His Holiness The Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Meet with the Press on 4 Dec 2000


Text of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Meet with the Press on 4 Dec 2000

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's replies to questions from the Press during the Press Meet on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of His Holiness Assuming State Responsibility

4 December 2000, Lhakpa Tsering Hall, DIIR

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: I have nothing to say. I just want to say "Hello". It's been a long day today. My strong feeling today is that peopleold as well as young, believers and non-believers, and all Tibetansseem to trust me. They seem to have a feeling of closeness towards me. Naturally, the more people show a feeling of closeness and trust toward me, the more I feel that I have a moral responsibility to serve them all.

I said this morning that now 50 years have past since I took responsibility. My commitment is to serve humanity, dharma and Tibetan people till my death. There will be no change in my commitment.

BBC: Your Holiness, there has been an interesting development ahead of the celebration. Your elder brother Gyalo Thondup had been to Beijing and a message came back to you. And, you sent a message to them as well. Tell us the essence of the message and what does it represent? Does it represent any unfreezing of the contact with the Chinese?

Answer: I think it is too early to comment on this. Yes, it is true that my elder brother received some kind of indication from Beijing a while ago. He asked me whether he should to go to Beijing or not. I told him to go there, and if possible, visit the "Tibet Autonomous Region" and also some other parts of Tibet to look into the real situation, and then tell the Chinese Government what he has seen there. I think it is very important for the Chinese government to know the reality. It is unfortunate that under authoritarian system, especially in the case of China, it is very difficult for the top leadership to know the truth as they are fed them with all kinds of false reports. Things may be bad, critical and unsatisfactory, but the officials always tell their superiors that things are good. Therefore, the leadership has incorrect information or understanding.

In view of this, I told my elder brother to visit various parts of Tibet and tell them the truth. As soon as he reached Beijing, he met the concerned Chinese officials. They, in essence, simply repeated what they and Chinese officials in other parts had been saying for the last so many years. Then, my brother immediately returned to Dharamsala and reported to me. I feel that whether we find some agreement or not, whether some progress is made or not, I think it is very essential and useful to have person-to-person meetings. This is because I think that one of the obstacles is ignorance, wrong information and wrong impression. We have to meet and exchange ideas, tell them what we have seen and heard in Tibet and what we are doing outside, not just speak to the media. We have to meet and talk. So, therefore, I thought it would be good to take this opportunity and tell them what the problems are and what my true ideas are. Of course, everybody knows that I am not seeking independence. My commitment to the Middle Way approach has not changed. I am fully committed to it. The Chinese government need not be suspicious on this count. However, it will not serve any purpose in the long run to change the past history of Tibet to suit political needs. History is history and we have to leave it to the historians and legal experts. It should not become a matter of political decision. These, then, are my basic views. I thought it might be useful to explain this to the Chinese government through personal meetings, etc. I want to send some sort of a delegation. But, the final answer the final response has not come yet from the Chinese government.

Q: Not recorded.

A: I don't think further details are useful to discuss in public. Sometimes, it is better to keep a low profile. If some concrete results come, then I will call a press conference and tell you.

TVBS of Taiwan: Why did you postpone your Taiwan visit? Please advise the Taiwanese people on the issue of reunification with China.

A: The first part: Almost a year ago, I decided to visit Taiwan around November. Then, as I mentioned earlier, around three months ago, some new development came. I thought it might be better to postpone the visit. During my first visit to Taiwan, I had a very strong impression. The people there, especially the Buddhists, showed a very friendly attitude, very strong feeling of closeness. As a follower of the Buddha, I have a moral responsibility to help the Buddhists, especially the Chinese Buddhist brothers and sisters. Therefore, mentally and also emotionally, I really found it very difficult to postpone the visit. But the time being critical, I was compelled to postpone it. That does not mean I have forgotten our Taiwanese brothers and sisters. My commitment to help the Taiwanese Buddhist friends will never change. It is my moral responsibility to serve as much as I can any people who show me some kind of trust or feeling of closeness, not just Taiwanese. So, definitely next year I will find a time to go there.
And the second part: Of course, there are lots similarities and differences between Taiwan's relationships with Mainland China and our relationships with the Chinese government. We Tibetans are already 'liberated' (laughs) and Taiwanese are not yet 'liberated'. So that is, I think, the big difference. As a matter of fact, I think, in the early 1980s, on one occasion, when my delegation in Beijing had a casual discussion with the Chinese officialsI think Li Xiannin had made a nine-point offer for the unification of Taiwansome members of my delegation said that there are far more differences between the Tibetans and the Mainland Chinese than between the Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese. Tibetans, they said, are different culturally, linguistically, racially and in many other ways. Therefore, Tibetans have more reasons to ask for more rights, they said. The Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese, they said, have basically the same language. Of course, there are different dialects and some minor differences, but there are basically many similarities.
The concerned Chinese official replied that Tibet is already liberated and Taiwan is not. Therefore, the Taiwanese, he said, have more right to make demands.
But one thing, since Chen Shui-ban became President, his approach, I think, has been realistic. He tries to find a closer relationship with China. That's a wise decision. I think that's wise. Otherwise, I have nothing to say.

