Relationship with China: An Interview with His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

An Interview

Why do you think China invaded your country?

China, as our Eastern neighbour, has had relations with Tibet for almost 2000 years. In the early days, Tibet was a very powerful nation. Many times it invaded certain parts of China. Then, when Tibet became weak, the Chinese became stronger, and position was reversed. In the spiritual field, we had stronger ties. During the period that the Mongols were emperors of China, the spiritual relations were genuine. During the Manchu dynasy, again there were spiritual ties. On one occasion, the Manchu emperor genuinely wanted to receive the Dalai Lama as a high lama. But some Chinese advised the emperor not to receive him. This shows that despite some genuine spiritual feelings, there was some kind of political thinking or chauvinism. In the Chinese records, they have deliberately tried to achieve more influence. Because of this, they regard Tibet as a subject of their emperor.

The Tibetan records are different. In certain Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, there is a mention of some very important sacred places in the world. In the south, we believe there is a special place of Avalokiteshvara. In the east, there is a place of Manjushri. There is a belief that the emperor in that place is the reincarnation of Manjushri, who showed respect to Buddhism. The Tibetans had respect for the Chinese emperor. The reason was spiritual. But there was another reason that was sad and unfortunate. Whenever a small nation experiences internal fighting one side always tries to get support from a bigger neighbour. Thus, due to internal fighting in Tibet, one Tibetan side tried to get support from the Chinese emperor.

During the Vth Dalai Lama's time, I think it was quite evident that we were a separate sovereign nation with no problems. The VIth Dalai Lama was spiritually pre-eminent, but politically he was weak and disinterested. He could not follow the Vth Dalai Lama's path. This was a great failure. So, then the Chinese influence increased. During, this time the Tibetans showed quite a deal of respect to the Chinese. But even during this time Tibetans never regarded Tibet as a part of China. All the documents were very clear that China, Mongolia and Tibet were all separate countries. Because, the Chinese emperor was powerful and influential, these small nations accepted Chinese power or influence. You cannot use the previous intention as evidence that Tibet belongs to China. In the Tibetan mind regardless of who was in power, weather it was the Manchus, the Mongols or the Chinese the east of Tibet was easily referred to as China. In the Tibetan mind, India and China were treated the same. Two separate countries.

There is another important reason. I am not criticising them, but, if you look at the history of Chinese, they are always expanding. That is their nature. Before the Chinese Communists took power, during the Kuomintang time, it seems that the Kuomintang on some occasions were to invade Tibet, but they did not succeed. When the Chinese Communists came to power the whole of China was united, and thus then had enough power to invade Tibet. If you look objectively, there is clear sign that the two are separate countries. In the Chinese' case, they had a very belief that the whole working class of the worlds should unite and destroy the imperialist or Capitalist. Therefor, when the Chinese reached Lhasa, one Chinese general explained that the liberation of Tibet was not only for the Tibetans but for the neighbouing nations as well. They also believed in the power of the gun. So Tibet was strategically important to them. I think that these are the reasons.

In your opinion what are the most important interests of the Chinese in Tibet? -- economic, strategic or both?

* think both. Militarily, Tibet is an important place; it is strategically important, also economically. Although the Chinese proudly say that they spend a large amount of money in Tibet in order to develop it, you can look at it from the other side. There are many places where there are different kinds of minerals and it is obvious that the large areas of forest and their timber have been destroyed. I think there is a large interest in the mineral resources found in Tibet. In some cases, the Chinese keep their findings secret.

The Chinese say that they liberated Tibet from slavery and feudalism. Is that the truth?

The old Tibet was backward in its technological and social systems. Nobody denies this. If, however, you look at the faces of those Tibetans who were born and grew up in that society, you can easily notice their genuine smile. When compared with other communities, the Tibetans were generally quite peaceful and warm-hearted. If they were really as cruel as the Chinese claim, then I think the people who were born and grew up under those circumstances would be different. The people living at the time were happier and calmer than the people in this new generation. At that time, unfortunately, there were people who were used by the landlords. Now the whole nation has become a slave. That is the main point isn't it? (laughter) The Chinese have come up with some very silly reasons, like saying that the majority of Tibetan people were suffering from syphilis, so they came to liberate them. That is one of their reason (laughter)

What do you feel about the atrocities committed by the Chinese people against the Tibetans?

It is very sad. Ultimately, the Chinese themselves have lost a great deal. If the Chinese follow a more positive, constructive path, rather than the negative, destructive path that they have been following for the last 40 years, things would be different. What the Chinese have created is mutual misery. We Tibetans suffer a great deal and face misery under the Chinese. At the same time, the Chinese themselves find it very difficult to stay there (in Tibet).

