During celebrations of the 48th founding anniversary of the Tibetan Children’s Village on 25 October here in Dharamsala, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made some remarks on the issue of Tibet that are now being quoted out of context in some media reports. Consequently, to clarify the situation we are issuing the gist of His Holiness’ remarks below as well as a separate translation of a transcript of what he really said.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that Tibetans have long been pursuing a path to find a solution to the issue of Tibet that would be mutually acceptable to Tibetans and Chinese. This has received widespread appreciation from the international community, several governments included. More importantly, it has gained the support of many Chinese intellectuals.
His Holiness went on to say that, unfortunately, the Chinese leadership has so far not responded positively to our overtures and does not seem interested in addressing the issue in a realistic way. Beginning in March this year, a series of protests and demonstrations erupted in Lhasa and in many other traditional Tibetan areas. These were clearly a spontaneous expression of the Tibetan people’s deep-seated resentment and dissatisfaction over more than five decades of repressive Chinese communist rule.
Since the Chinese Government has accused His Holiness of orchestrating these protests in Tibet, he called for a thorough investigation to examine these allegations, even offering access to Central Tibetan Administration files and records here in India. So far, this offer has not been taken up, but the situation in Tibet becomes graver by the day. Therefore, His Holiness said that it is difficult for him to continue to shoulder such a heavy responsibility when the present Chinese leadership does not seem to appreciate simple truth, reason and common sense. In the absence of any positive reciprocal response from the Chinese leadership, His Holiness feels that if he cannot help find a solution, he would rather not hinder it in any way. His Holiness feels that he cannot afford to pretend that his persistent efforts to find a mutually satisfactory solution to the Tibetan problem are bearing fruit.
Therefore, on 11 September His Holiness called a special meeting of Tibetans from all parts of our community in exile to engage in wide-ranging discussions with the aim of identifying realistic and non-violent options for the future course of our struggle. His Holiness concluded that when all is said and done it is for the Tibetan people themselves to decide about their collective future.
Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
28 October 2008
Recently Tibet has witnessed a crisis. Across the three traditional provinces of Tibet, the Tibetan people courageously articulated their discontentment with — and vented their long-simmering resentment against — the Chinese government. The outburst was not just restricted to the community of monks and nuns; it included believers as well as non-believers of all ages, including Party members, students, and even those Tibetan students who are studying in Mainland China. Realistically, at that time there was no way for the Chinese government to altogether ignore this fact and it should have come up with measures that were appropriate to what was happening on the ground. However it did not. Completely ignoring Tibetan aspirations, it went ahead and cracked down upon the Tibetan protestors, calling them various and sundry names such as “Splittists”, “Political Rebels”.
At this critical moment when the great mass of our brothers and sisters inside Tibet have made such great sacrifices, it would not do for us living in the free world to remain silent or inactive — as though we are oblivious to what was happening in our country.
Until now, we have adopted a position that is based on an endeavour to benefit both the parties concerned. As such, it has gained the appreciation of many countries across the world, including India. Among Chinese intellectuals, in particular, there is a growing support for this approach. These are indeed victories for us. To bring about a positive change inside Tibet is not just our fundamental duty; it is also our ultimate objective. The sad reality, however, is that we have not been able to fulfil this objective. Therefore when I made my first statement to the European parliament in Strasbourg way back in 1988, I categorically mentioned that the ultimate decision with regard to the issue of Tibet would be taken by the general Tibetan public.
In 1993, direct contact between the Chinese government and us came to an end. We once again held consultations with the general Tibetan populace on the best possible way forward. It was decided, however, to continue to follow the same position as before.
The common cause of Tibet concerns the welfare of the Tibetan people as a whole. It is not at all an issue about my person. As such the Tibetan people collectively should think over the issue of the common good of Tibet and decide accordingly. Seen from a different angle, we have from the very beginning committed ourselves to treading a genuine path of democracy. On our part, we do not preach democracy and practise autocracy. So, at this critical juncture whatever suggestions, views and opinions the general Tibetan public have should be thoroughly discussed. This should be done in a manner that takes into account the best possible course for the realisation of our fundamental cause, rather than for the glorification of ideologies and policies of respective political parties or the simple articulation of different political viewpoints.
All Tibetan people — whether they belong to the laity or the ecclesiastical community — must work towards the sustenance of our national identity. Generally speaking, the sustenance of the Tibetan national identity is quite different from that of any other nations or peoples on this planet. If the Tibetan national identity is sustained well, its value systems — based as they are on the Buddhist tenets of loving kindness and compassion — have an innate quality of being beneficial for the whole of the world. Therefore, our struggle for truth is not only related to the benefit of the six million Tibetans, it is also closely related to our ability to provide a certain amount of benefit to the entire world. Our struggle for truth, thus, has reason behind it. If in the future the Tibetan struggle for truth is amicably and properly resolved, it will certainly help millions of people, including those in China, to discover new prospects for leading a healthier, more meaningful life, securing both mental and physical happiness.
On the other hand, if Tibet were to become a society that pursues only material benefit — as a result of China’s complete obliteration of Tibetan religion and culture, the very basis of which is compassion — this will, instead of benefiting the Chinese people, lead to their loss in the future. Therefore, this struggle of ours is, in reality, beneficial to everyone involved. Realising this, we should think over and discuss the ways and means available to us. I am asking all of you to do so, because this is an issue that concerns the common good of all of us Tibetans.
The Chinese government has accused me of inciting the recent unrest in Tibet. As well as making direct representations to the Chinese government, I have made public appeals that Beijing should provide a detailed explanation on this matter. In these representations and appeals, I have said that they can dispatch investigating teams to Dharamsala to check the files of our departments and offices. I have also said that they can go through the recorded tapes of my speeches or statements to the new arrivals from Tibet. No investigating teams have arrived thus far. But China continues to hurl criticism against me.
Taking these developments into account, it appears that my continuing to hold on to this position is creating obstacles to the Tibet problem, rather than helping resolve it. Therefore the issue of the common good of Tibet would be better decided by the Tibetan people. There is no need for me to interfere in this.
On 11 September I reached a decision that I can no longer bear this responsibility. I see no useful purpose being served by my continuing to take up this responsibility. However, if the Chinese leadership honestly engages in talks, then I may be in a position to take up this responsibility again. I will, then, sincerely engage with them. It is very difficult to deal with people, who are not sincere. So I say this very candidly to representatives of the media: I have faith and trust in the Chinese people; however, my faith and trust in the Chinese government is diminishing.
I have called upon the elected Tibetan leadership to discuss these points at a special meeting. I feel this matter cannot be decided all at once by the convening of such an extensive meeting. The principal point, however, is that all the people should take responsibility, should take a keen interest in the matter and should come up with the ways and means, as well as practicable actions, for the realisation of our cherished goal. In other words, all Tibetans should work together in a spirit of collective responsibility to discuss the matter before us, taking into full consideration the short- and long-term benefit of the Tibetan people. However, the final or the actual decision must be made by the Tibetan people.