Sapio of Japan: (Question is inaudible)

A: First part: China, no doubt, is a great nation with a long history and a huge manpower. China already plays an important role globally and also in this part of the world. According to some Chinese intellectuals, to become a super power or an important nation with more influential role at the global level, a nation must first have size. China has this. The second requirement, they say, is the military power. China has a big military force, including nuclear weapons and is modernizing its army. The third requirement is economy. China's economy has been developing fast since the liberalization. So, economic power will also come. The fourth is moral authority. Now, this is lacking in China, because of their poor human rights records, repression of religious freedom and freedom of press, including Tibet and also some other so-called 'minorities'. These are very, very poor in China. But these are very important factors for moral authority. So China must improve in these fields in order to have more moral authority, they said. I believe in this assessment. I think this is very correct, very right.
I think the ultimate power depends very much on truth. Truthfulness is very essential. I think, very unfortunately, today the Chinese government, like other totalitarian nations, calls everything a "State secret". "State Secret. State Secret. State Secret." Under the pretext of the 'State secret', they are trying to hide many things.
China's media reports say only positive things. This, I think, is really unfortunate. This one-sided media works within China, but not in the outside world. In other words, the Chinese is fooling its own people. I think that's very unfortunate. Outsiders have better information and awareness on China than the people within the country. These, I think, are definitely weaknesses. Because of the lack of truth, they have to make up stories. This must change. China should become an open society. I think things can change under the communist party leadership. This change can start within the communist party and then gradually extend outside it. This, I think, is in the best interest not only of China and the Chinese people, but also of all the neighboring States, including India.
The People's Republic of China is already in the process of change. It is now quite clear that the Chinese government now cannot return to the previous style of rule. Even under the same system, or the same constitution or the same one-party rule, China cannot revert to the old style of rule or control. That is obsolete now. So, China is changing now.
In this connection, when we look at the Tibet issue locally, we get a feeling of hopelessness and desperation. But if you take a wider perspective, then we see real signs for hope. The Tibetan issue was not created by civil war or some other problem within our own people. I usually halfjokingly describe this as the problem caused by new guests who came without proper invitation. So, therefore, the Tibet issue is related very much with the development in China proper.
Although China is a big nation within tight internal control, it is still part of the world. And, at the global level, things have changed a lot. The world situation at the end of the century has changed much. It is now different compared to the situation in the middle of the century. I think, the global trend today is towards open and democratic societies. Free speech and free flow of information is the global trend now. China will have to follow this global trend for its own interests whether it likes or not. China will have to follow the law of humanity. This is the reason why I am optimistic.

Q. Will China use nuclear or military power to capture Taiwan?

A: I don't know. I normally take interests in any news reports on developments relating to Taiwan and China. Of course, the Chinese government and military, from time to time, make some kind of threat to use force. But using strong words is much easier than following it up with action. This is a very complicated matter, not easy. Right from the beginning, I have strongly believed that as far as the reunification is concerned, it is up to the concerned people. This means ultimately it is the 22 million people of Taiwan who must decide. Then, I feel that the world community has a moral responsibility to protect the Taiwanese achievement in democracy, its economic achievements, high standard of living, and high standard of education.

Q: On Karmapa ( Question is inaudible )

A: Now, several months have passed since he came. He still lives in a rented house. That's really unfortunate. I think that as far as the Tibetan refugee community is concerned, since his previous incarnation's seat is Rumtek in Sikkim, it is logical that the 16th Karmapa's reincarnation, now that he is already in India, should be allowed to go and settle there. This is the answer to the first part of your question.
Karmapa lives here, very close by. You can go there and ask him yourself. I met him four days ago, actually, I think three days ago. He participated in our meeting at Norbulingkha. He participated in the first session. I asked about his stomach, because I had been told that he had received some tsampa and dry meat from Tibet. He ate a lot and had stomach problem. And, his problem worsened when he participated in the first session of the conference morning in the cold room. So the last two days, he did not participate. He actually wanted to come to the celebration this morning, but then his stomach didn't permit him. (laughs) Anyway, if you want to inquire, please, go there. No problem.

Vijay Kranti: What's your biggest success and failure during these 50 years?

