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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Too good for the job

July 31, 2008

Dalai Lama is spiritually incapable of hardline negotiating for Tibet
By Lisa van Dusen
The Edmonton Sun
July 30, 2008

While the Dalai Lama seemed his usual high-spirited self during his
U.S. tour the past two weeks, the 73-year-old Buddhist monk and
cultural phenomenon is wrestling with a crisis that has to be testing
even his powers of forbearance.

The Beijing Olympics are two weeks away, talks between his envoys and
the Chinese government have been at best a stalling tactic and at
worst a joke, Tibetans worldwide are clamouring for a harder
political line and the Dalai Lama is spiritually incapable of providing it.

By this time next month, one of the most beloved, renowned figures in
the world (notwithstanding Beijing's demonization of him as an evil
mastermind) may have spoiled his legacy among his own people for the
same reason they revere him in the first place: Because he is a good man.

In the past four months momentum has shifted away from human rights
to human interest as public attention has tracked from the violent
crackdown on Tibetan protesters in Lhasa and elsewhere, to the
disastrous Olympic torch relay, to China's handling of the tragic
earthquake in Sichuan, to the current build up of Olympic fever.

Meanwhile, nothing -- not international condemnation, not threats
from G8 leaders, not meetings with presidential candidates (China
warned John McCain Monday to stop "supporting and conniving with" the
Dalai Lama after their photo-op) and not a possible PR disaster --
has made Beijing's emissaries any less neurotic and paranoid in these
recent talks than they've ever been.


They know the last window of maximum leverage for the Dalai Lama's
demands for civil rights, cultural protections and meaningful
autonomy for Tibet likely will close for the last time in his
lifetime when the final notes of the Olympic anthem fade at the
closing ceremonies.

The Tibetans have taken China's emissaries at face value for years
because, being Buddhist, they know of no other way to operate than to
not operate at all. They've continued to do this even as Beijing, in
a festival of scapegoating and "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I
projection," has accused the Dalai Lama of lying, fomenting violence,
and "monstrous crimes." At the same time, young Tibetans in Tibet and
in the diaspora are desperately pushing politicians in Dharamsala,
India, seat of the Tibetan government in exile, for a more strategic
approach and, in some cases, an abandonment of the Dalai Lama's
nonviolent "Middle Path" for less peaceful tactics.

In Montreal, Thubten Samdup, founder of the Canada Tibet Committee
and former North American representative to the Tibetan government in
exile, is among those in the Tibetan leadership agonizing over the
conflict. For the first time in an adult life devoted to the Tibet
cause and to advising the Dalai Lama, Samdup feels caught between his
loyalty to "His Holiness" and his loyalty to his fellow Tibetans.

"I worry about not just what will happen to Tibetans when the world
is no longer watching," he said about the impasse. "I worry about how
history and our children will forgive us if we let this chance go
by." Samdup wants the Dalai Lama to call for international mediation
in the talks. So far, the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai
Lama both have declined to do so on the reasoning that it would upset
their interlocutors.

And because the Dalai Lama hasn't asked, western leaders haven't
asked either. China, meanwhile, knows that anybody that good never
had a chance.
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