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NewsHour Interview with His Holiness The Dalai Lama


APRIL 22, 1997


The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, has not stepped foot in his native land since 1959, but he continues to a non-violent opposition against the Chinese, who invaded Tibet in 1949. The Dalai Lama, though, says he only wants a level of autonomy from the Chinese, not full independence. After a background report, the spiritual leader discusses his goals for Tibet and his non-violent philosophy with Elizabeth Farnsworth.

April 16, 1997: A report and debate on tensions between the U.S. and the Peoples' Republic of China.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Finally tonight Tibet and its leader, the Dalai Lama. Both have become contentious issues between the United States and China.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Tibetan plateau, an area larger than Europe. Tibetans call it "the roof of the world." Its snows provide the waters for Asia's great rivers. Its remoteness and spectacular beauty have long seized westerners' imagination. But for most of this century Tibet has been little talked of and little known beyond its 17,000 foot passes and 23,000 feet peaks.

Only in recent years has this man, the Dalai Lama, begun to change all that. He was Tibet's spiritual and temporal ruler, a kind of god-king, living in this palace in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, when China invaded in 1949. He fled to India in 1959, where he now heads a Tibetan government in exile. And he travels the world to teach people about Tibetan Buddhism and to gather support for an autonomous Tibet, free of Chinese domination.

He made big news in Asia last month with a trip to Taiwan, where he met with top officials and preached to 40,000 people packed into a stadium. It was his first trip to nominally Chinese territory since he fled Tibet almost 40 years ago. A vigorous advocate of non-violence, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and has year after year attracted larger and larger audiences when he speaks. His campaign has become a favorite cause in Hollywood, and at least four films based on his life will open this year.

Chinese officials in Beijing say the Dalai Lama is hiding behind his religion; that he is actually a splitist, a traitor out to split the motherland apart. In China's view, Tibet was a backwards feudal monarchy before the Chinese invasion, and change has brought a better life for his people. But more than 6,000 Buddhist monasteries have been destroyed under Chinese rules.

This tape supplied by the International Campaign for Tibet which works closely with the Dalai Lama shows some of the ruins. And humans rights organizations and the U.S. State Department in its annual human rights reports have documented other widespread violations of human rights. These pictures, shot by Tibetan Television in 1988, and also provided by the International Campaign for Tibet, shows Chinese police beating Buddhist monks and taking them to prison after demonstrations against Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama is in Washington this week to press his cause. In an interview this morning I asked him what kind of help he was requesting from the President and from members of Congress.

DALAI LAMA: My main aim at this time, of course, as in the past also I do--is to please help us to bring China in the--into the negotiation table. Now, that is my main effort. I believe my approach actually is seeking genuine self-rule. Of course, history--


DALAI LAMA: Genuine self-rule. Self-rule.


DALAI LAMA: Yes. Historically, see, we are separate nation. That's clearčlinguistically, racially, culturally, historically. Many Chinese scholars also read that but, you see, because of the circumstances and also I believe it is even our own interest long run in the economic development, if we jointly enter a big nation, we might get great benefit. Therefore, I'm seeking genuine autonomy, genuine self-rule.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Self-rule autonomy but not independence.

DALAI LAMA: Not independence.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You want to have some relationship with China.

DALAI LAMA: That's right.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you mean by self-rule and autonomy, if it's not independence?

DALAI LAMA: In my biggest proposal, I made very clear the foreign affairs and defense will be handled by Chinese government. Then education and trade and the rest of the domestic routines, Tibetians should have the full control or the responsibility. Up till now the Chinese government--you see, I think I believe too much suspicion, so I--

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: They've had too much suspicion of you and of your government.


ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: They made some very negative comments about you just this weekend.

DALAI LAMA: That's right. And also I think due to ignorance. So a meaningful dialogue, up till now, you see, didn't materialize. So the--like our friends here I think they can help to clear all these Chinese suspicions and bring to meaningful dialogue, negotiations. That the United States can do.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let's say that I am somebody living in say Kansas and you're speaking to the representatives or the senators from Kansas. Why should I care about Tibet? What is important about this to somebody in the middle--or you know, wherever, in the United States?

