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"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."

Dalai Lama to take a back seat in Tibet's struggle for freedom

November 17, 2008

Pressure from younger generation leads to tactical shift in campaign
for independence from China
By Andrew Buncombe in Delhi
The Independent (UK)
November 16, 2008

Half a century after he fled from the Chinese invasion of Tibet and
began campaigning for its freedom, the Dalai Lama is ready to stand
down from his role as the movement's political leader, amid mounting
personal frustration with the lack of progress.

Hundreds of Tibetans are gathering this week in Dharamsala, India,
his base in exile, for a six-day crisis meeting that many believe is
the most important for a generation. At issue will be how to proceed
in the face of Chinese intransigence. Central to the debate will be
the Dalai Lama's offer to take a back-seat role.

"His Holiness has said that China is trying to make this into an
issue about him," said Tenzin Taklha, the Dalai Lama's spokesman. "He
does not want to be a hindrance. He is taking a back seat at the
present time because of a lack of [progress]. This is a very
important event for the Tibetan movement. This will be deciding the
direction we follow."

The Dalai Lama retains the respect of the Tibetan movement, but there
are some who have disagreed with his tactics over the years. While he
has garnered worldwide support – including the backing of celebrities
such as Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn -- not all have supported his
promotion of a conciliatory "middle way". In contrast to his call for
"meaningful autonomy", a younger, more frustrated generation of
Tibetans is demanding full independence.

Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, said it was
time to chance the "political stand" of the movement. "His Holiness
said that if he was becoming a hindrance he would rather not be
there," he said. "He called his meeting for the Tibetan people to
discuss this."

But it is the lack of progress made by his envoys dispatched to
China, and Beijing's hostility to the Dalai Lama, that has led him to
believe that others in the Tibetan government-in-exile could better
lead the negotiations. Earlier this year, when the Chinese
authorities brutally cracked down on Tibetan demonstrators, the head
of Tibet's Communist Party, Zhang Qingli, called his Holiness "a wolf
in monk's robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast".

Even last week, the Chinese authorities called on India not to permit
the meeting. The Foreign Ministry spokes-man Qin Gang said: "The
Indian government has made solemn commitments on several occasions
that it does not allow any activities on its soil aimed at dividing
China. We hope that this commitment can be fulfilled."

Another factor in the 73-year-old Dalai Lama's desire to take a
lesser role may be his health. He has had hospital treatment twice
since August. Yet he is unlikely to give up his political role
altogether. While the Tibetan government-in-exile has held democratic
elections for the past decade, the Nobel laureate still holds
unparalleled influence. Nor could he give up his position as a living
god, something he will retain until death.

Nevertheless, even a decision to take a reduced role would be a huge
shift in tactics for the Tibetan movement. "We have failed to bring
any positive change inside Tibet," said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime
minister of the government-in-exile. "The majority of Tibetans are
increasingly frustrated and want more forceful change."

On Friday, the Dalai Lama said in a statement: "Taking into account
the inspiring courage being shown by people all over Tibet this year,
the current world situation, and the intransigent stance of the
government of China, all the participants, as Tibetan citizens,
should discuss in a spirit of equality, co-operation and collective
responsibility the best possible future course of action to advance
the Tibetan cause."
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