A: I don't know. Perhaps, I think I have gained the trust of public: Tibetans and many people in this country. Historically, the whole of northern India had very close links with Tibet. So, I think there is genuine trust in me here. The same, I feel, is true in many other parts of the world. This, I feel, is a success for a Buddhist monk.
Then, my direct responsibility, the Tibet issue, has not had success. I am still trying.
I think I have had many failures. It is kind of difficult to say. Many failures were due mainly to the Chinese side, perhaps. In 1954, when I was in China, I really developed a feeling that Tibet could be transformed into a modern society through socialism, with the help of the Communist Party. Many Tibetan communists felt the same way and very strongly. They made commitment to achieve this.
On several occasions, I discussed my impression of the meeting with Chairman Mao that time. It may have been a wrong impression and may need more research. I don't know. But I personally felt that time that there were very positive signs, hopeful signs. Then, from late 1955 and in 1956, the whole Chinese Communist leadership's thinking turned toward extreme left. Their whole policy became ultra leftist. Then, in 1957, there was that movement known as "Let the Hundred Flowers Bloom". At the same time, the Chinese policy in the Tibetan territory became ultra leftist. The reforms that were undertaken in China proper were replicated in Tibet. That was simply unsuitable to Tibet. So, there was greater resistance from the Tibetan side. As soon as any resistance came, China crushed it. This eventually lead to the 1959 uprising.
So, the thinking on both the sides, mainly on the Chinese side, became more radical, the Chinese policy became ultra leftist. Otherwise, the situation today, I feel, both in China proper and Tibet, would be entirely different, I think. I think if China had followed a more reasonable and humane direction, then its relationship with Taiwan today, I think, may be also be entirely different. But once the rail tract changed, what followed later was inevitable.

BBC: Do you think this time China will do what they say they will? They did not follow the 17 point agreement made in 1951 under force.

A: It is better to trust. And also, as mentioned earlier, there is a big difference between the China of today and the China of 1951. And, there is a big difference in the world situation as well.

Q: Not recorded.

A: As I said earlier, it is better to trust. I think blind trust is dangerous. But it is better to be open, try to trust and create more genuine friendship. Then, step by step, genuine trust can develop. If there is too much suspicion and too much reservation right from the beginning, I think it will spoil the very basis for building trust.

Q: (Not recorded)

A: Gyalo Thondup visited Beijing in his individual capacity.

Q: What was the message from Beijing?

A: Shhhh! Let's discuss this after some time.

Q: (Not recorded)

A: Since some kind of message or word came from the Chinese officials, I thought that was a good opportunity to explain my thinking. Many messages have been sent through various means, mainly through reporters. Now, for the last 10-20 years, I have sent the same message, the same signal. But then, direct, face-to-face contact is much better. Therefore, I thought it is good to send a delegation with a letter or with some kind of memo, detailing the experience of last 50 years.

Q: How would you describe the role played by Clinton Administration in the last few years? Do you think the new president....(not clear)

A: I don't know. It is yet too early to tell. Of course, Clinton himself as a person showed genuine concerns about Tibet. I consider him as my genuine friend. But as President, certainly, he has limitations. But still having a strong personal feeling makes a difference. Even the appointment of a special coordinator for Tibet is a very clear sign of concern. About the new administration, it is too early to say anything. Of course, we know W. Bush's father. And Al Gore... Now who is the new president? Last few days I have not had time to listen to BBC. So I want to ask you, the BBC reporter, for the latest news. (laughs).

BBC: Too early to tell.

A: (Laughs). You are simply copying my words.

Q: Not clear.

A: I always tell Tibetans that this is the freedom struggle of a nation for its basic rights and cultural heritage. Inside Tibet, the generation, which fought in 1949 and 1950 is almost gone. Now another generation, which carried out the resistance struggle in the late 1950s and early 1960s is also disappearing. But still the Tibet issue is very sensitive. This is not because of just 100,000 Tibetans outside, including Dalai Lama. Certainly, we have made a little contribution. But it is mainly due to the determination and spirit of Tibetans in Tibet. Tibet is still a sensitive issue to the Chinese government. The issue of Tibet is that of a nation, with one history and rich cultural heritage. When we look at the world history, we see that nations with long history, rich cultural and spiritual heritage have greater self-confidence. Look at the British rule in India and other parts of the world. India's case turned out to be different from that of others, simply because it has a long history and rich cultural heritage. Of course, size also matter. Similarly, Tibet has a long history and rich cultural heritage, and also self-confidence. I think the Tibetan people, generally speaking, are quite tough with strong determination. Therefore, the struggle will continue. For several years now, as early as 1969 in one of my official statement I made it very clear that it is up to the Tibetan people should decide as to whether the very institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not. Then, in 1992, in my formal statement, I made it clear that I will hand over all my legitimate authority to the local Tibetan Government when we return home with a certain degree of freedom. And that local Government, hopefully, will eventually be elected by the Tibetan people. So our future government must be elected. So the future leadership must be an elected one. That is clear. During the last three days of conference (in Norbulingkha Institute), I made it clear that the time for the system of rule by the institution of the Dalai Lamas is gone. This system cannot continue in the future.

