DHARAMSHALA: Meeting a group of students, including some from China, at the College of William & Mary in Virginia yesterday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama told them the Tibetan people are seeking genuine autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution and that they should not be misled by the Chinese government propaganda on the issue of Tibet.
Asked by a Chinese student if the demonstrations that swept across Tibetan areas in 2008 were not just an excuse for Tibetans to attack Han Chinese, His Holiness reviewed some of the history of the past 60 years. He recalled that before the uprising of 1959 many Tibetans were complaining about the policies of high-handed Chinese officials. He spoke about how trust had been breached and when uprisings began in ‘55 and ‘56 the response was naked suppression. There was no effort to listen to people’s sense of resentment. Having been encouraged by Mao Zedong to contact him directly in case of trouble, His Holiness said he wrote letters to him three or four times, but he received no reply.
His Holiness said: “Two years ago a Chinese friend came to visit me and before that deliberately went to Tibet so he could report what he found there. In Lhasa he noticed Tibetans performing prostrations in front of the Jokhang and right next to them troops went through noisy exercises without any regard or respect. My friend said that if there are any splittists in Tibet, they are Chinese like these.”
As the meeting came to an end, His Holiness told the students: “Our Han brothers and sisters, many misunderstandings have been put about by the Chinese government; don’t believe them. We respect the Han people; we respect your rich and ancient culture. But we are not barbarians. We too have a culture and history. We have our own written and spoken language. We are looking for a solution that is mutually acceptable. We are looking for the autonomy that is guaranteed by the Chinese constitution. Please study the situation in a more holistic way, take a broader view. While you are here in a free country, take the opportunity to use both your eyes and both your ears and learn about the world we live in.”
He also told them that although the twentieth century, which he often characterizes as a period of bloodshed, is over, we shouldn’t think the twenty-first century will be without problems. The crucial point though will be to approach them differently. The only realistic way to resolve problems with others is through dialogue.