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Cautious support growing in China for Tibetan autonomy, Dalai Lama says

October 20, 2010

In advance his trip to Toronto, the Dalai Lama
spoke to the Star's Rick Westhead in India. The
75-year-old spiritual leader said intelligence
officials in Tibet say they have received reports
that Chinese agents are being trained to poison him.
By Rick Westhead, South Asia Bureau
The Toronto Star
October 16, 2010

DHARAMSALA, INDIA -- The quest to secure genuine
autonomy for Tibet depends on winning over
hundreds of Chinese intellectuals and academics
and even some high-level Chinese government
officials and military officers, says the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, on the verge of a
visit to Canada, has said that while Tibet should
remain a part of China, genuine autonomy is the
only way to preserve its culture, language and
environment. Over the past two years, Tibetan
leaders have met with hundreds of Chinese
scholars who cautiously endorse the Dalai Lama’s pursuit, he said.

"I personally met, I think, at least three or
four hundred intellectuals, professors of some
important universities in China and student ...
and they very much support our way," he said,
adding Tibetan authorities have compiled a list
of more than 1,000 articles written by Chinese
scholars that are “very critical about the (Chinese) government policy.”

In an hour-long interview with the Star in his
residence in the Himalayan mountain town
Dharamsala, the 75-year-old Dalai Lama said
intelligence officials in Tibet say they have
received reports that Chinese agents are being trained to poison him.

While he said China views him as a "demon," the
Dalai Lama said there is "no possibility of
cross-checking" the reports of conspiracy.
Security in and around Dharamsala has been
increased in recent weeks by Indian police, the Dalai Lama said.

R.K. Raghavan, a former director of India’s
Central Bureau of Investigation, said targeting
the Dalai Lama would have several benefits for
China. "They would be getting rid of someone very
unfriendly to them, and they would embarrass
India’s security forces, and be able to say they
were incompetent and inefficient,” Raghavan said.

During an exclusive interview with the Star, the
Dalai Lama spoke in English and wore his familiar
garnet-coloured monk’s robes. He discussed a
number of issues ranging from Tibetan autonomy,
his reincarnation and daily spiritual practice,
to his favourite global leaders and views on how
Canadians can help Tibet’s cause.

The Dalai Lama said he’s aware that many young
Tibetans want him to demand independence for
Tibet, which was, they argue, an independent
country before China invaded in 1950. But the
Dalai Lama cautioned against antagonizing China. He urged patience.

"Even my elder brother one time told me, ‘Oh my
dear younger brother, you sold out Tibet,’ -- the
Dalai Lama said. "Some Tibetans now have this
sort of a view that the entire Tibetan population
wants independence but only one single person
does not want independence and that is the Dalai
Lama … . Of course the innocent people if you
ask: do you want independence or remain within
China the answer is obviously clear, we want
independence, like Canadian Quebec people (who
say), ‘Oh we want independence.’ . . . (For)
ordinary people, without thinking holistic
picture, then the answer is obvious. But those
thinking people inside Tibet all support my middle approach.”

The Dalai Lama said change would come both to
Tibet and other parts of China as people bristle
over being governed by what he called a "police state."

"Without freedom of speech and without proper
rule of law, the present situation cannot remain
forever," he said. "It takes time. I personally
feel (with) overnight change, a lot of chaos may
happen. That’s in nobody’s interest.”

Many countries are worried about damaging their
trade relationship with China and are loath to
side with Tibet in the dispute. A retired
Canadian diplomat posted in China, for instance,
declined to comment on the Dalai Lama, out of
concern he’d be stopped from travelling there.
But the Dalai Lama said he’s counting as much on
Canadians as he is the Canadian government.

"I don’t believe Canada’s influence in China is
only through the Prime Minister," the Dalai Lama
said. Rather, he said Canadians should speak to
Chinese students studying in Canada about Tibet,
and suggested Canadian tourists and
businesspeople in China should raise the issue with their contacts.

"I think the influence on the Chinese people is
wider and more effective with ordinary people
making personal contact," he said. "That’s very important."

China says its policies are designed to develop
remote Tibet. It insists that Tibetans are free
to practice Buddhism and argue the Dalai Lama is
disingenuous about his objectives. Moreover, the
Chinese establishment believes the Dalai Lama is
really in pursuit of Tibet’s independence, said
Alka Acharya, a scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru
University’s Centre for East Asian Studies.

"If you just look at the Dalai Lama, who is
welcomed all over the world as a head of people
trampled by the Chinese, do you think they would
love him?" asked Acharya. "He highlights the
atrocities that the Tibetans have faced at the
hands of the Chinese.”The Dalai Lama has never
been one to shy away from controversy.

In 1993, he said during an interview that he
sympathized with Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein.

"This blaming everything on him, it’s unfair,"
the Dalai Lama told The New York Times. "He may
be a bad man, but without his army, he cannot act
as aggressively as he does. And his army, without
weapons, cannot do anything. And these weapons
were not produced in Iraq itself. Who supplied them? Western nations.”

Nearly two decades later, he was asked about
Canada’s decision to send soldiers to Afghanistan
and possible negotiations with the Taliban.

"You must engage," he said. "That’s very
important. I already had the feeling that instead
of sending the army, or using force, I think, the
western nations should send more money to these
Arab countries for education, health and
construction, I think it will create a situation completely different.”

Every day, the Dalai Lama said he focuses on his
own death during meditation and he encourages
people to act as if he is already gone. He’s fond
of saying nowadays that he’s semi-retired.

In one recent interview, he said he may be
reincarnated as a woman, an intriguing prospect from which he’s now retreating.

"The female body is really spiritually highly
developed and knowledgeable and practices well,”
he said. “But under the present circumstances, I
think if I die within next few weeks, then most
probably, Tibetan people want another young boy
(as Dalai Lama). After 20 years or 30 years, who knows?”

Asked about his claim that agents might be
conspiring to hurt him, the Dalai Lama laughed.
It was hard to say whether it was a nervous laugh.

Does it hurt that he’s considered a target by some people?

"Mentally, no, physically, of course," he said.
"Sometimes you need some little caution. If
something is stuck here (he makes a jabbing
motion to his chest) it is suffering. When I
studied, my tutor always kept a whip. At that
time my elder brother and myself studied together
so my tutor kept two whips, one yellow whip, one
ordinary. The ordinary whip was for my brother.
The yellow whip, (which) looks very holy, was for
me. But I know if that holy whip used, I feel
same pain. No holy pain. So similarly, if
something happens . . . tough luck, so I have to be a little cautious."
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