The Dalai Lama’s elder brother, Gyalo Thondup, a former resistance leader whose meeting with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 began a series of contacts between Tibetans and the Chinese leadership, spoke publicly today in Dharamsala, India, to urge a continuation of engagement with China “because we have no choice”. Thondup, who no longer serves in an official capacity, said that he also wanted to counter Chinese representations of the discussions following his own conversations with the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979.

Eighty-year old Gyalo Thondup, a former chairman of the Tibetan cabinet (Kashag) in Dharamsala, was prompted to give a rare and detailed address to the media today after hardline comments by a Chinese official last week denying that Deng Xiaoping had said that “except independence all other issues can be settled through discussions”. The Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi Gyari had reminded the Chinese side of Deng’s statement during the most recent eighth round of dialogue in the first week of November, but later his dialogue counterpart Zhu Weiqun, Executive Vice Minister of the Central United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party, said: “Comrade Deng Xiaoping had never made such a statement. It is a falsehood made by Gyari and is a complete distortion of Deng Xiaoping’s statement.” Gyalo Thondup said today that he was “shocked” by Zhu’s comments, because “it was myself to whom the late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, said that “except independence all other issues can be settled through discussions” on March 12, 1979.

Gyalo Thondup speaks fluent Chinese and resides in Hong Kong. He was educated from the age of 14 in a Chinese school in Nanjing under the Nationalist Chinese regime (Guomindang), and said today that ever since then he has been studying China. He said today that he had met representatives from the Chinese embassy in Delhi last Friday (November 14, 2008) because he felt compelled to convey the message that “there is no choice” but to talk to each other. “As a Tibetan, I’m convinced that we must all live together. Therefore it is very important for the Tibetan people not to lose hope and to keep a good relationship with people in China. We are sandwiched between China and India, both very important countries. I was always critical with the Chinese face to face in Beijing, and now I’m desperate, that’s why I told people in the Chinese embassy in Delhi that there’s no choice [but to talk]. We must face the reality that we have to deal with China. The people of China will eventually realize that what we are asking is legitimate.”

Gyalo Thondup expressed deep concern about the lack of progress of the dialogue and said he had challenged Chinese officials in Delhi about their representations of the process. “I told them that the dialogue is in no way the personal issue of the Dalai Lama. As soon as the 14th Dalai Lama was chosen he belonged to the people of Tibet and to the state of Tibet. He’s completely a servant of the Tibetan people. They say the Dalai Lama has no right to talk about Tibet. I say to them, do you have any right to talk about Tibet? What the Dalai Lama is asking for — a unified Tibetan area and a genuine autonomy — is our legitimate right.”

Gyalo Thondup accused Beijing of following failed colonial policies under the Manchu and Qing dynasties, and said that now the PRC must “abandon these policies”. “Since the Manchu empire, the Chinese leadership has been hankering after military conquest, and this imperialistic policy [similar to that] of the Qing and Manchu leaders must now absolutely be abandoned… [When China invaded Tibet] the Tibetans were supposedly under imperialistic influence, but there was no imperialistic influence but for a handful of foreigners that were in Tibet when the Chinese invaded in 1949-50.”

Gyalo Thondup thanked the international press corps for traveling to Dharamsala to cover the Special Meeting: “We are thankful to you all for taking the initiative. You must pay attention to what is going on, not only in Tibet but also in Central Asia, China and India. China and India are very powerful and, therefore, Tibet is very important for the future. It is necessary to pay attention to what is going on, and very important to discover what is going on in Tibet on the ground. So many things are going to develop over the next 50 years. This area is still half asleep, slowly it is waking up.”

In the 1950s, Gyalo Thondup recruited Tibetan fighters for training with CIA instructors on the Pacific island of Saipan. The Tibetans were trained in communication and weapons skills and guerilla warfare. When questioned a few years ago about why he changed his approach in 1979 from leading a resistance movement launched with his initiative to engaging with the Chinese, Thondup said support from India and the United States would be insufficient to solve the Tibetan problem; real progress required talking with the Chinese.

Gyalo Thondup said he had been “very surprised” to see the attacks on the Dalai Lama by the Chinese side over the past two years and, to put the current hostile approach into perspective, he detailed his contacts with the Chinese leadership from 1979 onwards. He was studying in Hong Kong under British rule because it was not possible for him to study in China, when he was contacted by the director of the Hong Kong branch of the official news agency, Xinhua, who suggested that he meet Deng Xiaoping in China. Gyalo Thondup described Deng Xiaoping as “a straight-talking person…and quite interesting.” It was during Gyalo Thondup’s first visit to China in 1979 that Deng told him that “except independence, all other issues can be settled through discussions,” which Zhu Weiqun denied last week. The then Chinese Premier Li Peng reiterated the message on May 19, 1991, according to a document released at the press briefing in Dharamsala today.

During the briefing, Gyalo Thondup was not prepared to give details on his last contact with the Chinese leadership but said: “My purpose is pleading the case of Tibet, and hoping that the government of China will adopt a more reasonable approach and treat us equally.” He acknowledged that: “Yes, there has been no result [from the current round of dialogue since 2002], but even if there is no result we are not going to lose hope. Things are changing, the world is changing. Look at the recent election in America. Have you ever dreamed? China is changing,- the world is changing. I’m quite optimistic.”

