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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."

Political Brilliance Incarnate, from a Devout Non-politician

May 23, 2008

Bronwen Maddox: World Briefing
The Times (UK)
May 22, 2008

If there were a single word to describe the Dalai Lama it might be
"worldly." Tibet's spiritual leader delivered a performance yesterday
in Westminster, with unsurpassable charm and tactical judgment, that
should earn him the title of the world's most sophisticated political
talent in a non-politician.

The main purpose of his 11-day visit to Britain was, he said, "the
promotion of human values," as well as to repeat his call for
cultural autonomy for Tibet. The media always politicised things, he
said, bursting into long chuckles. But speaking in the hardly
apolitical surroundings of Parliament Hall, he delivered ­ with a
constant beaming smile that is an inseparable part of his power as a
figurehead -- a series of comments that put the ball awkwardly into
the court of his opponents.

Would he have gone to 10 Downing Street if Gordon Brown had invited
him? "No reason not to go," he said, laughing ­ giving support to
those who criticised the Prime Minister for agreeing only to meet him
at Lambeth Palace, an evasion which appears designed to dampen
China's outrage at any contact with the Dalai Lama.

Would he go to the Olympics in Beijing, if asked? "I am happy to go,"
he said, although adding deadpan that "there is no indication [the
Chinese Government] wants me to go." The Dalai Lama was forced into
exile from his native Tibet 49 years ago and China has chosen to
treat him as a malign activist, accusing him of single-handedly
stirring up antiChina protests in Tibet two months ago, causing
trouble for the Olympic torch, and aiming to secure the independence of Tibet.

But one of the reasons he is so influential an exile is that he
deliberately calls only for more autonomy, not separation. Yesterday,
he said neatly that by autonomy he meant "those things Tibetans can
handle better," but then delivered a speech in favour of China's new
prosperity, arguing that this was one thing that Tibet, "a very
backward place", couldn't do for itself. "Every Tibetan wants to
modernise Tibet," he said, adding that real progress was possible
only as part of China. On their own, six million Tibetans were "weak,
but as part of another strong country, strong."

But for all his paean to prosperity, he added, "the economy is
important, but human values are more important", and urged countries,
"while you are making close relations in the business field not to
forget those principles." In Tibet, China's respect for human rights
"is now worse than in 1959," he said. "There is no improvement inside
Tibet. So among Tibetans, there are signs of frustration. Originally,
we [the advocates of working with China] had plenty of reasons. Now,
with more suppression, it is difficult to convince these people."

He suggested that Britain, with many Chinese students in its
universities, could educate them that he is not "a devil with horns,"
as many Chinese believed. The next talks between China and his
representatives are in the second week of June. Asked whether these
were purely tactical on China's part, to hold criticism at bay before
the Olympics, he said "after the Olympics, we can see."

It is impossible to set aside his irrepressible light-heartedness in
judging his appeal. Asked whether he liked Britain, he said,
giggling, "I always enjoy everything," and recalled when he was a
child, he would get particularly excited when someone came from the
British mission, because they always brought him toys. Asked for a
positive comment by a California-based outfit called Positive TV, he
roared with laughter, pushing up his yellow-tinted glasses, and told
them that "in my preparation for the next life, I hope for a positive
rebirth, not a negative one" -- as a less fortunate or more primitive
creature. But, without making light of the predicament of his
countrymen, or the distress that it causes him, as a political act,
you couldn't improve on his present incarnation.

Spiritual leader

* The title Dalai Lama means "Ocean of Wisdom"
* The 14th Dalai Lama was born in 1935 in a village on Tibet's boundaries
* He was two when a search party of Buddhist officials recognised him
as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. He was crowned, aged three
* He was educated at a monastery and achieved the Geshe Lharampa
Degree -- a doctorate of Buddhist philosophy
* Mao Zedong's troops entered Tibet when he was 15-years-old in 1950,
and he fled to India on foot in 1951

Source: Times archives
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