SPIEGEL Interview with the Dalai Lama 'I Pray for China's Leadership'
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan people, discusses the uprising in his native Tibet, why he doesn't support protests against the Olympic torch relay and his proposals for a compromise with Beijing.
Tibetan spiritual leader The Dalai Lama: "The cultural rights and freedoms must apply to all Tibetans -- as it is stated in the constitution."
SPIEGEL: Your Holiness, have you already received your invitation for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing?
Dalai Lama: The Chinese have chosen a different option: not to invite me, but to exclude me. And to blame me. Just yesterday, the Tibet Daily in Lhasa wrote some harsh words about me, once again. Your fellow journalists there are very inventive.
Dalai Lama: Oh no, not at all. You forgot "demon," by the way. These are just empty words. If using this sort of language to describe me makes the Chinese officials happy, then they should continue. I will also be happy to provide a blood sample, so that scientists can determine whether I am man or beast. But what I do condemn to the fullest and consider a serious human rights violation is when the Chinese authorities force the Tibetans in my native Tibet to vilify me and, while threatening them, to compel them to denounce me in writing.
SPIEGEL: Beijing admits to this approach, calling it a "patriotic education campaign ..."
Dalai Lama: ... which, in truth, is a violation of religious freedom and, therefore, of the laws of the People's Republic.
SPIEGEL: Despite the name-calling -- even concurrently with it -- the Chinese political leadership has made overtures to meet with you. Does this make any sense to you? And do you feel that the Communist Party leaders in Beijing truly believe that you have agitated the people in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet, or even incited them to commit acts of violence?
Dalai Lama: I don't know whether they believe it, but if they do, perhaps they should go to Oslo and have the Nobel Peace Prize taken away from me. No, of course I am committed to nonviolence -- I have been for my entire life and will always be. I have asked the Chinese authorities to come here to Dharamsala and examine all of my documents and speeches, to which they will be given access. And then they can present evidence for their accusations.
SPIEGEL: But you cannot deny that in addition to the peaceful demonstrations by monks, which were brutally suppressed, Tibetan youth in Lhasa have also been guilty of looting and arson.
Dalai Lama: I assume that this was the case. I condemn it, and it makes me sad to see my fellow Tibetans acting in this way -- even though it was most certainly the result of deep-seated disillusionment and despair over being second-class citizens in their own country. But this is no excuse for violence. I have proposed an international investigation of the events in Tibet, to be completed by a recognized, independent institution. But one thing is certain: It was, for the most part, innocent Tibetans who suffered under the brutality of the police and military. We deplore the loss of more than 200 lives. But we too lack a complete and detailed picture of what happened and is still happening in Tibet.
SPIEGEL: Where do you get your information?
Dalai Lama: We have little that is exclusive: the occasional call on a mobile phone, or an e-mail. Of course, these new media are heavily censored, but it is difficult for Beijing to get them completely under control.
SPIEGEL: What was your reaction when you received the first reports of the atrocities, and when you saw the first images of the dead?
Dalai Lama: I wept. I was sitting with the prime minister of our government-in-exile, and we were both wiping the tears from our eyes. So much suffering, so much despair. I was simply sad, deeply sad.
SPIEGEL: But not angry?
Dalai Lama: Sometimes an angry word slips out, which is bad enough. But no, anger is foreign to me, because anger means wanting to do harm to someone. My faith helps me overcome such negative emotions and find my equilibrium. Each of my Buddhist rituals is part of a process of giving and taking. I receive Chinese mistrust, and I send out compassion. I must admit that it hasn't always been easy for me in recent weeks.
SPIEGEL: Have you also prayed for the Chinese, including the perpetrators?
Dalai Lama: Despite all fears and worries, I am at peace with my subconscious, so that I can perform my duties quite normally. I have no trouble sleeping. Perhaps this is because I also pray for the Chinese, of course. For their leadership. And also for those who have blood on their hands.
SPIEGEL: You aren't just praying for the Chinese. More recently, you are also negotiating with them once again, through two of your representatives. These emissaries have just come here to Dharamsala to deliver their report to you on a series of talks with Chinese negotiators in Shenzhen. What is your assessment of the meeting?
Dalai Lama: During this informal, one-day meeting, my two envoys and their Chinese counterparts agreed to hold a seventh round of formal talks as soon as possible. A day will be set in the coming days following mutual consultation. In the meeting, there were considerable differences over both the cause and nature of the recent unrest in Tibet. But despite their differing views, the two sides showed a willingness to agree to a joint approach to overcoming the problems at issue in Tibet.
SPIEGEL: This sounds more like a discussion of procedural issues.
Dalai Lama: In this spirit, both sides offered concrete proposals that can be used as the basis for formal talks in the next round.
SPIEGEL: Is that progress?
Dalai Lama: We must seek truth from facts, as Deng Xiaoping liked to say, and rightly so. In any event, this time the mood was apparently pleasant. The other side took a respectful and not an aggressive stance. But this is still far from a breakthrough. The recent meeting in Shenzhen was merely a dialogue, but at least the Chinese side, for the first time, sought out this dialogue in advance, as a meeting with Dalai Lama representatives, and announced it in the press.
SPIEGEL: Many assume that Beijing only made the offer to engage in a dialogue for tactical reasons, to stop the wave of worldwide criticism of Beijing's behavior in Tibet, to give it time to conduct the Olympics without having to face protests. And to be able to say to Western leaders: Look, we are negotiating. Are you being hoodwinked by the Communist Party leadership?
Dalai Lama: Indeed, talks for the sake of talks are pointless. I am only interested in serious discussions to address the core of the problems. They are highly welcome, and without preconditions. But they must be conducted in a way that is transparent for the outside world -- enough of the secret talks behind closed doors. Of course, the international pressure on Beijing has worked. I can only encourage every free society, especially Germany, to keep up the pressure. The whole world must help us. The Chinese are very much concerned about their international reputation.
SPIEGEL: And what, specifically, do you want from China?
Dalai Lama: The Chinese must finally admit that there is a Tibet problem. This is supposed to be the focus of the next talks to which we just agreed. Unlike earlier unrests, this time they not only affected Lhasa, and not just the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. The protests encompassed all Tibetan-speaking parts of China. Even Tibetan students at Beijing University were demonstrating. This overwhelming and complete rebuff of the Communist Party government and its policies can't just be ignored. Beijing must know that something has gone terribly wrong in the last 50 years.
Dalai Lama: Everything they have tried. Oppression and torture didn't do any good in Tibet, and political reeducation has failed. Political indoctrination and the resettlement of more and more immigrant Han Chinese in Tibet did not succeed in muzzling the Tibetans. Then Beijing's Communist Party leaders tried programs to improve the standard of living and pumped money into infrastructure projects, only to discover that the Tibetans valued their cultural independence and spirituality far more. After years of oppression, the Tibetans simply no longer trust the Chinese. Now the people in power in Beijing, those nine members of the Politburo whose decisions affect 1.3 billion people, stand at a crossroads. I hope that they will choose a fundamentally new policy, a realist policy.
- Part 1: 'I Pray for China's Leadership'
- Part 2: 'I Welcomed the Awarding of the Games to Beijing from the Start.'