Prominent Chinese democracy activist Xu Wenli, who arrived in the United States on December 24, 2002, following his surprise release by the Chinese authorities, had appealed to the Chinese Government to recognize the Dalai Lama’s unique role among the Tibetan people and to begin talks with him.

In an appeal to the Chinese Government in February 1998, Xu called on the leadership to respect the Tibetans’ religious freedom, allow Tibet to become a nuclear-free zone, protect its environment and seek Tibetan approval for all development projects and exploitation of natural resources, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. The appeal was faxed to the foreign media on February 4, 1998.

“Stop all personal attacks against the Dalai Lama,” Xu wrote. “Do not again and again pass up his well-intentioned appeals for peaceful negotiations.”

Xu also had an appeal to the Dalai Lama.

“At the same time, we urge the Dalai Lama to seek the establishment of a peaceful, democratic Tibet,” he wrote. “China could never accept a return to the old traditions of feudal rule there.”

In an interview to the Christian Science Monitor on November 19, 1998, Xu Wenli said the Communist Party should loosen its control and allow Tibet to map out its future in a democratic union with China.

“The people of Tibet should be given a very high degree of religious, cultural, and social autonomy,” Xu is quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Xu Wenli was tried on December 12, 1998, and charged with secretly organizing and planning the China Democratic Party with the purpose of “subverting state power.” He was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

“His embrace of the Dalai Lama stands in sharp contrast to the Communist Party’s endless war of words with the Buddhist leader, who heads Tibet’s government-in-exile from India,” Christian Science Monitor commented. “The Democratic Party’s stance adds to the international community’s pressure to end human-rights abuses in the former Himalayan kingdom.”

Referring to Chinese perception of Tibet, Xu told the newspaper, “From an early age, Chinese children are taught that Tibet was a barbarous, superstition-laden land. A news blackout here on the suppression of antigovernment protests in Tibet, and on the killing or jailing of demonstrators over the last decades, meant few Chinese ever knew of unrest on ‘the roof of the world.’

“Yet an information revolution is allowing urban Chinese to now catch realistic glimpses of Tibet.”

Access to the World Wide Web, along with [radio] broadcasts into China by VOA [Voice of America], Radio Free Asia, and the BBC,” Xu said, “is providing accurate news for a growing number of Chinese on Tibet’s problems.”

Christian Science Monitor quotes Frank Lu, a human rights activist who fled to Hong Kong after the Tiananmen Massacre, saying he agreed with Xu’s views on the Dalai Lama.

“Now the Dalai Lama is more and more widely perceived within China as a good and peaceful person who wants to help end the government’s repression in Tibet,” Lu told the newspaper.