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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?"

Hu Jintao is not the man to retreat on Tibet

May 8, 2008

The gulf between how the Chinese regard Tibet and the West’s attitude to the Dalai Lama and the region has never been so wide.
By David Eimer
The Telegraph (UK)
May 4, 2008

Tibet's supporters overseas, who range from Prince Charles to the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, see the Dalai Lama as the spiritual leader of a people who have endured decades of repression.

But for most Chinese, the recent unrest in Tibet has confirmed that the Dalai Lama is the figurehead of a group intent on splitting the motherland, the ultimate crime in a country that has not forgotten how it was carved up by the former colonial powers in the 19th century.

He is portrayed as someone who wants to return Tibet to the days before the Chinese army invaded in 1950, when it was a feudal theocracy and the vast majority of Tibetans lived in conditions that were primitive at best.

The Dalai Lama says he wants only greater autonomy for Tibet, not independence, but Beijing regards that as a mere technicality.

Those who see the talks as a hopeful sign that China is willing to compromise should look at the confrontational language still being used by officials this weekend to describe the Dalai Lama and his followers.

Such phrases as "Dalai Clique" are a throwback to the Cultural Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies, when the enemies of Mao Tse-tung were the "Anti-Party Clique".

Such language is deployed when China feels threatened. These days, it is accompanied by the aggressive nationalism that has replaced the Maoist mantras once chanted.

President Hu Jintao is not a man to back down in the face of the Dalai Lama. Mr Hu sealed his place as a future president by ordering the bloody crackdown on the last major protests in Tibet in 1989, when in charge of the region.

His successor in 2012 will come from a different generation, one perhaps more prepared to listen. Until then, it is hard to see any change.
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