Interview with Kalon Tripa, Prof Samdhong Rinpoche
Friday, 25 July 2008, 10:43 a.m.
by Claude Arpi
Tenzin, better known as Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, the Kalon Tripa,
or Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile, lights a candle
after inaugurating a Tibetan Library in South India. He was elected
Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration, based in
Dharamsala, India, in 2001. Picture courtesy Claude Arpi. Any
unauthorised reproduction is prohibited.
Candle in the Wind?
On March 10, unrest erupted in Tibet. While the Chinese said
Tibetans had attacked Han Chinese, looting their businesses and homes
in Lhasa, the Tibetan government in exile said the spontaneous peaceful
demonstrations only expressed the resentment of a population suppressed
under China’s colonial rule for the past 58 years.
Since then, the protests have been ruthlessly quelled by the Chinese authorities all over the Tibetan populated areas.
It is in this context that a new round of talks was held in
Beijing on July 1 and 2 between the Dalai Lama’s Representatives and
the Chinese authorities. Before the meeting, many thought that Beijing
would have to make some concessions to the Tibetans in the true spirit
of the Olympics. It was not to be so.
‘I don’t think the Dalai Lama is qualified to represent Tibet.
If he ever did, it was before 1959, ‘ declared Dong Yunhu, the new
director-general of the information office of the State Council.
Claude Arpi travelled to Dharamsala and met Prof Samdhong Rinpoche,
the Gandhian scholar and Prime Minister of the Tibetan
government-in-exile, for his views on the situation inside Tibet and
the current dialogue with Beijing.
shop burns during protests in Maqu, western China`s Gansu province,
Tuesday, March 18, 2008. Chinese state media acknowledged that
anti-government riots had spread to other provinces after rocking Tibet
in early March, as communist authorities announced the first group of
arrests for the violence. (AP Photo/Free Tibet Campaign) Any
unauthorised reproduction is prohibited.
Could you tell us your feelings after the 7th round of talks between
your Envoys and the Chinese officials in Beijing on July 1 and 2?
The 6th Round of dialogue was held at the beginning of July last year.
We requested the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to have a 7th round
within the year 2007. In case that was not possible, we wanted it to be
held latest by February 2008. Otherwise it should be postponed till the
end of 2008 or beginning of 2009.
We felt that it was not proper to engage the Chinese during the
Olympic Year. We knew that they would be busy and the world would have
different expectations [towards China]. We thought of keeping a low
profile till the Games were completed. But things did not go the way
that we had expected. Since March 10 this year, Tibet witnessed
widespread protests. They were not localized in one place, it occurred
in all regions where Tibetan ‘nationalities’ are living, including in
Beijing where some Tibetan youth are studying. These peaceful protests
which erupted everywhere were very very heavily put down. So much
violence and force has been used against the protesters! The reaction
of the world was quite forceful, so His Holiness [the Dalai Lama]
thought that it was not the appropriate time to keep quiet, and that he
should reach out to the People’s Republic of China. He decided to write
a letter to President Hu Jintao to ask him not to use force inside
Tibet. He also said that if there was any way he could help to bring
back normalcy in Tibet, he was willing to do it.
Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses the media in Dharamsala May 17,
hitting back at claims he is behind the Tibet demonstrations. Image
copyright AFP. Any unauthorised reproduction is prohibited.
The Three Stops
This letter has not been made public?
No, it is not public. Thereafter, our two Envoys had informal
discussions with the PRC’s counterparts on May 4 in Shenzhen near Hong
Kong. It was during this discussion that it was decided to have the 7th
round of talks sometimes in June. It did not materialize in June, but
was finally held on July 1 and 2 in Beijing. The talks did not bring
any results. We are quite disappointed. It was not proper to have the
7th Round in haste. The PRC’s authorities were busy with the earthquake
relief and the organization of the Olympics. So despite the fact that
the 7th round was held, no tangible results could be achieved. This
gives a very negative impression to the people inside Tibet as well as
the people who are supporting us worldwide.
