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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Dalai Lama pins hopes on exiled Chinese

May 21, 2009

By Saransh Sehgal
Asia Times
May 21, 2009

DHARAMSALA, India -- Years of fruitless
negotiations with Beijing and the undying hope of
returning to Tibet one day appear to have
prompted the Dalai Lama to change his strategy,
judging by a recent move likely to make the
Chinese authorities unhappy. In a visit to the
United States, the Tibetan spiritual leader in
exile met with prominent exiled Chinese
dissidents who are viewed by Beijing as hostile elements.

On May 5, the Dalai Lama met with over 120
pro-democracy activists, scholars and dissidents
at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. He
spoke about the misunderstandings between the Han
Chinese and Tibetans caused by Beijing's "false
propaganda". He asked overseas Chinese
intellectuals and media to travel to Tibet to
view the real situation and spread the news.

While the Dalai Lama's effort to build a viable
relationship with the Han Chinese people has been
consistent, the high-profile meeting with Chinese
dissidents somehow signals a change in tactics
relating to his pursuit of a free Tibet.

Over past two decades, the Dalai Lama has placed
almost all of his hope for autonomy in Tibet on
negotiations with Beijing. Frustrated by the
fruitlessness of such efforts, he is now trying
to appeal to as many Han Chinese as possible to help the Tibet cause.

By meeting the Chinese dissidents, the Dalai Lama
apparently hoped they could help make his
position on Tibet better known to the Han
Chinese. But the meeting surely will upset
Beijing and increase its suspicion of the Dalai
Lama's motivation as Beijing sees the dissidents
as political enemies. Particularly as the Dalai
Lama said such words in the meeting as "the
Communist Party has reigned long enough. Now it is time for their retirement."

The most recent round of talks between Beijing
and the Dalai Lama's representatives ended last
November. The Dalai Lama's meeting with Chinese
dissidents will likely cast more shadows on
future talks. But the Dalai Lama's secretary
Tenzin Taklha plays down the impact of the meeting on talks with Beijing.

"This is nothing new," he said at his office in
Dharamsala. "The core issue [for Beijing] is not
to separate Tibet from China. For genuine
stability in Tibet, we must talk with Beijing.
The issue of Tibet must be resolved between
Tibetans and Chinese, so the Dalai Lama's meeting
with Chinese persons is essential. Negotiations
on resuming talks have gone nowhere. We are
willing to talk but since last November Beijing
has taken a more hard line stance."

At the meeting in New York, the Dalai Lama said
he shared the pursuit of the Chinese dissidents
in exile for democracy and rule of law in China.
The latter showed their sympathy toward the
Tibetan spiritual leader and his cause. However,
whether the two sides have agreed on forming some
sort of a "united front" remains unclear.

Asked to comment on this issue, Taklha said, "We
and Chinese dissidents are committed to talks in
the future. Meeting Chinese people is a very good
and positive step to make progress in our cause.
More and more Chinese have expressed their support for our Tibet cause."

Chinese dissidents, who fundamentally are
pro-democracy and human-rights activists against
communist rule, have traditionally shown strong
support for the Dalai Lama. After the crackdown
following riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa a
year ago, the dissidents have consistently
demanded a resolution to the Tibet issue, which
has built up a bond between them and the Tibetan exiles.

Leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, believed to
still be under detention in Beijing, and other
Chinese dissidents in China and overseas have
urged Beijing to invite United Nations
investigators to Tibet and also appealed to
Chinese leaders to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The meeting with a large group of Chinese
dissidents in exile could be seen as a successful
first step in the Dalai Lama's new strategy of
engaging as many Han Chinese people as possible
to facilitate a solution for the Tibet issue. But
to what extent the majority of Han Chinese will
be convinced and whether or not the meeting will
help reduce exiled Tibetans' suspicion of them
still remains to be seen. Some analysts also
doubt if the Chinese dissidents in exile are
capable of conveying the Dalai Lama's message to the masses in China.

In the exiled Tibetan community in Dharamsala,
some Tibet independence activists - especially
young radicals - say the Dalai-dissidents meeting
won't change their determination to fight for an independent Tibet.

"This may be a good platform to convey the Dalai
Lama's message," said Tsewang Rigzin, president
of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). "But his
policy of the 'Middle Way' has been there for
many years. We don't see anything new in this.
For us, this is a struggle for a nation not for a
family, which cannot be achieved overnight and we're prepared for it."

He said the fate of the six million Tibetans
living in Tibet is more important than that of
those in exile. Commenting on the Chinese
government, he said, "They do not have the
respect for human rights and with so much
suppression such a power will not last long."

Another reason the Dalai Lama turned to Chinese
dissidents in exile in the US is perhaps to seek
greater publicity for his cause, as Beijing has
stepped up pressure on foreign governments that
receive visits from the Tibetan spiritual leader.

To the disappointment of many Tibetans in exile
here, unlike during previous trips to the US,
this time the Dalai Lama did not meet with
President Barack Obama, or any other senior US
government officials. It is believed Washington
does not want to offend Beijing in the face of
the global financial crisis. Before the Dalai
Lama kicked off his latest US trip, Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu warned, "We
firmly oppose the Dalai's engagement in
separatist activities in any country under
whatever capacity and under whatever name."

Despite this, during the Dalai Lama's US trip an
aide of Obama made a public appeal for Beijing to
talk with the spiritual leader.

"I hope that you will use that credibility and
those relationships to help persuade Chinese
officials that the Dalai Lama is not part of
their problem but rather part of the solution to
the situation in Tibet," Jeff Bader, a senior
director for Asia on the White House's National
Security Council, told a group of prominent Chinese-Americans.

The Dalai Lama plans to visit the United States
again in October. Will Obama meet him then? "I
don't know," said the Dalai Lama with a big smile
at the Dharamsala airport when he returned from his US tour.

"Nothing is sure. We are always ready for such a
meeting. But Beijing is putting on pressure. If
it doesn't create any inconvenience for President
Obama, we expect this to happen," said the private office of the Dalai Lama.

Many Tibetans in exile keenly hope Obama will
meet their god-king, seeing such an event as strong support for their cause.

"I think it will happen. All previous US
presidents met the Dalai Lama. But it's not up to
me, nor to His Holiness, but to President Obama,"
said TYC president Tsewang Rigzin.

An Obama-Dalai Lama meeting would surely sour
Sino-US relations. Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama
will not give up hope for a solution of the Tibet
issue through negotiations with Beijing.

"We have to talk with the Chinese. Shout vs shout won't help," said Taklha.

* Saransh Sehgal is a contributor based in
Dharamsala, India, who can be reached at
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