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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?"

Turning point for Tibet

April 4, 2008

By Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari
The International Herald Tribune
Thursday, April 3, 2008

In the last few weeks, we have witnessed an uprising against the Chinese
authorities' repressive policies on the Tibetan plateau the likes of
which we have not seen in a generation.

Beijing has responded with a crackdown on a scale never seen before in
Tibet, all just months before the Olympics are to open in Beijing.

As the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in talks with the
Chinese leadership since 2002, I have been deeply fearful that such
events would come to pass. But none of us imagined the scale of the
protests, given China's tight control in Tibet.

On more than one occasion during our six rounds of discussion with
representatives of the Chinese government, I emphasized that Beijing's
policies were driving Tibetans into a corner.

We knew that the heavy-handed implementation of policies undermining
Tibetans' distinct identity, combined with the influx of large numbers
of Chinese migrants to the plateau, and in particular the virulent
official denunciations of the Dalai Lama in recent times, meant that
Tibetans were almost at breaking point.

We are deeply concerned with the selective way in which the Chinese
authorities are representing the crisis. The rifts that are developing
between Tibetans and Chinese could last for generations and they could
cause irrevocable harm to the harmonious relations between the two
communities.

The protests that we have seen among my Tibetan compatriots are not only
a result of several years of hard-line policies by Beijing. They have
deeper roots, arising from 50 years of Chinese misrule.

Their geographical spread, across the entire plateau - from the vast
grasslands of Amdo and Kham, to the three major monasteries in Lhasa -
underlines the importance of addressing the genuine grievances and
aspirations of all Tibetans, both within the present-day Tibet
autonomous region as well as in those Tibetan areas now under Qinghai,
Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

Tibetan exiles were once the dominant voice calling for change, as
repression forced many citizens in Tibet to remain silent. Now the
opposite is happening: Our brethren in Tibet are inspiring the Tibetans
in diaspora. I salute the courage of my compatriots, who, through
risking their lives and their freedom, have exposed the bankruptcy of
China's Tibet policy and the strength of Tibetan identity.

Even in such a tragic situation, His Holiness has not compromised his
principled stand on nonviolence. He also believes that both the Tibetan
and the Chinese sides should not give up hope, but rather take the
crisis as a challenge to find a mutually beneficial solution to restore
peace and stability in Tibet.

No one could pretend that if our next round of discussions with the
Chinese leadership were to be held now, it would be business as usual
given the scale of the crackdown and the fact that protests are
continuing almost daily in Tibet.

I am sure even our Chinese counterparts would also agree that the
present emergency situation in various parts of Tibet must be resolved
before we can really talk about the future. It is imperative that those
governments advising both sides to continue with the dialogue process
ask the Chinese leadership to provide assurance of real and concrete
progress in the dialogue process.

We are profoundly moved that several Chinese intellectuals have bravely
raised their voices in China in response to the way Beijing is handling
development in Tibet.

Far-sighted individuals within China recognize that Beijing's Tibet
policy is at a turning point, and that the Dalai Lama has a critical and
historic role to play.

President Hu Jintao now has an unprecedented opportunity to transform
what will otherwise be a dark legacy on Tibet to one that is more
appropriate for an emerging superpower that seeks the respect of the
international community.

Rather than listening to vested interests whose actions have led to the
downfall of quite a few leaders in the past, it will be beneficial to
all concerned if he were to heed saner voices within China which are
calling for a review of China's Tibet policy. The world is watching.

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari is the Dalai Lama's chief representative in talks
with Beijing.
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