The task that my colleague Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and I had on this trip was two fold. First, to re-establish direct contact with the leadership in Beijing and to create a conducive atmosphere enabling direct face-to-face meetings on a regular basis in future. Secondly, to explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach towards resolving the issue of Tibet. Throughout the trip we were guided by this objective. Consequently, we focused our effort towards building confidence by dispelling distrust and misconception.
We have reported to Holiness the Dalai Lama about our visit. Over the years, His Holiness has made consistent efforts to re-establish contact with the Chinese leadership. His Holiness welcomed the positive gesture of the leadership in Beijing in receiving our delegation and was very pleased that a renewed contact had been established. He instructed us to make full use of the opportunity created and continue our efforts to advance this process vigorously, which will lead to a mutually acceptable solution.
Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and I, accompanied by two assistants, began our visit on September 9, 2002. During our visit we met officials in Beijing, Lhasa as well as in other areas. We learned from them about the progress made in the Tibetan areas as well as about the developmental projects undertaken. We have been impressed by the dedication and competency displayed by many of the Tibetan officials. While encouraging and admiring their efforts to develop Tibet economically, we drew their attention to the importance of paying equal attention to preserving Tibet’s distinct cultural, religious and linguistic heritage. The officials also informed us about the importance they attached to protecting Tibet’s delicate environment. We took the opportunity to share our thoughts on this issue.
Among the Tibetan officials we met were Mr. Ngapo Ngawang Jigme, Vice Chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC); Mr. Ragdi, the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region People’s Congress and Deputy Party Secretary; Mr. Legchok, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region Government and Deputy Party Secretary; Mr. Samdup, Head of the Tibet Autonomous Region United Front Work Department; and Mr. Atrin, Vice Chair of the Sichuan Province Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
In addition to meeting officials we had the moving experience of being able to offer our prayers in the Jokhang and the Potala. We were also able to visit Norbu Lingka, Ganden, Tashi Lhunpo, and Palkhor Choeten in Gyangtse. Our stay in Tibet had been short. Consequently, there was little opportunity to interact with ordinary Tibetans.
We had the opportunity to visit some areas of Chengdu, Shanghai and Beijing and were greatly impressed with the progress and development that have taken place. We also visited some of the sacred Buddhist sites in these areas.
In Beijing we met with Mr. Wang Zhaoguo, Vice Chair of the CPPCC and the Head of the Central United Front Work Department and Mr. Li De Zhu, Minister for Nationalities Affairs and Deputy Head of the United Front Work Department. We had frank exchanges of views with them in a cordial atmosphere. They reiterated the known position of the Chinese government on dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We took the opportunity to explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s thoughts on resolving the issue of Tibet through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue. The Chinese leaders listened to our explanation with keen interest and engaged in free and spontaneous exchanges. We appreciated this greatly. Since I had the opportunity to meet Chinese leaders in Beijing in the early 1980s, what impressed us more this time was the much greater flexibility displayed by the current leaders in their mental attitude.
Our host on this visit was the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Many other authorities, including the Tibet Autonomous Region Government, governments of Sichuan and Shanghai, have been involved in organising our visit. We wish to express our sincere appreciation to all of them for their hospitality and assistance.
We have made every effort to create the basis for opening a new chapter in our relationship. We are fully aware that this task cannot be completed during a single visit. It will also need continued persistent effort and support from many sides. Mr. Kelsang Gyaltsen and I deeply appreciate the firm support and full cooperation that we have been receiving from the Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, and the Kashag, whom we have thoroughly briefed about our trip.
Dharamsala, September 28, 2002