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Editorial: The Dalai Lama's Speech

March 17, 2009

The New York Times
March 16, 2009

The Dalai Lama is a man of peace and forbearance.
So it is a measure of Tibet’s suffering and
growing desperation that he accused China’s
government on Tuesday of turning Tibet into a
"hell on earth." We only hope Beijing heeds his warnings before it is too late.

The Tibetan spiritual leader still advocates a
"middle way" of nonviolence. But China stubbornly
refuses to pursue serious compromise on Tibet.

The Dalai Lama spoke out on the 50th anniversary
of a failed Tibetan uprising. After the Chinese
military crushed the rebellion, the Dalai Lama
was forced to flee across the Himalayas to India.
Since then, he said, Beijing has suppressed
Tibet’s religion, culture, language and identity
to near extinction. He charged that Chinese
authorities viewed the Tibetan people as
“criminals deserving to be put to death.”

China has invested heavily in recent years to
improve the quality of life in Tibet. But that is
canceled out by harsh restrictions on the
Tibetans’ rights. That repression has increased
significantly after anti-China riots erupted in Tibet’s capital last year.

We accept that Beijing must protect lives and
property from unrest. But it responded to the
50th anniversary with force rather than reason by
sending in thousands more troops, ordering monks
to stay indoors and cutting off cellphone and
Internet services. That level of repression is intolerable and unsustainable.

Beijing insists that the Dalai Lama’s real plan
is to break Tibet away from China, even though he
has repeatedly endorsed autonomy. It is long past
time for serious talks to test the Dalai Lama’s intentions.

The revered, 73-year-old leader has so far
managed to deflect demands for independence. But
Tibetans are increasingly frustrated. And when
the Dalai Lama dies, Beijing will lose its best
interlocutor for resolving the dispute peacefully.

This week, China’s president, Hu Jintao, called
for building a "Great Wall" of stability in
Tibet. But without serious negotiations, and a
political solution, there will be only
instability — just what Beijing’s leaders fear.
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