The Chinese authorities have put new conditions?
During the informal talks in May, the Chinese called for Three
Stops: Stop separatist activities, Stop violence inside Tibet, Stop
sabotaging the Olympic Games.
During the 7th round, the Three Stops were changed into
Four Not Supporting: (not supporting separatist activities, not
supporting violence, not supporting the sabotage of the Olympic Games
and not supporting the Youth Congress).
This was in Shenzhen or in Beijing?
The Three Stops were in Shenzhen and the Four Not-Supporting in
Beijing. The Chinese officials said they are very liberal, and since
His Holiness has himself declared that he is not engaged in any of
these activities, they accept his stand. But now he should actively
not-support, meaning he should oppose those who carry on such
activities. It means a change in their stand. At this moment we are
very much worried about what will happen inside Tibet after the
Olympics. What will happen there at the ground level?
Have the Chinese authorities in Tibet freed all the prisoners? I read a communiqué stating that they freed 1,000 people…
It is possible. The world is powerless. Nothing can stop them doing
whatever they want. At this moment, nobody has been sentenced to death,
though many people were killed in March.
monks stand on the road above the Dongzhuling Monastery in the
mountains about 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of the border with Tibet,
in southwestern China`s Yunnan province, Sunday, March 23, 2008.
Tibetan areas in Yunnan appear to be quiet since anti-government
protests broke out in Tibet earlier this month, but China has sent
thousands of paramilitary troops to the Tibetan area in Yunnan as an
apparent precaution. Originally built in 1667, the monastery was later
destroyed after China`s communist takeover, then rebuilt in its new
location. Image copyright AP. Any unauthorised reproduction is
In different parts of Tibet?
everywhere. Though no death sentence has been handed over till now, the
point is that thousands are still of undergoing trial. And After the
Olympic Games are over, the Chinese authorities will probably come down
very heavily on them. They will also bring more [armed] forces inside
Tibet and increase the transfer of [Han] population.
The post Olympics is therefore more dangerous than the
present moment. The Chinese are always talking of violence and
terrorism from our side, which is clearly impossible. Though they keep
mentioning this, no Tibetan will indulge in violence or terrorism.
Recently, some news circulated on the Internet saying that
there is a Tibetan Liberation Army and that they recruited suicide
bombers. It appears that this [rumour] was instigated by the PRC
itself. We can’t believe that Tibetans will do such things. We have
also received other information that there will be disturbances in
Dharamsala and other important places where Tibetans are settled during
the Olympics. Under different pretexts (such as the Shugden cult),
sabotage, destruction or conflict with the local people could be
created. We are scared at the moment.
What has been the reaction of the Government of India to these threats?
The Government of India is very alert. They are doing whatever they can do to prevent such things to happen.
Do you feel that within the Chinese government some officials are
more open and realize that a deal with the Dalai Lama is ultimately the
best thing for the PRC?
That is very clear, the (Chinese) leadership is vertically
divided. But for the time being the hardliners have prevailed and the
liberals have been sidelined. The situation inside Tibet as well as the
Olympics has compelled the liberals to lay low and the hardliners have
kept the upper hand.
There is a great nationalist movement within China today…
That is why nothing can happen now.
The Dalai Lama recently mentioned (in Ajmer) a Five Point proposal that he has received from Beijing? Are you aware of it?
I have no idea. This probably refers to an old proposal [a
Memorandum from the Chinese Government to the Dalai Lama in 1981. These
Five Points only refer to the future status of the Dalai Lama if he
returns to China]. There is nothing new.
Are you optimistic?
Of course we are optimistic for the future, but not for the near future.
Is it not a race against time as the Chinese are resettling more and more migrants into Tibet?
it is a race. The PRC has full control over Tibet and can do whatever
they wish. Today in the world, nobody has the power to stop them.
–This interview is reproduced from the courtesy of Sify online news, www.sify.com