DALAI LAMA AND POLITICS
Dalai Lama, Bush and Nancy Pelosi The Dalai Lama is arguably the world’s longest ruling ruler. He took spiritual power when he was four in 1939 and temporal political power in Tibet when he was 16 in 1950 and is still regarded by many Tibetans as their leader. Even today, from far away India, without the of use of traditional media, the Dalai Lama is able to issue orders and requests and have them immediately acted on in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama won 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, which helped focus international attention on the Tibetan cause. The Dalai Lama's efforts has helped reframe the Tibetan struggle from a regional problem in a remote part of the world into a moral and ethical issue worthy of international attention because of the injustices and human rights violation that have been committed in Tibet. But looked at in another way, the Dalai Lama has received awards and recognition but has made little progress in solving the Tibet problem,
The Dalai Lama has been steadfast in his commitment to non-violent protest. He promotes the “middle way” and encourages protesters to be “practical.” In 1969, he said: “In Buddhism, you should not mind those who make you angry. You should love those people who irritate you because they are your gurus. In that sense the Chinese are our gurus." In 1997, the Dalai Lama said: “It is my belief that the lack of understanding of the true cause of happiness is the principal reason why people inflict suffering on others.”
The Dalai Lama has said that he never is involved in exile Tibet elections. He told the Yomiuri Shimbun , “If I favor one person, then I think many people go that way, so it would not be pure democratic...It is entirely up to the Tibetan people. Political leadership is quite well-established, so its not my concern.’
As a political leader the Dalai Lama’s job was mostly ceremonial. He signed resolutions, swore in the cabinet and occasionally attended parliament. Despite 50 years of lobbying, the Dalai Lama has little to show for his efforts yet he has prevented Tibetans from being forgotten or ignored like other ethnic groups such as the Chinese Uighurs, the Middle Eastern Kurds and the Nordic Sami people. Thanks to the Dalai Lama, as of Robert Thurman, the Columbia professor and former monk, put it Tibetans became "the baby seals of the human-rights movement."
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources: Official Dalai Lama site dalailama.com ; First Through 14th Dalai Lama dalailama.com/biography/the-dalai-lamas ; Early Dalai Lamas minnesota.publicradio.org ; Dharamsala (Home of Dalai Lama ) site mcllo.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Dalai Lama Quotes brainyquote.com ; Dalai Lama Foundation dalailamafoundation.org ; Nobel Prize Biography /nobelprize.org ; Books on the Dalai Lama: The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by Pico Iyer (Knopf, 2008); Kundun by May Craig. The Dalai Lama’s autobiography is called Freedom in Exile. Film: Unwinking Gaze, a film about the Dalai Lama by Joshua Dugdale. Links in this Website: DALAI LAMAS Factsanddetails.com/China ; PRESENT DALAI LAMA Factsanddetails.com/China ; DALAI LAMA’S CURRENT LIFE Factsanddetails.com/China ; DALAI LAMA AND POLITICS Factsanddetails.com/China ; PANCHEN LAMAS AND LAMA CONTROVERSIES Factsanddetails.com/China ;KARMAPA LAMA Factsanddetails.com/China
Tibetan History: Tibetan History Timeline haiweitrails.com ; Friends of Tibet friends-of-tibet.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; History of Nations site historyofnations.net ; Chinese Government site on Tibetan History xinhuanet.com ; Book: Tibetan Civilization by Rolf Alfred Stein. Robert Thurman, a friend of the Dalai Lama and professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University, is regarded the preeminent scholar on Tibet in the United States. Tibet Under China: Tibet China Conflict PDF file eastwestcenter.org ; Tibet and China, Two Distinct Views Chinese Government’s Take on Tibetan History ; index-china.com; Book: The Dragon in the Land of Snows by Tsering Shakya (Random House, 1998) is a first rate book on the history of Tibet under Chinese occupation. Links in this Website: TIBETAN HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/China ; TIBET UNDER CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;
Good Websites and Sources on Tibet: Central Tibetan Administration (Tibetan government in Exile) www.tibet.com ; Chinese Government Tibet website eng.tibet.cn/ Wikipedia Wikipedia Tibetan Resources phayul.com ; Open Directory dmoz.org/Regional/Asia/China/Tibet/ ; Snow Lion Publications (books on Tibet) snowlionpub.com ; Photos Tibet Photo Gallery Tibet Gallery Terra Nomada Terra Nomada ; Tibetan Cultural Sites: Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture tibetanculture.org ; Tibet Trip tibettrip.com ; Tibetan Cultural Region Directory kotan.org ;
Chinese Government Sources on Tibet: China Tibet Information Center en.tibet.cn ; White Paper on Tibetan Culture english.people.com.cn ; Tibet Activist Groups: Tibet Online tibet.org ; Students for a Free Tibet studentsforafreetibet.org ; Students for a Free Tibet UK /sftuk.org ; Friends of Tibet friendsoftibet.org ; Tibetan Review tibetan.review.to ; Campaign for Tibet (Save Tibet) savetibet.org ; Tibet Society tibetsociety.com ; Free Tibet freetibet.org ; Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy tchrd.org
Dalai Lama, the Politician
Pico Iyer, the author a book on the Dalai Lama, wrote: “When most people think of the Dalai Lama, they think of his saffron and maroon robes...his puckish smile and cosmic insight. He is after all the incarnation of the god of compassion. Yet...for more than half a century his feet have been planted firmly on the unforgiving realm of realpolitik..The Dalai Lama is one of the most realistic, far-sighted politicians in the world.”
