The Tibetan Government-in-Exile has criticized an interview with the Dalai Lama in the South China Morning Post on 14 March. The interview, by Laurence Brahm, an American restaurateur and hotelier based in Beijing with connections to Chinese business and political leaders, led to media coverage in Asia, Australia and Europe on an alleged change in position by the Dalai Lama, and in some areas eclipsed coverage of the Dalai Lama’s March 10 statement. Contrary to the impression given in the SCMP, the March 10 statement shows clearly that the Dalai Lama’s position in seeking “genuine autonomy” within the People’s Republic of China has not changed since the late 1980s.

The 10 March statement was welcomed by many Tibetans corresponding on internet chatrooms in China and Tibet for its sincerity, and for the way it appeared to be reaching out to the Chinese people and government. The South China Morning Post article was mentioned on the official website, which has links with the United Front Work Department, the Party office that forms alliances with non-mainstream sectors of society such as ethnic groups, religious practitioners and intellectuals.

The Tibetan Government-in-Exile statement, made on 29 March, is as follows:

“Since the article by Laurence Brahm in the South China Morning Post which appeared on 14 March continues to create confusion and concern, we felt the need to clarify His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s position on the speedy resolution of the issue of Tibet.

The article is being interpreted in some quarters that there is a change in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s stand. This is to clarify that the position of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on autonomy for Tibet has remained the same since the 1980s as was explained in his 10 March statement on the anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day which the South China Morning Post failed to cover.

What His Holiness the Dalai Lama told Laurence Brahm in late January 2005 is consistent with his long held position on the issue of Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama explicitly reiterated his position of not seeking separation of Tibet from China and acknowledged the de-facto status of Tibet. Nevertheless His Holiness the Dalai Lama made it very clear that the issue of Tibet is yet to be resolved.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama reinforced his position in his annual public 10 March statement where he said, “As long as I am responsible for the affairs of Tibet we remain fully committed to the Middle Way Approach of not seeking independence for Tibet and are willing to remain within the Peoples Republic of China. I am convinced that in the long run such an approach is of benefit to the Tibetan people for their material progress.”

Unfortunately the accuracy of the article is compromised by the fact that some comments attributed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Laurence Brahm, an American hotelier and restaurateur based in Beijing, were made during a private audience, and not in the context of a press interview.

Thubten Samphel (Mr.)
Information Secretary