English translation (from the Tibetan) of Wang Lixiong’s interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 21 May 2010. Wang Lixiong’s Twitter postings were based on this interview.
Wang informed His Holiness that he had invited people to submit their questions on Google Moderator and also to vote on their preferred questions. He said altogether there were 1253 people who posed 289 questions with 12473 votes revealing preferences and their results are the questions that he be posed to His Holiness.
Question: Your Holiness Dalai Lama, how are you? I want to ask you about the religious leadership of Tibet in the future. What is your view on the possibility of “two successors”, as happened in the case of the 11th Panchen Lama?
His Holiness: In 1969 I had officially stated that the Tibetan people will decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama needs to continue or not. Similarly, in 1992, I had issued an official statement in which I had stated that when the time comes for the Tibetans in Tibet and in exile to be reunited, I would not assume any position. The people who are currently assuming responsibilities in Tibet would have to shoulder that responsibility.
Then, since 2001, if we look at the exile leadership, a system has been established to elect (in a five-year term) the leadership of the Central Tibetan Administration and this is being practised now.
Therefore, I do not place much importance on the issue of the Dalai Lama. I will do whatever I can while I am alive. I do not have any other consideration or responsibility.
It looks like the Chinese Communist Party seems to be more concerned about the institution of the Dalai Lama than I. Thus, the situation could become like that of the two Panchen Lamas. It will be an additional problem without any benefit.
Question: What is your view of the 11th Panchen Lama that the Chinese government has appointed?
His Holiness: From what I have heard he has sharp intellect and is greatly interested in religious matters. But many people have much suspicion about him. Therefore, it depends on him. It should be good if he turns out to be someone who embodies both the knowledge of the scripture and the realization based on it, and upholds the teaching and practice of the Buddha’s doctrine.
Question: I would like to ask Your Holiness about the meetings between the Tibetan government in exile and the Chinese Communists. Why are these meetings always fruitless? What exactly are the questions that have been so intractable over the decades?
His Holiness: The Chinese Government has been officially saying that there is no Tibetan issue to be discussed and that it is only the personal issue of the Dalai Lama. I do not have anything to ask for myself. It is the issue of the basic rights of the six million Tibetans, their religion, culture, and environment. These are issues that I am concerned about and need to be discussed. If and when the time comes when the Central Government acknowledges that there is a Tibetan problem, as they seem to be doing so in the case of Xinjiang, and make an effort to resolve it there is something to discuss. From my side, I will cooperate as I share the same objectives as the Chinese Government, namely the development of the country, stability, friendship. However, in terms of method, the Chinese Government seems to be adopting an approach of force to establish stability while we feel that stability should come from mental satisfaction and trust.
Question: Hello, your Holiness. Regardless of what political path China takes in the future, the gap between ordinary Tibetans and ordinary Han Chinese is getting bigger all the time. Many Tibetan people are simplistic in saying the problem is only Han rule of Tibet. In fact we Han people are also victims of the same dictatorial rule. How do you view this problem?
His Holiness: The Chinese-Tibetan relationship did not begin in 1949-50 but is over one thousand years old. During this period sometimes we had very cordial relationship while at other times not too cordial relationship. Currently we are in a period where we do not have cordial relationship. The cause for this is governmental policies that have caused the differences and not the people. Therefore, the people-to-people relationship is becoming important.
In free countries where there are Tibetans and Chinese, we have been making efforts to establish friendship associations between the two communities and these have been having impact. One main problem is that Deng Xiaoping’s Seeking Truth from Facts is not being implemented. Hu Yaobang had made efforts to understand the real situation. Recently, Wen Jiabao has talked about Hu Yaobang’s work attitude of not relying merely on official report but understanding the situation through contact with the people. There are many drawbacks in China because there is no investigating into the reality of the issue in a transparent manner. If there is transparency, it will help in reducing corruption.
Question: Another issue. Do you have any way of maintaining good relations between Hans and Tibetans?
His Holiness: I travel to many countries and have always been adopting the attitude that we are all same human beings. This has enabled me to have good relationship. The Tibetans and Chinese are not only same as human beings, but also have historical relationship. If we are clear and establish equal relationship, all problems will be resolved.
I have been meeting regularly with people who come from mainland China. They are sincere and I am able to establish close relationship. It becomes problematic when there are doubts and suspicions. This is not just with Chinese and Tibetans but throughout the world. This needs to be resolved.