Soon after he left Tibet the Dalai Lama began working on a new constitution that among other things sets up a procedure for his own impeachment, He also has been trying to eliminate the needlessly ritualistic aspects of the Tibetan system, to pave the way for women for receive advanced degrees and become abbots, and to makee science part of the monastic curriculum.
The Dalai Lama once said, "to be interested in religion you have to be interested in politics.” But that wasn’t always the case. During his early years in exile the Dalai Lama spent much of his time studying and meditating and staying aloof from politics. In 1979, after six-year embargo on his travel to the United States was lifted, he began traveling more and spreading the word of Tibetan culture and Tibetan problems.
The Dalai Lama now works tirelessly for the Tibetan cause, traveling the world, giving speeches and meeting with world leaders. The major world powers would probably do more to help the Tibetan cause if they weren't so interested in sucking up to China because of its rising economic and political influence.
The main issue that the Dalai Lama is interested is more political and cultural autonomy for Tibet from China. But that is not the only issue on his agenda. He has also called for the end of sectarianism among Tibetans and encouraged unification among the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. On the issue of terrorism, the Dalai Lama said in 2002: “So long as people remain on the planet, I think this will remain.”
Dalai Lama, Politics and Democracy
In 1987 the Dalai Lama proposed a five year peace plan with five points: 1) making Tibet a zone of peace; 2) the end of China population transfer policy to Tibet; 3) respect for the human rights of Tibetans; 4) protection of Tibet’s environment; and 5) negotiations about Tibet’s status.
In a speech marking the anniversary id the failed 1959 uprising he said, “I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader elected freely by the Tibetan people...My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with shirking responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run.”
Love of the Dalai Lama in Tibet
Support of the Dalai Lama among Tibetans remain strong despite decades of exile. If you were to ask most Tibetans what they would wish if they could wish for anything in world, many of them would ask for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. One monk told Newsweek, “He is our sun." In Qinghai in 2006 there were rumors that the Dalai Lama was coming. Within days thousands began heading to the large monastery in Kumbum to greet him.
Glasses like those worn by the Dalai Lama are worn by monks not only in Tibet, but throughout the Buddhist world. A Swiss optician once was surprised to find a bunch of Tibetans in his office demanding glasses like those of the Dalai Lama even though they had 20/20 vision. The optician gave them glasses with clear glass. The Tibetans wore the glasses on Sunday when they dressed in their traditional Tibetan robes and walked in the hills with their family.♣
Even though they are banned by the Chinese government many Tibetans keep portraits of the Dalai Lama hidden in their homes and secretly pray to them. Many foreigners bring such portraits to Tibet as gifts. Tibetans given them accept them with "great gentleness and reverence." They usually touch them to their forehead before tucking them away in their coats. During periods of openness, Beijing is more tolerant of Tibetans carrying pictures of the Dalai Lama more openly. Truck drivers have them and pictures of the Panchen Lama rucked in the sun visors of their trucks.