Q: On this special occasion, would you like to seek asylum for the Karmapa in India and ask him to be allowed to go to Rumtek?

A: I made the formal request as soon as Rinpoche came here. I approached the Indian government through a letter, personal meeting and also through some of my officials. So, there is no need to make this request again today.

Q: What were your feelings on the day of your enthronement as temporal head of Tibet in 1950?

A: I was filled with much anxiety that time. The Chinese military forces had already reached the eastern part of Tibet, in Chamdo. Things were very critical. I was bewildered at that time. I had no experience of dealing with different powers, different nations. I did not even know how to carry the government responsibility within Tibet. I had no experience, no education and no training. It was very difficult. But I think fortunately I survived. (laughs) Now, after 50 years, I really want to serve others as much as I can. My motivation is sincere. The very purpose of existence or life is to serve others. Certainly, our existence is not to create pain for others. This is my basic belief or principle as a Buddhist monk. In looking back 50 years and also further, now I am a person who serves as a consolation for Tibetans inside Tibet. Now, I have physically lived outside Tibet during the past 41 years. But my very existence here provides some sort of spiritual consolation to a few million Tibetans inside Tibet.

Q: (Not recorded)

A: Religious tolerance has been very much alive in India for many centuries. I think this tradition is very much alive, tolerance for other religions, although Buddhism in this country has a very small following despite the fact that since 1956 Dr. Ambedkar started many Buddhist followers. I think this tradition of tolerance will continue.

Q: Nor recorded.

A: I don't know. What do you mean? If you have some secret, then tell me. I don't think so. This country, of course, has some problems, some unhappy situations here and there. This always happens in a big country. But India has democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of press. Whenever some problems happen, they are reported in newspapers. From these reports, some people get the impression that India has a lot of problems. India is a big country. We may keep on moaning. But it will survive and go on.
Now, one thing I want to share with you is that India has economic difficulties due to huge population. Therefore, modern technology, modern knowledge and expertise are very essential. But this should not be at the expense of your own rich traditions. India's tradition is very much related to basic human values. Therefore, modern education here should go hand in hand with its ancient tradition or religious tradition of Ahimsa. I often tell my Indian friends that in the past the outside world showed little interest in India's tradition, but people like Mahatma Gandhi and many other leaders never departed from the Indian tradition, although they had been thoroughly educated in the West. Look at Mahatma Gandhi, his physical appearance looked as if he had never been to the West. Although he had been thoroughly educated in England, he never changed, never departed from the Indian tradition. Not like Pandit Nehru. Nehru, I think, was a little bit more modernized.

In the past, outside world showed no interest in India's non-violent principle. But this tradition was very much alive within the country and the Indian freedom struggle was carried non-violence. Later, more and more people in this world started showing interest in non-violence. This includes Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Martin Luther King. Martin Luther's wife told me that he even wanted to change his clothes and wear Indian-style clothes. This may perhaps be too extreme.

My main point is that these days more and more people in the outside world are taking interest in India's principle of non-violence. Sometimes, I think India produced the concept of non-violence for the world. Now, it exports too much and the supply of non-violence within your own country is reducing. You must be careful. India must keep your rich traditions in combination with modern education, modern technology and modern expertise. Now, my criticism to my Indian friends is that some times you, including the politicians, do not think beyond your State, and sometimes politicians don't even look at the State, they are concerned only with their own home. This is being too narrow-minded.

Q: Not recorded.

A: I am not a vegetarian. In 1965 to 1967, for almost two years ago I tried to become a strict vegetarian. But because of some liver problem, hepatitis, I had to resume the meat diet. However, during my childhood in Tibet, I tried to transform many Tibetan government festivals into vegetarian festivals.

So, although I am not a vegetarian, but I always try to promote vegetarianism. I always admire the late Morarji Desai. But I have not drunk my own urine. I admire his determination and self-discipline.

Q: Not recorded.

A: That is a long history. Official contacts, mainly through the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, ceased in August 1993. Then after some time some informal channel developed, after Clinton's visit to China. Then, in October, November 1998, the informal channel also ceased working. From then till my brother's visit to Beijing, there was no communication. Actually I asked him (Gyalo Thondup) to go to Tibet first and see the local situation. As soon as he reached Beijing, as I said earlier, the Chinese official explained the issue to him and it seems they want him to come back.


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