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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibet's next move

November 21, 2008

The Financial Times
November 18, 2008

The Dalai Lama's campaign for Tibet to be granted "genuine autonomy"
within China has reached a turning point. For the past six years,
representatives of Tibet's spirit­ual leader have been engaged in
talks with the Chinese government, hoping Beijing will recognise the
Tibetans' distinct culture, language and identity within the People's
Republic. But despite hopes this year that China might relax its
stance, those talks have broken down.

China refuses to enter into any discussion about Tibet's status
within the PRC, accusing the Dalai Lama of covertly seeking
full-blown separation. The Dalai Lama has, in turn, expressed
disappointment with this hardline stance, warning that Beijing's wish
to strike an accord is "thinning, thinning, thinning". As a result,
hundreds of Tibetans from communities around the world have this week
gathered for an unprecedented meeting in the Indian hill town of
Dharamsala. They are discussing what course the Tibetan movement
should take next.

The Dharamsala meeting de­serves attention. For decades, the Da­lai
Lama has been a renowned voice of moderation. But as he ad­mitted in
an FT interview last May, the failure of his moderate stance to yield
results is alienating younger Tibetans. A recent opinion survey
reveals that a sizeable number of Tibetans want full-blown
independence – and many of them want the Dalai Lama's peaceful
"middle way" abandoned. They argue that next March, when Tibet marks
the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile, there
must be another demonstration of resistance to the Chinese authorities.

The hope must be that the Dalai Lama's insistence on moderation is
reasserted this week, and that the Tibetan resistance movement does
not shift to aggressive militancy. But if that is to be realised,
China must reconsider the ruthlessness with which it treats calls for
Tibetan autonomy. The Chinese government regards the Nobel laureate
as a charismatic figure with whom it is difficult to do business. But
a successful negotiation with him is the only way to ensure a
peaceful outcome to this stand-off. Beijing seems to believe that if
the Dalai Lama disappears, the problem of Tibet will disappear with
him. That is a serious miscalculation.
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