Dalai Lama Retires from Politics
In March 2011, the Dalai Lama said he planned to formally step down as the political leader of India-based Tibetan government-in-exile, arguing it will help the Tibetan community to become democratic, while keep his more significant role as Tibet’s spiritual leader.
The Dali Lama pleaded with the exiled Tibetan government to accept his resignation as their political leader, warning that a delayed handover could pose "an overwhelming challenge". In a letter read out to the exiled parliament, he said, "If we have to remain in exile for several more decades, a time will inevitably come when I will no longer be able to provide leadership," he said in the letter read by the speaker. "Therefore, it is necessary that we establish a sound system of governance while I remain able and healthy, in order that the exiled Tibetan administration can become self-reliant rather than being dependent on the Dalai Lama," he said. [Source: AFP]
The Dalai Lama also said he would not be withdrawing from public life and remained "committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet". It is not the first time the Dalai Lama has asked to be released from his ceremonial political responsibilities, and the parliament has rejected similar requests in the past, arguing that there was no replacement of equal stature.
But leading political figures in the exile movement, including the Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche, suggested that lawmakers would accede to his wish this time. "This decision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is final. There is no going back," Rinpoche told reporters. Dolma Gyari, deputy speaker of the government in exile, stressed that the move would affect all future Dalai Lamas, who are appointed according to the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism by senior monks. "Having to take this decision is a grave matter for all of us," said Gyari.
Meaning of the Dalai Lama’s Retirement from Politics
Analysts say relinquishing his political title would be largely symbolic, with the Dalai Lama remaining the global figurehead of the Tibetan movement and key arbiter on important policy. "One thing is sure that even if there is a new political head, because of the standing and the reputation and the respect with which the Tibetans treat the Dalai Lama, he will continue to have a say in political matters," said H.H.S. Viswanathan from the Observer Research Foundation.
Whoever takes over the Dalai Lama's temporal functions, it is hard to imagine China's more than 5 million Tibetans developing the same attachment to a new political leader, particularly a secular one, as they have to him. Woeser, a Beijing-based Tibetan poet and activist, said: "I think most Tibetan people can understand his decision. As long as he is always Tibetans' religious leader, now, in future and the next life, other things are not important." Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet said he would continue to be regarded by the Tibetan people as their free spokesperson. "In a sense, the Dalai Lama cannot retire," she added. Qiangba Puncog, formerly the region's governor and now head of the National People's Congress, said the exiled leader retained religious but not political influence in the Tibet. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, March 19, 2011]
Supporters suggest the retirement may, paradoxically, increase the Dalai Lama's influence on behalf of his community. China has repeatedly warned leaders of other countries against meeting him. "Up until now [foreign governments] have often sought to overcome the perception of dealing with him as a political leader ... There's a possibility that they may find it easier to have a formal relationship with him as an eminent religious leader," said Saunders.
Some Beijing officials called Dalai Lama's retirement a trick. "The Dalai Lama uses religion as a disguise and he is a political exile who has been carrying out separatist activities for a long time," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu."For years he has been expressing his intention to retire. We think these are tricks to deceive the international community."
Dalai Lama, China and Independence
The Chinese want to retain territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Dalai Lama and Tibetans want meaningful autonomy. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that all he and Tibetans want are things already promised them in the Chinese constitution. After the riots in March 2008 the Dalai Lama said, “since our utmost concern is to safeguard Tibetan Buddhist culture as well as the Tibetan language and the unique Tibetan identity, we have worked whole heartedly towards achieving meaningful self-rule for all Tibetans. The PRC’s Constitution provides the right for nationalities such as Tibetans to do this.”
In the early years of his political activism, the Dalai Lama sometimes demanded Tibetan independence. He abandoned this demand in 1988 when, he said he was prepared to discuss a version of autonomy for Tibet in which Tibet would be part of a Chinese confederation and China would have control over foreign affairs and defense policy in Tibet as long as Tibet’s religion and culture are respected. The Dalai Lama has endorsed the "one country, two systems" arrangement that China and with Hong Kong and proposed a five-point plan to set up a similar arrangement in Tibet. this. For the most part the Dalai Lama’s proposals have been ignored by Beijing.