DALAI LAMA: Yes, it is true, Tibet not Kuwait -- no oil. But then the long run, firstly, Tibetan geographical situation is between India and China, most two populated nations. In the past history these two nations never fought each other because Tibet was then a state. So in future, no matter what is the situation, Tibet should be a zone of peace. Then second, Buddhist culture. Buddhist culture, I feel, has great potential to create more compassionate society, peaceful, compassionate community.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me interrupt you there one second on the question of Tibetan Buddhist culture. You have said that there is cultural genocide in Tibet. What do you mean by that?

DALAI LAMA: Here, whether it is intentionally our unintentionally some kind of cultural genocide is taking place.



ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Chinese are committing cultural genocide in your view.

DALAI LAMA: Because simply big Chinese, you see, population influx, so like Lhasa City, our capital.


DALAI LAMA: Now two-thirds of the population are Chinese so most shopkeeper and also the restaurant, these are Chinese, and also tailors andč

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tailors, carpenters--

DALAI LAMA: That is right.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Various people being brought in to do the work.

DALAI LAMA: These are mainly, are Chinese. So, therefore, besides official as a business--that's of course official language is Chinese.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What makes you think that this could change? Every Chinese dynasty has considered it an obligation to unite what the Chinese consider the motherland, and this government has said--they want Hong Kong; they want Macau; they want Taiwan. They've already got Tibet. What makes you think they'd give Tibet up?

DALAI LAMA: Actually, you know, my approach, or my thinking, or my effort, actually indirectly they helping Chinese, I feel.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You think your way is indirectly helping the Chinese. Why?

DALAI LAMA: Chinese government, they very much concerned about stability and unity and what call national--national integrity.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: National unity, national integrity.

DALAI LAMA: Yes. I can't pronounce it properly.


DALAI LAMA: So, so the present Chinese government policy/arrangement regarding Tibet as a region, these actually I think helping to create more long-term, more instability, more trouble, because they are carrying such a policy that hurts local people, so more resentment.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you think another arrangement, this arrangement of self-rule, autonomy, would lead to stability.

DALAI LAMA: So, therefore, more constructive policy is carried, then you see this deep inside resentment eventually will reduce, so that help tremendously stability and unity.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Meanwhile, the human rights situation, according to human rights groups, gets worse. Are you worried that non-violence, which you have always argued in favor of and said that you would--you'd leave the movement if it became violent--are you worried that non-violence will be more and more difficult for people inside Tibet to keep to?

DALAI LAMA: No, no. I think if we commit violence, I think human rights even become worse. Violation--

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There have been some bombs; there have been a couple of bombs last year.

DALAI LAMA: Yes. As I know, nine times using the explosive, of course, very unfortunate--so far, their target is house or some what say--




DALAI LAMA: What do you say? Monument?


DALAI LAMA: Yes, some monuments, not on life. But this is a practice (if) Further goes, then it easily shift on human life, so this, of course, is very understandable today desperate is the feeling of people, of course understandable. Long run of course I always believed in non-violent method. It may take time but eventually through non-violence we get--we will get more durable or more satisfactory result. This is my feeling. And one thing, I think, already, more and more supporters come from Chinese community, Chinese side. Now, I think in Ć94, one group of Chinese in Shanghai, they made publicly one petition to the Chinese government. Among them I think some intellectuals and some workers, some tinkers, they brought I think 55 or something--so they. One of the points in that position was they urged Chinese government to open with dialogue--with dialogue regarding Tibetan genuine self-rule.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that you will go back to Tibet before you die?

DALAI LAMA: Oh, certainly!


DALAI LAMA: But that's our hope. The other is we feel -- we think within few years time I think things might change.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you, Your Holiness, very much for being with us.

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