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Interview 9 from 15

:: The Dalai Lama: "Tibet is a part of China"

Dalai Lama: "The Chinese Government will inevitably have to open up more to western journalists than hitherto. The Olympic Games can thus be a big help for more progress. And China as the biggest nation in the world has deserved these Games. I hope that the country will soon become more transparent."
Franz Alt: Your Holiness, there is censorship of the press in China. Your exile government says: two hundred Tibetans were killed during the latest riots, more than a thousand were injured and more than five thousand arrested. What is the human-rights situation in Tibet at the moment?
Dalai Lama: The human-rights situation in Tibet is basically bad and it has always been so. When the demonstrations began on March 10, Chinese security forces took brutal action against them. Some shootings took place.
Franz Alt: Who started the violence, the Tibetans or the Chinese?
Dalai Lama: There are two versions. It would be the best if a neutral international commission looked into all details – and this directly on the spot. Afterwards medical aid should be given to the injured. I only know that there were many casualties. But I don’t know the exact reason either.
Franz Alt: You have threatened to resign. So this can only mean that Tibetans have also participated in violence.
Dalai Lama: This is not new in Tibet: in earlier times there have also been violent disagreements in our country. There are also hotheads among the Tibetans. But in the past years Tibetans have mainly acted non-violently. But this time, monks have been arrested first. I know an old abbot of a monastery. This peaceful man was arrested and brutally beaten. He had merely asked the Chinese government to set the arrested persons free. There is a lot of torture.
Franz Alt: You reproached the Chinese for “cultural genocide” – a strong reproach. But what does this exactly mean?
Dalai Lama: What the Chinese are doing in Tibet – intentionally or not – is definitely a cultural genocide. Only a few young people are allowed to enter the monasteries. We used to have thousands of monks. Today there are only a few hundreds. Our monasteries have problems finding new novices. Neither are there experienced theological teachers. Our culture and our religion are being bled dry. Moreover, the few monks are being politically indoctrinated which amounts to brainwashing. Even at the University in Lhasa Tibetan history may no longer be taught. Our students are no longer allowed to visit temples. In addition, Tibetans will soon be a minority in their own country. There are more Chinese in Lhasa than Tibetans. The every day life of the Tibetans is determined by the Chinese. The Tibetan language is hardly used. Our cultural heritage is dying.
When Tibetan monks refuse to comply with Chinese re-education, they are sent to prison.
Franz Alt: In spite of the latest events, why are you still firmly convinced that the policy of non-violence in Tibet is more successful than a policy of violence which is advocated by more and more young Tibetans?
Dalai Lama: There are few groups which support violence but they are really only a few. This is indeed a critical situation. My position is clear: violence is against human nature. Violence begets violence. Look at the war of the United States in Iraq or at Afghanistan. Conflicts cannot be solved like this. Maybe there are good intentions behind the Iraq policy – but the results are a catastrophe.
Franz Alt: Why do Chinese politicians raise such an outcry every time when you are welcomed by a German politician. How many troups has the Dalai Lama got? Why do the Chinese fear you so much? Why did the President of the Bundestag for example have to endure an hour-long tirade against him from the Chinese Ambassador because he had dared to welcome you?
Dalai Lama: I don’t know (laughing!) Perhaps you can ask the Chinese and maybe you will get an answer.
Franz Alt: Why is a meeting with German politicians so important to you?
Dalai Lama: (laughing again) I am very pleased that I can meet so many personalities. For example I was very pleased about the conversation with the Chancellor last year. I was very happy about that. I am sorry that such talks with German politicians always lead to difficulties. On the behalf of Tibet it is important to meet journalists like you again and again. We are old friends and have met more than twenty times. Such talks help the Tibetans and the human rights in Tibet.
What I mainly want to bring across in these conversations is that we become happier people and happier societies on this planet. As a spiritual leader and monk I first and foremost want to promote harmony among the people. And for this I need communication with the different societies. Only then will there be positive progress. These positive changes have to come from the individual and their families. Then the whole world will be more harmonious.