The Dalai Lama has said on many occasions he is willing to accept a degree of autonomy for Tibet under Chinese control. He uses the term “genuine Tibetan autonomy within a benevolent China” and has repeatedly told the Chinese leaders in Beijing that he wants to sit down with them without any preconditions and hammer out a workable solution for the Tibet problem. In the late 1990s, he said, "My position is clear. I am not seeking independence although Tibet is historically a separate country. My main concern is not just the political status—self rule, autonomy, or independence...The most important thing is the preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture."
During the acceptance ceremony for the Nobel Prize, the Dalai Lama quoted Gandhi as a way of expressing his feelings towards the Chinese: "I speak without a feeling of anger or hatred towards those who are responsible of the immense suffering of our people and the destruction of our land, home and culture. They too are human beings who struggle to find happiness and search for our compassion." The Dalai Lama has said that he wants t make a pilgrimage to Mount Wutai, a group of sacred peaks in China, and meet with China’s leaders there.
The Dalai Lama has accused China of promoting "cultural genocide." "A kind of cultural genocide is taking place in Tibet," he told the French daily Le Monde. "Losing one's independence is acceptable, but losing one's culture, accepting the destruction of our spiritualism, of Tibetan Buddhism, is unthinkable.” In Taiwan the Dalai Lama said, "Until some degree of freedom or autonomy materializes, sooner or later Tibetan Buddhist culture will die. This is not party politics or power politics.
The Dalai Lama has called on Tibetans to make a “concerted effort” to reach out to Chinese and win their sympathy to the Tibetan cause. He rejects even modest attempts to influence the Chinese government such as hunger strikes and economic boycotts. He has said, “I don’t dislike the Chinese, only their actions.”
The Dalai Lama has been accused by some Tibetans of being too conciliatory with the Chinese leadership while the Chinese leadership has been accused of being too soft on Tibetans by many Chinese nationalist and ordinary Chinese.
Chinese History and the Dalai Lama
Tablet with golden letters
in four langauges given to the
7th Dalai Lama from
the Chinese Emperor According to the regulations stipulated by the Qing government (1644-1911), the final step of confirmation of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama was the "drawing of lots from a golden urn" ceremony in the presence of the Resident Official of the Qing government in Tibet.
The Chinese also claim that the Dalai Lama has traditionally regarded the Chinese emperor as the Son of Heaven and they assert that visits by the 5th Dalai Lama and the 13th Dalai Lama to the Forbidden Palace to visit the Chinese emperors as "proof" as Tibetan recognition of Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama has been officially recognized by the Chinese government since 1653, when Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing Dynasty officially gave the Fifth Dalai Lama his title. The present Dalai Lama voted on the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and was elected a vice-chairman in the First National People's Congress in 1954, when his picture was taken with Chairman Mao.
In 1959, Chinese authorities tore down the Dalai Lama's family home in Taktser and then had it rebuilt during negotiations for his return in 1986. The home is currently cared for by the Dalai Lama's cousin and around 4,000 pilgrims visit it each year.
The Communist Chinese have not responded to the Dalai Lama’s non-violent methods as the arguably more conscious-driven colonial British responded to Gandhi’s non-violent methods.
Chinese Position on the Dalai Lama
The Chinese have not negotiated with Tibetan exiles since 1993. Beijing refers to the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" and "barbaric" dictator and has accused him of keeping 9 out 10 Tibetans in slavery and "drinking “wine from human skulls." The Chinese have even referred to the Dalai Lama as the “enemy of the Tibetan people.” In June 1998, a Communist official called the Dalai Lama a relic of the dark Ages who wound "send Tibet back into original serfdom, so dark, so savage, so cruel. The same year, according to Indian authorities, a Tibetan Chinese spy entered the Dalai Lama's palace during a monthly prayer hosted by the Dalai Lama at his palace, to scope out security for a possible future attack on his holiness.
The Chinese like to use transcripts of the Dalai Lama’s speeches to attack him or his positions. In many cases they use mistranslations of passages or words from the speeches to undermine his position. In one case the word for “freedom” was mistranslated as “independence” so the Dalai Lama’s call for “more freedom” for the Tibetan people was mistranslated as a call for “more independence.”
In the past the Dalai Lama has said that he will not return to Tibet until the Chinese have left but over the years has softened his position. The Chinese have invited the Dalai Lama back to Tibet on the condition he makes certain concessions—namely recognizing China's claim to Tibet. The Chinese are aware of what happens when exiles—like the Ayatollah Khomeini returning to Iran—return to their homelands.
