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Dalai Lama's 'middle way' leading nowhere (The Australian)

November 4, 2008

Peter Alford, Tokyo correspondent | November 04, 2008

The Australian

THE Dalai Lama has called his "middle way" approach to negotiating 
Tibetan autonomy with China a failure and says he will "remain 
completely neutral" in discussions among the Tibetan exiles and their 
international supporters to formulate a new policy.

The Dalai Lama, who is both Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and head 
of the government-in-exile, said in Tokyo yesterday that the human 
rights situation was deteriorating and that "this old nation with 
ancient culture (is) now dying". "Now I find my direct responsibility, 
dealing with the Chinese Government, I find very difficult," he said.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama wasgiven autonomy to deal with Beijing 
politically by a referendum among the exile communities.

"My trust towards the Chinese Government is thinner, thinner, 
thinner," said the 73-year-old leader, who appears to have recovered 
well from gallstone surgery in October.

His envoys have arrived in Beijing this week for an eighth round of 
talks in six years with Beijing officials, but the Dalai Lama's 
comments suggest he expects nothing positive to emerge and that the 
talks will not resume again in the current form.

Insisting that he wanted only proper autonomy within China, not 
independence -- about half historical Tibet is administered as the 
Tibetan Autonomous Region by a local government effectively directed 
by a Beijing-appointed Communist Party branch secretary -- the Dalai 
Lama blamed Chinese authorities' fear and ignorance for the deadlock.

The regional administration in Lhasa has been in the forefront of 
Chinese criticism of the "splittist" Dalai Lama, particularly since 
the March riots that began within the autonomous region but spread to 
other parts of the Tibetan Plateau.

"Our approach failed to bring some kind of positive change inside 
Tibet, so criticism (among exiles) is also increasing," the Dalai Lama 
said.

He said that he did not want his opinions to obstruct discussions 
about a new approach to easing Tibetans' oppression in their homeland: 
"So at the moment, now I remain completely neutral."

The Tibetan government-in-exile, headquartered in Dharamsala, northern 
India, will meet on the questions in a fortnight and supporters from 
India, the US, Australia and Japan will join the debate at a further 
meeting in Delhi the following week.

"For the short term, for locally, the Tibet issue is hopeless. If you 
look to the wider perspective, still hopeful," the Dalai Lama said.

There was growing sympathy and support for the Tibetan cause among 
Chinese students and academics, and an increasing realisation 
worldwide of the ecological dimension of the problem.

The Dalai Lama is making the ecological threat to the Tibetan Plateau, 
sometimes called "the third Pole", a new focus of his campaign. He 
said he had been told the ice and snow melt on the plateau was more 
extensive than in the polar regions and that within 20 years the Indus 
River could run dry.

"There are many scientists telling us the Tibetan ecology is 
disturbed," he said. "The consequences face not only the six million 
Tibetan people but also a billion human beings, that is the whole 
northern India, with many lives depending on these rivers and also 
China and many Southeast Asian countries."

The Tibetan leader said he was looking forward to retirement.


"Some people tell me it's impossible the Dalai Lama retire. I tell 
them my retirement is my human right -- since 16 years old I carried 
this responsibility in difficult circumstances, the darkest period of 
Tibetan history."
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