Whenever I meet people, I tell them that we are the same human beings. The difference in religion, culture and languages are secondary. The most important thing is we are all same human beings.
In 1954-55, when I was in Beijing, at that time I had discussions on Marxism. I liked the idea of internationalism.
Question: “I would like to ask your Holiness about your “Memorandum on Achieving True Autonomy for All Tibetans,” in which you do not write about how to protect the rights of Han people who live in Tibet. Would you, after autonomy, recognize a right of Han people who currently reside in Tibetan areas to continue living there?”
His Holiness: Even in the past, before 1950, there were Chinese in Tibet. For example, in my birth area there were many Chinese, including Muslims. Therefore, in the future, too, the Chinese people will certainly be there. What is pertinent to keep in mind is that in the case of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture the Mongol population has become a small minority. If it becomes like that then the national autonomy’s characteristics are not present.
Secondly, in the case of Tibet, in certain towns, where there is a sizable Chinese population with fewer Tibetans, the natural outcome is a change and degeneration of the Tibetan language and Tibetan tradition. We need to consider this. Otherwise, there needs to be a situation where the Chinese friends can exist safely and in happiness. After all, we are same as human beings.
Question: I would like to ask the Great Teacher why your description of Tibet in the past—as a harmonious Buddhist society—differs so radically from the Chinese government’s description of an evil slave society. Many drawings and other visual materials document the cruelty and iniquity of a slave society. Can you explain why this discrepancy is so big?
His Holiness: It is true that the Tibet of the past, prior to 1950, was backward and in general, feudal. No Tibetan says the former old society was like heaven. Today, no Tibetan, in Tibet and outside, thinks or even dreams of reviving the former old society.
On the other hand, the Chinese Government’s charge that the past old Tibetan society was like hell is an exaggeration.
In the past there were films made about Tibetan history (by the Chinese). Some people told me that when these films were being shot, onlookers were laughing because these were not conforming to facts. They said a very strange film was being shot.
During the Cultural Revolution it was being said that the Revolution was a great success. Subsequently, when they could not cover the reality the position changed.
Similarly, the Tiananmen issue is known all over the world but the Chinese Government seems to maintain that it virtually did not happen by saying it was just a few (people). What is important is that you all should undertake scientifically sound objective investigations.
I always even tell the Tibetans that they should not base (their decision) merely because I have said it, but that they should investigate. From a Buddhist practitioner’s perspective, we need to investigate even the Buddha’s teachings.
Question: If the Chinese Government were to allow you to return to Tibet, and were to grant self-rule to Tibet, what kind of political system would you like to see in Tibet?
His Holiness: That needs to be decided by majority preference by Tibetans in Tibet, particularly intellectuals, through seeking truth from facts. In exile, in the past 50 years our Administration is run along democratic lines.
Question: I would like to ask the Dalai Lama a sharp question. The fiercest criticism that Chinese government officials level against you is that you demand there be no troops in Tibet. This, they say, is evidence that you are asking for independence in disguise. Are you maintaining your demand of no troops in Tibet?
His Holiness: I have always been making it clear that under the autonomy Foreign Relations and Defence will be undertaken by the Central Government. In the past, I had expressed my dream of making Tibet a Zone of Peace in the future through friendship and trust with neighboring India and Nepal and others. This is not just limited to Tibet but I have always been saying that the entire world needs to be demilitarized. There is no need to be concerned over this point.
Question: In view of how things stand at present, the chances of a peaceful resolution of the problem of Tibet during the Dalai Lama’s lifetime seems almost zero. May I ask how His Holiness views the current prospects for Tibet?
His Holiness: I divide the period since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China into four eras: Mao Zedong era, Deng Xiaoping era, Jiang Zemin era, and Hu Jintao era. These have seen much changes based on the reality of the situation. Therefore, I feel there will be a change to the nationality policy, and it needs to happen. I do not believe that it is not impossible for a mutually beneficial solution on the Tibetan issue to come about. Secondly, I do not think this will take that many years.
Some Party members who have worked in Tibet in the past and who are now retired, as also many Chinese scholars, have been saying that the present nationality policy is not appropriate and have suggested that it needs to be reviewed. Therefore, I believe that there will be a change and a decision in the not too distant future.
–Report filed by Bhuchung K Tsering of ICT