More recently The Chinese government has said that it is open to the idea of the Dalai Lama returning to China and living in Beijing. Beijing secretly floated the idea having the Dalai Lama visit China to participate in a memorial service for victims of the Sichuan earthquake but no definite action was taken. It would have been the first time the Dalai Lama set foot in China in 50 years but was not acted on,
The Chinese have invited the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet In 1983, the Chinese government announced that if the Dalai Lama returned he world be given a "desk job in Beijing." In 1988, China offered to let the Dalai Lama come to China to attend the funeral of the Panchan Lama. The Dalai Lama declined and the offer has since been withdrawn. The Dalai Lama is also concerned that he returns it will legitimatizes Chinese rule over Tibet.
Sometimes it seems that Beijing is simply trying to outlast the Dalai Lama and wait for him to die. It hopes that after he dies, disputes and quarreling sects will divide Tibetans and weaken their threat to the Communist party. The Dalai Lama told Newsweek, "I feel so healthy, I think I'm going to live to be 100. And if I do, then I'll die in a Free Tibet." One of Beijing’s worries is that if more autonomy is given to Tibet then other regions in China might want more autonomy too and China as it exists today might collapse like the former Soviet Union.
In November 2009, a relative of the Dalai Lama—Deying Drolma, whose grandmother was a cousin of the Dalai Lama—joined China’s’ Communist Party. The 36-year-old female soldier said that when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1950 he asked her grandmother and her family to accompany him “but she refused. She told us we shall never betray our motherland.
Many ordinary Chinese have little affection for the Dalai Lama. “When the Dalai Lama dies,” a half-Han, half-Tibetan official told Time, “all of China’s problems with the Tibetans will go away. Younger Tibetans are being educated in the proper way, so they won’t cause much trouble.”
Dalai Lama’s Lost Opportunities to Negotiate with China
In 1989, the year he won the Nobel Peace Prize and hundreds were killed around Tiananmen Square, Beijing authorities invited the Dalai Lama to make his first trip China in decades, to attend the funeral of a high-ranking lama. But his advisers worried that accepting the trip could weaken his bargaining position and he declined, a decision that senior aides now regret.
Some scholars have said this episode demonstrated the Dalai Lama's unwillingness to make the compromises needed to reach a resolution with Beijing. Melvyn Goldstein, a Tibet scholar at Case Western Reserve University, told The New Yorker the Dalai Lama's ostensible successes at building support in the West "look more and more like Pyrrhic victories." Of the decision to appoint a Panchen Lama, Goldstein writes, "From China's perspective, once again, at a critical time, the Dalai Lama had thumbed his nose at Beijing." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
China hold most of the cards and has never planned to make many concessions of compromises. “The dialogue between Dalai and the central government is not a dialogue between two political entities,” Lian Xiangmin, a researcher at the government-supported China Tibetology Research Center, in Beijing, told the The New Yorker “What is it? It came about because Dalai—as a Chinese citizen— has the right to inform the government of his pursuits. This is the way we look at it.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
Chinese leaders say they don’t believe the Dalai Lama is sincere when he says he has renounced his calls for Tibetan independence. They say that he harbors a covert intention to split Tibet from the rest of China, as evidenced by his willingness to allow others in the exile community to call for independence.
The Dalai Lama worries that Tibet will end up like Inner Mongolia, where there are more Han Chinese residents than Mongolians. “According to some Mongolian friends,” he told The New Yorker, “now in Inner Mongolia the Mongol population is around three or four million, whereas Han immigrant population is nearly twenty million.”
Dalai Lama and the 2008 Riots in Tibet
The Dalai Lama disavows even nonviolent marches and hunger strikes, in the belief that they lead to confrontation. A few months after the 2008 riots he shocked his supporters when he said, "As far as I'm concerned, I have given up."
