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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."
<-Back to WTN Archives Revered Dalai Lama still key to Tibet stability (Reuters)
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Sunday, August 14, 2005

1. Revered Dalai Lama still key to Tibet stability (Reuters)

By Lindsay Beck

LHASA, China, Aug 14 (Reuters) - "Have you ever seen the Dalai Lama?" asks a young nun in the
narrow, winding streets of the Tibetan capital's old town.

She keeps her eyes averted as she speaks the words that could themselves be considered subversive
in Chinese-ruled Tibet.

It's nearly half a century since the Dalai Lama fled after a failed uprising against Chinese
Communist rule, but despite being branded as a traitor by Beijing, the Tibetan god-king is not
only remembered at home

but widely revered.

Even though he lives as head of a government-in-exile in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, the
Dalai Lama's stature among Tibetans has not diminished over time.

Conscious of this, Beijing embarked on a tentative dialogue three years ago with his
representatives. Analysts say little has been accomplished from four rounds of talks that the
Chinese government does

not even acknowledge are taking place.

But the Dalai Lama is now 70 and the prospect of his becoming a rallying point for unrest should
he die in exile could be part of what is keeping China at the table.

"He's one of the representatives of our religion and you can't avoid that," said monk Nyima
Tsering, wrapped in maroon robes and holding court on the roof of Lhasa's 7th century Jokhang

The square below teems with vendors selling everything from jewellery to prayer wheels as Buddhist
pilgrims shuffle through a clockwise rotation of what is the temple, Tibet's holiest shrine.


As deputy director of the Democratic Management Committee at the Jokhang, Nyima Tsering is no
ordinary monk -- he's a political appointee, part of a government apparatus that enforces
political study

alongside religion to keep monasteries in cheque.

Yet even he seems unable to fully swallow Beijing's line of the Dalai Lama as a traitor and
separatist who has "taken advantage of religion to realise political goals" as Tibet's
vice-chairman, Wu Yingjie, put it.

"The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are both top leaders of our religion and that will never
change," Tsering said. "We hope he comes back soon," he added, referring to the former.

The Panchen Lama is Tibet's second-most important religious figure but the Dalai Lama and the
Chinese government recognise two different boys as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama.

While the boy recognised by the former is believed to have grown up under Chinese house arrest,
the latter, Gyaltsen Norbu, is being groomed as the 11th Panchen Lama in Beijing.

Despite the dialogue, the Dalai Lama's return seems unlikely any time soon.

"There is a long way before it becomes substantive and meaningful," Kate Saunders of the
International Campaign for Tibet said of the dialogue.

Nonetheless, the talks mark a change from China's 1990s strategy of waiting for the Dalai Lama's
death before engaging the Tibet question.

The god-like reverence the Dalai Lama commands among Tibetans is a problem for a leadership that
recognises allegiance to the Communist Party alone.

But it also means he has the moral authority to enforce a future deal that would at most offer
some kind of greater autonomy, rather than the independent state some still seek.


In Tibet today, even having the Dalai Lama's picture can be grounds for charges of crimes against
the state and few are willing to speak openly about him.

But at the mention of his name, Tibetans clasp their hands together in prayer or give a quick
thumbs up, often accompanied by broad grins -- telling signals of allegiance to the man who fled
his mountainous

homeland on horseback when he was only in his twenties.

No one, however, has even heard of the talks or holds out much hope of the Dalai Lama's return.

"We haven't heard anything about that. Can Western papers discuss that?" asked a 30-year-old man
selling Buddhist paintings in a shop just beyond the pilgrimage circuit around the Jokhang.

"I don't think he could come back -- the government wouldn't agree," he said, adding: "We can't
really talk about any of this, even with other Tibetans."

Ninety percent of Tibetans, he says, are not fond of China's rule, a worry for the government
haunted by the precedent of waves of anti-Chinese riots in the late 1980s that culminated in the
imposition of

martial law.

"We don't like what they say about religion and we don't like what they say about our culture,"
the man said.

Analysts say that's where the Dalai Lama, who has renounced independence and says he is seeking
only greater autonomy, is crucial in selling a deal to Tibetans that might be less than they had
hoped for.

"He has the moral authority to be able to enforce that," said Saunders. "In the absence of this
14th Dalai Lama ... I think the picture would be much more uncertain."

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Revered Dalai Lama still key to Tibet stability (Reuters)
  2. Beijing failing in bid to discredit the Dalai Lama (AP)
  3. Marchers Raise Awareness About Situation in Tibet (WN)
  4. ICT's Rowell Fund for Tibet begins third year of grant giving
  5. Techung's Upcoming Tour

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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