The Dalai Lama has given an interview to Kaifang (Open), a monthly magazine published in Chinese from Hong Kong, in which he responds to Chinese concerns and suspicions on the issue of Tibet. Cai Yongmei from Kaifang traveled to Dharamsala to conduct the interview, which is carried in the magazine’s August 2003 issue.

The Dalai Lama was asked about his views on hope for Tibet under President Hu Jintao; possible political role for spiritual leaders, including the Karmapa; the concept of “Tibet”; hope for future Tibet; and democracy in China as well as in Tibet.

When asked whether he foresaw any change in Chinese policy on Tibet under President Hu Jintao, the Dalai Lama responded that it is too early to say anything. However, he said the first visit of his envoys to China took place in September 2002 when Jiang Zemin was President and Hu was his deputy. Since one person alone does not frame Chinese policy on Tibet, the Dalai Lama said Hu Jintao would have been involved in that decision. The Dalai Lama said the fact that the visit of his envoys took place following a break in contact since 1993 was a positive sign from the Chinese side.

The Dalai Lama said he was not seeking Tibetan independence. He said if we want to resolve the Tibetan problem it cannot be done through the media, but through face-to-face meeting. However, the media is important to enable the government to know the views of the public, he said.

On the issue of religious leaders like the Karmapa assuming a political role the Dalai Lama said although there are quite a few spiritual leaders in the Tibetan society, the political leaders in our exile community have to be elected under the democratic system. He referred to Samdhong Rinpoche, the current Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet, who has been elected by the Tibetans in Diaspora for a five-year term.

When asked about the Karmapa’s role and whether any other spiritual leader could inherit the Dalai Lama’s unifying force of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama said it ultimately depended on the individual’s attitude, capability and knowledge and less on his spiritual lineage. If we talk about spiritual lineage the Dalai Lama said the Sakya lineage head is important.

Asked about his comments on the Chinese concerns that the Dalai Lama was talking about a “Greater Tibet,” the Dalai Lama said he was not using any concepts like Greater Tibet or Little Tibet. What he is concerned about, he said, is the survival of Tibetan religion and culture. He said right now there is the risk of their disappearance and therefore there was the need of a unified policy for all Tibetans to not only prevent this but also work on their promotion. The Dalai Lama said the Tibetan people have the determination to protect and promote their religion and culture.

The Dalai Lama said the Chinese Government seems to have the suspicion that his ultimate goal is Tibetan independence. He said therefore they are afraid when he talks about the religion and culture of the Tibetan people. He said under Chinese rules, there is the provision for autonomous region, prefecture and county and said that this is there because of the diverse religious and cultural identities of the different nationalities. However, the problem, he said, was that there is no equal implementation of the rules even among all Tibetans under the current system.

Given the fact that his concern is for the survival of Tibetan culture and religion, the Dalai Lama wondered what the situation would be if he restricted his attention to the Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) only and not think of the Tibetans in other areas. He said all Tibetans place hope on him and he has to shoulder that responsibility.

The Dalai Lama said if he had been talking about Tibetan independence then he could only talk about the territory actually controlled by the previous Tibetan government and not about those Tibetans in areas outside of its control.

The Dalai Lama felt the Chinese side need to do away with their suspicion about his motives.

When asked whether there was any scope for further compromise if the Chinese side did not have a solution, the Dalai Lama said his role was to provide suggestions. He said when it comes to actual negotiations on the future of Tibet, then the views of the Tibetan public needs to be taken into consideration, as also the views of the Chinese Government. These should form the basis for the talks, he said.

The Dalai Lama said there is commonality between his efforts and the objectives of the Chinese Government. He said the Chinese government’s objective is the unity and stability of the country to which his efforts can contribute. If there is no friendship between our two communities there cannot be unity or stability, he said.

He said he had heard that China has made much progress in terms of providing freedom to the people. While many Chinese are beginning to lose their fear, among Tibetans the situation is not like that, he said.

When asked whether the Tibet issue could be resolved if China becomes democratic, the Dalai Lama said that may be so, but that even under the present situation there could be a solution. He said there could be a solution if there is trust and understanding.

He said it is to China’s own advantage to liberalize its political policies similar to its economic policies. He said a liberal political policy would promote the country’s unity and stability. He called for the continuation of the changes taking place in China saying China of today is much changed compared to that of 20 or 30 years back.

When asked about the one country two systems in Hong Kong and his hope for future Tibet, the Dalai Lama said that as far back as 1992 he had categorically said that once they go back to Tibet he would not hold any political position. All his powers will be transferred to the local Tibetan government, which will be democratic in nature. He said it would be the Tibetan leaders in Tibet today who have to shoulder the responsibility of governance.

The Dalai Lama said the Tibetan Government-in-Exile is a democratic system and that he is already semi-retired. When he returns to Tibet he will only be serving the people in the spiritual sphere, he said, adding that he will be there to fulfill any spiritual role that China had for him.

Asked whether the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could be stationed in Tibet after a solution, the Dalai Lama said the armed force is there basically to defend the country’s frontiers. He said that he had made clear in his Strasbourg Proposal in 1988 that Defense and Foreign Affairs will be the authority of Beijing. His hope was that there would be reduction in the presence of armed forces in non-frontier areas like Lhasa and Shigatse.