The Dalai Lam’s “middle way” was condemned ny many in the Tibetan exile community. "It's time for His Holiness to recognize the reality that China has no need to talk to us. They are playing for time," Lhasang Tsering, an outspoken Tibetan exile who fought as a guerrilla against China in the early seventies, told the The New Yorker. "Soon, Tibet will be filled with Chinese. We will be wiped out." To invoke patience and virtue in the face of "genocidal and colonial rule," Tsering says, is akin to "national suicide, and that, to me, is the ultimate violence." [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
Rebuilt Village of the Dalai Lama
“Beijing has recently rebuilt the Dalai Lama's birth village—Takster in Qinghai Province — with modern houses. All 54 houses in Taktser have been rebuilt at state cost, and in an attempt to win the hearts of the Dalai Lama's followers, the new homes have been designed with traditional Tibetan flourishes. Every Tibetan household was consulted for its requirements before the overhaul, said Dong Jie, head of the Civil Affairs Bureau of Ping'An County, who oversaw the project.”[Source: Saransh Sehgal, Asia Times, October 5, 2010]
“Chinese officials boast of how the place has improved since the time the Dalai Lama lived there. The old Tibetan homes have been replaced with modern structures of brick and strong timber, says Xing Fuhua, chief official of Shihuiyao township, which administers Hong'Ai. The village now has roads and a stable power and water supply, although it is still not connected to the world via the Internet.” [Ibid]
“One of the rebuilt homes is that of Gongpo Tashi, a Tibetan whose main job is to maintain the birthplace of his uncle, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. A state media report quoted Gongpo, who still awaits the Dalai Lama to return Tibet, as saying, ‘If I call him some day, I will definitely tell him of the changes at home.’ Gongpo has visited the Dalai Lama twice in India, but says he has not contacted his uncle for a while. He is not sure the Dalai Lama will ever see the changes. ‘Am I waiting for his return? Well, if he is back, all problems will be solved,’ Gongpo said. [Ibid]
Recent Statements by the Dalai Lama and China
The Dalai Lama has acknowledges that “our nation’s problems can no longer be satisfactorily solved by itself alone and says he wants a Hong-Kong-like “one country, two systems” model.
He the Dalai Lama said in 2008, “The main thing is to preserve our culture, to preserve the character of the Tibetans. This is the most important thing not politics.”
The Dalai Lama has said that if a settlement between China and Tibetans is reached he would abandon his role as a political figure and would coordinate his movements and activities in Tibet with the Chinese government to ensure there are no problems.
In a speech in Dharmasala to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising in March 2009 the Dalai Lama blasted Chinese rule and said that Tibet under the Chinese “thrusts Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship they literally experienced hell on earth” and said the Cultural revolution and other Chinese-led campaigns resulted in “the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.” He also said Tibetan culture and identity are “near extinction” but at the same time reiterated his commitment to the peaceful “Middle Way” to resolve the conflict with China. Afterwards thousands of young Tibetans in Dharmasala took the streets shouting “China Out!” and “Tibet belongs to Tibetans!”
In Taiwan in September 2009, the Dalai Lama said the he was ready to negotiate with China but wanted to see a “green light.”
In November 2009, the Dalai Lama angered Beijing when he held a mass audience that attracted 30,000 people at Tawang monastery in Arunchal Pradesh, India, a territory claimed by China.
The Dalai Lama has accused the Chinese government of encouraging the worship of Shugden, a Tibetan deity he believes is harmful and fosters divisions in the Tibetan Buddhist community.
Easing of Tensions Between Tibet and the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama has showed his willingness to accept three of China’s demands: 1) abandon requests for independence; 2) halt separatist movements; and 3) and accept the legitimacy of the Chinese government. On a forth demand, that Tibetans concede that Taiwan is an integral part of China, the Dalai Lama said the Taiwanese should decide that issue.
There is reportedly a debate within the Chinese leadership on how to respond to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama told Time: "We know there are two groups [in the Politburo], one moderate and one more hardline." Some support making a deal with the Tibetan leader. Most though feel the best move is to continue with the current policies and make the next moves after the Dalai Lama dies.
Some Communist officials have hinted that Tibet could be an autonomous status like Hong Kong. Beijing’s biggest objects is proposed regional elections. In recent years the Dalai Lama has said that when he returned to Tibet he would resign as a political leader but insists "the head of the local government should be an elected official.”
Meetings Involving the Dalai Lama
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari is the Dalai Lama’s top envoy in Washington. He and fellow Tibetan Kelsang Gyaltsen have served as the Dalai Lama’s envoys to Beijing.
