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Dalai Lama Says Future China Dialogue Possible

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/12/08; December 8, 2001.]

Tibet's Exiled Leader Says Beijing Has Rebuffed His Bid for Autonomy Talks but That Jiang's Probable Successor May Be More Receptive

The Los Angeles Times
December 8, 2001.

OSLO -- Beijing has rejected a recent overture by the Dalai Lama to open a direct dialogue, but striking a deal on Tibet may be possible with the man expected to be China's next president, the exiled Tibetan leader said Friday.

Speaking with The Times during a three-day gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Norway, the Dalai Lama also welcomed a recent European tour by Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao. That trip was widely viewed as a coming-out onto the world stage of the little-known figure pegged as the probable successor to Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"My opinion is that China must be in the mainstream of the world community," the Tibetan religious and political leader said. "This visit is a part of the effort for China to come closer to the outside world." The Dalai Lama said that in September he offered through the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi to send a delegation to Beijing to deliver and discuss a memorandum on Tibet, a South Asian land seized by China in the 1950s. "On my part, I made every effort," he said, adding that Chinese authorities have refused to accept the delegation and that he sees nothing he can do now to break the stalemate.

However, a future deal with Hu "is possible," he said.

Hu, 59, is widely expected to succeed Jiang next year as Communist Party chief and the following year as China's president.

As the top Chinese official in Tibet for about three years starting in 1988, Hu presided over the suppression of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule, in particular a bloody crackdown in March 1989. But the Chinese heir apparent's experience there can be interpreted in two ways, the Dalai Lama noted.

"One opinion: Among the top leaders, he's the only person who knows Tibet more thoroughly, or at least [with] comparatively better knowledge," he explained. "So that's one advantage.

"But, then, some say because he was the [chief] of the [Communist] Party in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the crackdown happened," he added. "Therefore some say he's more a hard-liner."

The Dalai Lama said that at present he is unsure which view is correct. But Hu "did not, I think, express his own personal view" about the Tibetan protests and Chinese crackdown, he said. "So let us see."

His aides distributed to reporters covering the Nobel symposium a copy of a speech he delivered in October to the European Parliament.

In that address, the Dalai Lama declared that "Tibet today continues to be an occupied country, oppressed by force and scarred by suffering." He noted that he has "always maintained that ultimately the Tibetan people must be able to decide about the future of Tibet."

He also stressed in that speech, however, his proposal for a deal--first articulated in 1988--that would make Tibetans "responsible for their own domestic affairs, including the education of their children, religious matters, cultural affairs, the care of their delicate and precious environment, and the local economy," while Beijing would control "the conduct of foreign and defense affairs."

Asked Friday how his reference to Tibet as an "occupied country" fit with his proposal for autonomy, the Dalai Lama replied: "We can't change history. . . . As the political decision for the future, I'm not seeking independence. So I do not see any sort of contradiction."

Tibet sometimes has been part of China and at other times independent. The Qing dynasty incorporated Tibet into its empire. But Tibet had de facto independence from the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 until the Chinese Communists took control of the region in 1951 through military pressure and political negotiations.

The Chinese government should be willing to believe that he is not trying to seek Tibetan independence and that the Tibetan people would be willing to remain under Chinese sovereignty if they were treated properly, the Dalai Lama said.

"The Chinese consider Tibetans as 'younger brother, younger sister,' " he explained. "If they truly treated us as a younger brother [or] sister, and as truly liberated, then I am sure the majority of the people [would be] very much happy. You see?"

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