Franz Alt: What is the aim of the negotiations which your representatives are engaged in with the representatives of the Chinese government?
Dalai Lama: Up to last year we had six round table talks with the Chinese government since 2002. Unfortunately only one of them, the fifth, has brought us some steps forward. It was then that China recognized for the first time that I do not demand independence for Tibet as a self-governing country, but only cultural and religious autonomy.
Unfortunately, this has again rapidly changed and they continue to take every opportunity to portray me as a liar and even a devil. I’m the scapegoat of the Chinese government. But luckily, the talks are continuing nevertheless. President Hu wants further talks, too. The Chinese were greatly impressed by the worldwide protests. This pressure has helped us a lot.
Franz Alt: Foreign Secretary Steinmeier prefers to foster silent diplomacy with the Chinese rather than welcoming you. Can it be that with his silent diplomacy he will achieve more than with a public welcome of the Dalai Lama?
Dalai Lama: This is, of course, up to him. I think that Foreign Secretary Steinmeier knows best himself how he can help Tibet. And I hope and wish that he will be successful.
Franz Alt: As we have known each other for so long, I would like to ask for a frank answer without ifs and buts: Is Tibet – as determined by international law – a part of China today?
Dalai Lama: Yes, sure. From the very beginning, the Indian Government said that Tibet is an autonomous region within China – and this is correct. This is an entirely correct definition. It is legally correct. This is entirely conclusive.
Franz Alt:  When talking about autonomy for Tibet, which Tibet do you mean? The Tibet of the three million Tibetans in today’s Tibet Autonomous Region or the Tibet of the six million Tibetans within the old Greater Tibet?
Dalai Lama: We always talk about the total population of Tibet of 6 million people. We do not want a separation among the Tibetans. We are willing to stay within the People’s Republic of China, but we want cultural and religious autonomy for all Tibetans. The present crisis has shown that all Tibetans, especially those outside the Tibet Autonomous Region are very dissatisfied with the present situation. And for moral reasons we cannot simply ignore this dissatisfaction.
Franz Alt: If you demand autonomy, does this also mean that the Chinese army has to leave Tibet?
Dalai Lama: No, definitely no. Defense is clearly a matter for the Chinese Central Government in Beijing.
Franz Alt: In the long term your aims are changes and liberalisation in China. Can the Olympic Games be of help in that matter?
Dalai Lama: Many things have changed in China during the past 60 years. The era of Deng Shao Ping was definitely better than the years under Mao Tse Tung and there has been great economic progress since then. Today China is much more open-minded than it used to be. There has also been economic progress in Tibet. The present time is less ideologicalised than in former times. Today the communist party is more realistic than before. President Hu wants – as much as I do – a harmonious society. This new realism is also leading to a new policy. And the Olympic Games can be very helpful in that matter. It is good when thousands of journalists come to China and report on it.
The Chinese Government will inevitably have to open up more to western journalists than hitherto. The Olympic Games can thus be a big help for more progress. And China as the biggest nation in the world has deserved these Games. I hope that the country will soon become more transparent.
In these days of the great natural catastrophes you can see how helpful transparency can be. People throughout the world – also myself and the Tibetans – are deeply shocked and sad about this natural disaster which my Chinese brothers and sisters have to endure.
Especially in the face of this tragedy, the Chinese central government is showing an amazing frankness. This is a real progress.
Franz Alt: My last question: If the Chinese government were to invite you – in spite of their reluctance to do so - to the Olympic Games as a guest of honour: would you accept the offer and travel to Beijing?
Dalai Lama: This depends of course on the situation. If there are really improvements with the human rights in Tibet, if the Tibetans are no longer oppressed, I can very well imagine doing so. But if there is no progress in Tibet by then, I would not travel to the Olympic Games. My compatriots, of course, would not be able to understand this point of view.
A conversation of Franz Alt with the Dalai Lama
Franz Alt 2008
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