In the early 2000s, the Dalai Lama’s elder brother visited Beijing for secret talks after being invited by the Chinese government. He was allowed to visit Tibet. Beijing also hosted personal envoys of the Dalai Lama, described by the Tibet government in exile as “bridge building agents,” is September 2002 and May 2003. Before these meeting representatives of China and Tibet had not met since 1993.
In the mid 2000s, the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese government to boost Tibet’s economy and said it was in Tibet would accept “meaningful autonomy” and expanded religious and cultural freedoms “within the People’s Republic of China.” In 2005, he said: “Tibet is economically backward although spiritually high advanced. But spiritual [strength] alone cannot fill our stomach. So we need economic development.”
In March 2006, said he wanted to travel to China on a “pilgrimage.” to see followers and address his followers. In April 2006, Beijing said that it may approve a vised to China by the Dalai Lama. The announce came a couple of weeks before a summit between U.S. President George Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
In January 2007, Beijing banned Communist Party members, government workers and students in Tibet from participating in a Buddhist festival there, citing a need to “tighten up education.”
In July 2007, envoys of the Dalai Lama held talks with Chinese officials. The talks failed to produce a breakthrough but the officials siad the door was open for talks with the Dalai Lama but he had tp abandon his “splittist” activities first.
See Talks After the Tibetan Uprising in 2008, Tibetan Uprising in 2008 No. 2, History, Tibet
China and Tibet After the Dalai Lama
Many think it will be much harder to iron out an agreement after the Dalai Lama dies with the absence of a central figure for the Tibetans to unify under and many young leaders favor a more radical, militant, even violent approach in Tibet—and that could mean serious trouble in the future. On this issue the Dalai Lama told Newsweek, “The older generation may go away but the newer generations carry the same spirit. There are some young leaders—unfortunately even militant leaders—coming up.” .
Dalai Lama and International Relations
Dalai Lama in Russia The Dalai Lama has met with many world leaders and is major proponent of globalism. He is friends with Czech president Vaclav Havel and greatly admired by Desmond Tutu. When he meet swith leaders of other countries such as the Prime Minister of Australia he does so unofficially, for about 10 to 20 minutes. The leaders often represent countries that do a lot business with China and receive a sharp rebuke from the Chinese government.
Beijing was very angry with French President Nicolas Sarkozy for meeting with the Dalai Lama in December 2008. At that time Sarkozy was also the acting EU head and China cancelled out of an an important China-EU summit meeting during the 2008 financial crisis meeting because of the Dalai Lama meeting,
The Dalai Lama spent most of the duration of the Beijing Olympics in France, where most of his time was taken up with religious matters. A few days before the start of the Olympics he offered prayers and good wishes to the people of China.
In 1997, the Dalai Lama made a controversial visit to Taiwan, where he was welcomed like a head of state. During his visit to Taiwan in April 2001, he met with the Taiwanese president and was accused by Beijing of using Buddhism as a "guise" to divide China. He also stirred up trouble during a visit to Taiwan in 2009.
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “In recent years, China has declared Tibet a "core interest" of national importance, and has been remarkably successful in lobbying foreign governments to refrain from meeting with the Dalai Lama: since 2007, the leaders of Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, as well as the Pope, have declined to see him. Between 2005 and 2008, he met with twenty-one national leaders; in 2009, that count dropped to two, according to Robert Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia. In 1998, Apple annoyed the Chinese government by featuring a photograph of the Dalai Lama in a series of ads that included Muhammad Ali, Gandhi, and Picasso. These days, the online store for Chinese iPhone users does not offer such applications as "Dalai Lama Quotes" and "Nobel Laureates." ("We continue to comply with local laws," an Apple spokesperson said.)
In October 2011, the Dalai Lama canceled a trip to South Africa in which he was scheduled to attend the 80th birthday celebration of fellow Nobel-Prize-winner Archbishop Tutu's because South Africa, which has had his application paperwork for weeks, had not issued him a visa on time. The move appears to have been made to placate China, which had agreed to $2.5 billion in investment projects with South Africa the week before. Tutu was particularly upset. He accused the South African government of conduct "worse than the apartheid government."