Does the fate of Tibet have in itself a message to the world?

I think since the tragedy of Tibet in 1959, many Tibetan Buddhist practitioners and lamas have escaped from Tibet, and as a result we have a new opportunity to have closer contacts with faiths such as Christianity, Judaism and of course different Indian religions. Through this contact, we have a good opportunity to learn different traditions. In similar way, they have new ideas and new experiences from our religion. So there is mutual benefit. Also as Buddhists, we consider it very important to study the facts and realities. Buddha himself said that it is important to investigate and experiment rather than to accept without reason. That is the basic Buddhist attitude. Therefore, in recent years, we have had a closer relations with scientists in different fields. In certain fields of study, there are certain relations between the two. Discussion brings mutual benefits. That is the benefit of becoming a refugee.

Would you agree that the resettlement of a large number of Chinese in Tibet is China's 'final solution' for your country?

I seems like it. For the last forty years, they have adopted various methods. In the 1950s, they used a certain method. Then in the 60s and 70s they adopted a very cruel and harsh method. Yet despite all these methods, they cannot buy the Tibetan mind or heart. The Tibetans still remain Tibetans. The Chinese want to have some kind of genuine loyalty from the Tibetans, but that has never happened. I think their last alternative is to make the Tibetan people a minority in their own homeland, and thus, the Tibetan voice would be ineffective.

Is forced sterilisation of Tibetan women and men a part of China's genocide in Tibet?

At one time, this was quite obviously happening. Recently, documents on birth control policy stated that it was carried out only on the Chinese not on the minorities. In reality, the same thing is happening to the minorities — the one child one family policy. In one way, the Chinese say that the Tibetans need a larger population and more manpower to develop Tibet economically. At the same time, the Chinese implement birth control for the Tibetans. This also is a clear indication that they want to bring more Chinese into Tibet. There have also been some incidents where sterilisation or abortion had been forced, but we don't have clear evidence.

In the event that the China is allowed to complete its 'final solution' in Tibet, what do you see for the future of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism? Will what is perhaps the most spiritually advanced civilisation i on earth disappear completely?

Oh yes, probably only what is found in the books will remain. That is the real danger. Once Tibet as a nation completely disappears or become insignificant then the Tibetan culture, the people and the Buddhism that we practice will be in great danger, even though there are more than 500 centres in the world to teach Tibetan Buddhism. If the Tibetan nation completely disappears, I really don't know how much we can preserve. It is a danger for one of the important Dharmas. If Tibet remains as Tibet, including the Tibetan culture and the Buddha Dharma, it eventually may help the Chinese nation in the spiritual field. The Chinese destroyed their old structure and philosophy, yet they failed to introduce anything new. Marxism has its good points and yet it still does not have the full answer for human life and problems. So definitely, the Chinese community needs another different ideology or philosophy. Buddhism could perhaps become an important contribution to the Chinese mind, There is no doubt about it.

If you go to China for a visit, what would you discuss?

That is the key point (laughter). My stand until now is that I want to make clear that Tibet is a separate country from China. But the future is open and there are three different options. Regarding options, there is still a lot to be worked out, so I do not feel that I should reveal too much at this moment. At the moment, my position is that I do not want to break my links with the Chinese Government, at the same time I cannot discuss certain things that may discourage the Tibetan will and determination. I am thinking that eventually some sort of referendum among the Tibetans should be carried out. Then try to get some suggestions and thoughts of what the Tibetans really feel. I also want to get as many views of the Tibetans inside Tibet. At the same time, I do not want people to blindly follow my choice. I want people's real feelings. I do not want to be imposing my will on the people. In 1963, I made a draft Constitution and made it clear that the power of the Dalai Lama can be changed with a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. So now, I really want to listen to the people's ideas. I prefer to make a number of options which I feel are possible, and to present them to the Tibetan people and listen to their wishes. It is my responsibility for the possibilities and the difficulties. This is my plan. In the near future, I think things will become clearer.

In the case that half the Tibetan people want independence and the other half do not want independence, then what would you say?

I think more discussions will be useful. I think the majority of the Tibetans want complete independence, maybe about 90%. But then we have to think of the reality . Sometimes, though you want something, in reality it may not be practical. So we will see. If it is fifty, then I think a more thorough discussion will needful.

What is a possible solution?

I think more discussions will be useful. The Tibetan people want complete independence, but the Chinese will never accept that. As the free spokesman, I have every right to make suggestions. My idea is that it is worthwhile to find some middle way. One important aspect being equal rights.

How quickly do you think you can move in some positive way?

I think we might soon finalise some more detailed proposals and then we will see. I am not sure.