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Out-of-Context Quotes Used to Smear Dalai Lama

May 30, 2010

Barbara's Buddhism Blog
By Barbara O'Brien, About.com Guide to Buddhism

Saturday May 22, 2010
A website called IndianExpress.com put together a brief news story on
His Holiness the Dalai Lama's press conference on Thursday that took
some quotes out of context to distort what His Holiness actually said.
And today some American right-wing and conservative Christian bloggers
are using this story to smear His Holiness.

The IndianExpress story cherry-picked His Holiness' words and
re-assembled them to make it sound as if he supports the current Chinese
Communist Party and the way it has governed China. Some American
bloggers seized these words and used them as an excuse to hurl ugly
invectives at His Holiness and anyone who supports him.
Since I was there, I can set the record straight.

At the press conference, held in a basement-level room in Radio City
Music Hall, I was in the middle of the assembled reporters and
photographers, holding a small voice recorder in one hand while I
scribbled notes with the other. Although the quality of the recording is
poor and His Holiness's English is challenged, between the recording and
my notes I can relate accurately what His Holiness said.

The "shocking" headline seized upon by the critical bloggers is His
Holiness' preference for Marxism over capitalism. This won't be news to
many of you. But here's the "scoop."

A Reuters reporter had asked His Holiness if he advocated boycotting the
Tibetan pavilion at the World Exposition in Shanghai. His Holiness said
he left that up to individuals. Then he launched into a criticism of
Chinese officials who were systemically destroying Tibet's cultural
heritage. (He has in the past referred to China's "administration" of
Tibet as "cultural genocide.") These "narrow-minded Communist officials
see Tibetan heritage as a source of separation from mainland China," His
Holiness said.

"All the books that carry religious meaning," and books important to
Tibetan heritage, "are all banned," he said. Further, he had recently
met with some Tibetans who were "working" in the Tibetan University in
Lhasa, who told him that the only Tibetan studies that were allowed were
from Chinese books.

Then His Holiness said,

When I was in China, 1954 and '55 -- later part of '54 and early part of
'55 -- I was in Beijing, and also in many provinces in China. At that
time, Communist Party of China -- really wonderful. All those party
members, were really dedicated to the service to people, particularly
working class people. Relation [or religion] always there. At that time,
world wide revolution, [garbled] for working class people, so strong. I
was very much impressed.

So at that time, I asked some Chinese officials, I want to join Chinese
communist Party. Still, I am Marxist. Some of my friends, you see, they
always ask me, don't mention that. [laughs] Because, you know, Marxist
economy, I think only economy system where express concern of equal
distribution, that's moral ethics. That capitalism, only how to make profit.

So therefore, but now, 1957, what was called let a hundred flowers
blossom. Different opinions, accept more open different opinions. Once
these intellectual people express their feelings and criticism, then,
overnight, all these people, wiped out. So the authoritarian system, any
authoritarian system, including Communist authoritarian system,
potential eventually made to [eliminate] opposition from their power,
they erase.

But, as I mentioned earlier, now I think in China, most intelligent
people, don't accept central authoritarian system. They want more
freedom. They want independence from China. They want a free Tibet.

Earlier in the press conference, His Holiness also had said, "China has
to go along the world trend. World trend means more openness, more
transparent, rule of law, democracy, inability to [not clear] -- world
trend. ... Democracy as a system not always successful, in Africa and
some other countries not always successful, but still, it's the best
system."

This was hardly the ringing endorsement of Communism that some
right-wing bloggers are making it out to be. However, several prominent
bloggers ridiculed His Holiness, thereby revealing their own profound
ignorance. For example. Jim Hoft wrote on the Catholic website First Things:

Those "moral ethics" of Marxism have only killed around 94 million
people and impoverished millions.

It's moral, if you have no understanding of history.

Anyone who thinks His Holiness needs to be educated about the people
killed by Communist China is the one with no understanding of history.

Another blogger who spread this distortion was Doug Powers, writing at
Michelle Malkins's blog. The derisive Mr. Powers made a point of the
cost of tickets to His Holiness's teachings. As His Holiness said
himself during the press conference, he takes no money himself from
teachings. Ticket prices are set by the organizers (and renting Radio
City Music Hall ain't cheap). The organizers are donating part of the
money to a hunger relief project, His Holiness said.

More cluelessness was expelled by Allahpundit, writing at Hot Air, and
David Swindle, writing at NewsRealBlog. (I'm linking to these sites
mostly because I'm sending them trackbacks in hopes of getting their
attention; you don't have to read the posts linked.) [Update: Here's one
more, by BigGator5 at RedState.]

Finally, here is a piece of the IndianExpress.com story that is
hideously wrong:

However, he credited China's embrace of market economics for breaking
communism's grip over the world's most populous country and forcing the
ruling Communist Party to "represent all sorts of classes."

Capitalism "brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people's
living standards improved," he said.

However, in this part of the press conference His Holiness was not
talking about today's Communist Party in China. He was talking mostly
about the economic reforms begun Deng Xiaoping, who became leader of
China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.

The larger context of this part of the discussion was His Holiness'
optimism that China someday will change and allow genuine autonomy for
Tibet. China has changed, he said, and then he began  quickie review of
Chinese history.

His Holiness said he had lived through four eras of the People's
Republic of China, the first being the era of Mao Zedong, which was
dominated by party ideology.

The second era was that of Deng Xiaoping, who oversaw huge improvement
in China's economy. And, it is a matter of historical record that Deng
Xiaoping instituted economic reforms that made China's economy far more
capitalistic than it had been under Mao. There is no question that the
standard of living of the Chinese people improved considerably during
Deng Xiaoping's tenure.

China's next leader, Jiang Zemin, took over from Deng after 1980. During
Jiang's tenure the economy of China continued to grow quickly. His
Holiness suggested that gaps between rich and poor diminished in that
time. And, of course, the fourth era is under the leadership of Hu Jintao.

I may try to make my recording publicly available, although as I said
the quality is terrible and at points I had to refer to my notes to
clarify what is being said. There is also an account of the press
conference at His Holiness' website.

The theme of the Dalai Lama's current tour is interreligious harmony,
and he spoke to that at some length. I will cover that part of the press
conference later.
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