separation is not in our best interests. More union, more cooperation is in our best interests. In fact, when I was in Taiwan the first time, I expressed in the economic field, as a defense, that Taiwan should have a very unique, close relationship with Mainland China. So that’s my basic belief. (pause) So, if there’s more freedom, then I think I can help to achieve stability and unity, and meanwhile preserve Tibetan culture, the Tibetan environment, these things.

Zhang Jing: So you really want to go back to Tibet:

Dalai Lama: Certainly. I think almost the entire Tibetan people trust me, so I can help. But in the capacity of just one Buddhist monk. Perhaps one popular Buddhist monk, among Tibetans. (laughs) I have no interest about political status or these things. No. I think in 1992 I made very clear that, when the time comes for our return with a certain degree of freedom, I will hand over all my legitimate authority to the local government. Hopefully, that local government eventually should be an elected democratic government, as we have now a political leadership among the refugee community, an elected one since 2000. Now we already have an elected political leadership there, so since then, my position is almost like semi-retirement. So main political decisions he carries.

Zhang Jing: The Chinese government has repeatedly stated three conditions for your return to Tibet. One is, what they call, to stop the pursuit of independence and what they call “splittist activities,” which they mainly refer to your visits to foreign countries and meeting with political leaders around the world. They also want you to declare that Tibet is an integral part of China. Thirdly, that Taiwan is a province of China. Which ones of these conditions can you or can’t you accept?

Dalai Lama: Essentially, I think all these conditions, essentially, I agree. The first one, we always persuade Tibetan outside Tibet we should look for a mutually agreeable solution, rather than independence. And then, even from our own viewpoint of our own interest, as far as economic development is concerned, if we remain within the People’s Republic of China, we might get greater benefit, provided the Chinese central government respects Tibetan culture, the Tibetan environment, and these things. So, therefore, I think of the two conditions, already, essentially, our goal is that way.

Zhang Jing: Are you ready to say that Tibet is an integral part of China?

Dalai Lama: Not that one sentence. Since 1950-51, as far as the central autonomous region of Tibet is concerned, after the seventeen-point agreement was signed, then Tibet became part of the People’s Republic of China, an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. So, the Indian government considers Tibet as an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. But then in the past, that’s up to history. Of course there are different views. So that history is past. Nobody can change history. Sometimes Communists try to change it, but ultimately fail. Look at the Soviet Union. So therefore, the past history is not a political decision. That’s up to historians, and up to legal experts. But my belief is that the real political decision is about the future. As far as the future is concerned, I am fully committed to not seeking independence.

Zhang Jing: And the Chinese government said that your visit to Taiwan…

Dalai Lama: Yes, the third one. Of course, originally, both sides more or less agreed that there is one China. Nowadays, there is a little controversial there, it seems. So as far as the future of Taiwan is concerned, that mainly depends on the people of Taiwan. It’s not my business. (laughs)

Zhang Jing: So do you plan to continue to visit Taiwan?

Dalai Lama: Oh yes. Firstly, my visits to Taiwan are purely spiritual. In fact, one time I visited Taiwan and actually sort of expressed the invitation that some Chinese official from Peking should accompany me while I am in Taiwan. Twenty-four hours, my activities should watch. Whether I carry some collaboration with the Taiwan independent movement or not. So, basically, I think the message to everywhere, including Taiwan, everywhere, my main interest and commitment is the promotion of human value, the promotion of religious harmony. These two things are my main topics, my main interest, my main commitment. And then another significance of my visit to Taiwan is…whether people call themselves Chinese or Taiwanese, it’s a different question…but anyway, the Chinese community who are in free situations, where I can talk more freely is only Taiwan. As soon as there is one opportunity in Mainland China, I prefer Mainland China, because that’s the main. But up to now, there is no possibility, so the only possibility to have free exchange with Chinese brothers and sisters is only in Taiwan. If I’m seeking independence, if I was fully committed to independence, then I could not go to Taiwan, because Taiwan considers that Tibet is part of China. (laughs) But in order to demonstrate that I am not arguing that, I accept happily the invitation from Taiwan. I’ve been there twice. So in the future, also there are many Buddhists that are very eager to see me, not as a sort of leader or like that, but just a Buddhist monk who can help them to promote Buddhist understanding, Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist practice.

