The Dalai Lama marked the 45th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising expressing optimism that the coming year would see a “significant breakthrough” in relations with China. The Dalai Lama committed to “leave no stone unturned…in the effort to secure a mutually acceptable solution to the Tibetan issue,” including personally meeting with Chinese leaders.
The Dalai Lama’s statement harkened back to his meeting with Mao Zedong, 50 years ago, when he was assured that “the Chinese presence in Tibet was to work for the welfare of the Tibetans and ‘to help develop’ Tibet.”
He credited former Chinese president Jiang Zemin with initiating direct contact between his envoys and the Chinese government, which he described as “a positive and welcome development.” The Dalai Lama also looked to President Hu Jintao to be a “positive factor in resolving the Tibetan issue,” based on his personal knowledge of Tibet.
“In this year’s March 10 statement, the Dalai Lama clearly makes himself available to the Chinese leadership, and he is taking responsibility to act on behalf of Tibetans for historic and pragmatic reasons,” said Mary Beth Markey, U.S. Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet.
“China needs to respond positively,” Markey continued.
Even as the Dalai Lama looked forward to “building trust and confidence” through the process of direct contact with the Chinese government, he described “policies of racial and cultural discrimination and religious intolerance” in Tibet leading to human rights violations.
“Human rights violations in Tibet have a distinct character of preventing Tibetans as a people from asserting their own identity and culture,” he continued.
As former Tibetan political prisoner Ngawang Sangdrol, who is scheduled to testify before the U.S. House International Relations Committee on March 10 as part of a hearing on global human rights, recounts: “The fact that, I, as a young girl, underwent torture in prison was not because my political understanding, abilities and experiences were great…Anyone who tries to assert the Tibetan identity can be subjected by the Chinese to imprisonment and torture.”
The Dalai Lama expressed gratitude to governments and institutions around the world, noting that, “led by the European Union and the United States, there is growing realization in the international community that the issue of Tibet is not one of human rights violations alone but of a deeper political nature that needs to be resolved through negotiations.”
The Dalai Lama stood by his “Middle Way Approach,” which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China, saying that this approach would even “help India to resolve many of her disputes with China.” He also urged India to “play a constructive and influential role in resolving the Tibetan problem peacefully.”
The Dalai Lama talked about a “window of opportunity” for the Chinese leadership to act with courage and farsightedness in resolving the Tibetan issue once and for all.
“A peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue will have wide-ranging positive impacts on China’s transition and transformation onto a modern, open and free society,” he concluded.
On March 10, 1959, thousands of Tibetans in Lhasa, many from the far eastern regions of Tibet, rose up in revolt against the Chinese occupation in Tibet. A 1960 official Chinese document credited the People’s Liberation Army with the elimination of “87,000 enemies in the rebellion from March 1959 to the beginning of October 1960.” The Dalai Lama fled Tibet on March 17, 1959. Since that time, Tibetans and their supporters around the world commemorate March 10 with demonstrations, vigils and other events.
The full text of the Dalai Lama’s March 10 Statement is available here. For information about March 10 events happening around the globe please see the calendar of events.