Dalai Lama and the United States
The Dalai Lama appeals to both liberals and conservatives in the United States and supporters in Democratic Party and the Bay Area and the Republican Party and the Bible Belt. The Dalai Lama's visits to the United States are often orchestrated in such a way as to give him support but not anger Beijing too much. When he visited the White House in the 1990s, U.S. President Bill Clinton "dropped in" for 10 minutes while the Dalai Lama was meeting with Vice President Al Gore. Similar visits took place with former president George Bush at the White House. These meeting inevitably enrage Beijing.
Clinton had turned down a request to meet formally with the Dalai Lama in Washington because he did not want antagonize the Chinese government but he was criticized by China for "gross interference in Chinese internal affairs" because of the 10 minutes visit.
In October 2007, the Dalai Lama was presented with the highest U.S. government civilian honor—the Congressional Gold Medal. It was given to him personally by U.S. President George Bush and his wife Laura along with two of the highest ranking members of the U.S. Congress in a special ceremony in the U.S. Capital Rotunda. Few world leaders have been so honored. Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Tony Blair are among those that have. The ceremony was the first time the Dalai Lama appeared in public with a U.S. President. He also met privately with Bush for half an hour. Beijing was outraged.
On U.S. President George Bush, the Dalai Lama said, “To be honest, some of his policies have been a disaster, but as a person I love him. He is open, very truthful. At the first meeting, we were very close.”
Before the U.S. presidential election in 2008 the Dalai Lama met with both candidates: John McCain and Barrack Obama. After becoming president Obama avoided an opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama to avoid stirring up trouble with Beijing but denied accusations that he was kowtowing to China. It was the first time since 1991 that the Dalai Lama had come to Washington without meeting the U.S. President.
Beijing was angered when the U.S. House of Representatives gave the Dalai Lama the first Latos Human Rights Prize in October 2009. The Chinese government was also furious when the city of Paris have him an honorary citizenship in June 2009.
Dalai Lama and the Obama Administration
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: “The Washington Post broke the news that Obama would delay his White House meeting with the Dalai Lama until after the President's official trip to China. It was the first time since 1991 that the Dalai Lama would come to the U.S. capital without seeing the President. Tibet supporters were taken aback and critics of Obama said he caved in to Chinese demands. "We all had the first initial reaction: How could you possibly do that?" Richard Gere said. Vaclav Havel, the former Czech dissident and President, said of Obama, "With these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems.'' [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010]
“At the time, the White House was seeking China's support on North Korea, Iran, climate change, and other issues. White House officials believed that if they delayed a meeting China would respond by resuming a series of talks with Tibetans and revitalizing the broader relationship with the U.S. Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's special envoy and lead contact with the U.S. government, told The New Yorker the criticism of Obama was unwarranted: "The decision not to do the meeting beforehand was absolutely mutual." Nevertheless, he added, in the months since, some foreign governments have used it as an excuse to avoid irritating China. "They said, 'Look, if the big United States is shying away, then, please, give us a break,' " he told me. China did resume talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives, but the talks were not fruitful; other hoped-for concessions from Beijing have yet to materialize.” [Ibid]
The experience hurt the Obama government. The Dalai Lama eventually visited Obama in February 2010. The 70-minute meeting in the Map Room was longer than any previous Presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama, the White Hose said. The Chinese complained that it was "seriously damaging" ties between China and the U.S., and summoned the American ambassador to lodge a formal complaint.
In February 2010, Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House, praising his goals for the Tibetan people but otherwise keeping the meeting a low-key as possible. Only a single official photograph was released and independent reporters or photographers were barred from the meeting. Beijing responded with predictable complaints that the United States was interfering with the internal affairs of China. The Obama administration said that it expected months of “coolness” to follow. The next day he was presented with the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Service medal at a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington in which the Dalai Lama was hailed for “demonstrating moral courage and self-assurance in the face of brute force and abusive insults.” The Endowment is a U.S.-Congress funded organization. As a senator, Obama had met the Dalai Lama,
In July 2011, the Dalai Lama met with U.S. President Obama in the White House Map Room despite string and conservative, Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner and liberal Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood at his side while he gave a speech in Washington. San-Francisco-area-based Pelosi is a longtime friend of the Dalai Lama. Boehner said, “His example humbles nations such as ours that work to spread freedom, tolerance and respect for human dignity.” The Dalai Lama was in Washington for an 11-day spiritual kalachakra ritual. Thousand flocked to a Washington arena to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
Image Sources: White House, Dalai Lama com
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated July 2011