Zhang Jing: Do you plan to meet Taiwan political leaders, or would you avoid meeting them?

Dalai Lama: My aim is to meet the Buddhist community there, not politicians. But if politicians want to see me, it’s very difficult to refuse. But for my part, there’s no reason to seek audience with politicians, because there’s no discussion about politics. (laughs)

Zhang Jing: China is now in a transitional period. President Hu Jintao is taking over power there. Do you have a special message for him? If you could talk directly to him, what would you say?

Dalai Lama: First, congratulations. One “tongzhimen,” one comrade who at least spent some time in Tibet is now becoming the top leader of the People’s Republic of China. I would like to express my congratulations. Then second, I think as a new generation among the leadership, now a new reality, at the global level and the national level. So, I wish to carry a new sort of thinking, according to the new reality. That I want to say. (laughs) And one thing, I want to know how many Tibetan words he knows. I’m quite sure, I think “Tashi delek,”(greetings) he may know. “Tochjiche” (thank you) he may know. (laughs)

Zhang Jing: One of our listeners wants us to ask a question: Do you want a “one-country/two-systems” arrangement for Tibet, similar to that of Hong Kong? Is that what you want?

Dalai Lama: Actually, in 1951 a seventeen-point agreement was signed. I think that agreement was actually in the spirit of “one country, two systems.” Also, in 1956, when I was in India at the Buddha Jayanti celebration, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai with Vice Prime Minister He Long visited India and met Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and also met me on a few occasions. At that time, the Chinese Prime Minister told Nehru, and me too, that the Chinese central government considers the Tibet case as something very unique, a very special thing. Not considered like any other ordinary Chinese province. So the “one country, two systems” was very much alive in their thinking. So then, Deng Xiaoping made public the “one country, two systems,” and I think that was very wise. China, a huge country with lots of ethnic peoples there, like India. Some states in south India and north India have different languages, different customs, different habits, like food habits or life habit differences. But all are under the Indian republic, a federal republic. So I think, whether someone is from south India, or north India, they are all considered Indian. No difficulties. I think that’s because there is freedom and rule of law, although there are some disagreements, some different views or different interests erupt here or there. But basically, very united. So like in China, a huge country, and I think the past several decades with a lot of upheaval, lots of ups and downs. So, the concept of “one country, two systems” is really wise. But now the question is how much to implement that? (laughs) That’s the question. Suppose the Hong Kong people enjoy the “one country, two systems,” but now recently some disturbances are happening? But I think I would like to mention the central government’s attitude toward this recent resentment from a large number of people in Hong Kong. It seems, I think, the central government attitude seems quite realistic. I think they show real patience. That is good. They didn’t implement the “Tiananmen policy.” (laughs) I think that’s a good sign.

Zhang Jing: You want genuine autonomy for Tibet. But the Tibet you mentioned is a different concept from one the Chinese can accept. The Chinese government accepts Tibet as the Tibet Autonomous Region. And the concept of Tibet in your opinion includes other areas, like Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan, Sichuan. Is this your bottom line? Are you ready to make any concessions on that if you want a genuine autonomy for Tibet? Do you want all of these 6.6 million people to be in that autonomy?

Dalai Lama: A very good question. If my ultimate aim is independence, then of course I have to speak only of the central part of Tibet, or the autonomous region of Tibet. I can’t speak of the other Tibetan ethnic groups. But since I’m asking for a certain right which the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China provided, within that, they (gets word from Tibetan from translator) be joined from small pieces, like autonomous regions, autonomous districts, autonomous prefectures, like that. So instead of many small, small autonomies, the self-administration, actually, as far as work is concerned, or effectiveness, is concerned, is more difficult. So a broader administration could be more effective. So since my main concern is preservation of Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism, therefore it is my moral responsibility to speak on behalf of all the Tibetans who are of the same culture, same Buddhist spirituality, and basically the same language, and also facing the same sort of danger, the same sort of situation. So they put a lot of hope, a lot of trust on me. So I have to speak on behalf of these people. So, whenever I say, “Tibetan, Tibetan,” I mean all Tibetans who were the same in the past before 1950; politically, some portions are now under Chinese administration. Central Tibet is under the Tibetan adminstration’s jurisdiction. But that is just political, due to certain factors. But my concern is culture, and spirituality, and environment. (laughs) Clear?