With regard to the current Special Meeting, he said: “Within a few days time, you will know how people are going to approach [the issue] but, in my mind, I am confident we must continue to plead our case to the Chinese government. And I have complete faith in the people of China.”

He concluded his comments by saying to the international press that he would like to take the opportunity to ask them “to please convey my thanks to the people of your countries for their support for the Tibetan people.”

Perspectives from inside Tibet

November 19, 2008

Voices from Tibet – suggestions and opinions for the November Special Meeting

A young Tibetan from Tibet, with the pseudonym ‘envoy of peace’, spoke to a group of friends and compiled the following memo for delegates at the Special Meeting on Tibet’s future called by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala this week. ICT has withheld identifying details.

As called by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a Special Meeting in November is to be held with all the Tibetans from around the world participating in it.

Therefore, we Tibetans from inside Tibet also collected a few suggestions and opinions from Tibetans with different backgrounds, and the result of the discussions below are three main topics that were brought up:

1. Follow independence;

2. Stick to the way of struggle under the leadership of the Dalai Lama;

3. It is the unanimous overall opinion that every Tibetan should unite towards the goal of inviting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet as soon as possible.

Almost all people support the approach proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and many intellectuals have done thorough research and analysis on it. The details as follows:

It is one of the greatest achievements of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that unlike the Manchurian culture and tradition that’s almost vanished, Tibetan tradition and cultures are blossoming around the world.

Other than someone stupid, or someone who is with the enemy’s side, who would dare deny the achievement of Middle Way approach. Therefore, if we give up the Middle Way approach and choose another way of struggle, that would be giving up a way that is going to yield some results while turning to another way that is yet to be settled and is baseless.

One of the reasons that Chinese communist government does not want to face the issue of Tibet is that China is still a country where there is no democracy. And the Communist Party is afraid that if they allow genuine autonomy for Tibet achieved through the Middle Way approach, it would also be the beginning of democratization in China, thus weakening the Communist Party’s power in China.

Based on the Chinese Constitution and laws, we should be openly and clearly advocating the goal of meaningful autonomy by means of the Middle Way Approach espoused by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Therefore, the Tibetan government in exile and each and every Tibetan should work hard towards clarifying for people around the world the essence of the Middle Way approach, especially to the Chinese people so as to let them know what it really is and to get their support.

To unite the Chinese people, including all Chinese in China or out of China, such as Chinese officials, businessmen, ordinary Chinese people, students, etc, and in particular to unite those political organizations of overseas Chinese in order to promote and accelerate the process of democratization of China.

Cooperation between Tibetans inside Tibet and outside of it, and try any means of communication to basically better the understanding between Tibetans inside and out of Tibet in order to ultimately achieve our goals through the Middle Way approach.

To reduce the burdens on His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama should not be bothered by all manner of concerns, which should instead be appropriately considered according to the seriousness of the matters. For example, it should not be necessary to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to various inauguration ceremonies for schools and monasteries, with lengthy teachings, and visits foreign countries or accepting visits from foreign dignitaries to His Holiness the Dalai Lama should be more carefully handled. This should be very seriously considered by those in charge.

Inviting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet:

It is 100% the wishes of all Tibetans in Tibet to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet as soon as possible, and If possible, His Holiness could hold a Kalachakra teaching somewhere in Tibet. Even if a Kalachakra teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not possible, a visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is something that could be clearly defined by the Chinese government: If the Chinese government doesn’t want Tibet to be separated from China or for any independence activities to be carried out, they should invite His Holiness and ask him to give a speech to Tibetans in Tibet, clearly stating that he does not seek the separation of Tibet from China, nor does he support independence activities on Tibet. This would be a compromise that would be of benefit to the Chinese as well as the Tibetans.

Support for independence “not a rejection of His Holiness”

A group of nearly 400 Tibetan students at a Chinese university shared their views on the current meeting last week, saying that most of them with in favor of independence. In a Skype communication with a Tibetan exile, the Tibetans conveyed the following message: “When we say that we support independence, we don’t mean this as a rejection of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Our concern is that if we go for the Middle Path, if the Chinese accept it, later they will not keep their word and throw out our religious and cultural tradition. Also, we believe that it was correct not to choose independence at the beginning. If this had been the path followed by His Holiness, we believe the oppression would be even worse now, and now it is terrible. But a majority of us feel that independence is now the way to go mainly because of what happened since March 14 [the protests in Lhasa and beyond, and subsequent crackdown]. Patriotism has increased among the Tibetan people. But we want to stress that just because the majority of us want to go for independence, we are not in any way against His Holiness, and this is very important for people to know.”

Calls for freedom express a sense of desperation and need to end the crackdown

A monk from Lhasa who is now in exile, but who retains strong connections with Tibetans inside Tibet, told ICT this week: “Since March, we have witnessed many Tibetans calling for freedom and independence. My impression is that there is a sense of desperation and a need to end the current crackdown and the suffering. So I think that for some, what they mean by calling for a free Tibet is for an end to the oppression.”