Today we commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Tibetan People’s Uprising of 1959. I pay tribute to the many brave Tibetan men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibetan freedom. They will always be remembered.

This year marks 50 years since my visit to mainland China in 1954 to meet with the then Chinese leaders, especially Mao Tse-tung. I remember very well that I embarked on the journey with deep concerns about the future of Tibet. I was assured by all the leaders I met that the Chinese presence in Tibet was to work for the welfare of the Tibetans and “to help develop” Tibet. While in China I also learned about internationalism and socialism which deeply impressed me. So I returned to Tibet with optimism and confidence that a peaceful and mutually beneficial coexistence could be worked out. Unfortunately, soon after my return China was embroiled in political unrest unleashed by radical political campaigns. These developments impacted the Chinese policy on Tibet resulting in more repression and rigidity leading finally to the Tibetan People’s Uprising in March 1959.

My hope is that this year may see a significant breakthrough in our relations with the Chinese Government. As in 1954, so also today, I am determined to leave no stone unturned for seeking a mutually beneficial solution that will address both Chinese concerns as well as achieve for the Tibetan people a life in freedom, peace and dignity. Despite the decades of separation the Tibetan people continue to place tremendous trust and hope in me. I feel a great sense of responsibility to act as their free spokesman. In this regard, the fact that President Hu Jintao has personal knowledge about the situation and problems in Tibet can be a positive factor in resolving the Tibetan issue. I am therefore willing to meet with today’s leaders of the People’s Republic of China in the effort to secure a mutually acceptable solution to the Tibetan issue.

My envoys have established direct contact with the Chinese government on two trips to China in September 2002 and in May/June 2003. This is a positive and welcome development, which was initiated during the Presidency of Jiang Zemin. The issue of Tibet is complex and of crucial importance to Tibetan as well as Chinese peoples. Consequently, it requires careful considerations and serious deliberations on both sides before taking any decisions. It will take time, patience and determination to lead this process to a successful conclusion. However, I consider it of highest importance to maintain the momentum and to intensify and deepen this process through regular face-to-face meetings and substantive discussions. This is the only way to dispel existing distrust and misconception and to build trust and confidence.

Consequently, I have instructed my envoys to visit China at the earliest date to continue the process. I hope that they will be able to make this trip without much delay. This will help in building trust and confidence in the present process among Tibetans as well as among our friends and supporters around the world – many of whom remain strongly skeptical about the willingness of Beijing to engage in a genuine process of rapprochement and dialogue.

The current situation in Tibet benefits neither the Tibetans nor the government of the People’s Republic of China. The development projects that the Chinese Government has launched in Tibet – purportedly to benefit the Tibetan people – are however, having negative effects on the Tibetan people’s distinct cultural, religious and linguistic identity. More Chinese settlers are coming to Tibet resulting in the economic marginalization of the Tibetan people and the sinicization of their culture. Tibetans need to see an improvement in the quality of their life, the restoration of Tibet’s pristine environment and the freedom to decide an appropriate model of development.

I welcome the release of Ani Phuntsok Nyidron, even as we recognize the injustice of her sentence and continue to urge for the release of all political prisoners in Tibet. The human rights situation in Tibet has not seen any marked improvement. Human rights violations in Tibet have a distinct character of preventing Tibetans as a people from asserting their own identity and culture. The violations are a result of policies of racial and cultural discrimination and religious intolerance.

Against this background we are encouraged and grateful that many individuals, governments and parliaments around the world have been urging the People’s Republic of China to resolve the question of Tibet through peaceful negotiations. 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 deeper political nature which needs to be resolved through negotiations.

I am also encouraged by the recent improvements in the relationship between India and China. It has always been my belief that better understanding and relations between India and China, the two most populous nations of the world is of vital importance for peace and stability in Asia in particular and in the world in general. I believe that improved relations between India and China will create a more conducive political environment for the peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue. I also strongly believe India can and should play a constructive and influential role in resolving the Tibetan problem peacefully. My “Middle-Way-Approach” should be an acceptable policy on Tibet for India as it addresses the Tibetan issue within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. A solution to the Tibetan issue through this approach would help India to resolve many of her disputes with China, too.

It is 54 years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. During Mao Zedong’s period much emphasis was put on ideology, while Deng Xiaoping concentrated primarily on economic development. His successor Jiang Zemin broadened the base of the Communist Party by enabling wealthy people to become part of the Communist Party under his theory of “The Three Represents”. In recent times Hu Jintao and his colleagues were able to achieve a smooth transition of leadership. During the past decades China has been able to make much progress. But there have also been shortcomings and failures in various fields, including in the economy. One of the main causes of the shortcomings and failures seems to be the inability to deal with and act according to the true and real situation. In order to know the real and true situation it is essential that there be free information.

China is undergoing a process of deep change. In order to affect this change smoothly and without chaos and violence I believe it is essential that there be more openness and greater freedom of information and proper awareness among the general public. We should seek truth from facts – facts that are not falsified. Without this China cannot hope to achieve genuine stability. How can there be stability if things must be hidden and people are not able to speak out their true feelings?

I am hopeful that China will become more open and eventually more democratic. I have for many years advocated that the change and transformation of China should take place smoothly and without major upheavals. This is in the interest of not only the Chinese people but also the world community.

China’s emergence as a regional and global power is also accompanied by concerns, suspicion and fears about her power. Hosting the Olympic Games and World Exposition will not help to dispel these concerns. Unless Beijing addresses the lack of basic civil and political rights and freedoms of its citizens, especially with regard to minorities, China will continue to face difficulties in reassuring the world that she is a peaceful, responsible, constructive and forward-looking power.

The Tibetan issue represents both a challenge and an opportunity for a maturing China to act as an emerging global player with vision and values of openness, freedom, justice and truth. A constructive and flexible approach to the issue of Tibet will go a long way in creating a political climate of trust, confidence and openness, both domestically and internationally. 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. There is now a window of opportunity for the Chinese leadership to act with courage and farsightedness in resolving the Tibetan issue once and for all.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and gratitude for this consistent support that we have been receiving throughout the world. I would also like to express once again on behalf of the Tibetans our appreciation and immense gratitude to the people and the Government of India for their unwavering and unmatched generosity and support.

With my prayers for the well-being of all sentient beings.

The Dalai Lama, March 10, 2004