Dalai Lama’s January talks with China may alienate Tibetans

By Elizabeth Pisani
659 words
25 October 1988
Reuters News
(c) 1988 Reuters Limited

NEW DELHI, Oct 25, Reuter – The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, proposed on Tuesday that the first official talks with China on the future of Tibet take place in Geneva in January, but some Tibetans see the talks as a sellout.

The Dalai Lama, in an interview with Reuters at his residence in the north Indian city of Dharmsala on Monday, said he was encouraged by the younger, more open leadership in China.

"If the Chinese leadership were the same as 10 years ago, there would be no question of a dialogue. They were like this," he said, clamping his hands over his ears and breaking into the infectious laugh that punctuates his conversation.

He said he would not base the talks on a proposal he made in June to the European parliament which gave China foreign policy control over an internally self-governing Tibet.

China rejected the proposal, but said the Dalai Lama could set a time and place for talks if he dropped the self-rule idea.

Some Tibetans protested that he had already made too many concessions to China at the European parliament in Strasbourg.

"There can be no compromise on the issue of independence. I think the Tibetan people will be very sad and very shocked at these talks," said Lhasang Tsering, president of the radical Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC).

"We are not fighting for a piece of land, we are fighting for a way of life."

The Dalai Lama said talks did not constitute compromise.

"If I were to make further concessions, the Tibetans might kick out their Dalai Lama," he said, chuckling at the thought, secure in the knowledge they revere him as a god-king.

But he said a massive influx of ethnic Chinese was the main threat. "If it continues, that is the real end of Tibet."

The Dalai Lama’s supporters claim some six million ethnic Tibetans live in China. Peking says the figure is less than four million and that as of 1986 only 73,000 ethnic Chinese lived in Tibet, excluding troops.

China gives no figures for its troops in Tibet. Western estimates put military strength there at around 200,000.

The Dalai Lama, swathed in maroon robes, said he hoped China and Tibet would eventually develop a genuinely peaceful coexistence.

"The essential thing is that it is a truly equal and voluntary relationship. It is possible. Why not?" he said. "The only obstacles are ignorance and prejudice."

The TYC advocates armed struggle. "Time is running out. This is our last chance," said Tsering, who claims 10,000 supporters.

"In Tibet, even a Chinese baby will be my target, because he threatens my people’s existence."

Tsering said a large number of young Tibetans were trained and ready to fight. "We (exiles) will be taking the initiative, but the bulk of the force will come from wythin," he said.

The Dalai Lama passionately advocates the non-violence fundamental to Buddhism.

"If we follow a genuine non-violent method, the ChineseF find it more difficult to follow," he said.

The Strasbourg plan proposed that Tibet be made intN a neutral, non-nuclear zone, acting as a buffer state between the great powers of central Asia.

The Dalai Lama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China, scheduled for December, for talks on the long-standing dispute over their Himalyan borders.

"I think India and China will eventually develop a real friendship. That would be very helpful for creating a zone of peace in Tibet," the Dalai Lama said.

Speaking at the well-guarded residence to which he fled after an abortive Tibetan uprising in 1959, he said he saw no prospect of returning to Tibet soon and denied having any political ambitions.

"I am just a monk, quite simple, no problem. I just get happier and happier," he said with a giggle.

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