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Tibet part of China: Dalai Lama (TA)

2005. március 14.

By Hamish McDonald
The Age
14 Mar 2005

Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, has abandoned his long-standing position calling for
Tibetan autonomy, declaring Tibet to be part of China.

The shift has emerged in a series of media interviews and a statement last Thursday marking the
anniversary of the failed uprising by Tibetans against Chinese occupation in 1959, when the
Buddhist monk-leader went into exile in India.

The Dalai Lama, who turns 70 this year, appears to have accepted that China should control the
political and economic affairs of Tibet and guarantee its culture, religion and environment.

This is a distinct shift from the plan he has proposed up to now, first delivered in a speech at
the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1988, that Tibet should be a "self-governing democratic
political entity" with Beijing responsible for its external defence and foreign affairs.

The Dalai Lama has also referred to his homeland as the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the name given
by Beijing to the political region that has been shorn of Tibetan-populated areas now administered
as part of surrounding Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

The Chinese Government has consistently dismissed the Dalai Lama's Strasbourg speech as "lacking
sincerity" and a fitful dialogue between Beijing and the exiled Tibetan leadership has made little

No response came immediately to his new ideas, expressed to a columnist at the South China Morning
Post in an interview at Bodhgaya, India, the site where Buddha found enlightenment some 2500 years

"This is the message I wish to deliver to China. I am not in favour of separation," the Dalai Lama
was quoted as saying. "Tibet is a part of the People's Republic of China. It is an autonomous
region of the People's Republic of China. Tibetan culture and Buddhism are part of Chinese
culture. Many young Chinese like Tibetan culture as a tradition of China."

He said Tibet was underdeveloped and materially backwards. "So for our own interest, we are
willing to be part of the People's Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve
our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment," he said. "But we can contribute to the
spiritual side of China . . . China will turn to its 5000-year history of tradition, of which
Tibet is a part."

The Dalai Lama's formal statement last Thursday was more critical of dissatisfaction inside Tibet
and vaguer on his "middle way" political proposals, which he said were gaining wider support,
including from "certain quarters of the intellectual circle from within China".

Unless it emerges the interview seriously distorted the Dalai Lama's views, the changed policy
will cause anguish as a surrender among many younger Tibetan exiles and their foreign supporters,
which he recognised. "The Tibetan youth organisation criticises me as taking this approach out of
desperation," he said. "No, it comes out of a broader interest."

But the deal he is proposing - a bargain between a Tibet needing economic development, and a China
in search of spiritual guidance - is also unlikely to cut ice with China's leader, Hu Jintao, a
materialist who promotes a "harmonious society" under unchallenged communist party leadership, and
has not so far mentioned a need for religion.

Many analysts believe that in the event of an agreement, Hu would be unlikely to let the Dalai
Lama return to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, where he would receive adulation and potentially
undermine the authority of the Chinese administration.


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