Zhang Jing: Yes. Last year, the Tibetan government in exile called upon Tibetans overseas not to demonstrate against visiting Chinese leaders in the United States or elsewhere as a gesture of goodwill. Do you still call on them not to demonstrate if Chinese leaders visit the United States or elsewhere? For example, Premier Wen Jiabao is reported to be visiting the United States later this year. Do you want this moratorium of protest to stay? Do you call on Tibetans overseas to continue to refrain from demonstrating against visiting Chinese leaders?

Dalai Lama: Certainly. Because we fully engage direct contact with the Chinese government. Now, since last September, we renewed this direct positive contact. That’s very good.

A good start. So there’s no reason to change that attitude. Of course, these decisions mainly are carried by our elected political leadership, not me. Indirectly, yes, I also have some right to make some suggestions, but actual decisions are carried by the elected political leadership.

Zhang Jing: Some people describe the current situation as a threshold in China-Tibet relations. Do you agree? What is your message for the Chinese people if you think this is a critical juncture in China-Tibet relations?

Dalai Lama: Whether the Chinese government admits it or not, there is some problem. Because of that problem, the Chinese government feels so sensitive about Tibet. If Tibet was really normal and the people there were really happy and satisfied, there is no reason to feel so sensitive. Then the People’s Republic of China, the most populated nation, a very ancient nation with a long history of civilization and a sophisticated culture, and it is, certainly China is a very important member of the world community. So, more prosperity, a more positive image of China is important. And then, within the Chinese constitutional framework, I see there is a way to solve this unhappy situation. Once the Tibet problem is solved on the basis of a mutually-agreeable solution, gently and realistically, I think the repercussions in Hong Kong will be immense. Then through that way, the reunification of Taiwan is also there. I think it will have an immense impact. And then other ethnic groups like Xinjiang, or East Turkestanis. So, actually, if someone really objectively looks at my approach to the current Tibetan issue is actually helping to achieve genuine stability and unity of the People’s Republic of China. So now, I notice more and more Chinese intellectuals, some thinkers and artists, evidencing a pattern of awareness, now showing their sympathy, their sense of solidarity and support. It’s now growing. That’s a very encouraging sort of situation. So Chinese people are very practical. If they know the reality, I think the people’s voice, the people’s vision is very very important.

Zhang Jing: Today is the second anniversary of 9/11. Since the terrorist attack two years ago, the world has dramatically changed, in terms of the relations between states, religions, and people. What is the Dalai Lama’s advice to the political leaders of the world, and people of the world?

Dalai Lama: (laughs) I have no particular suggestion. I have a view that tackling these terrorist activities is on two levels. One level mainly is immediate; that is what the various governments, various countries are doing. There, I have no idea. Then on one level, the long term, terrorism is the worst kind of violence doesn’t come from the sky or from machines themselves, but from the heart. Hatred, ill feeling, a sense of revenge. That is the ultimate source of terrorism. So we have to address that ultimate source of terrorism. Like any other violence, violence doesn’t come automatically; violence comes from motivation. So therefore, I always try to promote non-violence on the level of motivation. Similarly, the countermeasure to terrorism ultimately must take serious consideration about change of human emotion, the human heart. Here, among various sorts of people, parents have a special important role to cultivate, in their child’s mind and heart, compassion. Then religious leaders, media people, all members of the human community, all have responsibility. This incident is of course unthinkable, unbelievable. Very bad, very sad. Thousands of innocent people killed. When I saw the tall building collapsing, some people from the window showing their hands like that and, within seconds, perishing. It was so sad, really shocking. But I think we can learn from that event that modern technology with humans’ sophisticated mind or intelligence, guided by human hatred, then such disasters happen. So modern technology, human intelligence, should not be at the the dispersal of negative emotion. So therefore, because of this sad experience, we must look more inward and try to find solutions or answers. I think that way that an unfortunate tragedy could be transformed into a positive source of inner strength.