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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Autonomy Is Solution for Tibet, Dalai Lama Says

June 1, 2009

The New York Times
May 29, 2009

DHARAMSALA, India -- The influx of Han Chinese
and the growing restrictions on religious
practice have become the biggest threats to
Tibet, which faces “something like a death
sentence" under Chinese rule, said the Dalai
Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The only solution is to allow genuine autonomy
for the six million Tibetans, he said. The
regional authority would make policy on
education, religious practice and the use of
natural resources, while Beijing would retain the
right to keep military forces in the region and
oversee foreign affairs, he added.

An autonomous Tibetan government would not force
out Han Chinese who had already settled in the
vast Tibetan plateau in China’s west, but would
place limits on any future migration. "Autonomous
regions should be the native peoples’ majority,"
the Dalai Lama said during an hourlong interview this week.

The Dalai Lama sought to rebut assertions by
Chinese officials that the Tibetan
government-in-exile’s proposal for autonomy
advocated “ethnic cleansing.” The proposal was
presented last October to the Chinese government,
which strongly rejected it. Tibetan leaders here
say they plan to finish another document by June
that will clarify the proposal but not veer from its premise.

"We never thought of seriously asking the Chinese
government to remove the Chinese people or
Chinese military forces,” the Dalai Lama said.
“In fact, we made very clear that foreign affairs
and defense are up to the Chinese central government."

During the meeting in his private residence in
Dharamsala, a Himalayan hill town, the Dalai
Lama, nearly 74, spoke in English on a wide range
of topics, from his vision of autonomy to
nostalgia for his homeland’s desert climate and
deep blue skies. He chuckled throughout the talk
and slapped visitors on the back.

But he sharply criticized the continuing
crackdown on Tibetans. Since widespread riots and
protests by Tibetans in March 2008, Tibet has
become a crucial political and security concern
for China, which took full control in 1951. This
past winter, fearful that protests might erupt
again, Chinese soldiers and paramilitary forces flooded Tibet.

"Our main concern is the Tibetan people inside
Tibet," the Dalai Lama said. "They are really
passing through difficulty. So mentally, I have
some heavy sort of moral responsibility to serve
them, to help them. But meantime, I also have the feeling of helplessness."

The Dalai Lama said that the Chinese government’s
practice of rounding up monks and nuns to take
part in "political education” campaigns was
partly to blame for the protests last year. Since
then, the stepping up of those campaigns and
other restrictions on religious practice show
that the Chinese government is "now deliberately
carrying out some kind of systematic policy to
eliminate Tibetan unity," he said.

"In the hard-liner Chinese Communist view, so
long as Tibetan unique cultural heritage and
Tibetan Buddhist spirituality remain there, they
see that as a source of threat of separation," he said.

Chinese officials say that Tibetans have freedom
of religion and that policies in Tibet are aimed
at developing the remote region’s economy. They
also contend that the Dalai Lama supports Tibetan
independence and that he fomented the violence last year.

Lian Xiangmin, a scholar at the China Tibetology
Research Center in Beijing, a
government-supported institution, said that the
Dalai Lama’s plan for autonomy went “against the
basic political system of the country."

The Dalai Lama said that autonomy was enshrined
in the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees the
right of regional self-rule for ethnic
minorities. Based on that, he said, the large
area of western China that is predominantly
Tibetan -- including Tibet, but also parts of the
provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan
-- should be united under a single Tibetan
authority. Chinese officials have balked at the
demand, saying it would mean turning over
one-quarter of China to Tibetan governance.

The Dalai Lama said the flood of Chinese who move
to Tibet for work must be curbed to prevent Tibet
from going down the path of Inner Mongolia, where
Han Chinese now far outnumber Mongolians. But
Tibet can benefit economically from remaining part of China, he said.

"Tibet materially is very, very backward," he
said. "And every Tibetan wants to modernize
Tibet. So for that reason, remaining within the
People’s Republic of China is in our own interest
as far as economic development is concerned,
provided we have full guarantee to preserve our
own culture, our own language, our own
spirituality and full protection of environment."
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