Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

In conversation with the Dalai Lama

November 1, 2007

Transcript of interview with Alan Freeman

Globe and Mail
October 31, 2007

Ottawa — Alan Freeman: Your Holiness, the Chinese embassy became very angry yesterday with the welcome you were given by our Prime Minister and made some
threats that this would damage relations between Canada and China. In the end, Tibet is a very small part of China, just 3 million people. And you are a Buddhist monk.
What is China so afraid of?

Dalai Lama: Ask them and you'll get a better answer. Our friends who are Chinese scholars, they have this opinion that the Tibet issue. If the Chinese give more
freedom to the Tibetan region, (there are) repercussions for other minorities and one most important part is Xianjiang. There is a large proportion occupied by China and
also a very rich region, both Tibet and Xianjiang. So in the long run, there are major resources including different minerals. They are very much concerned about that. So
they take serious concern to keep Tibet and Xinjiang in their hands.

Q: Should Canada be worried about the threats made by China?

A: I don't think so. In the past, some countries, when I created some problems (laughs) . . . My main nature of these visits in non-political. It is not at all creating
embarrassment for anybody. The Chinese themselves are too much sensitive and always creating suspicion. And always look on negative side. So they themselves are
creating trouble. And anyway, whenever that happened, they put these threats. Afterwards, it's not much different. After my meeting with the German chancellor,
woman chancellor, the Chinese made a lot of threats and protests but then, except for cancellation of some meetings, I don't think it had much effect.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Dalai Lama exchange Kata's prior to their meeting on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Monday. THE CANADIAN
PRESS/Tom Hanson
Enlarge Image

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Dalai Lama exchange Kata's prior to their meeting on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Monday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom
The Globe and Mail

Q: Your discussion with Mr. Harper was not primarily political?

A: Basically my visit non-political. Mainly cultural. My main sort of concerns is promotion of human value and promotion of religious harmony. That I feel with the public
talk. At the government, of course, from my side no particular agenda to discuss. But then naturally, the governmental leaders, they often are showing genuine interest in
this Tibetan problem. So they put up questions and it is my duty to answer them. . . I always make clear to the prime minister I am not seeking independence, but
genuine autonomy within the People's Republic of China. And meantime, the Chinese government is denying existence of problem but in reality 95 per cent of Tibetan
population are very much resenting about the challenge of the situation. That I mentioned to the Prime Minister. And of course, I have to give my thanks to the
government of Canada. They helped originally a few hundred Tibetans come here. Now eventually, some of their families and relatives. Now today, 4,000 are here,
very happily settled. So I expressed my appreciation to the government and I requested — take a few thousand more Tibetans, living in India and Nepal. And also I
mentioned about the Burmese crisis. I asked whatever is appropriate way to support. I also mentioned the attitude of China. China is very, very important nation.

Q: Do you blame Chinese for supporting the current Burmese regime??

A: I think that the survival of the Burmese military junta depends on Chinese supports for the past two decades.

Q: Did Mr. Harper strike you as a spiritual man?

A: That I don't know. I cannot read his mind.

Q: Is it particularly difficult to figure out this man?

A: No. Absolutely normal human being. Very open-minded. And very nice person. (chuckles)

Q: For a number of years, since 2002, your representatives have been holding talks with Chinese officials. I understand you had the sixth round of talks in June. It
doesn't appear that the Chinese are changing their views. Has anything happened?

A: We renewed our direct contacts with the Chinese government in 1979. In the early 1980s, there was real hope. At that time, the extraordinary Communist leader, Hu
Yaobang, who was ready to admit their mistake. Among Communist leaders, very, very few can do that. You had a decisive leader there. In the early '80s, there was
real hope to solve our problem. In 1979, my personal emissary had a first meeting with Deng Xiaoping. And then he mentioned very clearly that besides independence,
anything can be discussed. On my part, since 1974, we made up in our minds, not to seek independence but genuine autonomy within the framework of the Chinese
constitution. So we start talks with Chinese leaders and Chinese government. We were very hopeful. However, in the mid-1980s, (there arose the) democratic
movement in many Chinese universities. Then eventually Tiananmen mass resistance happened. So the old Chinese policies become hard line. . . Eventually our contact
with Chinese government also completely ceased.

Then in 2002 we renewed direct contact with the Chinese government. Then six times, those roundtable talks took place. The first meeting and second, third, fourth and
fifth meeting, we see some progress. This kind of meeting (was) more cordial, more frank, more clear. Because our main aim is try to build confidence. However, after
fifth meeting, the Chinese delegation acknowledged that our side is not seeking independence. It was clear. They acknowledged. But soon after that fifth meeting, the
Chinese government intensified accusations to me as a "splittist". So then (at the) sixth roundtable meeting Chinese officials denied the issue.

There is no such issue. Inside Tibet, the repression increased since over one year.

Q: Since there hasn't been much movement on the part of the Chinese, are there some Tibetans who say you compromised too much?

A: Right from the beginning, the Tibetan youth organization has been very critical. We feel our approach is realistic and results in more and more Chinese supporting our

Q: There is a concern about the demography in Tibet, encouraged by the construction of this railway. Are you worried about the effects of the railway?

A: The railway itself we consider a positive development for the economy. However, if that facility is used for demographic aggression, now it seems as if becomes that
way. It is very serious. For the last two or three decades, the population of Lhasa is 300,000, two-thirds are Chinese. In all other bigger towns and cities, it is the same

Q: Are Tibetans becoming a minority in their own country?

A: Already in these bigger towns, Tibetans already have become a minority. But in the countryside, particularly country climatically difficult for Chinese, there are still
only Tibetan, not Chinese. But also some local areas, the entirely new townships, except for a few Tibetan families, otherwise entirely Chinese.

Q: If there is autonomy for Tibet, what sort of government should it be? Should it be democratic?

A: It's up to the Chinese. From my side, right from the beginning, that local government should hopefully be democratic government. But the rest of China is not a
practical democracy. . . . It is up to China.

Q: So you accept an autonomous government even if it were not democratic?

A: Yes. We are hoping. It's possible. Actually, the autonomy, self-rule the main aim is the preservation of our culture, the preservation of certain rich Buddhist traditions
and also special care about the environment. If Tibetans take main responsibility, they can look after these things much better because they have better knowledge. Han
Chinese have no idea, about Tibetan culture. Their only view is how to keep China in their control. So the autonomy . . . defence and foreign affairs should be taken by
the central government. The rest should be taken by Tibetans themselves. This gives genuine satisfaction to Tibetans. This brings genuine stability. Genuine stability
brings prosperity. And unity must come from heart, not just mere physical control by guns.

Q: Apparently, the Chinese have announced that nobody can be incarnated as a Tibetan Buddhist leader without the permission of Chinese, how can you ask for that
kind of permission?

A: I don't know. They are Communists. Over 60 years, more than 6,000 temples and monasteries are destroyed and more than 100,000 Tibetan monks eliminated and
half million Tibetans killed. I think the Tibetans voluntarily have permission from the Chinese.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank